UPDATE 2/22/2017: NCAC has updated its previous statement supporting Simon & Schuster’s right to publish Milo Yiannopoulos’ book to reflect the news that the publisher cancelled the book deal after the discovery of a 2016 video in which Yiannopoulos expressed controversial views regarding underage sex. The update can be read in full below:
After initially standing by the decision to publish it, on February 20, 2017, Simon & Schuster announced that it was cancelling publication of Milo Yiannopoulos’s forthcoming book Dangerous. The decision came after the widespread dissemination of a 2016 video in which Yiannopoulos expressed controversial views regarding underage sex. In an earlier statement, Simon & Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy had defended the decision by Threshold Edition, a Simon & Schuster imprint, to publish the book, noting that the publisher recognizes “that there may be a genuine debate to be had about who should be awarded a book contract” but that “in the end, it ultimately comes down to the text that is written.” NCAC and other organizations defended the publisher’s decision, saying, “We need not endorse the ideas contained in a book to endorse the right to express them.
The contract has now been cancelled based on what Yiannopoulos said in a previous interview, not on the content in the book itself. Some, perhaps many, are pleased at this result, but it comes at a cost. The decision to cancel publication is likely to have long-term chilling effects on the publishing industry and on freedom of speech in general, by making publishers and authors more vulnerable to pressure and less willing to express controversial ideas. That does not mean that those ideas will disappear, only that they will be expressed in other forms that are less amenable to discussion, debate, and debunking.
In a statement, the National Coalition Against Censorship and other organizations dedicated to defending free expression are voicing concern over recent calls to boycott the publisher Simon & Schuster because one of its imprints – Threshold Editions –is publishing a book by the controversial conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos.
Yiannopoulos, a self-described “super-villain”, is notorious for comments and views that are deeply offensive to many. Last week, the news that Threshold Editions – whose stated mission is to publish books by conservative voices, including Rush Limbaugh, Dick Cheney, and Glenn Beck – will publish Yiannopoulos’ forthcoming memoir, Dangerous, sparked a firestorm of criticism, with many online commentators calling for a boycott of the imprint’s parent company, Simon & Schuster. The Chicago Review of Books went so far as to announce they will not be reviewing a single Simon & Schuster release in 2017. The outrage is the most recent in a number of similar responses to publishers who have published controversial books, including Bad Little Children’s Books by ABRAMS and A Birthday Cake for George Washington by Scholastic.
NCAC’s statement supports the right to boycott a book or a company for any reason. It underlines, however, the chilling effect the response will have on authors and publishers who want to tackle topics and ideas that some may find disfavorable. The statement argues that “the suppression of noxious ideas does not defeat them; only vigorous disagreement can counter toxic speech effectively.”
The statement is endorsed by American Booksellers Association, Association of American Publishers, Authors Guild, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Freedom to Read Foundation, Index on Censorship, and the National Council of Teachers of English.
Read the statement below; click here for a full screen view.