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.

Book by election-questioning Republican Josh Hawley canceled by Simon & Schuster

January 8, 2021 • 9:30 am

Which is worse, a Democrat accused of pedophilia or a Republican Senator questioning Biden’s victory? I ask because those of you who thought that Hachette’s cancelation of the book deal it made for Woody Allen’s memoirs—a cancelation I thought was bad form, as the publisher caved to its employees, and of course there was no evidence for the accusations against Allen—might ask yourself the same question about Simon & Schuster’s new cancelation of an upcoming book by Josh Hawley.

Yes, Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) was one of those morons who was going to officially call for an audit of the election this week.  That was unconscionable, and made doubly bad by this report, taken from Wikipedia:

Before the counting of the votes, to which Hawley had publicly announced he would object, he saluted the protestors and rioters with a fist pump as he walked outside the Capitol.

Nevertheless, does he bear responsibility for what happened at the Capitol two days ago? I would be reluctant to ascribe to him responsibility for those attacks, for I hold Trump (and the protestors themselves) responsible. Trump incited the violence, not Hawley or the other 12 misguided Senators. You can say, well, their actions helped fire up the protestors, but so did a lot of other Republican actions. This was a long time in the making, and the fomenting of Republican ire was done by many.

Nevertheless, Simon & Schuster, clearly objecting to Hawley’s actions and his politics, have canceled plans for his new book, which wasn’t really about politics but the tech industry. The New York Times has an article about the cancelation (click on screenshot):

Just a few quotes and I’ll sum up:

Simon & Schuster said on Thursday that it would cancel the publication of an upcoming book by Senator Josh Hawley, one of several members of Congress who tried to overturn the results of the presidential election.

Mr. Hawley, a Missouri Republican and Trump ally, has been criticized for challenging the results and accused of helping incite the mob that stormed the Capitol on Wednesday. His book, “The Tyranny of Big Tech,” was scheduled to be published in June.

“We did not come to this decision lightly,” Simon & Schuster said in a statement. “As a publisher it will always be our mission to amplify a variety of voices and viewpoints: At the same time we take seriously our larger public responsibility as citizens, and cannot support Senator Hawley after his role in what became a dangerous threat.”

But his role, misguided as it was, was legal, and within the bounds of the Constitution. This leads to the question, which the Times poses, of the role of publishers in an America sharply divided along political lines. Books by Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Donald Trump Jr. (Hachette author), Sean Hannity (and you could argue that he helped work up Republicans), and Tucker Carlson (ditto) have been published by major houses, and ten to one somebody will snap up Trump’s ghostwritten memoirs, Triumphs of the Ill, after he leaves office. (Yes, I made up the title.)

The Times reports as well that “the escalation of the rhetoric from the president and some of his supporters in recent weeks has likely changed the calculus for editors and publishers who are wary of provoking a backlash from readers and employees.” In other words, they lack spine. But the job of all good publishers—except for religious and explicitly political ones—is not just to make money or push a favored ideology, for most of them know that most of their books won’t turn a profit. Many publishers and editors simply love books because they love speech, discussion, and ideas. Further, as I said, Hawley’s book wasn’t about politics, so he’s being punished for his political beliefs and actions:

The subject of Mr. Hawley’s book, which was already available for preorder on Amazon and other retailers, is not about the election or Mr. Trump, but about technology corporations like Google, Facebook and Amazon.

Does what Hawley think still deserve to be heard after what he did? Yes, I think so, though I won’t read his book—the subject doesn’t interest me.

Of course Simon & Schuster have a right, or so I think, to cancel the book (it depends on what was in the book contract), but I don’t think they should have. Although convicted criminals can still publish books, even about their crimes, sometimes the law forbids them to profit from their crimes. That’s what happened with this book, written by O. J. Simpson (notice the small “if” in the title), who wasn’t convicted of murder but lost a civil suit (the $600,000 Simpson was reportedly paid went to the Goldman family).

So, much as I dislike Republicans and despise those who sought to overturn an already-certified election, I don’t call for all of their books to be canceled or rejected from now on. Publishers have the right to reject them—there’s no First Amendment right to have your book published—but it’s arrant cowardness, and against the unwritten code of good publishers, to cancel a book simply because you don’t like the politics of the authors.

If this is truly to be a time of healing, as Joe Biden emphasizes so often, we can’t continue to dehumanize our political opponents. Perhaps (and this may be likely) our reaching out may be sufficiently rebuffed that we can leave them alone completely. But we shouldn’t cancel their books, accost them in restaurants, or insult them in public. I think we should be better than that.

Abigail Shrier, whose book about overly hasty gender reassignment, Irreversible Damage, was also temporarily canceled by chain stores, had this to say:

Now I’m not sure about the legality of refusing these services to people whose politics you don’t like; it seems to me like illegal discrimination.  Lawyers should weigh in here. And, as I said, a publisher is under no obligation to publish a book by someone the editors don’t like. But if they deem the book worth publishing initially, which is decided when a contract is issued, then short of stuff like plagiarism or similar circumstances, the book still deserves to be published.

I’m sure others might object, but I don’t need a second; my own opinion is enough for me. (You know the rest. . .)

Guardian columnist excoriates Hachette for canceling publication Woody Allen’s memoirs

March 11, 2020 • 11:45 am

As I reported the other day (to my chagrin), Grand Central Publishing, one of the imprints of the Hachette publishing group, decided to cancel publication of Woody Allen’s memoirs, Apropos of Nothing, after Hachette employees walked off the job in protest. Two days earlier, Allen’s son Ronan Farrow (possibly the biological son of Frank Sinatra), and author of the bestselling #MeToo book Catch and Kill, published by a different division of Hachette, broke ties with the publisher because he’s accused Allen of having sexually molested his stepsister and Woody’s adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow. Allen has consistently denied those allegations, which were investigated twice and dropped for lack of evidence. Further, Allen’s adopted son Moses Farrow (who was in the house during the supposed molestation), says it never happened—Dylan was said to have been coached by Mia Farrow. (You can read Moses’s testimony here.)

Initially the CEO of Hachette defended the publication of the memoirs, but then, in the face of social-media pressure, the publisher reneged on its agreement with Allen and dropped publication. It’s not clear yet whether another publisher will touch this book.

What Hachette did is unfair on several grounds:

1.) There is no convincing evidence that Allen was guilty of sexually molesting Dylan Farrow. There were two investigations, both of which cleared him, and Moses’s testimony (he’s now a family therapist), is clear and straightforward.  Allen is not guilty of any crime and, unlike Harvey Weinstein, the accusations center around a single incident with conflicting testimony. To presume he’s guilty and walk off your publishing job because of that is, to say the least, unreflective and premature. But today’s ideological climate often conflates an accusation with guilt—a harmful trend that damages not just individuals but the justice system itself.

2.) In light of any evidence of guilt, it’s unethical to withdraw the memoirs, no matter how much nastiness there was on Twitter or Facebook. They had an agreement with Allen, and no good reason to “unpublish” his book. Remember, a good publisher will publish good books, as a good publisher is dedicated to freedom of speech, and unless the author proves to have done something nefarious that the publishers didn’t know about, there’s no “morals clause” that mandates unpublication.

3.) Hachette has prevented Allen from telling his side of the story in public—even if he’s done so in court. What kind of publisher will publish books by Ronan Farrow but prevent somebody he’s accused from defending himself?

If the evidence against Allen were more convincing, perhaps I wouldn’t be as upset. But it isn’t, and I feel sorry for those who automatically think that accusations are tantamount to guilt.

Two days ago, the Guardian—of all places—published a defense of Allen’s right to publish. You can access the article, written by Hadley Freeman, by clicking on the screenshot below.

There’s no much here that I haven’t said previously, but this is the Guardian and I have a little-fish website. So it’s good that there’s this opinion out in the mainstream media. A few quotes from Freeman:

One [Hachette} staff member said: “We feel strongly about everyone’s right to tell their own story, but we don’t agree with giving Woody Allen a platform with which to tell it that includes distribution, marketing, publicity.” So everyone is allowed to speak, but only under certain conditions. Hachette ran scared and dropped the book.

It would have been one thing if Hachette had never agreed to publish Allen’s memoir in the first place. Fair enough; that’s a publisher’s prerogative. But for it to sign him, edit him and then fearfully drop him because some people object is a terrible precedent for a publisher to set. As for the Hachette employees who walked out, it is quite something for people who work in publishing to be against the publication of books. After all, if they really are so convinced of Allen’s guilt, they ought to let him speak. When I wrote about the bewildering support in the movie industry for Roman Polanski, despite being a convicted sex offender, I quoted extensively from his memoir, Roman by Polanski. Those passages, in which he described his attack on 13-year-old Samantha Geimer, were probably the most incriminating details in the piece.

. . .But it is absurd to talk about Allen in the same breath as Polanski, let alone Simpson. Too many people now airily refer to Allen as if he were a serial sex offender, but he was not only never convicted, he was – despite being investigated – never even charged. Moreover, unlike Polanski – and Bill Cosby, and Harvey Weinstein, and R Kelly, and Michael Jackson – there has never been more than one accusation. One is one too many, but this one allegation was investigated twice and no charges brought. To talk about Allen as though he is a predatory monster who must be shunned from society goes against even the smallest idea of due process.

You can argue that Allen is a beneficiary of a system that favours the rich and powerful. But you should still want him to publish his memoir because suppressing words, ideas and even people never works in the long run. Let the guilty damn themselves, if guilty they be, and trust the public to see the truth for themselves. Arguing for silence will only work to your disadvantage, because one day the one who will be silenced is you.

I wonder if some day, when my mortal remains are in the clay, people will look back on these times of wokeness as a time of mob hysteria, when those on the Left, once the guardians of free speech, devoted a lot of the time to deciding who would not be allowed to speak.

Hachette cancels publication of Woody Allen’s memoirs after Ronan Farrow objects and the publisher’s employees walk out

March 7, 2020 • 10:30 am

This is really infuriating: a publisher has caved in to mob mentality to cancel the scheduled publication of Woody Allen’s new memoirs.

You all know about the accusations of pedophilia against Woody Allen, which have been investigated several times, with no good evidence found that he molested his seven-year-old daughter Dylan. In fact, there’s just as much evidence that Mia Farrow coached Dylan to confect the accusation as there is that Woody Allen was guilty (see the convoluted timeline of this story here). In this era, however, accusations are, for many, as good as guilty verdicts. In some cases, like that of Harvey Weinstein, accusations were sufficiently numerous and consistent to make me conclude that he was guilty,—a suspicion borne out by the verdict in New York.

About Woody Allen, though, who knows? Although several actors have stopped working with him, others defend him, and my own view is that I have no idea what happened.

But I am infuriated at what the publisher Hachette did this week, canceling Allen’s accepted and scheduled-for-publication memoir, Apropos of Nothing, after their employees walked out. Why did they walk out? Because another Hachette author, Ronan Farrow (Dylan’s brother), published the book Catch and Kill, a well known account of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual predation and attempts to cover it up.

Realizing that his own publisher was scheduled to publish Allen’s memoir, and absolutely convinced that Allen molested Dylan, Ronan Farrow broke ties with Hachette, releasing email exchanges with Hachette in which they defended the independence of different divisions of their company to decide what to publish (the two books were handled by different Hachette imprints).

Two days after Ronan Farrow’s announcement, some employees of Grand Central Publishing, the imprint of Hachette scheduled to publish Allen’s memoirs, staged a walkout, saying “We stand in solidarity with Ronan Farrow, Dylan Farrow, and survivors of sexual assault.” Apparently they somehow knew that Dylan Farrow was a “survivor”—in other words, that Woody Allen was guilty. The article below, from Publisher’s Weekly (click on it), gives the details.

Apparently the protestors demanded that Hachette not only cancel the book, but that Hachette’s CEO Michael Pietsch apologize.  Pietsch stood by the publishing group’s decision, saying “there’s a large audience that wants to hear the story of Woody Allen’s life as told by Woody Allen himself. That’s what they’ve [Grand Central Publishing] chosen to publish.”

But never underestimate the power of the mob.

Yes, the book was canceled by Hachette the day after the walkout. Here’s the announcement.

Two accounts of the debacle are given below, from the NYT and from wfuv.org.  Pietsch attempted to hold a town hall meeting with his employees, but they walked out. At that point they gave in to the mob and canceled the memoirs.

This is a reprehensible act of cowardice by Hachette. It conflates accusations with guilt itself, and if you’re going to go that route, then look at all the publishers who have published Hitler’s Mein Kampf without protest (Houghton Mifflin) and books by Henry Kissinger without protest (various publishers). If Allen had been convicted, that would be another matter, but there’s no convincing evidence of his guilt and I, for one, would have wanted to read what he had to say. Now that likely won’t happen.

Beyond the sheer craziness of the mob in this case, unable to distinguish an accusation (and only one accusation) from a conviction, ask yourself What has been accomplished by these protests and by the book’s cancelation? Do the protestors think that canceling the book will deter sexual predators? That’s about as ridiculous a notion as I can imagine. All they’ve accomplished is kept Woody Allen’s voice—and I don’t know if he was even going to discuss the accusations—from being heard.  This kind of response simply silences those whom the protestors don’t like, and gives them an excuse to flaunt their virtue.  I suppose you could say that it keeps Woody Allen from profiting from his writings, but Allen doesn’t need the money and, remember, there is no credible evidence that he’s a criminal.

Somehow we’ve got to stop people from taking single accusations as firm evidence of guilt, and punishing the accused without any legal or civil convictions. This kind of stuff is plaguing colleges and universities all over the U.S., as colleges and universities get sued because they didn’t give the accused in sexual misconduct cases a fair hearing. In other words, adhering to Title IX procedures, they equated a claim with an act.

I have no hopes, given today’s climate of easy outrage, that people will stop conflating accusations with convictions in court.

Someone wants to write my autobiography

May 23, 2019 • 9:00 am

Well cut off my legs and call me “Shorty”! I got the email below from a company asking to write my autobiography. It’s a money-making operation, of course, employing a ghost writer who will make my wonderful and interesting life, and my science, accessible to the public:

Dear Dr. Jerry A Coyne,

I am Luis, Editorial assistant from Oasis Publishing Group Ltd. contacting you with the reference from our editorial department. Basing on your outstanding contribution to the scientific community, we would like to write your autobiography.

Researchers like you are adding so much value to the scientific community, yet you are not getting enough exposure. No matter how many papers you publish in famous journals, you will be still unknown to common people. To solve this problem, we came up with this unique solution.

With our autobiography service, we will write your autobiography along with your research contributions in common man’s language. We will also include all your published papers into this book in a way that a common man can understand it. And then, we will publish your book with our publishing group. Before, publication, we will send the draft to you for scientific accuracy, once you approve our draft, we then proceed for publication. You will get all the rights of your book, and all the sales generated from your book, will be credited to you.

Your autobiography will be listed on famous websites like Amazon, ebay, Goodreads and many other popular book websites. As a result, you will get good credibility and people will recognize your hard work and your scientific contributions.

Last but not least, after the publication of your book, it will be published in Google News, Yahoo and other major news channels. What more can you ask for?

All we need is your book writing contract, and you will get all the rights for your book.

Will be waiting to hear from you.

Best Rega

The firm is Oasis Publishing, and I’m not the only one who’s had this offer. See the article below in PLOS ONE (click on screenshot):

William Sullivan is the Showalter Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

Sullivan toyed with the publishers, as a good gadfly would, and found out that they charge $1895 for a ten-chapter “autobiography” that would summarize Sullivan’s scientific work in “common man’s language.”

After some inquiries, Sullivan then wrote them back a hilarious letter:

That reminds me of the letters of Father Guido Sarducci. There’s more in the article, so go have a look.

Well, nobody with two neurons to rub together would be taken in by this company, but I have always had two titles for my autobiography, which is as far as that project will ever get:

1.)  Triumph of the Ill

2.)  I, Yam: My Life as a Sweet Potato