Yiannopoulos and Mainstream Indifference, Whitewashing, and Respectability

News broke this past week that Simon & Schuster had signed a $250,000 book deal with neo-Nazi darling/spokesman Milo Yiannopoulos.

Milo is an all-around reprehensible human being, so you might be surprised that he got a book deal. Sadly, this is not the first time that the book publishing industry has legitimized hate groups and other extremists by giving them a platform to spout their views.

First, a little background from the AP:

In the face of heavy criticism, Simon & Schuster is moving forward with plans to publish a book by the conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos.

Yiannopoulos writes for Breitbart News, considered by many a platform for the so-called "alt-right" movement, an offshoot of conservatism that mixes racism, white nationalism and populism. Yiannopoulos' Twitter account was suspended earlier this year after a series of racially insensitive tweets aimed at "Ghostbusters" actress Leslie Jones, who is black. Yiannopoulos has denied he is a white nationalist.

...

Simon & Schuster said Friday that it does not condone discrimination or hate speech and said the book, which is titled "Dangerous," is about free speech. It will be published in March by an imprint of Simon & Schuster geared to conservatives. It has also published books by Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and President-elect Donald Trump.

S&S may claim to not condone hate speech but it is still legitimizing someone who spouts it - just like how Penguin Random House legitimized holocaust denier and anti-Semite David Irving, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt legitimized Hitler.

Back when it was known as Houghton Mifflin, HMH was the first authorized American publisher of Mein Kampf, only its version was sanitized to remove the worst parts of Hitler's ideology when originally published in 1933.

It was only after other publishers had published unauthorized and unexpurgated translations on the eve of WWII (more details here) that HMH republished a more complete Mein Kampf. (Coincidentally, HMH is still profiting from Hitler today.)

Hitler is the worst example of the book publishing industry giving hate mongers a platform, but he is not the only one.

Before he was debunked, David Irving was a semi-respectable historian who argued a fringe position that there was no historical evidence that the Holocaust ever happened - not as a state-run factory of death, anyway.

Irving had been published by Penguin, HarperCollins, Random House, and other trade publishers, but the wheels came off when historian Deborah Lipstadt reviewed the accuracy of his research and conclusions in a book for Penguin,  Denying the Holocaust, which was published in 1993.

Irving filed a libel suit against Lipstadt and Penguin in 1995. Wikipedia has a concise summary of the outcome of the suit:

Irving's reputation as a historian was discredited when, in the course of an unsuccessful libel case he filed against the American historian Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin Books, he was shown to have deliberately misrepresented historical evidence to promote Holocaust denial. The English court found that Irving was an active Holocaust denier, anti-Semite, and racist, who "for his own ideological reasons persistently and deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence". In addition, the court found that Irving's books had distorted the history of Adolf Hitler's role in the Holocaust to depict Hitler in a favourable light.

The thing about Irving is that the publishers knew what Irving was for a couple of decades before that libel suit. They kept publishing him because they were profiting off the controversy and did not care that they were legitimizing Irving.

Or as Rob Beschizza put it in a discussion we had a few weeks ago on Boing Boing:

That's what the mainstream does: in making use of fringe characters, the mainstream sands down their unacceptable aspects, to make them palatable to a broad audience. But it keeps the receipts, for later.

Which is to say that everyone in publishing and journalism knew Irving was full of shit almost from the beginning. But that's not how you sell provocative stories about Hitler, or write profiles about The New Face Of Jazz.

If you click the link you will find a summary of responses where historians called out Irving's 1977 book, Hitler's War, as bullshit. I won't repeat it here, but it is worth noting that the major publishers kept signing book deals with Irving even though they knew the legitimacy of his work had been questioned.

They were profiting off an anti-Semite, and did not care that they were legitimizing him by giving him a platform to spout his racist and Hitler apologist views.

And now we are seeing Simon & Schuster following the same path with Yiannopoulos. Sure, they are couching the book in terms of free speech, but the fact remains they are still legitimizing someone who regularly spews hate and incites his followers to attack innocent victims.

Quelle surprise.

image by bdunnette

About Nate Hoffelder (10600 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

31 Comments on Yiannopoulos and Mainstream Indifference, Whitewashing, and Respectability

  1. Out of my RSS feed for good // 1 January, 2017 at 1:56 pm // Reply

    lol, Milo a neo-Nazi. and then you claim BadEReader is uninformed, you’re a joke.

  2. LOL. There is nothing like
    (a) a member of one of the SJWs privileged groups (homosexuals) breaking ranks and not being a leftist and
    (b) one of the institutions the Left thought they had taken over in their Gramscian march through our culture (one of the big 5 publishers) also slightly breaking ranks by slightly supporting the transgressing privileged group member

    to draw the ire of SJWs like Nate.

    Relax Nate, don’t get your panties twisted into knots. You know you already lost the argument by Godwin’s law.

  3. Yiannopoulos is nothing more than human click bait. Complaining about anything related to that goofball on this blog is just giving him more recognition. I choose to simply ignore people like him.

    • Ignoring shit like this is why Germany got Hitler & America got Trump. Everyone dismissed these clowns and kept on dismissing them until, surprise, they ended up in power.

      It’s not that this asshole will ever have that impact, it’s that — especially in these days — if you see something you’d better goddamned well say something. Our voices are the only thing that will keep the Trump virus from infecting our nation further.

  4. I’m disappointed in this post, Nate. If you don’t like the book once it is published, don’t read it. I probably won’t, if only because of the ridiculous price that will no doubt be placed on it.

  5. This has the ring of American Psycho, which was another Simon & Schuster debacle.

    http://articles.latimes.com/1990-11-16/news/vw-4903_1_american-psycho

    EITHER they have not learned from that experience OR this is one giant publicity stunt where they’ll decide not to publish, get congrats for their responsibility and get a bunch of good press; all for $250K.

    My hunch is that it is the latter.

  6. “fact remains they are still legitimizing someone who regularly spews hate and incites his followers to attack innocent victims.” Like the “Love Trump Hate” riots in Portland. Damn Deplorables. ROTFLMAO Just retreat to your safe space and you will be fine.

    • Those rioters aren’t getting quarter of a million dollar book deals, so I have to find myself in agreement with your argument that neither the rioters or Yiannopoulos should get a book deal from S&S.

      You are absolutely right on that point.

  7. Yiannopoulos is a gay jew who loves black men.

    He has certainly said many offensive and controversial things (often to provoke) but you don’t list those or discuss their context. He has also said some smart and insightful things. I’m not defending him, but if you want to attack him, complaining about the publication of Mein Kampf doesn’t contribute anything to discussion about whether Simon & Schuster should publish his book. And, in fact, your post just confirms Milo’s best argument that people are overly sensitive and simply attacking him for being a gay conservative.

    Don Rickles also “regularly spews hate” for laughs. Milo has a lot more in common with Rickles than with Holocaust deniers.

    Whatever you think of Trump’s election, Milo was well ahead of other talking heads in saying that he was an important candidate. Even if you believe voices like Milo should be silenced, the reality is that he was right when many others were wrong. If those who opposed Trump had listened to Milo more carefully they might have had a better chance in formulating a strategy to defeat Trump. Burying your head in the sand and calling for others to do the same isn’t a good strategy for winning elections. Calling everyone who disagrees with you a Nazi is also a losing stragety. (It didn’t even work with the Nazis.)

    If progressives don’t want to see Trump reelected in four years (and Pence in eight) they should spend less time inventing outrage over clowns like Milo and more time focusing on creating a message they can sell to middle America. That might even include reading Milo’s book.

    • So Don Rickles outed and mocked a transgender student – in a forum which was guaranteed to set the student up for vicious harassment? Really?
      http://nymag.com/thecut/2016/12/milo-yiannopoulos-harassed-a-trans-student-at-uw-milwaukee.html

      And yes, I did link to a story about that. I would link to others, but after having seen one video of Milo’s campus events, I don’t have the intestinal fortitude to go look for more.

      And as for Milo being gay, I honestly did not know that. That is not the kind of info I look for when researching a person (sometimes I find it, yes, but I don’t go looking for it). But I am surprised to hear the right throw it out in his defense; I had thought only the left made the kind of weak-sauce arguments that a person’s physical traits trumped their political arguments.

      • Trump is horrible and Yiannopoulos is worse. Sure there’s nothing wrong with liking pensises but when it becomes pathological; with vile attacks on those without them (or those who wish they didn’t have them) it becomes pathologically horrible. Peter Thiel is a somewhat less extreme version of Yiannopoulos but who has at least accomplished *something* in his life. Were this about Thiel, a book deal MIGHT be warranted. A pathologically gay Nazi Jew, though, is no reason to award a book contract just because they are controversially horrible.

        IF this is not just a publicity stunt by Simon & Schuster THEN they need to feel the wrath of the 54% who did not vote for Trump: No S&S books reviewed, no S&S books discussed … silence to them across ALL of their imprints. Authors should leave and none should join. S&S wants to publish your book? Find somebody else. S&S has a book you want to read, don’t. Or find it available someplace where they make no money from it. Like a used book store or (perhaps) the electronic equivalent.

        If we ignore this and acquiesce to it, we normalize this crap. Chamberlain tried that against Hitler and look what happened.

    • And for the record, i don’t find insult humor very funny. that type of humor was why I disliked the new Ghostbusters movie, and why i walked out of Melissa McCarthy’s “Spy”.

      I do find it amusing, though, that you try to compare Rickles and Yiannopoulos. One is just going for laughs; the other is trying to incite a mob. Your comparison makes as little sense as trying to connect Gamergate and the SPJ’s code of ethics; there is no relation between the two.

      • Can you provide any statement made directly by Milo that was intended to “incite a mob?”

        I assume the “inciting a mob” meme about Milo you are referring is to his bad review of Ghostbusters which lead him to being banned from Twitter. I can only assume you did about as much research on this as you did as to whether he was gay.

        He did not try to “incite a mob.” He make a joke about Leslie Jones and many others made more offensive jokes. (His joke was, after she blocked him, “Rejected by another black man.”) That’s not inciting a mob. As best as I know, he didn’t even encourage others to comment. Yes, many of the jokes against Leslie Jones were very ugly and racist, but there is no evidence Milo encouraged them. (He certainly wasn’t the only person who disliked Ghostbusters.)

        What Milo actually did wasn’t bad enough on its own to justify the Twitter ban, but so Twitter accused him of “inciting” the actions of others (which again, was simply negative, if racist, tweets). The spin that Milo incites mobs been continually spun over and over and I don’t see any evidence of it. Any more than you are inciting a mob by saying you walked out of Spy.

        It’s very dangerous to loosely throw around accusations that people are “Nazis” or that they are “inciting a mob.”

        Speech does matter. Accusing people who are not advocating violence of advocating violence is a distortion meant to shut them up and close off debate. That’s not good. But even worse, it can provide cover for extremists (on either side of the political spectrum) to actually engage in violence since reasonable avenues for debate are being cut off. And the notion of violent action is being raised (even falsely) as a response can encourage it.

        There are plenty of examples of this in mass media. People talk about kids committing suicide encourages more kids to commit suicide. Talking about how dangerous sniffing glue is causes more kids to try it. Smashing pumpkins… etc. There are crazy and impressionable people in the world.

        Does that mean that we can only talk about kittens and flowers? No, there are serious issues that need to be talked about. But it’s better to be honest about what people say than try to smear them to silence debate about issues you’d rather not have talked about.

        The real Nazi’s beat up people in back alleys and murdered people behind doors for expressing the wrong views or being of the wrong race. That’s not what is going on here and it’s wrong to try to pretend it is or imply that it is likely to happen. At a certain point you run the danger of encouraging crazy people to fulfill your extreme accusations.

        • Okay, now you are being intentionally obtuse. I’m done discussing this with you.

          But in the interests of showing that i didn’t run away with my tails between my legs –

          I gave you an example of Milo inciting the mob in my very first reply to you. He doxxed a transgender student, setting the student up as a target of abuse just like when Anne Rice pointed her fans at reviewers Rice didn’t like.

          Milo got his start in Gamergate, so he knew what would happen, and to argue that it wasn’t his intent requires being willfully obtuse.

          And as for calling him a Nazi, I did not. I called him a “neo-Nazi darling/spokesman”. Given what Bloomberg and others have said about him (Pretty, Monstrous Face of the Alt-Right), “darling/spokesman” is reasonably accurate. And as for the term neo-Nazi, here’s what the AP had to say about the term alt-right:

          The “alt-right” or “alternative right” is a name currently embraced by some white supremacists and white nationalists to refer to themselves and their ideology, which emphasizes preserving and protecting the white race in the United States in addition to, or over, other traditional conservative positions such as limited government, low taxes and strict law-and-order.

          Avoid using the term generically and without definition, however, because it is not well known and the term may exist primarily as a public-relations device to make its supporters’ actual beliefs less clear and more acceptable to a broader audience. In the past we have called such beliefs racist, neo-Nazi or white supremacist.

          • You seem to be making my point that the problem here is that progressives don’t want to discuss the issues and rely on Nazi and Hitler references to try to shut down debate. I don’t see a huge distinction between calling someone a Nazi and saying they are “neo-Nazi darling/spokesman.”

            Moreover, once again you fail to do any research on the person you attack or you would know that Milo (because he is gay and because he talks about having sex with black men) actually is hated by real Neo-Nazis (and hard core alt-right) and has received many death threats from them. (As well as twitter abuse, etc.) He gets attacked by both sides.

            You’re not referencing what Milo actually said, but what people have said about him. Most of it, very distorted by the political echo chamber.

            I’m not being deliberately obtuse, I don’t think see how it is “doxing” (first you said “outing”) to comment on someone who made a public lawsuit to change public policy. Nor do I see how criticizing that person, even on their appearance, is inciting a mob.

            And I will say again that all this loose talk about mobs and violence is wrong. Particularly since there is clear evidence that Democratic operatives actually paid people to incite violence at Trump rallies. “Birddogging.”

            http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2016/10/17/exclusive-okeefe-video-sting-exposes-bird-dogging-democrats-effort-to-incite-violence-at-trump-rallies/

            Milo has had events canceled because of bomb threats and other threats of violence. Whether you have thought it through or not, you are assisting an orchestrated campaign to shut down debate and scare people. It was a campaign that lost the last election. But it also runs the real risk of encouraging the very violence you claim to be worried about. Violence that can come from both sides.

            It both encourages crazy people to act in Milo’s name in possibly violent ways and also incites anger against him which has been used to justify violent threats against him.

            It’s also simply bad politics. Milo doesn’t need me to defend him. Attacks like yours simply help boost his popularity. What is depressing is that the real issues aren’t being discussed because the debate is so toxic.

            This kind of stuff is driving thinking people away from important progressive causes. It’s a real shame.

      • Why’d you walk out of Spy? It seemed pretty harmless.

  8. Don Rickles said of Obama: “I shouldn’t make fun of the blacks. President Obama is a personal friend of mine. He was over to the house yesterday, but the mop broke.” That’s pretty racist a joke. He would also openly mock women in his audience for being ugly, guys for being short or fat, etc. Would he mock a woman (or transgender) who looked like a man? I would assume so.

    I’m not in favor of mocking people based on their appearance. So I’m not defending Milo (or Rickles) on that. But it’s common place and comes from both sides of the political spectrum. (Trump was mocked for his appearance, and his wife was slut slammed also. Not to mention she was attacked for having a accent by people who claimed Trump was xenophobic) Plenty of people make offensive comments about people’s appearance. Milo is being singled out not for that, but for his conservative beliefs. I don’t agree with many of those beliefs, but I think it’s important for a major publisher to publish books on both sides of the political spectrum. I don’t like Ted Cruz, but I wouldn’t attack a major publisher for publishing a book by him. And Milo has a lot more interesting things to say about the world than Cruz. And once again, he was right about Trump being able to win the election. So why wouldn’t they publish a book by someone who was so far ahead of the curve on that?

    If you didn’t know Milo was gay, then you obviously didn’t do any basic research on him before attacking him based on the spin of others. It’s almost impossible to find a clip of any of his speeches where he doesn’t bring up the fact that he is gay frequently.

    You don’t win a virtue signaling contest by implying someone is a Nazi but you didn’t bother to to check to see if they were gay or Jewish. Fine to argue it doesn’t matter, but ignorance of the fact doesn’t strengthen your argument they are intolerant. Great that you don’t judge people for being gay, but I believe that a huge amount of the controversy about Milo comes from the fact that he dares to be a gay who doesn’t accept standard progressive ideas. And, in fact, there are homophobic overtones to the amount of hatred that is directed toward him for his conservative beliefs… and yes, it’s coming from progressives who expect gays to stay on progressive plantations.

    In the link you provided, Milo didn’t “out” a Transgender student. That student had outed herself with a lawsuit to have access to women’s bathrooms. Milo, yes mockingly, attacked that student over their appearance. But appearance is an issue in regard to who has access to bathrooms. Someone who looks like a woman is not going to be questioned walking into a woman’s bathroom.

    I am personally in favor of transgender rights. But the “right” of people born as men to use women’s bathrooms regardless of their mannish appearance is a very controversial issue. Anyone who doesn’t see that is burying their heads in the sand. Gay and Transgender rights are not going to be advanced by ignoring the other side, shouting louder, trying to silence opposing voices or refusing to debate the issue. This election proved that. The fact is, that as a political matter, the battle for gay marriage was won in a large part because gay advocates wisely dodged many controversial issues, including transgender bathroom issues, and focused politically on older monogamous gay couples to win the right of marriage. That’s how you win elections and court cases.

    On the larger subject of gay rights, which Milo frequently talks about, he makes a pretty logical argument that there is a much greater danger to gays around the world from the growth of religious extremism, including the murder and imprisonment of gays in Muslim countries. He argues that the fight over wedding cakes and bathrooms in the United States is a distraction. I don’t fully agree with that, but it’s a valid point to discuss. He is also correct in stating that colleges are becoming too much of an echo chamber for one side of the political debate. If you aren’t capable of listening to opposing viewpoints, you aren’t going to win elections.

    There is an argument to be made, and in fact a good one, that Milo is dog whistling to white nationalists. But that debate is not going to be won by calling him a Nazi. He talks effectively about how blacks have been let down in urban areas like Chicago that have been controlled by Democrats for almost a century. This is pretty much boiler plate Republican ideology about government keeping the poor weak rather than helping them. But it sounds better coming from a young gay man (who has sex with black men) than it does coming from an old Republican chamber of commerce type. Democrats have to come up with a better argument than give us another four more years and we’ll eventually get around to fixing the ghettos. They won’t do that by simply labeling everyone who doesn’t support them as a racist and refusing to debate them.

    As I said, progressives are at a crossroads. They can double down on failed strategies of assuming anyone who disagrees with them is a monster (a Nazi) or they can start listening to what the other side is really saying and coming up with logical arguments against their points. Trying to silence the other side won’t work.

  9. Mackay. In my view you have the right of the matter (no pun intended).

    Nate, it is not a question of you running away with your tail between your legs. You simply failed to do your homework and blindly followed the line pushed by others. We are unfortunately all guilty of this on occasion. Instead of taking the easy way out you should now either admit you were in error or do your homework and respond logically to Mackey’s rebuttls. Or better still, limit the political partisanship and report in a balanced fashion. You do of course have the right to say what you want. You should accord others the same respect rather than endorsing attempts to deny them a voice simply because you don’t agree with them. Free speech is vitally important and should be limited only in the extreme circumstances where its exercise is criminally inciting violence. Publishing a book does not denote the Publishers agreement with the views of an author.

    Finally, by engaging in rants like this, you are likely alienating something like half of your readers. As a blogger in this current environment, you have nothing to gain from alienating possibly half of your readers. If you must take a stand on your principals, then at least do your research properly and get it right. Many who disagree with you may nevertheless respect you for taking a stand. Unfortunately this is not such a case.

    • Except I have responded.

      She has ignored my counter arguments, moved the goal posts, and cited Breitbart.

      I am no more interested in winning this argument than in convincing Mackay she was wrong about Apple and antitrust. It is one of thos times we will never see eye to eye, so I am done here.

    • And to be honest, I didn’t really care to start it. I just wanted to put Milo in historical context. The strong negative tone is partially a result of having no editor and a negative personality.

      And now I am really done. I swear.

  10. So Mackay asked me to explain what Milo had done himself that was so terrible. I don’t have the stomach to research him, but luckily for me someone else did:
    https://bitchmedia.org/article/bad-things-milo-yiannopoulos-has-done-case-his-new-publisher-cares-just-kidding-they-totally

    That’s who you’re defending.

  11. Who wrote these words? “And now I really am done. I swear”.

    bitchmedia? Sounds like a journal of record. Thought I would take a look, but the site is down. If I can be bothered I will try again later. In the meantime, Nate, just what has Milo himself done to justify the forfeiture of his right to free speech in your opinion? Whatever happened to Journalists and bloggers defending free speech?

    • “what has Milo himself done to justify the forfeiture of his right to free speech in your opinion?”

      LOL, what a sentence.

      I don’t know whether I love it more for the straw man argument (I never said he should lose his his free speech rights) or for the false assumption that losing this book deal would deprive Milo of his rights.

      You know, if you’re going to write nonsense like this then you should really go whole hog and also accuse me of homophobia and anti-Semitism. Why stop at half measures?

  12. “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. And publishers must pay a quarter of a million dollars to writers from other countries that their words may be published in the United States for all to see in book form, nor may anyone criticize such a decision, lest free speech be suppressed.” See? It’s right there in the First Amendment.

    • LOL

      In this day and age there are so many ways to reach your audience that it is ridiculous to suggest that losing book deal amounts to censorship. That was somewhat true as little as 20 years ago, but now? No.

  13. You do have a weak point. There are of course other ways to reach an audience. But you might equally say that a guest lecturer at a university whose lecture is shut down by the now too common group of thugs heckling and chanting slogans can still speak elsewhere. In neither case has the right to free speech been lost entirely. But it has been wrongfully interfered with and substantially lessened. And a major outlet denied. It is nothing more than an attempt to silence a person rather than deal rationally with their arguments.

    Bob, your addition to the Constitution would be amusing and clever were it not for the fact that the publisher is not being forced to publish the book but chooses to. It is Nate and yourself who are backing the attempts to force the publisher not to. A more accurate addition might be “This clause does not apply to protect freedom of speech or of the press if progressive political groups deem the ideas spoken or published or proposed to be spoken or published to be thought crime.”

    Nate, just what has Milo himself done to justify this interference in his right to free speech (and out right to hear what he has to say) by seeking to deny him publication through a traditional publisher who wants to publish him. Whatever happened to Journalists and bloggers defending free speech?

  14. By the way, bitchmedia is back up. And the article referred to is, at least in my view, a hit piece without merit. It is also totally devoid of anything resembling an appreciation of satire or parody, or for that matter a sense of humour.

  15. Update: If you would like to see how defending free speech is done please have a look at PG’s comments on this matter over at the Passive Voice.

    http://www.thepassivevoice.com/2017/01/publishing-milo-yiannopoulos-book-is-wrong-my-magazine-is-fighting-back/

    • PG didn’t defend free speech; he took more time to reach the same conclusion I did and used language which was more polite.

      I didn’t bother because the issue of censorship was completely irrelevant, and I wasn’t going to be dragged into irrelevancies. (Had this actually been censorship – had Milo been deprived access to the market – then you would find me arguing the other side of the issue.)

      Now, when he was blocked by protesters, that was censorship. But it was also what Milo wanted – to inflame passions – so I am not really all that broken up by it.

  16. It seems that we have very different interpretations.

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