Feminist writer Roxane Gay has criticised a publishing house after they cancelled their book deal with far-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, saying that their decision was driven by “business” rather than by any desire to “do the right thing”.
Publishers Simon & Schuster recently withdrew their contract with Yiannopoulos – an openly misogynistic and anti-feminist figurehead of the internet’s “alt-right” movement – after an old podcast surfaced in which he appeared to endorse paedophilia.
In the unearthed tape, the ultra-conservative gay commentator and senior editor at right-wing media organisation Breitbart News argued that young boys “discover who they are” through relationships with older men.
In response to the outcry over Yiannopoulos’ comments, a spokesperson for Threshold Editions – an imprint of Simon & Schuster – announced on Monday that they had cancelled the publication of his memoirs, Dangerous, for which he had been offered an advance of £201,300 ($250,000).
However, while many have rejoiced at the news that Yiannopoulos’ book won’t be hitting the shelves any time soon, feminist academic and writer Gay has spoken out about her anger that he was ever offered a publishing deal in the first place.
Gay, the author of the bestselling nonfiction book Bad Feminist and recent short story collection Difficult Women, said that she will “forever think of Simon & Schuster” as “malicious” after the publishing house originally decided to publish Yiannopoulos’ book on the same day as her next book, Hunger.
Another of Gay’s upcoming books, How to Be Heard, was originally set for release with TED Books, also a Simon & Schuster imprint. However, she pulled the book in January after the company offered to publish Yiannopoulos.
The publisher’s subsequent decision to publish Yiannopoulos’ book on the same day as Hunger was “not a coincidence”, said Gay, who argued that Simon & Schuster’s decision as to whether to work with Yiannopoulos or not was driven by money.
Pre-orders for Yiannopoulos’ memoirs sent the book to the top of the Amazon bestseller list in December, months before it was set for release.
“In cancelling 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,” she wrote in a post on Tumblr.
“When his comments about paedophilia/pederasty came to light, Simon & Schuster realised 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’.”
She added: “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 colour and transgender people online.”
Yiannopoulos has been accused of deliberately inflaming racial tensions in his speeches at college campuses around the US, and has also frequently claimed that transgender people suffer from a psychiatric disorder and are “disproportionately involved” in sex crimes.
He was also one of the anti-feminist leaders of Gamergate, a notorious internet movement in 2015 that saw video game developer Zoe Quinn and other prominent women in the gaming industry subjected to horrific harassment.
Gay offered her take on the argument that Yiannopoulos’ freedom of speech had been compromised by the cancellation of his book contract.
“Such is not the case,” she wrote.
“This is yet another example of how we are afforded the freedom of speech but there is no freedom from the consequences of what we say.”
This is not the first time that Yiannopoulos’ deliberately controversial statements have sparked debate. He was permanently banned from Twitter in July 2016 after leading an online campaign of racist and sexist harassment against Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones, and recently had a scheduled appearance at California’s Berkeley University cancelled after thousands of students gathered in protest.
In light of Yiannopoulos’ apparent endorsement of paedophilia, the American Conservative Union this week retracted their invitation for him to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
The internet troll blamed the controversy surrounding his comments on people’s failure to understand “British sarcasm”.
Images: Rex Features