Whether you’re red or blue, your team inevitably shoots itself in the foot. It just does.
Three weeks ago, I suggested that Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, made himself look pretty stupid telling corporations to butt out of politics, except when it came to donating to his political party.
But this week, many of the presumably left-leaning employees of publishing powerhouse Simon and Schuster are urging their company to refuse to print the upcoming autobiography of former VP Mike Pence.
The employees say that by publishing the book, S&S is treating “the Trump administration as a normal chapter in American history.” The petition also accuses Pence of championing racist, sexist and anti-LGBTQ+ causes, which, apparently, should disqualify him from writing a book or at least having it published.
There are several issues at work here. I only have time to mention four.
First, I’d ask the petition signers what a “normal chapter of American history” looks like. Slavery? Watergate? The assassinations of JFK, RFK and MLK? D-Day? The KKK? The Trail of Tears? The Depression? The Cuban Missile Crisis? The ’60s? 9/11? The Digital Revolution? Were all these just another day at the office?
Second, there’s that pesky First Amendment freedom of speech and freedom of the press thing. Mike Pence can say anything he likes. If he commits libel, he can be sued. Otherwise, he’s free to pound away on his laptop as he sees fit — just like I do. That’s the way we do things in America.
Third, there’s the fact that Simon and Schuster is a business, not a church. S&S has only one corporate purpose and goal: to generate profits for stockholders.
They do this by selling books people want to buy. Free enterprise. That’s the way we do things in America.
Fourth, there’s the understandable frustration of people who honestly believe the world is going to hell in a handbasket, and it’s the other guys’ fault. In their enthusiasm to plug their own ears against the words they loathe, they seek to plug everyone else’s ears as well.
There’s a hot new term making the round of pundits and politicians: cancel culture — a modern form ostracism where someone is ejected from virtual or social circles. The ostracized person is said to be “canceled.”
This isn’t a new idea at all; it’s just dressed up with a catchy new name. Back in the ’90s I was running a newsroom in a city where the KKK was coming to town to hold a rally. Viewers pleaded with us not to cover the rally. To cover it, we were told, would just be “giving them what they want.” (We covered the rally.)
Flash forward a decade or two, and nothing’s really changed. We all approve of free speech, as long as we approve of the speaker. Otherwise, we wish they’d just shut up and go away — and we’re happy to try and take away their megaphone in order to make it happen.
And so today we see a few of those champions of free speech and free thinking — the left — encouraging the public muzzling of a former vice president with whom they disagree.
You and I both know the word for this — hypocrisy, and it deserves to be called out. But, to be clear, the leftist stupidity currently in play in the halls of Simon and Schuster doesn’t mean the left is stupider than the right. It just helps even the scales.
And here’s a fun fact to end with. During the Trump administration, famed investigative reporter Bob Woodward wrote two damning books about the president: “Rage” and “Fear.” Care to guess who published them? Simon and Schuster — with no employee criticism and hand-wringing.
I’ll close with a statement from S&S CEO Jonathan Karp released this week: “As a publisher in this polarized era, we have experienced outrage from both sides of the political divide … but we come to work each day to publish, not cancel.” Canceling, he said, “runs counter to the very core of our mission to publish a diversity of voices and perspectives.”
And to make money, but that’s beside the point. Print, and let the people decide. That’s the way we do things in America.
Chris Huston is an author and award-winning columnist living in southern Idaho. Connect with Chris on both Facebook and Instagram at Chris Huston-Finding My Way and at chrishustonauthor.com.