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.