The National Coalition Against Censorship applauds Simon & Schuster’s decision to reject a petition from more than 200 of its employees that demands it not publish books by former members of the Trump administration, including one by former Vice President Mike Pence. Limiting what books are written, published and circulated based on the personal beliefs of a group of people who work in publishing deprives readers of the opportunity to decide for themselves whether they have any value and limits debate over important public issues.
For over a century, publishers have played a leading role in defending free speech. However, they are increasingly being pressured to act as moral guardians by rejecting authors based on allegations about their personal conduct and their political views. But lasting social change comes from vibrant discussion and even bitter debate. Censoring books does not eliminate bad ideas.
Publishing employees have every right to express their views. There are important conversations to be had about how to combat racist and bigoted ideas and how a media environment that thrives on attention can amplify the most extreme voices over more moderate ones.
But free expression is a fundamental human right and it must include the ability to access all ideas and information. In a democratic society, the only way to protect our right to speak freely is to protect everyone’s right to do the same.
As CEO Jonathan Karp wrote in response to the petition, “For those who think some of our titles are a step backward, let’s appreciate the many Simon & Schuster books that are taking us two steps forward. Let’s also acknowledge that we don’t agree on which titles are taking us forward and backward! That tension – that push and pull – is a healthy part of the dialectic provided by classically liberal publishing companies.”
We stand in support of Simon & Schuster’s commitment to offering a wide range of opinions, including those that some employees personally dislike.
National Coalition Against Censorship
Media Law Resource Center (MLRC)
Tully Center for Free Speech