Simon & Schuster’s US chief executive Carolyn Reidy has moved to reassure authors that the publisher will not “support, condone” or publish “hate speech” following the furore surrounding the book it signed with Milo Yiannopoulos.
In a letter to authors sent yesterday (23rd January), Reidy said the book deal its imprint Threshold Editions signed with the Breitbart News editor was intended to be “a substantive examination of the issues of political correctness and free speech”, issues that she said are “already much-discussed and argued and fought over in both mainstream and alternative media and on campuses and in schools across the country”.
The book deal for Dangerous sparked outrage in the US and the UK when it was first reported. Breitbart News is known as a publisher of “alt-right” articles, and Yiannopoulos has also been banned from Twitter after allegedly encouraging people to abuse actress Leslie Jones on the social media platform.
At the time Yiannopoulos signed the book deal for a reported $250,000, he told the Hollywood Reporter: "I met with top execs at Simon & Schuster earlier in the year and spent half an hour trying to shock them with lewd jokes and outrageous opinions. I thought they were going to have me escorted from the building — but instead they offered me a wheelbarrow full of money.
"Every line of attack the forces of political correctness try on me fails pathetically. I'm more powerful, more influential and more fabulous than ever before, and this book is the moment Milo goes mainstream. Social justice warriors should be scared — very scared.”
In her letter sent yesterday (23rd January) and seen by BuzzFeed, Reidy said the publisher had received a lot of feedback from authors and readers “expressing concern and displeasure” about it.
“I want you to know that we take all of this feedback seriously and appreciate that so many people, especially our authors, have taken the time to communicate with us,” she said.
“First and foremost, I want to make clear that we do not support or condone, nor will we publish, hate speech. Not from our authors. Not in our books. Not at our imprints. Not from our employees and not in our workplace.”
She added Threshold Editions, like all its imprints, is editorially independent and its acquisitions are made without the involvement or knowledge of our other publishers.
“In considering this project, the imprint believed that an articulate discussion of these issues, coming from an unconventional source like Mr. Yiannopoulos, could become an incisive commentary on today’s social discourse that would sit well within its scope and mission, which is to publish works for a conservative audience,” Reidy wrote.
She ended her letter bleakly, telling authors there was “no question” that we are “living in a time when many are feeling uncertainty and fear”.
“It is a moment when political passions are running hotter and stronger than at any time in recent history, and cultural divides across the country seem to be getting wider,” she said. “And so I can appreciate the strong opinions and feelings this has stirred in you and others”.
Reidy added that she also recognised there may be a “genuine debate to be had about who should be awarded a book contract”.
“For us, in the end, it ultimately comes down to the text that is written,” Reidy said. “And here I must reiterate that neither Threshold Editions nor any other of our imprints will publish books that we think will incite hatred, discrimination or bullying.”
The Bookseller has previously reported that the UK arm of Simon & Schuster said it had no plans to publish the title, which is set for release in March 2017.
However, free speech group English PEN has argued that Yiannopoulos' right to freedom of expression must be respected and "offensive ideas should be debunked and discredited, not censored”.