As an introduction for those who are not familiar with Milo Yiannopoulos, he is a gay right-wing political celebrity who has a talent for effective and attention-getting sarcasm directed toward officials and supporters of the Democratic party in the US. He rose to prominence as a backer of Donald Trump during the recent Presidential campaign.
PG has tried to keep TPV from descending into nastiness during the recent political season in the US. Absent the Simon and Schuster publishing connection, he would likely not have posted anything pro or anti about Yiannopoulos.
This article is written by the editor-in-chief of the Chicago Review of Books.
From The Guardian:
Last week, the literary world gasped when one of the largest publishers in the United States, Simon & Schuster, rewarded America’s most infamous internet troll, Milo Yiannopoulos, with a $250,000 book deal. But we probably should have seen it coming. After all, 2016 taught us that ridiculing women, people of colour, Muslims and members of the LGBTQ community can make someone immensely popular.
For Simon & Schuster, it can also be immensely profitable. During Yiannopoulos’s tenure at Breitbart – where he’s told gay people to “get back in the closet” and women to “log off” the internet – he has amassed more than 1 million followers on Facebook. Threshold Editions, the Simon & Schuster imprint dedicated to “innovative ideas of contemporary conservatism”, has a hit on its hands.
But Yiannapoulos is not a conservative intellectual leader with a political agenda. He’s a clickbait grifter who has made a name for himself spewing hate speech. As the editor-in-chief of a small literary review, I wanted Simon & Schuster to know that broadcasting his rhetoric would have real-world consequences. So I made a decision that has nothing to do with political ideology and everything to do with human rights and decency: the Chicago Review of Books will not cover a single Simon & Schuster book in 2017.
According to thousands of Twitter and Facebook users, our stance is equivalent to censorship, fascism and book-burning.
. . . .
Some writers, editors and publicists have pointed out that our decision isn’t fair to hundreds of other Simon & Schuster authors who had nothing to do with the publisher’s decision to sign Yiannopoulos. I agree. It’s unfair. Simon & Schuster will publish some wonderful books in 2017 through imprints I admire, such as 37 Ink, Salaam Reads and Touchstone. But I strongly believe the literary community must hold the publisher accountable.
Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Barb for the tip.
A bit of clarification is in order for those not familiar with the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.
This is the portion of the Constitution protecting free speech.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The First Amendment protects speech and religion of all sorts from restraint or prohibition by government through laws or via government actors. The First Amendment applies to state and local governments as well as the federal government.
The Chicago Review of Books is not, to PG’s knowledge, a publication of any government entity. The First Amendment actually protects the right of The Chicago Review to publish or not publish almost anything it pleases.
Writings and discussions about whether the actions of The Chicago Review are correct or moral or wise or detestable, etc., etc. are also protected from government censorship or restraint by the First Amendment.
“Hate speech” is usually defined in the eye of the beholder. Regardless of how offensive, almost all “hate speech” is protected from government censorship or restraint by the First Amendment.
PG says “almost all” because certain narrow categories of speech may be regulated by government without violating the First Amendment. For example, “fighting words” – words which would likely make the person to whom they are addressed commit an act of violence – are not protected by the First Amendment.
Here’s an excerpt from a US Supreme Court case, Terminiello v. Chicago, 337 U.S. 1 (1949), that speaks about the limited nature of the fighting words exception:
[The] function of free speech under our system of government is to invite dispute. It may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger. Speech is often provocative and challenging. It may strike at prejudices and preconceptions and have profound unsettling effects as it presses for acceptance of an idea. That is why freedom of speech, though not absolute, is nevertheless protected against censorship or punishment.
While PG is not an expert on First Amendment matters, he is unaware of any court case in which the contents of a book constituted fighting words.