Penguin Random House UK has ceased publication of Pedro Baños’ How They Rule the World: The 22 Secret Strategies of Global Power (Ebury) after an external review investigating allegations of antisemitism found the publisher should "have asked more questions and conducted deeper due diligence to determine whether it was appropriate to publish."
Earlier this month, PRH initiated an independent external review of the book, published by Ebury in April, after concerns of antisemitism were raised. The initial criticism began last month when British author Jeremy Duns made a series of claims on Twitter about How They Rule the World. In support of his allegations of antisemitism, Duns cited references to the Rothschild family contained in the original Spanish-language version of the book and drew attention to the book cover, which bears an image of octopus tentacles. The octopus symbol is commonly associated with antisemitism and was often used in Nazi-era propaganda.
PRH first said that an internal review had cleared the book, and that no action would be taken. However the publisher later instituted an external review led by Baroness Julia Neuberger, Senior Rabbi at West London Synagogue, crossbench member of the House of Lords and chair of the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute. Martina Weisz at the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, Jerusalem, and Stefanie Schueler Springorum, director of the Berlin Centre for Antisemitism Research, both experts in Spanish antisemitism, provided input and analysis. They reviewed the content of the English and Spanish language editions of the book, the cover of Ebury’s English edition and any other aspects they felt were relevant to making an overall assessment.
The reviewers found they did not consider the UK edition of the book to be antisemitic and they did not consider the original Spanish edition of the book to be antisemitic, but they did describe certain passages and references (which do not appear in the UK edition) as carrying echoes of Jewish conspiracy theories.
The reviewers also "believe strongly that Ebury should therefore have asked more questions and conducted deeper due diligence to determine whether it was appropriate to publish," they said.
In light of the review, PRH UK will print no further copies of the English language edition and rights over the English language edition will revert to the Spanish publisher, Planeta. Audio and e-book editions will no longer be available, the publisher confirmed.
In a statement, PRH UK said: "Penguin Random House UK has carefully considered these findings and notes the review’s judgement that the book is not in itself antisemitic, but that some passages are problematic. It therefore accepts the review’s finding that some of the material should have prompted further enquiry and due diligence on Ebury’s part in view of the complex and highly sensitive subject matter, in order to inform its publishing decision-making."
The management of Ebury has committed to strengthening its diligence in publishing decision-making, and PRH UK will provide full support, it said.
Tom Weldon, PRH UK c.e.o., said: “This is a highly sensitive and nuanced set of issues, and we are grateful to Baroness Neuberger and her fellow reviewers for their objective counsel as we have tried to navigate them. Penguin Random House UK publishes for readers of all backgrounds, faiths and nationalities, and the review and our resulting actions underline our commitment to that mission. But it also demonstrates that, in this particular case, our publishing judgement fell short; we must learn from that and improve.”
Baroness Neuberger added: “I was very impressed with Penguin Random House UK’s speedy reaction to this issue, and pleased with the review process. The other two advisors, appointed independently as experts in antisemitism in Spain, and I all came to the same view. There clearly were some complex questions here, but the thoroughness with which the publisher investigated shows considerable integrity.”