Simon & Schuster De-Platforms Josh Hawley
After supporting Capitol attack, Missouri Senator loses his publisher
Well, friends, we made it a week into 2021 before the literary gods revealed the name of their latest cancellation: Simon & Schuster pulled Missouri Senator Josh Hawley’s forthcoming book, The Tyranny of Big Tech, after the Senator and several others tried to overturn the Presidential election results on Thursday. This comes, of course, less than a day after Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol in a bid to do the same.
“We did not come to this decision lightly,” said the publisher in a statement. “As a publisher it will always be our mission to amplify a variety of voices and viewpoints: At the same time we take seriously our larger public responsibility as citizens, and cannot support Senator Hawley after his role in what became a dangerous threat to our democracy and freedom.”
“This could not be more Orwellian,” said Hawley in his so-called “statement to the woke mob.” “It’s a direct assault on the First Amendment. Only approved speech can now be published.”
Hawley’s book, previously set for a June release, is the product of the senator’s belief that social media platforms discriminate against conservatives. “At a time when these platforms are determining elections, banning inconvenient political views, lining politicians’ pockets with hundreds of millions of dollars, and addicting our kids to screens, I want to draw attention to the robber barons of the modern era,” he wrote in October 2020. I imagine the senator is now gunning for social media platforms more strongly than ever, but no one is listening to his pleas.
Defenders of Hawley are few and far between, but Simon and Schuster’s actions have met with some criticism, mostly going with the “slippery slope to censorship” defense.
“‘You’re not entitled your book contract,’ can quickly become ‘United doesn’t have to let you onto its planes’ ‘Marriott doesn’t have to let you stay at its hotels,’ or ‘Visa doesn’t have to let you use its cards.’ And maybe that’s the point,” tweeted Abigail Shrier, recently subject to her own controversy, which seems small now by comparison.
But for many corners of the Internet, Hawley’s cancellation seems like an easy win after a very frightening day.
“This is not Orwellian at all,” tweeted TV writer and director Eric Haywood. “Orwell’s shit got published.”
“[P]ublishers rejecting my fascist screed is worse than a murderous terrorist insurrection,” tweeted journalist Jason Concepcion.
Writer Jeff VanderMeer pointed out that the decision “takes the burden off of staff, who might otherwise have to quit etc if on the team assigned to book.”
So many critics dunked on Hawley, a constitutional lawyer, for misinterpreting the first amendment that I don’t know how to pick one to quote here. I’m going with this thread from director James Gunn, because it’s at least surprising:
"Only approved speech can now be published" – uh, yeah, that's kind of how a book deal works, you complete moron. Simon & Schuster is a book publisher in BUSINESS, & they don't have anything to do with you First Amendment rights. If you want to support the constitution, READ IT. https://t.co/R4H2hi5FhK
— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) January 8, 2021
Hawley’s cancellation raises the question of whether the Trump administration will see the same wave of post-term book deals and exclusive content as in presidencies past. The New York Times points out that Simon & Schuster previously published the works of Mary L. Trump, Bob Woodward, John Bolton, Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson, signalling an openness to best-selling political nonfiction. One of the Big Five publishers also carried books by Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Donald Trump Jr. But this decision may signal that anyone with a Trump stamp might be too dirty to touch.