Milo Yiannopoulos may be banned but he cannot be contained. The 33-year-old, gay, alt-right editor provocateur of Breitbart, who was banned from Twitter during the summer for online harassment of comedian Leslie Jones has recently received an alleged $250,000 advance to from Simon & Schuster to publish his free-hate-speech toting book, Dangerous.
Bullying celebrities, though condemnable and petty, is one thing—I’m sure Leslie Jones can hold her own, and could quite possibly wrangle a far sweeter book deal from the company—but it’s another to publicly harass transgender students.
In December, Yiannopoulos was invited to perform his “Dangerous Faggot Tour” at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. According to the Wisconsin-Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “he singled out a transgender student who had protested against a new UWM policy created for its recreation center's locker rooms.” Yiannopoulos then proceeded to, “name and show a picture of the student to his audience, and accused the student of being a man trying to find his way into women's bathrooms.” This, along with what the student deemed to be a cowardly response from UWM’s chancellor, Mark Mone, who sent a mass e-mail stating— “I will support students’ decisions to bring a wide array of speakers to our campus – even if the speaker is controversial” followed by, “That said, I do not agree with Yiannopoulos’ views, and I strongly condemn the belittling of others and their appearance, and the encouragement of hate and harassment. I also will not stand silently by when a member of our campus community is personally and wrongly attacked.”—prompted the student to withdraw from the university. Because Yiannopoulos lost his voice on Twitter, a student lost their safety on campus.
Donald Trump’s decision to appoint Steve Bannon, Breitbart’s chair, to his cabinet has only increased the website’s popularity and its consequential toxicity. If the alt-right of yesteryear consisted of just a few disgruntled, white men left behind, it is now made up of a roaring chorus of white supremacists conducted by their new leader-elect. Yiannopoulos and ostensibly, Simon & Schuster, saw financial opportunity in this. One might even consider that in the six months he has had to bottle up his would-be tweets, Yiannopoulos could fill binders full of hate, and guess what, people love to see their hate reflected back to them. Indubitably, this led to an uproar on the left against Simon & Schuster. Twitter has been a ringin’ with calls to boycott the publisher and The Chicago Review stated it will not review any of their titles in 2017. Like many publishers, S&S has many imprints, which act, essentially, as labels that specialize or cater to certain niches. Threshold, the imprint that is publishing Dangerous, has published a number of conservative figures such as Glenn Beck, Dick Cheney, and Trump. We could, (and I certainly do) speculate that this deal wouldn’t exist had the election outcome differed, which does not speak kindly to the force of the book’s content. However, like publicist Kima Jones points out to MPR News, a boycott can inflict more harm than help, "I think the best way to discuss the situation with Milo's book or any other book that you're not invested in yourself is to support the art that you are invested in.” Jones warns of the perils of boycotting saying, “"Then the idea is: Where is the cutoff? Where do we stop?"
S&S has various varying imprints and though it supports a few on the right, it also promotes the works of many minorities, such as Salaam Reads, which is the company’s imprint devoted to Muslim children’s books. As Alexandra Schwartz of The New Yorker speculates, “It can be tempting to go a step further and imagine that some sort of Robin Hooding is at work—that Simon & Schuster spreads around profits from its different imprints, using the income from Threshold best-sellers to fund worthy books that otherwise might be too financially risky to publish. But it’s not clear that that’s necessarily the case. Simon & Schuster has many other best-sellers, after all, and the company isn’t exactly transparent about how it allocates its profits and resources.” Considering this, the best option may not be to boycott their books but to write comprehensive and honest letter listing the fundamental reasons why you are disappointed by their actions. Mikki Halpin lists the publishers address (and her compelling opinions on this) here.
Maybe on your way home pick up a copy of The Fire This Time to incentivize Simon & Schuster to publish works that bring people together instead of ones that draw them apart.
Top Photo: Milo's Instagram
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An Open Letter To White Liberal Feminists After Donald Trump's Election Jen Pitt, originally from Brazil, is a Brooklyn based writer and performer. She covers feminism, arts, and Brazilian culture.