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Simon and Schuster Makes Another Decision Not About “Free Speech”

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Republican vice presidential candidate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin winks as she speaks during her vice presidential debate against Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., Thursday, Oct. 2, 2008. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Roxane Gay, as you would expect, hits a moon shot:

In canceling Milo’s book contract, Simon & Schuster made a business decision the same way they made a business decision when they decided to publish that man in the first place. When his comments about pedophilia/pederasty came to light, Simon & Schuster realized it would cost them more money to do business with Milo than he could earn for them. They did not finally “do the right thing” and now we know where their threshold, pun intended, lies. They were fine with his racist and xenophobic and sexist ideologies. They were fine with his transphobia, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. They were fine with how he encourages his followers to harass women and people of color and transgender people online. Let me assure you, as someone who endured a bit of that harassment, it is breathtaking in its scope, intensity, and cruelty but hey, we must protect the freedom of speech. Certainly, Simon & Schuster was not alone in what they were willing to tolerate. A great many people were perfectly comfortable with the targets of Milo’s hateful attention until that attention hit too close to home.

Since people were actually willing to argue with a straight face that it somehow threatened “free speech” to criticize a publisher for giving a six-figure deal to a hate-spewing racist and sexist bullshit artist, I guess a couple of points that should be obvious should be reiterated:

  • No principle of free speech requires anybody to be given access to a particular forum where access is inherently restricted. Simon and Schuster can publish only a tiny fraction of books it might consider publishing in a given year, and even a smaller fraction of that will get an advance several times the median salary. There is no way such choices can be made without “viewpoint discrimination.”
  • Sarah Palin notwithstanding, there is no free speech right –constitutional or otherwise — not to be criticized, and no right not to have a choice made to provide a speaker with a particular forum criticized. The sacred inalienable right to, say, deliver platitudes to a captive audience of college graduates in exchange for a healthy payday without anyone criticizing the choice of speaker is not a thing. Neither the First Amendment nor broader principles of free speech insulate any publisher for choosing to publish a particular book, or a conference for giving a platform to a particular speaker. The fact that S&S and CPAC have decided to withdraw their fora now that they believe Milo will no longer be profitable for the bottom line and/or American conservatism should underscore this point.

Roy has much more.

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