Simon & Schuster has announced the cancellation of its contract to publish Dangerous, a book by Milo Yiannopoulos, the conservative firebrand who has been widely condemned for derogatory remarks about women, African-Americans, Muslims, and members of the LGBTQ community.
In a one-sentence statement, the publisher announced on Monday, February 20, that “after careful consideration, Simon & Schuster and its Threshold Editions imprint have cancelled publication” of the book, which was scheduled for June. The announcement came on the same day that new reports revealed the existence of a video in which Yiannopoulos makes statements that appear to approve of sexual relationships between older men and boys.
Yiannopoulos has denied that he ever condoned pedophilia, but there have been reactions to the video beyond the Simon & Schuster decision. The Conservative Political Action Conference cancelled an invitation for Yiannopoulos to speak at its conference, scheduled to begin on February 22. Yiannopoulos later resigned from Breitbart News, where he was a senior editor. He apologized for his “poor choice of words.”
According to the New York Times, Yiannopoulos will seek another publisher. His agent is quoted as saying that 50,000 copies of Dangerous have been presold.
Simon & Schuster has been strongly criticized for its decision to publish Yiannopoulos. The Chicago Review of Books protested the signing by announcing that it would not review any Simon & Schuster books for the next year, and The Booksmith in San Francisco declared that it would cut its purchases of Simon & Schuster titles by 50 percent and contribute the profits from the sale of the publisher’s other books to the ACLU. One hundred and sixty Simon & Schuster children’s authors and illustrators protested in a letter to company CEO Carolyn Reidy about the book’s acquisition.
The American Booksellers Association joined a statement by the National Coalition Against Censorship that opposed a boycott of Simon & Schuster. While acknowledging that boycotts are a form of speech that is protected by the First Amendment, the statement warned that efforts to damage a publisher with economic sanctions could have a chilling effect, limiting its ability to publish controversial works. The statement was also signed by the Association of American Publishers, Authors Guild, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Freedom to Read Foundation, Index on Censorship, and the National Council of Teachers of English.
“From the beginning of the controversy over Dangerous, ABA has defended the freedom of publishers and booksellers to sell the titles they want,” ABA CEO Oren Teicher commented. “The First Amendment protects the right of Simon & Schuster to cancel Dangerous, just as it protected their right to acquire it. And without question, the First Amendment also protects the right of consumers to boycott publishers in protest about any particular title, and for a bookseller to decide what titles will be carried in his or her store. As abhorrent or as distasteful as some subjects may be, ABA remains concerned about the rising pressure on publishers to cancel or change books because someone finds them offensive.”