Topical Talk: Censorship & Publishing

Censorship within the book publishing world is something I’ve wanted to discuss for awhile and I’ve finally put together a post explaining my thoughts as simply as I can. Catch up on previous posts in the Topical Talk series here.

Topical Talk: Censorship & Publishing

There have been many events brining up censorship specifically related to publishing since I joined the book community in May. However, there was one event in particular that, in my mind, kicked off my need to discuss what should be published – and what shouldn’t.

This was Simon & Schuster’s decision to publish a book written by Milo Yiannopoulos, someone widely known for generally being a horrible person, a white nationalist and member of the ‘alt-right’. To say it provoked controversy is an understatement. I don’t want to get too political here, nor state the obvious, but I never have and never will have any respect nor love for people like him.

Amongst the outrage were many calls for the book to not be published. Here is where it gets tricky. It’s situations like this where I try to distance myself as far as possible from how I personally feel, and look at it from another angle.

A quick interruption here’s a link to one of my favourite (balanced) news sources, Philip DeFranco, who perhaps does a better job of explaining it than I can.

The definition of censorship is: the suppression or prohibition of any parts of books, films, news, etc. that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security. Essentially there is a fine line between disagreeing with the content of a book and pushing for it to be restricted.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want any book published that is going to stir up more hate – and yes, the situations is going be messy – but do I agree it should be pulled from release, or Simon & Schuster be boycotted? Simple: no. Protecting free speech is important regardless of how much I personally disagree with what someone is saying.

This isn’t a post in defence of Milo Yiannopoulos. Do I need to say that? As Philip DeFranco argues, trying to out-shout someone, drown out their voice or generally trying to prevent them being heard only focuses more attention on them. My form of protest is, other than this post, refusing to give this man any more publicity than he already has.

Free speech is important because it gives people the right to disagree with others and to share their opinion. If you believe in free speech like I do, you can’t pick and chose whatever you agree with.

Have any thoughts? Let me know in the comments! I think this was quite a controversial one and I hope I expressed myself as clearly as possible. I understand the reasons for the outrage, I really do – it’s justified – but I don’t find it ethically right to try to censor anything or anyone.


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7 thoughts on “Topical Talk: Censorship & Publishing

  1. I think the most effective way to tank a book is to not buy it and not talk about it. Milo has gotten tons of (unintended) publicity from people demanding that the book not be published, saying they’ll boycott the publisher, etc. I haven’t seen any neutral news about this book deal. I have seen tons of people protesting it, and ultimately that’s just more marketing. A friend told me he’d read an article where the publishers of the conservative imprints at a bunch of other publishing houses explained their take on the book. Simon and Schuster was NOT the only publisher interested. A couple passed on the manuscript simply because they thought it would sell well but not amazingly–that it would be a solid mid-list book and not a bestseller. So they passed for financial reasons more than anything else, but it’s entirely possible that the free publicity from the protests will push the book into bestseller territory.

    Personally, I think Milo has a right to publish the book, and Simon and Schuster has the right to publish it. Sure, it’s hard to see people expressing views if you strongly disagree with them and sincerely think they’re harmful. However, free speech in the US is free speech. No one wants to be silenced for their views, so that means we have to respect the rights of others to share their views. Starting with the good intentions of banning only those things that we deem harmful can lead to a lot of things being banned that we didn’t initially imagine. Not everyone agrees what “harmful” means in the first place.

    So I think anyone who strongly disagrees with the book should pursue the path from this point forward of pretending that it doesn’t exist. Money speaks, and having the book sell poorly will be louder than yelling on Twitter about it. Milo WANTS to be protested; that’s his publicity. When colleges cancel his speaking engagements, he wins because it becomes a national news story, and he gets to point fingers and say “Look at this sad, sad college indoctrinating students and banning free speech.” That’s what he wants, and he might want to be banned from campuses even more than he wanted to speak in the first place. It’s the same for his book. He knows and wants the publicity of the controversy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I completely agree. To deny someone a voice because you don’t agree with it is restricting the free speech of others. I think S&S did well to point out they try to represent a range of views and either way they would get controversy whether they pulled it from release or kept it scheduled for release as they have.

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  2. My understanding is that the book is being published by one of S&S’s conservative imprints. They, like most if not all major publishers, will also have liberal imprints. They’re technically representing both sides. So maybe we should also consider how boycotting the book might affect the other imprints the company has, the other books they publish, and the other authors they represent.

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    • Exactly – S&S stated they wish to publish a range of views and as much as I don’t like that the book is being published, to try and boycott S&S or protest against it actually gives it more attention and has the opposite effect. Controversy sells, a lot of the time.

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      • Right, a blanket boycott by people who don’t like the book would mean that books from the liberal imprints wouldn’t be selling. Meanwhile, people interested in the Milo book would purchase it anyway, thereby making the conservative imprint more financially profitable for S&S than the liberal one. Which is probably not the intended effect of the boycott.

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    • I agree – but as S&S said in a statement, their policy is to publish a range of voices and as much as I dislike the alt-right, to deny them a voice only gives them more anger and more power – neither of which the alt-right should be given.

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