Thursday, February 23, 2017

Free Speech Is Punished When A Hater’s Book Is Cancelled

Let me preface my post with the following:

Milo Yiannopoulos  --who is still banned from Twitter -- is not someone I would ever be friends with.  He’s not a nice guy.  He spews extremist views and seems to offend everyone, both liberals and conservatives.  However, he has the right to have his book published and his publisher has the obligation, once it committed to publishing his book, to publish it.  To learn of the protests against Simon & Schuster was outrageous, as the First Amendment needs to be protected and supported.  To now learn the publisher capitulated, amidst new evidence that he shows acceptance or tolerance for underage sex with an adult, is disheartening.

They only wanted to publish his book because they thought it would be profitable.  He has a big following.  He’s the next Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Pat Buchannan – all haters who have had books published.  There are plenty of books published.  There are plenty of books that hit best-seller lists that slander a variety of races, religions, sexual preferences and politics.  This is nothing new.

Is it difficult to listen to cold-hearted, sexist, racist, gun-toting isolationists?  Sure.  But they have a right to free speech.  It’s up to others to counter that speech with speech of their own.  The problem is not with one person writing a book and saying something reprehensible, it’s that so many others are willing to lap up this puke as if it were a chocolate shake.

The thing that disturbs me most about a Trump presidency is not that he’s the president, as sad and fearful that is, but that scores of millions voted for him.  They see him as a positive force or they were willing to overlook the negatives in exchange for some potential payoff.  But you wonder:  How could they?  How could civil-minded people support a lunatic, an egotistical megalomaniac?  How do you let him buy your vote by hoping he delivers a good economy at the expense of social decorum, respect for others, and level-headedness when it comes to international relations?

So I ask, how do we as a society, try to close debate on someone like Milo, by suppressing his right to free speech?  How does stopping him avoid others from thinking like him?  How can we give up on the speech we value, by shitting on that right when we use a veto card against a hater like Milo?

For free speech to work all the time, it must allow for us to hear unpopular, ugly, even ignorant views.  We can’t play judge on what gets printed and what doesn’t. People will determine what they buy and what they believe.  The existence of a book filled with stupidity will be countered by books of hope, love, tolerance, and peace. 

Here’s another truth we seem to fear, which is this:  That we may embrace some views of a Milo-type figure.  But if we do welcome any such views, perhaps society is changing.  Views change all the time.  We used to see slavery in an accepting form, then it was abolished.  We used to hate gays, now society welcomes them and lobbies for them.  We used to think pre-marital sex, abortion, or women getting an education was abhorrent.  Now the tables have turned on all of that.  But if back then the minority viewpoint wasn’t allowed to be expressed, we’d never have seen change.  And even when those views were censored, banned, and shunned, they remained resilient so that generations or even centuries later, things eventually changed.  Some change is inevitable.

As I get older, some of my views have matured on the big issues, but one thing that I’ve grown more staunchly about is free speech.  We must all stand together for it.  Without free speech, we have violence.  I don’t consider myself a violent person and could only see pulling the trigger if in a moment of desperation, fear and self-defense, but if I were to physically fight for something it would be for free speech.  Nothing is more precious than to have control over what I say and what I choose to read, watch, or listen to.  Once our minds are under the influence of governments, corporations or the mob mentality, we are all no longer free.  Creativity and art dies and we’re left with nothing.

My guess is Milo will find another publisher or even do it himself.  His literary agent told the NYT that the book, Dangerous, had 50,000 pre-sales registered.  The book’s release, initially set for March, was pushed to June -- and is now off all together.  He won’t go away quietly and will need a book to truly explain and put into perspective his views and the story of how others have tried to stop him.  I wouldn’t have thought to buy his book before, but as a supporter of free speech, I would consider buying his book when it gets published.  I may trash it or I might find something agreeable.  In a free-flowing world, my hope is that I get to decide what I read and what I choose to own or dispense with.

Do you hate Milo or think the former Breitbart senior editor is an antagonistic jerk?  Do you wish him bad things?  Are you glad his book was dumped?  Even if you answer yes to all of these questions, don’t you believe the free speech ecosystem needs to be prized above all that?

Look, I know the flip side to this.  People will say: Why does he need protection to speak lies, hate, and negativity? They will say he has a right to free speech but no one is obligated to publish his dribble.  They will point out that speech is a right but that it comes with strings attached – the speaker must be civil and respectful of facts, laws, and social norms.

But who decides what such standards should be?  If we silence him, we may end up silencing those that we like or would prove valuable to us.  The only way to get to the good speech is to let the bad speech in, educate listeners and readers, and let society filter what it believes or what it accepts.

If we don’t allow for the minority viewpoint to be heard, we’ll never grow as a people.  True, by giving a megaphone to an idiot, you will initially expose ignorant ideas to more people than would normally have access to them.  But then it becomes a teaching moment.  

The weight of opposing views and the pure sensibility behind them should win out and overtake the other side – unless we find there’s good reason to give credence to the minority view.

It’s complicated and it’s challenging to all of us.  The last thing I want to do is encourage a hater or to expose millions to things we then need to counter and clarify. But what are we afraid of?  Right should always win out.  If we are so confident Milo is wrong, then the truth will be obvious to us.  If some are gullible to believe his words as truth, the problem lies elsewhere.  They need to be educated and exposed to the books that the masses believe in.

The best way to publish a Milo-type book is to split it in half.  Turn it into a debate.  Let Milo take up the first eight chapters and have Bill Maher pen the last eight.  Or let them go at it, head-on, chapter by chapter.  Then fact-check it.  Then publicly discuss it. Let all the ideas come up for discussion and don’t fear anything.  The best ideas will win, most of all, free speech and democracy.


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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2017©. Born and raised in Brooklyn, now resides in Westchester. Named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby 

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