As you might already know, yesterday, video clips of Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos defending pedophilia went viral. Although Yiannopoulos has built his career on directing hate speech towards women, people of color, trans people, Muslim people, Jewish people, and pretty much everyone else who’s not a cis white man, this seems to have been the final straw.
In response to the video clips, the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) dropped him as a speaker, and Simon & Schuster canceled his $250,000 book deal.
But don’t start applauding Simon & Schuster. For one thing, when they agreed on the book deal, they already knew about Yiannopoulos' history of hate speech and harassment — the pedophilia video clips hadn’t yet gone viral, but S&S definitely knew that Milo had been banned from Twitter for his racist harassment of Leslie Jones, that he’d publicly mocked a trans college student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and that he’d directed threats at many women during Gamergate, to name just a few of his many, many despicable actions.
Roxane Gay — who had pulled her book How To Be Heard from Simon & Schuster in response to their book deal with Milo — wrote a post on Tumblr in which she stands firm in her criticism of Simon & Schuster:
In canceling Milo’s book contract, Simon & Schuster made a business decision the same way they made a business decision when they decided to publish that man in the first place. When his comments about pedophilia/pederasty came to light, Simon & Schuster realized it would cost them more money to do business with Milo than he could earn for them. They did not finally “do the right thing” and now we know where their threshold, pun intended, lies. They were fine with his racist and xenophobic and sexist ideologies. They were fine with his transphobia, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. They were fine with how he encourages his followers to harass women and people of color and transgender people online. Let me assure you, as someone who endured a bit of that harassment, it is breathtaking in its scope, intensity, and cruelty but hey, we must protect the freedom of speech. Certainly, Simon & Schuster was not alone in what they were willing to tolerate. A great many people were perfectly comfortable with the targets of Milo’s hateful attention until that attention hit too close to home.
Gay also revealed how the publisher retaliated when she pulled her book:
Because I’ve been asked, I will not be publishing my book with Simon & Schuster now that they have dropped Milo. After I pulled my book, they changed the release date of Dangerous from March to June 13, the day my next book, Hunger, comes out. I said nothing because I was neither threatened nor concerned but it did reinforce for me that this was not a company I wanted to do business with. My protest stands. Simon & Schuster should have never enabled Milo in the first place. I see what they are willing to tolerate and I stand against all of it. Also, I’ve received far better offers for How to Be Heard from other publishers.
In before “but freedom of speech!!!!”:
“There are some who will spin the cancellation of this book contract as a failure of the freedom of speech but such is not the case. This is yet another example of how we are afforded the freedom of speech but there is no freedom from the consequences of what we say.”
Others have pointed out that a full-out boycott of Simon & Schuster would unfairly punish other authors, including women of color who write vital books about race and gender like Jesmyn Ward and Isabel Allende. But we wouldn’t say no to sending a strongly-worded letter to Simon & Schuster — and we applaud writers like Gay who will take their work to another publisher.
Top photo: RoxaneGay.com
More from BUST