Hannah Barne’s tale is very similar to what’s happened to me and some of my colleagues lately, but it’s even worse. While we’ve had articles about cancellation rejected because the publisher was afraid of being canceled, Hannah Barnes couldn’t get what is an apparently compelling tale about what happened with the Tavistock Gender Centre even considered by book publishers. You’ll remember that Tavistock was infamous for its “affirmative care” of gender dysphoric children, care that involved rah-rah (and minimal) psychotherapy followed by putting children and adolescents on a treadmill leading to hormone blockers, puberty, and surgery.
The Centre was subject to a report by Dr. Hilary Cass, who excoriated it for its lax medical and psychological treatments. The NHS closed the clinic for good and farmed out its services to other hospitals with a different mission: to practice “holistic and appropriate care” rather than “gender-affirming care”. That, to my mind, is all to the good.
This article, free in the Times of London (click on the screenshot) details the hug problems Journalist Hannah Barnes had getting her book about the Tavistock mess, Time to Think, published. She finally did, but most publishers not only wouldn’t consider the manuscript, but wouldn’t even respond to her submission of a prospectus. That is, they wouldn’t say “yes” or “no”, they just didn’t answer.
Some excerpts from the piece:
My book proposal had been sent to 22 publishers, but none had offered to take it on. That isn’t unusual. Proposals are submitted and rejected all the time. But it was the responses, or rather lack of them, that were most surprising.
The proposal was detailed. I’d spent months writing it in the evenings, after working during the day at the BBC’s Newsnight, where this story started, and at weekends. The proposal ran to 17,000 words and set out clearly the feel of the book, and a good idea of how the chapters might break down. (That later changed as my research ballooned; my initial manuscript clocked in at 160,000 words.) It explained that I would be taking an evidence-based approach, as we had done at Newsnight, and summarised my journalistic background in handling sensitive source material and standing up stories with documentary evidence. I explained that where there was uncertainty, it would be stated. The book being proposed – and the one that is now published – was not a polemic, but rather a balanced work of reportage about the care provided to deeply vulnerable children and young people, some of whom have been helped, but some of whom have been harmed.
And the prospective publishers were bloody RUDE:
But still, after all the work we had done, I didn’t expect what happened next.
Of the 12 who responded, all via email, not one publisher said anything negative about the proposal. In fact, several praised it, saying that it was an important story that should be told. But, essentially, not by them. Some mentioned that other authors they published would be “sensitive” to the material, others hinted that it would be difficult to get it past junior members of staff.
Another, who wanted to publish the book, had to take the decision all the way to the chief executive, who then declined, saying it was too controversial. Neither I nor Newsnight’s reporting has ever questioned the identity of young people or the right of people to transition. But, it was as if questioning the care provided to a group of young people could not be seen as legitimate in its own right.
Barnes’s book was finally published by Swift Press, and this is how she concludes her account:
With the news last week about the rewriting passages of Roald Dahl’s books, I can say that Swift did not require my manuscript to be scrutinised by sensitivity readers, nor did they ask me to change a word. Just maybe cut it down a bit. But they have told me of their experience of taking the book to internal sales conferences, where people dared not ask a question in the public forum but grabbed them one-on-one in the coffee break afterwards. Staff were interested in the topic and wanted to know more, but were equally worried that there would be negative publicity for Swift.
I am thrilled that Time to Think has been reviewed so favourably by publications of all political stripes. It will be available in well-known bookshops – or at least in some. Perhaps the tide is turning. Perhaps the publishing industry is coming around to the view – held so strongly by me and my colleagues at Newsnight — that there is always a place for impartial scrutiny and robust evidence-based journalism, even if it exposes uncomfortable truths in contentious areas. And if so, that can only be a good thing.
This is the issue: even just bringing up the topic of gender transition, which in the case of Tavistock was not handled well, is taboo. And publishers are often timorous, yellow-bellied cowards, afraid of both social media pushback and the revolt of younger staffers, who are generally woke. (This recently happened with objective New York Times articles on gender dysphoria, though the staff pushback was quashed by the management.) It’s up to all of us who oppose squelching of discussion and the creation of “taboo” subjects, for which discussion isn’t allowed, to fight back against the madness.
In the coming months I’ll recount some of the issues my colleagues and I have encountered in trying to write about the damage ideology and wokeness is bringing to science.
You can order Barnes’s book by clicking on the image below. Maybe you’ll want to read it just to support the cause of free discussion of controversial issues. But it does sounds like a good book. The reviews, as she said, have been good, even the one in the Guardian.
The idea that there could be some salubrious aspects to creating an empire (which of course means “colonization”) is about as taboo an idea you can have these days—save defending slavery. And that’s what Nigel Biggar discovered when he wanted to explore the pros and cons of empires. First, part of his c.v. from Wikipedia:
Nigel John BiggarCBE (born 14 March 1955) is a British Anglican priest and theologian. From 2007 to 2022, he was the Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology at the University of Oxford.
The article is about two projects of Biggar: an academic unit about colonialism at Oxford, and then his new book on the same topic. Click below to read how the Oxford project created hysterical opposition, and then how Biggar’s book on colonialism after first exciting a lot of interest at the publisher Bloomsbury, was effectively canceled when there was a public outcry. Bloomsbury then lied about why they had delayed publication. Further, Biggar’s five year project on “Ethics and Empire,” beginning in 2017 at Oxford, aroused such hostility that most of the project’s participants quit as The Offended tried to shut it down.
Now I’m no fan of colonialism and certainly not of empire, but I am also no fan of suppressing speech, either. If there’s a case to be made for the creation of empires like the Roman or British Empires, it should be hashed out and its proponents allowed to make their best case. How else can opponents hone or modify their ideas if the “case for empire” is simply shut down? To me, this is like banning Holocaust denialism, which I also believe should not be shut down. From reading about that denialism (most notably in Michael Shermer’s book Denying History) , I’ve been better able to argue for why it’s bogus to deny the Holocaust (you wouldn’t believe how clever and slippery the denialists are!). You can listen to a sample chapter of Shermer’s book here.
Back to Biggar. I admit that I don’t know squat about his views, either expressed in his Oxford project or his book, Colonialism: A Moral reckoning, which finally was published by William Collins. Here’s the published version; click to see the Amazon link:
The Project at Oxford. (Quotes from the article indented):
What had I done to deserve all this unexpected attention? Three things. In late 2015 and early 2016, I had offered a partial defense of the late-19th-century imperialist Cecil Rhodes during the Rhodes Must Fall campaign at Oxford. Then, in late November 2017, I published a column in The Times of London, in which I referred approvingly to Bruce Gilley’s controversial article “The Case for Colonialism,” and argued that we Britons have reason to feel pride as well as shame about our imperial past. Note: pride, as well as shame. And a few days later, third, I finally got around to publishing an online account of the “Ethics and Empire” project, whose first conference had in fact been held the previous July. Contrary to what the critics seemed to think, this project isn’t designed to defend the British Empire, or even empire in general. Rather, it aims to study evaluations of empire from ancient China to the modern period, to understand and reflect on the ethical terms in which empires have been viewed historically.
. . .That was quite enough to rouse the academic forces of repression. Responding to the online description of “Ethics and Empire,” Priyamvada Gopal—then a reader in postcolonial studies at the University of Cambridge, now promoted to professor—tweeted, “OMG. This is serious shit…. We need to SHUT THIS DOWN” (Dec. 13, 2017, 8:45 a.m.). A few minutes later, she issued a call to arms to “Oxford postcolonial academics” (8:49 a.m.). Among those who responded were Max Harris, fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, who tweeted, “Totally agree—more needs to be done” (5:08 p.m.), and “working on a response” (Dec. 14, 2017, 2:30 a.m.); and Jon Wilson, senior lecturer in history at King’s College London, who wrote, “We need a big well-argued letter signed by everyone who writes on empire” (Dec. 16, 2017, 12:39 a.m.), and, “I’ll be in touch with James [McDougall]” (2:14 a.m.). When the Oxford Open Letter appeared on Dec. 19, Max Harris and Jon Wilson were among its signatories, and James McDougall, professor of history at Oxford, was listed as its senior co-author. When the worldwide one followed on Dec. 21, Priyamvada Gopal’s name came first, then Jon Wilson’s.
Shortly afterward, Oxford’s Centre for Global History took its cue, almost verbatim, from the Oxford letter and announced on its website that it “is not involved” in the “Ethics and Empire” project headed by me and “other scholars at Oxford”—coyly declining to name John Darwin, who, until very recently, had been the Centre’s own director. That this was a statement of boycotting intent, not of mere fact, was evidenced by the Centre’s obliquely critical claim “to move beyond the problematic balance sheet of empires’ advantages and disadvantages” and to “shun imperial nostalgia.” When this notice was first posted, one of the Centre’s own members reported to me that no one had consulted him about it.
I am so tired of the moral fervor of people like Gopal, who screams “We need to SHUT THIS DOWN!” It is the cry of those who want to keep everyone from hearing what the screamer doesn’t want to hear herself. It is censorship, pure and simple.
Oxford, of course, followed Gopal when the open letters appeared, severing official ties with Biggar’s project. And several of his colleagues in the project simply resigned. But the project didn’t die: Biggar recruited four other historians and they’ve had three annual conferences.
The main goal of Biggar’s piece is to shame Bloomsbury Publishing for the way it treated him: first accepting his book with great approbation, and then, when the outcry began, “indefinitely delaying publication” without giving Biggar a reason, though he (and we) well know what the reason was. It was Empire, Jake! Biggar’s account does indeed make Bloomsbury look pretty dreaful, and, to use Biggar’s word, “craven.” Publishers are not in the business of putting out books that conform only to dominant ideologies; they are there to publish books that can edify, offend, and, overall, encourage discussion. Biggar’s book falls in that class.
The facts are these. In the wake of the public row in December 2017, I was approached by Robin Baird-Smith of Bloomsbury Publishing, who suggested that I should write a book on colonialism. Initially doubtful, I gave it some thought and eventually decided to take up his suggestion. In May 2018, Bloomsbury and I signed a contract. [JAC: Baird-Smith is now the senior publisher at Bloomsbury.]
Thirty months later, I delivered a manuscript, a nail-biting eight hours short of the deadline. On Jan. 5, Robin wrote to me, saying, “I consider this to be a book of major importance, certainly one of the most important on my list for some time…. Your research is exhaustive. I am speechless. Your argument is conveyed with care and precision. I say again, this is such an important book.” He predicted sales of 15,000 to 20,000 copies. The manuscript was entered into the copy-editing process, and a cover was designed.
Then, on March 15, an email arrived from Sarah Broadway, head of special-interest publishing at Bloomsbury. In it, she told me that “we are of the view that conditions are not currently favorable to publication” and that “we will therefore be postponing publication and will review the position next year.” She added, “If you are not happy with this, we will pay the balance of the advance due and revert the rights to you.”
I was stunned.
Twenty minutes on, I replied, asking, “Please explain what conditions make the publication of my book ‘currently unfavorable’ and what conditions next year might make it favorable.” Four days later, Broadway replied, revealing nothing and merely repeating, “We consider that public feeling on the subject does not currently support the publication of the book and will reassess that next year.”
A knowledgeable source informed me that senior Bloomsbury executives wanted me to volunteer to walk away, so that they could appease younger staff who had protested against being made to work on material they found objectionable. Since I had no alternative publisher waiting in the wings, I was strongly disinclined to comply. Instead, I decided to hire a lawyer to look at my contract in the hope that I might be able to make Bloomsbury proceed with publication. Alas, £600 later, I was told that a get-out clause permitted the publisher to walk away virtually at will. From my point of view, it was worthless.
What’s interesting here is the enthusiasm that Bloomsbury initially showed toward the manuscript (beside the plaudits above, remember that they accepted the book’s prospectus, which is a group decision, and forked out an advance) as opposed to the haste with which they backed off when faced with opposition. Note as well the duplicity of the publishers in coming clean about the “delay”, and the fact that it’s the younger people who seem to feel that publishers should only issue ideologically approved books (this same thing happened when Woody Allen’s memoirs were canceled).
Bigger wrote a strong letter to Bloomsbury, chewing their tuchas, and then made all his emails available to the Times of London, including those showing that Bloomsbury lied about delaying the book (the Times wrote about this just a few days ago). Biggar’s is a good letter, and was sent to the founder/director of Bloomsbury:
Since Bloomsbury decided to cancel my contract, I took the only option left me and gave my consent.
I do not wish to conclude this correspondence without communicating the depth of my dismay at Bloomsbury’s conduct. You commissioned me to write a book on colonialism. I submitted the text on time. Your own commissioning editor, Robin Baird-Smith, described it as ‘a book of major importance, certainly one of the most important on my list for some time.’ He predicted sales of 15,000 to 20,000 copies. And yet you decided to cancel my contract because of ‘public feeling.’
This ‘public feeling’ was sufficiently clear to you to warrant cancelling a contract. Yet, in spite of two requests, you refused to be transparent with me about it.
Of course, it is quite clear what it is. The public feeling that concerns you is that of—for want of a more scientific term—the ‘woke’ left. This is an illiberal movement that agitates to suppress the expression of any views that offend it. Since my book exposes several of its basic assumptions as false, you correctly anticipated that the ‘woke’ section of public feeling would be offended by it.
Therefore, rather than publish cogent arguments and important truths that would attract the aggression of these illiberals, you chose to align yourselves with them by de-platforming me. In so doing, you have made your own contribution to the expansion of authoritarianism and the shrinking of moral and political diversity among us.
I can quite understand, then, why you were unwilling to be transparent about your reasons. They are shameful.
Yes they are.
Go have a look at the last two paragraphs in which Biggar draws some conclusions about the substitution of hysteria for rational discussion and about about the willingness of publishers to defer to the younger members of their companies. He finishes with this:
That’s why it’s so important that Bloomsbury be held to account in public—so that they, and other publishers, see the reputational costs of unprincipled cravenness.
To me the lesson is also that of Hitchens, Mill, Milton, and other free-speech advocates. If someone wants to argue against the “received wisdom”, it is important not just to let them speak, but it is more important to let them speak than those who parrot the current ideas. And it’s most important that people listen to the most heterodox ideas. I haven’t read Biggar’s book and don’t know what’s in it, but the fervor and censoriousness of its opponents make it all the more important to read and consider.
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).
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.
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.
“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 responsibilityas 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.
‘You’re not entitled your book contract,’ can quickly become ‘United doesn’t have to let you onto its planes’ ‘Marriott doesn’t have to let you stay at its hotels,’ or ‘Visa doesn’t have to let you use its cards.’
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. . .)
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.
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.
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.
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: