Not surprisingly, former Vice President Mike Pence is writing a book. Also not surprisingly these days, the staff at Simon & Schuster are in an uproar about it. But here’s something that really is a surprise: the publishing house’s management is staying the course. Good for them.
It has become more or less routine. The morally certain and entitled young staff members of some publication try to dictate what their employer should be allowed to publish. Any ideas that don’t pass the hard-left woke litmus tests must be banned. Only the acceptable ideas can get through.
So last summer when the New York Times ran an opinion piece by hyper-conservative Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), the staff became apoplectic. They demanded and got the resignation of the editorial page editor. Cotton had made the case for using Federal troops to quell violence in cities following the murder of George Floyd. I disagreed with Cotton, but his proposal, while rather extreme, didn’t cross any line of acceptable commentary that I could see. His views were just politically incorrect by the standards of the hard-left.
Also last summer, when the Hachette Publishing Group announced that it would publish Woody Allen’s book, “Apropos of Nothing,” 75 employees walked out in protest. They later met with the CEO who caved to their demands. Allen’s crime? Being accused of a crime. He has been accused of sexually abusing one of his children. He denies it. He’s never been prosecuted, much less convicted. There used to be this quaint idea in this country of the presumption of innocence, but for the woke left that goes out the window when the accusation is any kind of sexual harrasment or abuse. In that case, the accused is guilty. Full stop.
And now the Pence book. About 200 Simon & Schuster staff members and writers signed a petition demanding that the company drop the project. An online petition has gathered several thousand signatures beyond the company. But this time corporate leaders have not caved.
CEO Jonathan Karp has said that the Pence book will move forward. The staff wokesters say that publishing the book would be, “legitimizing bigotry.” But Karp replied that, “The former vice president who got 74 million votes is representative of a broad range of people.”
He’s right, of course. I’m no fan of Pence, but he was Vice President and he may run for President. I may find some of his views objectionable, but his explanation for and background surrounding the events of the last five years are certainly important. If nothing else, the book will be of some use to historians.
In truth, Karp was less courageous a few months ago when he cancelled a book deal with Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) in the wake of the Capitol insurrection.
Look, I don’t like Josh Hawley either. His decision to object to the certification of electoral votes opened the door to the January 6th violence. Among other rather despicable things, he has fed Donald Trump’s lies about the legitimacy of our elections. But Hawley’s book is about the influence and power of big tech and would seem to take a view that the left would agree with. It had nothing to do with the insurrection. The guy’s a United States Senator with a large following and a legitimate shot at being elected President some day. I may not like what he thinks, but I want to know what he thinks. And yet Karp caved to the pressure to cancel his book simply because it was written by Hawley.
In response to the Hachette hatchet job on the Woody Allen book, author Stephen King said this: “The Hachette decision to drop the Woody Allen book makes me very uneasy. It’s not him; I don’t give a damn about Mr Allen. It’s who gets muzzled next that worries me … If you think he’s a paedophile, don’t buy the book. Don’t go to his movies. Don’t go listen to him play jazz at the Carlyle Hotel. Vote with your wallet … In America, that’s how we do it.”
“It’s who get muzzled next that worries me.” Exactly. Pence’s book will get published in large part because it will make a bunch of money for Simon & Schuster. But, as even Karp points out, big pay days like that allow publishers to get lots of little known writers into print. Writers whose books don’t make money.
And, ironically, it’s those writers who are most at risk by the self-righteous woke mobs. An author with a point of view that is not orthodox hard-left, but whose book isn’t likely to make much money, is less likely to get published because it’s just not worth the headaches for management.
And that’s how ideas get strangled. The highest profile writers, who can deliver profits despite the controversy, will still find a publisher willing to take them on. But anybody with an upstart idea or a challenging point of view who isn’t a household name, is less likely to get a foothold in the world of ideas.
It comes down to this. The hard-left is afraid of ideas. My own view (and what used to be the view of American liberals) is that bad ideas should be exposed. Let them fall of their own weight. But the woke believe that we must be protected from all those bad ideas out there because we are not graced with their finely tuned sense of moral certainty.
Still, Karp’s rather courageous decision on the Pence book strikes at least some kind of blow for free speech. I probably won’t read Mike Pence’s book, but I’m glad it will be available for me to ignore.