The American Booksellers Association has joined a statement criticizing efforts to force Simon & Schuster to cancel plans to publish a book by right-wing firebrand Milo Yiannopoulos. Some critics of Yiannopoulos are using the Internet to urge a boycott of the publisher. The Chicago Review of Books has announced that it will not review Simon & Schuster titles in 2017.
In a statement organized by the National Coalition Against Censorship, ABA joined seven publishing and free expression groups in upholding the right of Threshold Editions, a Simon & Schuster imprint, to publish Dangerous, a forthcoming memoir by Yiannopoulos. Threshold, a conservative imprint, has published books by Rush Limbaugh, Dick Cheney, and Glenn Beck.
While acknowledging the right to engage in boycotts and other forms of protest that aim to suppress books, the NCAC statement criticizes such protests as harmful to free speech. “This kind of response will have a chilling effect on authors and publishers,” the statement said. “Publishers and writers need the freedom to express ideas even if they are controversial and offensive to some.”
Yiannopoulos has been accused of engaging in hate speech, including the harassment of Leslie Jones, the African American star of the recent remake of Ghostbusters. Jones became the target of vicious racist and sexist attacks on Twitter after Yiannopoulos harshly criticized her performance. She finally deleted her account but has since returned to the social media platform. Twitter banned Yiannopoulos for his role in the harassment.
The NCAC statement argues that censorship is not an effective way to address hate speech. “The suppression of noxious ideas does not defeat them; only vigorous disagreement can counter toxic speech effectively. Shutting down the conversation may temporarily silence disfavored views, but does nothing to prevent them from spreading and resurfacing in other ways,” it said.
The statement also noted that Internet protests directed at book publishers are growing more frequent. Seven similar attacks have occurred over the last year. At least three books have been withdrawn, delayed, revised, or not reprinted: A Birthday Cake for George Washington (withdrawn by Scholastic), When We Was Fierce (postponed by Candlewick), and Bad Little Children’s Books (withdrawn by Abrams at the request of the author).
In addition to ABA and NCAC, the others signers of the statement are the Association of American Publishers, the Authors Guild, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the Freedom to Read Foundation, the Index on Censorship, and the National Council of Teachers of English.