Carolyn Reidy, the CEO at Simon & Schuster, released a letter in response to the uproar that followed the news that a conservative imprint of S&S was publishing a book by white nationalist Milo Yiannopoulos. The response (published below) is several weeks too late and it doesn't actually address the issues that many have raised about the deal.
Reidy assures readers that the book will not feature hate speech. This is, of course, beside the point. Whether the book features hate speech or not — and I'm willing to bet that Yiannopoulos is clever enough to walk up to the edge of hate speech without crossing over, since this book is a gambit at mainstream credibility — Simon & Schuster is still providing a platform to a man who has made hate speech, who has unapologetically called for people to harass others.
Yiannopolous is an unrepentant harasser of women and minorities. He associates with white nationalists and white supremacists. Whether the book overtly features hate speech or not, it promotes someone who routinely uses his platform to spread a message of hate. Reidy is splitting hairs.
Some bookstores, authors, and review sites have protested Simon & Schuster's decision to publish Yiannopoulos through boycotts and other similar measures. A boycott is an imperfect solution because it penalizes other authors, including authors of color, who have worked for years to publish books with Simon & Schuster.
The truth is, if you want to prevent situations like this from happening again, you should support independent publishers. Simon & Schuster is too goddamned big to be ethically sound; every one of the big four corporate publishers has a conservative imprint. When you buy books from the corporate presses, you're supporting all kinds of imprints that publish books you don't want to support. If you devoted more of your book-buying money to smaller, independent publishers, you'd know which authors and editors and agendas you're supporting. Don't actively boycott Simon & Schuster; just spend your money on independent presses, instead. If you diverted a significant portion of your corporate publishing budget to independent presses instead, the publishing world would be morally (and artistically) stronger.
Here's the text of Reidy's letter:
I'm writing to you regarding the controversy surrounding the book Dangerous by Milo Yiannopoulos. Since Threshold Editions announced their plans to publish, we have received many comments from you and many of our authors and readers expressing concern and displeasure. I want you to know that we take all of this feedback seriously and appreciate that so many people, especially our authors, have taken the time to communicate with us.
First and foremost, I want to make clear that we do not support or condone, nor will we publish, hate speech. Not from our authors. Not in our books. Not at our imprints. Not from our employees and not in our workplace.
When Threshold Editions met with Mr. Yiannopoulos, he said that he was interested in writing a book that would be a substantive examination of the issues of political correctness and free speech, issues that are already much-discussed and argued and fought over in both mainstream and alternative media and on campuses and in schools across the country. Threshold Editions, like all our imprints, is editorially independent. Its acquisitions are made without the involvement or knowledge of our other publishers. In considering this project, the imprint believed that an articulate discussion of these issues, coming from an unconventional source like Mr. Yiannopoulos, could become an incisive commentary on today's social discourse that would sit well within its scope and mission, which is to publish works for a conservative audience.
Once Threshold made an offer to Mr. Yiannopoulos, our responsibility as a publisher is to work with him to produce the book he and our staff envisioned, and one that adheres to the standards that I have articulated. We promise to do just that.
There is no question that we are living in a time when many are feeling uncertainty and fear. It is a moment when political passions are running hotter and stronger than at any time in recent history, and cultural divides across the country seem to be getting wider. And so I can appreciate the strong opinions and feelings this has stirred in you and others. I also recognize that there may be a genuine debate to be had about who should be awarded a book contract. For us, in the end, it ultimately comes down to the text that is written. And here I must reiterate that neither Threshold Editions nor any other of our imprints will publish books that we think will incite hatred, discrimination or bullying.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.