The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) shares the outrage of our fellow citizens over the attack on the Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters who disrupted the certification of President-elect Joe Biden. The Capitol does not belong to any group or party. The attack struck at the heart of the democratic process, which guarantees the right of every citizen to be heard. We also understand the anger at President Trump, Senator Josh Hawley and the other Republicans who fed the anger of the mob by challenging the legitimacy of our elections.
However, we are deeply concerned by the decision of Simon & Schuster to cancel a forthcoming book by Hawley because of “his role in what became a dangerous threat.” Of course, publishers have a First Amendment right to publish–or not publish–any book they choose. Hawley is certainly wrong to claim that Simon & Schuster has violated his First Amendment rights. His book can, and probably will, be published by another company.
Canceling the book weakens free expression. American publishers play a critical role in our democracy by disseminating the books that inspire the public debate that shapes our future. Many of the books–and many of the authors–are highly controversial and generate intense opposition. When that happens, it is crucial that publishers stand by their decision to publish, even when they strongly disagree with something the author has said. Canceling a book encourages those who seek to silence their critics, producing more pressure on publishers, which will lead to more cancellations. The best defense for democracy is a strong commitment to free expression.