Publishing Professionals Issue Orwellian ‘Dissent’ Against Amy Coney Barrett Memoir
One of the most cowardly, wrongheaded, pathetic statements in American literary history
In one of the most cowardly, wrongheaded, and pathetic statements in American literary history, a group of hundreds of publishing professionals are calling upon Penguin Random House to rescind a $2 million book contract for Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett. The undersigned, “members of the writing, publishing, and broader literary community of the United States,” clam that they “care deeply about freedom of speech. We also believe it is imperative that publishers uphold their dedication to freedom of speech with a duty of care.”
What is this “duty of care” of which they speak? The phrase derives from a 2015 TED Talk by David Puttnam, a British film producer and environmentalist, whose credits include Chariots of Fire, The Killing Fields, and Midnight Express, as well as a stint in The House of Lords, a seat he resigned in a protest against Brexit. The signatories quote Puttnam in their letter:
““Now there will be those who will argue that this could all too easily drift into a form of censorship, albeit self-censorship, but I don’t buy that argument. It has to be possible to balance freedom of expression with wider moral and social responsibilities.”
And how does that relate to Amy Coney Barrett? The letter says, in bold type, “We recognize that harm is done to a democracy not only in the form of censorship, but also in the form of assault on inalienable human rights.”
The harm they speak of is, of course, the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision that overturned Roe V. Wade. By the mere act of offering a contract to Barrett, they say, the publisher is in violation of international human rights.
“We the undersigned have made the decision to stand by our duty of care while upholding freedom of speech,” they say. “We cannot stand idly by while our industry misuses free speech to destroy our rights.”
This is one of the most twisted and Orwellian pieces of logic I have ever read in any forum. They are in favor of freedom of speech, they say, unless it violates their perception of human rights. They are against censorship, but Random House must not publish this book. War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery. We have always been at war with Eastasia.
Let me speak for my corner of the “literary community,” population one. I’m personally pro-choice. And I know many people who despise Amy Coney Barrett and consider the Dobbs decision an act of judicial malfeasance on par with the Dred Scott Decision. But Barrett is also a sitting Supreme Court Justice, one of only a handful of women ever to hold that seat, and is therefore a significant historical figure. She may not be my hero, but there are plenty of people who want to hear what she has to say.
The right doesn’t get worked up in a lather over Sonia Sotomayor or Ketanji Brown Jackson, Barrett’s closest Supreme Court equivalents, but if Random House were to offer $2 million to, say, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Nancy Pelosi, or to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the worst that would happen would be a torrent of meme shitposting. It would never occur to them to say that publishing a book is a “violation of human rights.” That statement is, frankly, insane.
You could argue that maybe it’s ethically questionable for a publishing corporation to pay millions of dollars to a sitting judge, because that judge might one day hear something like an antitrust case in which the publisher is a defendant. That’s an ethical question very much up for debate. But this is the United States, where anyone can cash in their celebrity chits at any time, including a member of the Supreme Court.
The people who signed this sorry excuse for an undergraduate protest letter seem to be mostly low-level staffers and random Internet signatories. The only author whose name I recognize is Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher series. Shame on him for climbing on board the backdoor censorship train. And shame on everyone else. You are on the opposite side of the First Amendment, which, unlike abortion, is not up for debate in this country. Your arguments are faulty, your logic is nonsensical, and history will prove you wrong.
You write: “We the undersigned have made the decision to stand by our duty of care while upholding freedom of speech. We cannot stand idly by while our industry misuses free speech to destroy our rights.”
Well, my duty of care is upholding freedom of speech, in all its forms. If you are a writer who signed this statement, consider what you’re saying if the world you want to see comes to pass. Someday someone might invoke “duty of care” to censor your own words. So I will say this in as plain and uncensored language as possible:
If Random House gives in to your demands, which it will not, all is lost.
Because you are fucking wrong.
13 thoughts on “Publishing Professionals Issue Orwellian ‘Dissent’ Against Amy Coney Barrett Memoir”
And this is why I love Neal Pollack. He isn’t afraid to tell it like it is!
Your reaction is what I would expect from an extremely biased “journalist”, and your claim as to how your side would react if the roles were reversed is pure delusion…death threats–and possibly attempts–would result (as happens almost every time AOC gets in the news), not mere social media shitstorms.
Thank you, Neil Pollack, for speaking out against these useful idiots. Publisher staffers, alleged writers, Lee Childs, demanding Justice Barretts’ free exercise of her fundamental due process rights of free speech, publishing, etc under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution be denied, simply because the U.S. Supreme Court returned a matter to the states to be decided by each state, a matter never found in our U.S. Consitution? The signers to this poorly constructed letter are abysmally illiterate, uneducated in civics, the law, civil liberties, human rights, rule of law, due course of law, due process of law, states’ rights, federal law, international treaties and USA Supremacy Clause as applied to various domestic state, federal cases within the United States. The signers to this letter are unspeakably arrogant – about 300 or so demanding Justice Barrett s book be banned, that she be shunned, silenced, punished, because these unknown, self-appointed censors who support group think, mob rule, destroy all who oppose them, say so. These are the ignorant, dangerous ones indoctrinated as the Wokest of the Woke Supremacists. They are the dangers within. They are, as you state, Neil, totally fucking wrong, every single one of them. They owe Justice Barrett, each American, their employers, a complete apology for signing this totalitarian, Communist , absurd, demand. Shame on each signer – vile, the essence of propaganda, Would make Josef Stalin, Fidel Castro proud. May God bless, keep, protect Justice Barrett, her family – and ensure her book smashes all bestseller lists.
This is not a mere “social media shitstorm.” This insane letter got largely laudatory coverage throughout the press. It’s totally representative of a censorial attitude among people who think they’re literary, which is why we highlighted it.
Nice rant, Neal! I have to agree with your perspective…as much as I abhor Justice Coney Barrett and her white supremacist benchmates, as a free speech supporter I feel that her book should be published. Let the marketplace dictate its fate…if the book bombs and the publisher takes a bath on its advance to the judge, then maybe they’ll think twice next time. The answer to negative speech is more positive speech, not less…
Neal’s piece is one hundred percent on target. Can I ask what the above commenter means by “Justice Coney Barret and her white supremacist benchmates”?
He means “conservatives.” Rev. Keith is a valued contributor, though, so you all be civil.
I am very civil, I’m just saying anyone making a charge as serious as “white supremacists” better have some pretty impressive evidence.
David Duke is a white supremacist. Republican-appointed Supreme Court Justices, not so much.
There is no evidence that the conservative wing of the court are “white supremacists.” But I’m not here to argue about that, this site stands for free speech in all its forms, left, right, weird, and everything in between.
Wow. I wonder what church you represent? It is certainly not any church that follows the teachings of Jesus Christ. By calling people “white supremacists” (including ostensibly Justice Thomas) without providing convincing evidence, you shame our Lord and Savior. “Get thee behind me, Satan, you are an offense to me.”
Well said, sir. You see how much thought goes into leftist diatribes. Anyone they dislike for any reason is a white supremacist.