Yiannopoulos and Mainstream Indifference, Whitewashing, and Respectability
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.
image by bdunnette