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The Beheld
By Autumn Whitefield-Madrano
Examining questions surrounding personal appearance: What does it mean to be seen? What is the relationship between "beauty labor" and cultural visibility? And why do two lipstick shades combined always look better than one?
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“Dangerous” Indeed: Simon & Schuster Imprint Publishing Book by White Supremacist

Simon & Schuster announced that it will be publishing Dangerous, a book by Milo Yiannopoulos, an editor at Breitbart and a white supremacist, in March 2017 under its Threshold imprint, which is devoted to conservatism. As a Simon & Schuster author, I’m horrified that a company I’ve been proud to be associated with is giving a platform to Yiannopoulos.

To be clear, the book isn’t about white supremacy. The book is about free speech, and indeed Yiannopoulos is well-situated to write about free speech. White supremacy has a history of making people rethink their commitment to free speech (I’m thinking here of Skokie, Illinois, a heavily Jewish town where Nazis were allowed to march and display the swastika in 1977, thanks in part to the ACLU’s efforts to support the Nazis’ First Amendment rights). I don’t want to stop Yiannopoulos from writing or publishing such a book—or any book, for that matter, even as I find his views despicable. Free speech, even when it’s abhorrent, is a cornerstone of democracy.

But the kind of “free speech” we’re talking about here is the kind promised to us by our government, not the kind sold by for-profit companies like Simon & Schuster. Nobody has a right to a book deal; not publishing this book, even if it never once uses the phrase “white supremacy,” is not censorship or an abridgement of free speech. Yiannopoulos already has quite a mouthpiece at his disposal; this isn’t an issue of him not being able to assert his views.

The issue is that when a major publishing company gives a lucrative book deal to a white supremacist, it legitimizes him, even when the topic is free speech.

Indeed, that’s his entire goal in publishing the book, not getting his word out per se: “this book is the moment Milo goes mainstream,” Yiannopoulos told The Hollywood Reporter. By publishing this book, Simon & Schuster is enabling Yiannopoulos to “go mainstream,” which normalizes his views and makes them seem like they should be a legitimate part of public discourse. It turns white supremacy into just another controversial viewpoint instead of a genuinely dangerous ideology that is gaining ground in our country by the minute. White supremacy kills people, and it will kill more people in the coming years.

This isn’t about me just not liking what Yiannopoulos has to say; I don’t like what most Threshold authors have to say. (Threshold exists to “provide a forum for the creative people, bedrock principles, and innovative ideas of contemporary conservatism.”) But there is a sharp difference between conservative thinking and white supremacy. No publisher has an intellectual obligation to give a mouthpiece to the latter.

I’ve been thinking a good deal about boycotts and their effectiveness, and I’m not sure that calling for a boycott of all Simon & Schuster books is a great idea; I’m hesitant to say that you shouldn’t buy good books that encourage clear thinking and open discourse—that seems counterproductive. But I will happily tell you that my book sales are far less important to me as a Simon & Schuster author than us taking a stand against legitimizing white supremacists. (I will also point out that the Face Value audiobook is not published by Simon & Schuster, ahem.) If you want to contact the publisher, you can call Threshold at 212.698.7006 or email at [email protected] I’ll continue to think on how I want to handle this as an author with the same publisher, and am open to suggestions.

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