Who’s Trolling Who?
The Internet – or the portions of it that I frequent – has lately become somewhat exercised (and among my friends rather entertained) by the news that Simon and Schuster has a quarter-million book deal with one Milo Yiannopoulos, leading to much frothing at the mouth in certain circles, as noted at the Passive Voice
Of course, Passive Guy kindly links to the original Guardian article which – surprise! – wasn’t written by our favorite village person of alternative intellect or whatever the current approved terminology is. No, the Grauniad’s latest effort is by a gentleman who is apparently in charge of the Chicago Review of Books, and who wishes it known to all and sundry (can you say virtue signaling? I knew you could) that his eminent publication will not be reviewing any S&S books.
So, let’s take a look at what passes for Mr Adam Morgan’s erudition, shall we?
My commentary is in plain text (mostly). The original article is in italics. If you want to follow any of the original links, go check the link above, because I’m not trying to take those through the combination of WordPress and my word processor.
Last week, the literary world gasped when one of the largest publishers in the United States, Simon & Schuster, rewarded America’s most infamous internet troll, Milo Yiannopoulos, with a $250,000 book deal.
Presumably all the Grauniad’s readers know who constitutes “the literary world” – namely their august selves. There are some nonconformist souls who happen to think that the definition is a bit broader and includes all authors, all publishers, and even (GASP!) readers. Leaving this question of terminology aside, take note of the description of Mr Yiannopoulous as “America’s most infamous internet troll”. Five words. Damn near as many lies. He’s British, he’s not a troll, internet or otherwise, he’s not infamous despite having a certain amount of notoriety, and he’s certainly not the most infamous anything I can think of right now.
Nice job, Mr Morgan, delegitimizing and othering a gay person of non-WASP extraction – one might almost think you were a disgusting homophobic racist, if you didn’t have such impeccable reprogressive credentials.
But we probably should have seen it coming. After all, 2016 taught us that ridiculing women, people of colour, Muslims and members of the LGBTQ community can make someone immensely popular.
It did? Apparently Mr Morgan was taking lessons from the KKK (who, incidentally, are on his side, but that’s a minor issue) because for the rest of us the lessons of 2016 were that women, people of color (I resent my color being delegitimized, thank you. I did not ask to be born with barely a hint of pink to offset the glaring white), Muslims (who the last time I looked Mr Morgan’s people are carefully tiptoeing around lest they offend the barbarian who’ll cut off his head if he steps wrong where some of us are of the opinion that any humans can learn to accept views not their own), and members of the LGBTQWTFBBQ community included about the same number of sensible adults with the ability to make up their own damn minds as any other random or non-random group of people on the planet.
Of course, I’m not Marxist-in-all-but-name…ahem progressive so I apparently don’t have the ability to make up my mind and need the likes of Mr Morgan to make it for me.
Damn. I’m not even onto the second paragraph. Speaking of which…
For Simon & Schuster, it can also be immensely profitable. During Yiannopoulos’s tenure at Breitbart – where he’s told gay people to “get back in the closet” and women to “log off” the internet – he has amassed more than 1 million followers on Facebook.
Subtext: profit bad. Shitstirring bad unless done for The Cause. Lots of Facebook followers bad – how dare this uber-flamboyant gay man get off the plantation we progressives made for him!
Threshold Editions, the Simon & Schuster imprint dedicated to “innovative ideas of contemporary conservatism”, has a hit on its hands.
Oooh, scare quotes. Way to imply that the publisher has no right to even consider having a conservative ideas imprint. Never mind that anything other than Mr Morgan’s beloved perspectives is everywhere else and damn near impossible to escape unless you go indie. I may have a fit of the vapors! Where are my pearls! I must clutch my pearls!
But Yiannapoulos is not a conservative intellectual leader with a political agenda. He’s a clickbait grifter who has made a name for himself spewing hate speech.
Look mama, more delegitimization. So the man knows how to market himself. Big whoop. I’ve seen worse clickbait in the hallowed virtual halls of the Grauniad than I’ve seen from Mr Yiannopoulos. Speaking of which, at least spell the man’s name right. Of course he’s only a gay man who doesn’t know enough to hold the correct views, so he clearly doesn’t matter that much (yes, that is sarcasm. If you hadn’t noticed this post is dripping with it, I recommend a couple of painkillers, some smelling salts, some pearls to clutch, and a really good lie-down).
As the editor-in-chief of a small literary review, I wanted Simon & Schuster to know that broadcasting his rhetoric would have real-world consequences.
Oh the courage! The risks Mr Morgan is taking! Why, someone in S&S might even notice!
So I made a decision that has nothing to do with political ideology and everything to do with human rights and decency: the Chicago Review of Books will not cover a single Simon & Schuster book in 2017.
Oh, bullshit. It has everything to do with ideology, or Mr Morgan wouldn’t be making his ever so brave statement condemning S&S for not just permitting wrongthink but publishing it.
According to thousands of Twitter and Facebook users, our stance is equivalent to censorship, fascism and book-burning. By choosing not to review Simon & Schuster books for a year, they claim we’re contradicting both the first amendment and our own mission to cover “diverse voices”.
My god. Be still my beating heart. I may actually agree with Mr Morgan about something. Attempting to punish S&S for publishing a diverse voice he dislikes certainly does contradict his publication’s stated mission; but it does not contradict the First Amendment (which, incidentally, damn well should be capitalized). It’s a disgusting stance, choosing to punish unrelated and wholly innocent parties for the words of another, but it’s absolutely allowed.
In response, they’ve photoshopped my head onto a Nazi soldier, posted my photo with the caption “WARNING! This man was just accused of molesting young children!” and expressed their hope that the next wave of Chicago shootings might “take out” some of our editors.
Now that is disgusting. It’s the kind of thing Mr Morgan’s allies regularly do to those who disagree with them however mildly, but it’s still disgusting – only they usually follow up with a demand that their target prove they aren’t whatever. It’s not pleasant to have your weapons turned on you, is it sir?
But we aren’t infringing upon Yiannopoulos’s or Simon & Schuster’s free speech. Yiannopoulos has the constitutional right to say whatever he wants. He can call Leslie Jones a “black dude” who is “barely literate”. He can call Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig and Kate McKinnon “fat” and “ugly”. He can call transgender people “mentally ill” and “retarded,” and mock a transgender student during a speech at her own school.
Just as Mr Morgan has the right to lie by carefully omitting context as he’s done here. Of course, he’s done this in the UK, for a British publication, and he’s lying about a British man, which means he’s just made himself a prime target for some British-style libel lawfare – except that Mr Yiannopoulos is probably having way too much fun taking the piss to bother.
And of course, Simon & Schuster has every right to increase Yiannopoulos’s platform by publishing his book. However, free speech doesn’t protect anyone from repercussions in a free market. The literary community – and society at large – has the freedom to respond in kind. That’s why the UK division of Simon & Schuster has decided not to publish Yiannopoulos’s book. It’s why some professionals, such as author Danielle Henderson and audiobook producer Emmett Plant, are reconsidering their relationships with the publisher.
I’m sure it has nothing to do with the way the screaming mimis try to enforce guilt by association the way Mr Morgan is doing right now, either. Of course not. It would be silly to suggest any such thing. Why, it might even be (HORRORS!) true….
Some writers, editors and publicists have pointed out that our decision isn’t fair to hundreds of other Simon & Schuster authors who had nothing to do with the publisher’s decision to sign Yiannopoulos. I agree. It’s unfair. Simon & Schuster will publish some wonderful books in 2017 through imprints I admire, such as 37 Ink, Salaam Reads and Touchstone. But I strongly believe the literary community must hold the publisher accountable.
The publisher is accountable for exactly one thing. Its profits, allowing it to keep publishing. A million Facebook followers stands a chance of translating to rather a lot of sales, particularly with the likes of Mr Morgan promoting dick moves like this. Oh, wait. My apologies. I should not have assumed that someone with the name Adam Morgan actually has a dick to make a move with.
Why? Because rhetoric like his – which targets racial, religious and cultural minorities – invites discrimination. It arguably encourages people such as Omar Mateen and Dylann Roof to think of entire groups of people as less than human. And in his 2012 book The Harm in Hate Speech, legal philosopher Jeremy Waldron writes that hate speech sends a clear message to its victims: “Don’t be fooled into thinking you are welcome here.”
And rhetoric like Morgan’s which treats anyone who even dares to associate with someone who disagrees with him as less than human and worthy of what he openly states is unfair treatment does not invite discrimination? I’m sure Mr Morgan would have us believe it does not because it’s done for a “noble purpose”, but guess what? The dudes who saw your head off for looking at them funny also believe they’re acting for a noble purpose. Quite a few of the freaking Nazis believed they were acting for a noble purpose. So did the Communists who helped Stalin engineer and enforce mass starvation, and many others who have committed atrocities through the years.
A noble purpose does not and never will justify an appalling action – and actions, sir, will always speak much louder than words. Yours, Mr Morgan, speak to your desire to silence any speech you disagree with.
In a statement, Simon & Schuster assured readers they “do not and never have condoned discrimination or hate speech in any form”. But how is handing a purveyor of hate speech a $250,000 megaphone not condoning his rhetoric? And as an editor and book critic, how is giving Simon & Schuster free publicity not condoning their decision?
How does he know it’s hate speech? It must be like pornographic literature (yes, that was actually used in a court case to attempt to ban a book for being porn – I may have the exact quote wrong, but it was along the lines of “It’s hard to define but I know it when I see it”). And he is clearly so far above us mere mortals that we need to trust his judgment.
Excuse me. I think the EPA wants to chat with me. Something about unhealthy levels of sarcasm causing a meltdown somewhere.
After the Chicago Review of Books attracted so much attention for our stance, and writers more talented than me asked us to reconsider, I lost sleep. But on Saturday, when the biographer of a lesbian artist criticised Simon & Schuster, Yiannopoulos responded: “There is only one place for lesbians: porn.”
Apparently the concept of returning mockery with mockery is alien to Mr Morgan. Poor sheltered dear. Sarcasm is one of Mr Yiannopoulos’ tools of the trade, and he is a master of the art. I merely aspire to approach his greatness.
I remain convinced that to protect the victims of discrimination from its traumatic and sometimes deadly consequences, the literary community must stand against anyone – author or publisher – who peddles hate speech for profit.
Oh, sweet lord. Apparently it’s perfectly all right if you don’t make a profit from it. Discrimination is a good thing. It’s what allows readers to distinguish between something they might enjoy and something that will lecture at them, call them deplorable, and fail to even reach the level of tedious pap.
I venture to suggest that poor Mr Morgan has been on the wrong end of that kind of discrimination, and instead of working to improve his skills has chosen to claim it’s all because he’s a Victim.
There. I waded through that tripe so you didn’t have to. Now my eyes are bleeding, I’ve got the FDA claiming that my sarcasm levels are lethal weapons and should be registered in case they accidentally set off a meltdown, and I still haven’t put any wordage towards the fiction for the day.
Appreciate the sacrifices I make for you damn it.