Pence book deal opposed by Simon & Schuster employees, company tells protestors to get stuffed

May 24, 2021 • 1:00 pm

There are three reasons for publishing companies to put out books by political or public figures who are widely disliked. The first is that these figures may have something to say that illuminates history or other areas, regardless of who they are. Mein Kampf is such an example, for it pretty much laid out the political agenda that Hitler later enacted.

Second, these books are often big sellers, bringing in profits that allow companies to publish substantial books that may not sell as well. Many companies are committed to publishing books that they know won’t turn a profit, because they’re proud of bringing out good work. One of these companies is my own publisher, Viking/Penguin/Random House.

And not least important is freedom of the press. People should be allowed access to books written by people who are widely hated. How else can we see what they really believe (or say they believe)?  While rejection of a book by a publisher doesn’t violate the First Amendment, many publishers are deeply committed to free discussion, and enact that view by publishing books on a wide and diverse range of topics.

All of these reasons apply to Simon & Schuster’s decision to publish the two-voume memoirs of former VP Mike Pence. The reaction, which is more or less what you might expect, is described in this Wall Street Journal Article (click on screenshot).

I mentioned this in April, but there’s more now.

Of course there was an immediate petition, signed by over 200 members of the staff (14% of the total) along with 3,500 other outraged people, all demanding that the memoir deal be canceled.  An earlier WSJ article gave some content of the petition:

The petition accused Mr. Pence of advocating for policies that were racist, sexist and discriminatory toward LGBT people, among other criticisms of his tenure as a public official. The petition also calls on Simon & Schuster to cut off a distribution relationship with Post Hill Press, a publisher of conservative books as well as business and pop culture titles.

And this article adds a bit more:

Publishing the book, some staffers said at the session, would be a betrayal of the company’s promises to oppose bigotry and make minority employees feel safe.

It is the familiar argument that publishing memoirs like this makes employees feel “unsafe” that make me think those employees are, well, lying. It is surely, at least in large part, pretend harm and pretend “unsafeness.” Seriously, can you imagine any employee coming to work the day after Pence’s memoirs come out, crying and shaking at their desks? Unsafe? Unsafe how, exactly.

There’s a bit more.

It said Mr. Pence advocated for policies that were racist, sexist and discriminatory, and that publishing the book would be “legitimizing bigotry.”

No, because publication of a book by a reputable press does not equate to endorsement of what’s in the book (and at any rate this book will be fact-checked).

To the credit of the company, its CEO, Jonathan Karp, pushed back and refused to cancel the deal:

In an interview, Mr. Karp said he respects that some employees have a moral objection to the memoir deal, but that the company is committed to publishing a broad range of views. “We don’t want to be a niche publisher,” he said. “The former vice president who got 74 million votes is representative of a broad range of people.”

He said Mr. Pence’s role in one of the most tumultuous periods of U.S. history will make for compelling reading. More broadly, he said, the publisher can treat its employees with respect and also publish authors with views they find anathema. “Those two realities don’t have to be in conflict,” he said.

And that is true, but the protesting chowderheads seem to be oblivious to the point. What they want, pure and simple, is censorship: they want NOBODY to publish Pence’s memoirs because they supposedly “legitimize” his views. This is what I mean when I call such people the Authoritarian Left.

Thank Ceiling Cat for publishers like Karp who have principles (and of course there’s also a bottom line to consider), and who refuse to cave in to employees on the specious grounds that a publisher tacitly agrees with the content of all the books it publishes. I have news for you: most publishers want quality books and books that sell, and aren’t trying to propagandize the public.

h/t: Ginger K.

21 thoughts on “Pence book deal opposed by Simon & Schuster employees, company tells protestors to get stuffed

    1. Two volumes makes complete sense. You have Lord of the Bling, then The Two Prowlers, but no Return of the Bling.

    2. It seems impossible for me to bring to mind any writer who could be a less interesting person. However, though your eyes may see nothing of interest in your copies, perhaps your nose will, once the books are put to use.

  1. there was an immediate petition, signed by over 200 members of the staff (14% of the total)

    Gotta admit, I’m curious about the experience breakdown of the signers. Was it mostly folks with < 5 year's experience? More? Leadership vs. middle management vs. workers? And how does it break down by job function – editors vs. typesetters or what have you? Heck I don't even know what sort of categories to put up for that last question, but I'm still curious as to how it breaks down by job function.

  2. I hadn’t heard he was writing his memoirs. I wonder whether these cover his entire career, or just the Vice-Presidency? And whether they signal the end of his political ambitions? If they are at all honest, they could be very interesting.

    1. Ideally it will concentrate on all the private dinners he had with female companions, though not one he might have missed when Drumpf sent his murderers into Congress to string him up.

    2. If they are at all honest …

      Yeah, well, and if frogs had wings …

      Pence has been a big BSer since his days as a talk-radio jock before his first congressional campaign. And he hasn’t spent the last five years exactly cloaking himself in a mantle of fortitude by speaking truth to sociopathy. His simpering obsequiousness has been a national embarrassment.

      Even now, he (and his brother, who currently occupies his old Indiana congressional seat) won’t speak out in favor of a bipartisan commission to investigate the Trump supporters’ Jan. 6th attack on the US Capitol, even though those Trump supporters were calling for Pence’s lynching, and brought a noose in tow.

      Still, more power to Simon & Schuster for sticking to its guns to publish his memoirs, as insipid and inconsequential as they are likely to prove themselves to be.

  3. Too many Americans — both left and right — are giving up on the underlying principles of a liberal democracy. Those are that we accept our fellow citizens as fellow citizens, and agree to settle our differences by voting, not by mob rule or by trying to prevent different opinions being voiced. Too many seem to think that voting for the wrong side places you beyond the pale, such that you are no longer welcome as part of the nation.

  4. > Unsafe? Unsafe how, exactly.

    I would like this question to be asked of every person who makes this kind of faux claim to victimhood. I doubt any of them could answer it clearly or convincingly.

    1. The answer would be simple: unsafe from having to encounter beliefs which pose a threat to my beliefs.

  5. Whatever Simon and Schuster tells its trembling employees, we can be sure that Mr. Pence’s memoir will be as terrifying as watching paint dry. In this department, however, let’s have three cheers for a different publisher: Penguin. The latter is the publisher of Coyne, McWhorter, Lukianoff and Haidt—and
    therefore, the very word “Penguin” must send legions of The Unsafe into a fetal crouch in their little safe rooms. Indeed, we may soon expect campus directives to avoid saying or spelling out the “P…..n” word.

    1. I can imagine a much more exciting book written by the debate fly.

      But seriously, these petty, small-minded children need to be sent to bed without their supper. You work at a publishing company, your job is to publish books. Are you expected to like each and every book? No! And if you and the rest of the book-buying public do not like a book, don’t read it, don’t buy it, don’t even check it out at the library. THAT is how you have your say, voting with your wallet. And, on case you haven’t noticed, the more attention you draw to the book, the bigger temper tantrum you throw, they more likely people are to buy it, just ask Nike following the Kaepernick episode! And really, look at his followers, are they really the book-buying kind? He’s do better if he’d written it in Guns and Ammo or Sports Illustrated. Keeping pitching your hissy-fits and they’re likely to buy it just to piss you off!

    2. And regarding Lukianoff and Haidt, their “Coddling of the American Mind”, while a bit thin of science, has some excellent thoughts regarding this business of feeling unsafe…both at university and in what they call the iGen in general. Enough thoughtful gems to make some of the more tedious parts well worth the effort. With shoutouts to Jonathan Rausch and John Rawls, it stresses the current dangers to the continuation of liberal democracies.

  6. If I had a moral disagreement with the company I worked for about something they were doing and I couldn’t persuade them not to do it, I would resign my position in protest. If all of these 200 members of staff resigned in protest, it would probably be a bit of a headache for Simon & Schuster, but it’s a lot easier to sign a petition than to show any real commitment to a cause.

  7. I agree with everything you say here but parenthetical started me thinking:

    “(and at any rate this book will be fact-checked)”

    So if Mike Pence says the 2020 election was stolen, should his publishing company not publish the book? Or should they ask him to change the offending parts? What about an author who is telling QAnon or pandemic nonsense. Of course, some of these will not be seen as profitable books or the publisher could simply decide that the subject matter isn’t part of their chosen brand. But say it is someone they’ve published before who has taken a turn towards the dark side?

    1. Publishers have the right to publish or not as they alone see fit. What they shouldn’t do is capitulate, either to employees or to outside groups, by declining to publish on the basis that those groups find an author disreputable.

  8. “Unsafe? How, exactly?” as PCC (E) says — brilliant. Exactly.
    The whole “unsafe” universe is horrible and fake.

    Do the poor young corporate protesting employees tremor at their desks afraid of real violence?
    Do they have palpations to read or have others read the bad arguments of an idiot like Pence? Do they have WOUNDS? SCARS? This is just fuel for Fox News, for Tucker to yell “SNOWFLAKE!”

    OK. Pence is an asshole – but for goodness’ sake let him TELL us that.
    I won’t be BUYING his book, of course, but it should be published so we know what he is.

    NYC (and feelin’ real safe!)

  9. When Joe Biden decided to quote Mao Zedong in his speech at the naval academy, he forgot to quote some of the other gems of Mao, including “To read too many books is harmful” and “there is a serious tendency towards capitalism among well to do peasants,” and last but definitely not least “Communism is not love. Communism is the hammer that we use to crush the enemy.”

    The leftist socialists/communists in the government right now are using classic Maoist tactics, still used in China today, to crush any ideas that are a threat to their power. This is why China has to have it’s own version of Google which enables government censorship, and why it is so hard to access information in Cuba. Like it or not, agree or disagree, the only way to preserve social freedom and liberties and the advancement of science is to vehemently protect the rights to free speech, and freedom of assembly. All of these rights are being infringed upon today by big tech and *shock* our own government!!!

    It’s not too much of a psychic leap to imagine the day when we will be forced to carry tracking apps and get social ranking scores, like in China. Maybe your face will be broadcast on a billboard because you jaywalked to chase after your dog which got loose, or because you stayed out late to go out with someone who was not your spouse. Maybe you’ll be put into jail for believing that if you do the right meditations, that you can levitate. This is exactly what’s happening today. And as far as Venezuelan style “democratic socialism” we can see how that turned out. If you think hauling a small truckload of bills to the grocery to buy some milk or a loaf of bread is where it’s at, the border is open now. Go ahead and move there.

    1. Wow. X marks the spot where the paranoid style in American politics is still alive and kicking.

      The last time Joe Biden addressed the US Naval Academy was in 2010, when he gave the commencement address as vice-president. Biden did recently address the US Coast Guard Academy — you do realize that those two institutions aren’t the same, don’t you X, even though they both have something to do with boats?

      In his Coast Guard Academy address, Biden did not quote Mao; he told the cadets, “women hold up half the world” — phrase that bears some superficial resemblance to a statement attributed to Mao that “women hold up half the sky.” You haven’t actually listened to or read Biden’s speech for yourself, now have you X, merely grabbed hold of a stray talking point about it from Fox News?

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