Dangerous Or Disgusting?
Simon & Schuster Defends Milo Yiannopoulos Book Deal Despite Outrage
Numerous media outlets are adopting the framing of the widespread outcry to an eyebrow-raising publishing choice by renowned publishers Simon & Schuster as a free speech issue. Their decision to publish a book by a widely reviled Breitbart technology editor, Milo Yiannopoulos, despite swift condemnation from the public as well as some authors on the company’s own roster, is being framed as a free speech issue by Yiannpoulos, as well as by many of those covering it, resulting in preorders pushing it to #1 on Amazon’s Hot New Releases in Politics & Social Sciences list.
First and foremost, this is not a free speech issue. Governments censor speech, not publishing companies like Simon & Schuster, nor critics of those with unpopular or fringe ideas. As a foreign national (Yiannopoulos is British) he is generally entitled to the equal protection of the laws, to political freedoms of speech and association, and to due process requirements of fair procedure where his life, liberty, or property are at stake. Which means Yiannopoulos enjoys the same First Amendment protection as any American to spew whatever racist, white nationalist crap he chooses. Neither he nor any one else , however, has the right to a publishing platform that amplifies it.
And just as Yiannopoulos has the right to vomit up whatever shallow vitriol he pleases, so too does everyone else enjoy those freedoms, including the right to vigorously and unequivocally condemn this decision in the loudest, most effective means available, including trying to shame executives at Simon & Schuster for the unmistakable message their decision gives.
For Simon & Schuster, greed and profit trump common decency. The choice to remunerate, amplify and reward the outdated ignorance, hate, internalized homophobia and misogyny espoused by Yiannopoulos (or his pseudonym Milo Andreas Wagner), makes the publisher just as culpable for the low level of public discourse today, not part of a solution to elevate it.
If Simon & Schuster had higher regard for their current authors and the remaining Americans that still read books, they might have thought twice before deciding to package and sell the same unremarkable, two-bit, witless, cheap, antagonistic crap that has been proliferating in the dark recesses of comments sections ever since the term troll emerged to define them.
This is not a free speech issue. Not even close. It has absolutely nothing to do with censorship or the free exchange of ideas. It’s a business decision that Simon & Schuster reckoned would outweigh any public relations hit this represents for their credibility and their brand. It certainly has created interest in the story — far more than Yiannopoulos’s unoriginal brand of gutter level, cheap-points, clickbait-inspired excuse-for-content would have otherwise.
They have clearly chosen to cater to the white nationalist corner of the Twitterverse, and interspersed throughout Breitbart comments, to appeal to the dregs whose supposed aversion to political correctness gone awry is simply a thinly veiled excuse for their bigotry. For whom (bravely, from behind the safety of their keyboards, naturally) tossing around deliberately provocative terms like faggot demonstrates their bravado. And why they, along with Yiannopoulos and Simon & Shuster as well, have a vested interest in couching this business decision as a free speech issue rather than a calculated strategy to profit from bigotry.
A decision that seems to be paying off in the short term.
Regardless of Simon & Schuster’s gamble, there are some instructive lessons here for any aspiring author, even if they have nothing to do with free speech.
If you’re looking for an easy way to score a $250,000 book advance, fire off a few racist epithets to Leslie Jones and continue to refer to Caitlyn Jenner as Bruce.
Verbally attack and childishly insult Emmy Award winning journalist Zoey Tur to try prove just how tough and uncompromising you are by refusing to acknowledge, let alone use, the preferred pronoun of transgender men or women. (Or perhaps someone less capable than her of retaliation and the ability to emasculat you with better grammar and deeper insight.)
Never forget that you have a right to invalidate how other people choose to identify or present themselves, especially if it goes against your narrow minded beliefs.
Hide any obsessive, over-arching interests you have by hitting the campus talking circuit where you can attack the trangender community by referring to them as “mentally deranged” and mutilated. “Trannies” and “gay men dressing for attention”. Especially if demonizing them helps you to seek and get attention, and is a great way to escape whatever deep, self-loathing inspires you by monetizing it.
Mock rape culture and minimize feminism for having produced nothing more than ugly women. Flaunt your privilege, and allow yourself to be egged on with virtual backslaps from bigots, racists and rapists who may laugh at your bullying tactics and retweet you, while raising kids to bash you for your sexual orientation or simply just your bleach.
Make sure you don’t take on your own though. The white nationalist, alt-right fringes who are celebrating their ascension and Trump’s election. In fact, refer to yourself with enough self-loathing to win their approval and they will pretend to embrace you as one of them (in front of you), and reward the legitimacy your hateful rhetoric provides as a justification to vilify and attack the same marginalized groups that you do. Especially if you position yourself as a “free speech fundamentalist.”
Because even though it will likely make people consider your worldview with pity and disdain rather than fear, if you package this type of pre-adolescent, ignorance and title it “Dangerous,” you may just con enough people into thinking there’s insight in there worthy of wasting time on. Or of publishing to begin with.
Simon & Schuster had the foresight to go with “Dangerous” — shortened from Yiannopoulos’s college and university campus speaking circuit Dangerous Faggot Tour — presumably because the longer title would be a harder sell, not because they subconsciously knew of the potential brand dilution this decision would have regardless.
And while “Uninspired” “Tastelessly Trite” or “Lamely Gratuitous” far better describe anything Milo Yiannpoulos has ever written, tweeted or trolled Simon & Schuster didn’t want to confuse their latest book title with their brand values. And their newfound shameless commitment to the yawn-inducing echo-chamber mediocrity you can get by scrolling down the comments of a YouTube video.