The United States (US) has become a more isolated, insulated and hateful place following the devastating election of Donald Trump as president.
Trump’s campaign included the objectification of women, ridicule of the differently-abled, blatant racism and calls to violence that have made the US a more dangerous place for people in the affected communities. A leader such as Trump speaking derogatorily of women or encouraging people in his audience to beat black people seems to send the signal that doing those things is now okay in the US. And now a new book coming out this year may entrench and validate these positions even further.
Milo Yiannopoulos, 33, is an editor at the conservative Breitbart News and on his website describes himself as “the world’s most fabulous supervillain”. He has made a name by saying opportunistically hateful things for the sake of hype and inciting his many loyal followers, most members of the ultra-conservative “Alt-right” movement, to act on the things he says.
His hate speech includes calling modern feminists a cancer of “angry, bitter profane lesbians”, transgender people “mentally ill” and he described The Black Lives Matter movement as “a hate group”. He has gained a large following and uses his influence with his followers, particularly on Twitter before he was banned, to harass people and to encourage them to do the same. For example, during GamerGate, where people protested women’s portrayal in video games, Yiannopoulos attacked the games’ critics.
He and his followers harassed the people, harassment that included death threats and in some cases men appearing at Yiannopoulos’ critics’ houses with guns. He is not just a social bully, he influences his followers who often take the bullying off the internet ruining people’s lives and often putting lives in danger. He and his followers sustained a vicious, racist, misogynistic attack against Saturday Night Live comedian Leslie Jones on Twitter forcing her to leave the site. And at a recent speaking engagement at the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee, Yiannopoulos’ attacked a transgender student and traumatised her to such an extent that she had to withdraw from the university.
Over the holidays, it was announced that Yiannopoulos was given a book deal with Simon & Schuster which includes a $250,000 advance, for his memoir entitled Dangerous. There was immediate reaction, but Yiannopoulos seemed to take it all as a joke when he
Since the announcement, the pre-sales have pushed the book to number two on Amazon as of December 30.
The imprint publishing Dangerous, Threshold Editions, has a conservative mission and has published Rush Limbaugh, Dick Cheney and Donald Trump. Simon & Schuster has made the case that publishers cannot be held responsible for the morality of their authors. But I believe this is bigger than an author’s political leaning and freedom of speech. Yiannopoulos sets out to create hate that instigates violence. By Simon & Schuster publishing this book and legitimising Yiannopoulos hateful bile, they are culpable, especially given the current climate in the US where such hate seems to have been allowed legitimacy by the new President.
The Chicago Review of Books has decided to take action in an attempt to stop Simon & Schuster from publishing the book by announcing that they will not review any books published by Simon & Schuster in their magazine in 2017 if Dangerous is published. This has caused some backlash too.
Prior to this, Yiannopoulos had announced two books he intended to publish that never got off the ground; we might hope that this book takes the same route, except that, apparently, he is not the one actually writing it.
The only book he ever published in the past was a book of poetry called Eskimo Papoose, published under a pseudonym, which The Houston Press later uncovered to be nearly entirely plagiarised lyrics from Tori Amos, Britney Spears and Mariah Carey. Yiannopoulos’ response to the accusation about his poetry book was that the plagiarism was “an intentional artistic statement”.
What is the publisher’s responsibility here? If someone is harmed after the publication of the book, will the publisher be liable? Does the publication of such a book legitimise the hateful positions within its pages? These are all questions we’ll unfortunately have to deal with if Dangerous makes it to the bookstores.