Why Burn Books When You Can Ban Them? Writers and Publishers Embrace Blacklisting In An Expanding American Anti-Free Speech Movement

Hundreds of publishing officials, professors, and academics have signed a petition to blacklist Trump administration alumni from receiving book deals.  It is the latest step in a rapidly expanding anti-free speech movement in the United States. In the wake of the Capitol riot, Democratic members and others are calling for a crackdown on free speech and punitive actions for those viewed as complicit with Trump. What is striking is how censorship, blacklists, and speech controls are being repackaged as righteous and virtuous. Indeed, the failure to sign such anti-free speech screeds is a precarious choice for many.  It is as easy as calling for tolerance through intolerance.  After all, why burn books if you can just effectively ban them?

We are coming out of the most divisive and consequential political period in modern history. Academics would ordinarily want to have insider accounts, even from those who are blamed for excesses or wrongdoing.  You did not have to like Nixon to want to read his account. This is part of the intellectual mission of our profession. However, academics are lining up to silence or bar access for anyone deemed a fellow traveler with Trump. They are seeking to purge books of opposing views or accounts. The letter describes a blacklisting of anyone deemed to have “enabled, promulgated, and covered up crimes against the American people.”

Hundreds signed a letter that compares former Trump associates to seeking profits to those barred under the Son of Sam law, a law named for a serial killer. The letter declares: “We are writers, editors, journalists, agents, and professionals in multiple forms of publishing. We believe in the power of words and we are tired of the industry we love enriching the monsters among us, and we will do whatever is in our power to stop it. that.” Of course, these enablers, promulgators, and conspirators were not charged with crimes except for a hand few. Nevertheless, they are all to be given the Son of Sam treatment and blocked from book deals.  What these academics and writers are unwilling to do is to allow readers to make up their own minds in whether to read the first-person accounts of the controversies of the last four years.

The campaign has been remarkably successful — as has the overall anti-free speech movement.  Simon and Schuster Publishing canceled the publication of Sen. Josh Hawley’s (R-Mo.) book after he objected to the certification of electoral votes.

We have been discussing the rising threats against Trump supporters, lawyers, and officials in recent weeks from Democratic members are calling for blacklists to the Lincoln Project leading a a national effort to harass and abuse any lawyers representing the Republican party or President Trump. Others are calling for banning those “complicit” from college campuses while still others are demanding a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” to “hold Trump and his enablers accountable for the crimes they have committed.” Daily Beast editor-at-large Rick Wilson has added his own call for “humiliation,” “incarceration” and even ritualistic suicides for Trump supporters in an unhinged, vulgar column.

This is building into the most dangerous anti-free speech movement in modern history. The Red Scare was largely opposed by the media and universities.  This movement has the support of both. The left is proving far better at this than the right in the McCarthy period. They are using companies to achieve what anti-communists only dreamt of in the 1950s. As I have previously written, we are witnessing the death of free speech on the Internet and on our campuses.  What is particularly concerning is the common evasion used by academics and reporters that this is not really a free speech issue because these are private companies. The First Amendment is designed to address government restrictions on free speech. As a private entity, companies like Twitter or publishing houses are not the subject of that amendment. However, private companies can still destroy free speech through private censorship. It is called the “Little Brother problem.” President Trump can be chastised for converting a “Little Brother” into a “Big Brother” problem. However, that does alter the fundamental threat to free speech.  This is the denial of free speech, a principle that goes beyond the First Amendment. Indeed, some of us view free speech as a human right.

Consider racial or gender discrimination. It would be wrong regardless if federal law only banned such discrimination by the government. The same is true for free speech. The First Amendment is limited to government censorship, but free speech is not limited in the same way. Those of us who believe in free speech as a human right believe that it is morally wrong to deny it as either a private or governmental entity.  That does not mean that there are not differences between governmental and private actions. For example, companies may control free speech in the workplaces. They have a recognized right of free speech. However, the social media companies were created as forums for speech.  Indeed, they sought immunity on the false claim that they were not making editorial decisions or engaging viewpoint regulation.  No one is saying that these companies are breaking the law in denying free speech. We are saying that they are denying free speech as companies offering speech platforms.

 

142 thoughts on “Why Burn Books When You Can Ban Them? Writers and Publishers Embrace Blacklisting In An Expanding American Anti-Free Speech Movement”

  1. “We believe in the power of words . . .”

    No you don’t. You believe in the power of your collective to silence dissenters. You are terrified of words that “trigger” you. You are neurotically fearful of words that you cannot refute. You want the publishing industry to provide a “safe space” for your neuroses.

    The publishing industry has always had liberal leanings. This is not that. This is an industry gone insane. This is the spirit of fascism. This is rabidly anti-Enlightenment.

  2. This is why red states need to secede and pass laws banning restrictions on free speech in the private sector.

    1. We don’t need laws banning free speech in the generic private sector. We need protection against monopolistic corporations that are properly constituted as common carriers. We do need actual protection for civil servants fired for exercising their rights in venues extraneous to their employment.

    2. Agreed on secession. It’s time for a velvet divorce, but we will not have one. Ideally, North America would have a decentralized state encompassing about 70% of the population thereof, about 8 successor states which would encompass urban enclaves on each coast and on the St. Lawrence Seaway, and about two conventional territorial states (one encompassing Quebec and one encompassing New England and the Canadian Maritimes). One could arrange it that the former Canadian territories would be able to set up supplementary immigration controls and have their own currency designs, postage, standards, and regiments (as well as retaining the Queen). We could put the main capital in Kansas City and a satellite capital in Ottawa.

    1. Glasser was born in 1938 and retired in 2001. He’s a contemporary of Alan Dershowitz. NB, Dershowitz (and Nat Hentoff) were critical of the ACLU under his tenure. Dershowitz in his syndicated column described the agency as an amalgam of ‘civil libertarians’ and ‘political leftists’. The more the latter gain the upper hand, the less interest the agency has in such conventional things as ‘free speech’. I’d be surprised if the current occupants of Glasser’s old job actually agree with him. (Pleasantly surprised).

      NB, in a world where the liberal mentality is such that Liberal Hate = Speech and Conservative Speech = Hate, banning hate speech means banning us. Antifa and Burn Loot and Murder are free to continue. After all, they’re ‘mostly peaceful’.

  3. You too, Jonathan, are in their crosshairs: we all are. Those you voted for in
    the elections, the Democrats, are part of the cabal intent on destroying freedom of speech and
    all other Constitutional rights of us Americans. They all have a first and last name: some
    were sitting behind and around Lady Gaga when she sang on Wednesday…

  4. A week ago I backed away from the argument that deaths in 2020 might not be that different from 2019.

    I was incorrect – I beleive there were almost 300,000 more deaths in 2020 than 2019.

    It seems easy to say – 300,000 extra deaths – 300,000 covid deaths – the increase must be due to covid.

    But more data is coming in.

    There were 81,000 more drug overdoses in 2020. There were more suicides,
    The predicted reductions in things like highway deaths – did not happen.

    Put simply it appears to be true that a significant portion of the increased deaths in 2020 are not due to Covid – but due to public policies dealing with Covid.

    And it still appear that a substantial portion of all those who died of Covid were dying in 2020 regardless.

    1. John Say, “Put simply it appears to be true that a significant portion of the increased deaths in 2020 are not due to Covid – but due to public policies dealing with Covid. ” That is incorrect still. Public policies were actively undermined by those who believed this was all a hoax or that the virus “was just like the flu”. That includes policies blocked by those who were more concerned about partisan politics. As long as there was a democrat making the policy decisions it was deemed authoritarian or tyrannical. Never mind that after the second wave in the summer many of those who didn’t see a need for such policies enacted them when it was evident that the situation escalated out of control. The whole point of those policies in the beginning was to prevent such occurrences in the first place. Yes they caused economic damage and many people lost their businesses, but that is like complaining that a their businesses were destroyed because a bomb fell on it during a war zone and are blaming the governor for it. It’s a consequence that is not permanent. Businesses can come back or reinvent themselves, others choose to adapt if they can. That is the nature of natural disasters, a pandemic is no exception.

      “And it still appear that a substantial portion of all those who died of Covid were dying in 2020 regardless.” That is quite a grotesque assumption based on ignorance. A large portion of those who died of Covid had pre-existing conditions what Covid exacerbated. This is why they are categorized as Covid deaths. Prior to Covid those conditions were manageable and could be kept in check. Covid changed that dramatically and this virus made those conditions for those people deadly. The blithe assumption that these people were going to die anyway doesn’t dismiss the fact that they did because the virus made their conditions worse. There is no factual evidence that these people “would have died regardless” that is just an expression of selfishness.

  5. “The letter describes a blacklisting of anyone deemed to have “enabled, promulgated, and covered up crimes against the American people.””

    What of Clapper? What of Brennan? Are some pigs more equal than others? They have have a sweet bully pulpit on network TV!

  6. “The First Amendment is designed to address government restrictions on free speech.”

    If the system is essentially corporatist, what’s the difference? And, could there have been any black ops telling Big Tech companies to silence speech?

  7. I already see a change in leadership. All last year, any journal article related to SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19 could be read on PubMed–not just the abstract–even on Elsevier, which often does not allow full access unless a person is associated with an educational institution. While there are still quite a few free PMC articles (thankfully), there are now SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19 journal articles that are behind a paywall (unlike all this past year). So, no more uninhibited research into SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19 by citizen researchers or doctors who, for whatever reason, do not have all the bells and whistles access.

    I understand that journals need to make money by memberships and selling articles, but the openness for this one topic was very much appreciated. Glad I did so much reading this past year…

    P.S. Magnesium is a big deal for this infection, not just zinc. The virus seems to sap a broad spectrum of vitamins and minerals, though, too. For example, magnesium is important for lung function via the Na+/K-ATPase, which helps with oxygen-sensing.

  8. iF ANY PERSON FROM PRESIDENT TRUMP’S ADMINISTRATION WRITES A BOOK AND SELF-PUBLISHES, I WILL BE FIRST IN LINE TO BUY THOSE BOOKS. I HAVE NO USE FOR THE AHAB AND JEZEBEL ADMINISTRATION, I SEE THEM AS AN ILLEGAL, ILLIGITAMATE ADMINISTRATION AND I WILL TREAT THEM AS ALL TYRANTS AND USURPERS, AS CRIMINALS. I DONT TRUST THE MEDIA IN ANY FORM, THEY ARE ALL PROPOGANDISTS, LIKE GOEBELS, FOR THE DEMONCRATS.

  9. Burning child offspring at the stake (of unwanted GOP voters), and forced suicides is what Biden and his DEMONKROUTZ call “uniting the country.” Orwell’s government in 1984 would be so proud!

    Joe is silent on all this, which only means he approves. Recall that DEMONKRAUTZ used force or threat thereof on innocents to say “Breona” Taylor’s name, thus forcing them to agree with their riots and point of view.

  10. “…..They (the left) are using companies to achieve what anti-communists only dreamt of in the 1950s. ……”

    That’s because they are using the same tactics the communists did. The anti-communists of the 50’s did it under the auspices of the Constitutional framework. The left is simply attempting to outlaw any dissent just as totalitarian governments of the 30’s 40’s and 50’s did, and in complete disregard of the Founding Fathers and the Constitution.
    “While some think dissent is unpatriotic, I argue that dissent is the highest form of patriotism.” Howard Zinn

  11. Democrats in the US have reached a new low. They are now openly advocating concepts such as “reprogramming”, “censorship”, “blacklisting” etc., lining up nicely with those whom they admire like Mao, Chavez, Castro, etc. For those moderates who chuckled and said “Oh that will never happen here”, what do you say now? What were you saying while it was going on for the last 4 years? The last 4 decades? It’s been the plan all along.

  12. And yet you can still pick yourself up a copy of Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”. Which is fine by me, I think that you should be able to read and write whatever you want. But the hypocrisy is just disgusting.

  13. Mr. Turley, I am still trying to figure out your statement of “we are coming out of the most divisive and consequential political periods in modern history”. Why do you think we are “coming out” of this period? Other than Trump’s term ending the divisive language is ramping up on the left to destroy opposing views by harming income, social standing and even being able to shelter in your own home.(Parler founder leaving home w/family due to threats). I don’t hear any democrat calming voices from either the Senate, the House or the media. At some point things will go too far, the match will get lit and it will be Constitutional crisis that the democrats will try to suppress or crush 1st and 2nd amendment rights. I have zero confidence in McConnell to push back, he will cower in place as per Chinese instruction. He is a compromised non-factor.
    Thanks for all of your work, I been a fan for a long time.

  14. We see, now that Trump is gone, that the patriots among us are storming to the free speech ramparts. When the real battle was on the ramparts were empty and they were afraid to leave the farm to defend the first amendment. Fair weather fowl.

  15. We use the morons out of convenience, not necessity. We no longer need permission from self appointed elites to publish a book. And a market of 74,000,000 customers will very likely select more than a handful of books by Conservatives being targeted. It might even lead to a quicker disruption of a stale industry. Thanks morons!

    1. This is not just about books.

      The internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.
      John Gilmour

      The left is driving the rest of us towards the unregulated internet.

      Towards P2P, towards Crypto.

      I disagree with Turley’s claim that we are moving away from divisiness.

      We have been moving towards it for a long time – long before Trump – even the Pew Data confirmed that.

      Blaming Trump for political divisiveness is confusing cure with cause.

      Things will continue to get worse. There are only two possible ends to this.
      Half the country kowtows to the left and accepts being labeled racists, hateful, hating haters,
      Or the collapse of the left.

      The fact that the latter is more likely than the former does not mean that it is coming tomorow.

    2. Mathew Schilling,

      “We use the morons out of convenience, not necessity. We no longer need permission from self appointed elites to publish a book. And a market of 74,000,000 customers will very likely select more than a handful of books by Conservatives being targeted. It might even lead to a quicker disruption of a stale industry. Thanks morons!”

      Umm…a lot of conservatives….don’t read books. That would be a problem. If the crowds at all of trump’s rallies are any indication it is clear none of these people read…books. There’s a reason why these people are always attached to the tv, they get all of their information thru Fox News, NewsMax, Qannon, OAN, etc.. Books? the occasional paperback, sure, but the majority don’t have enough of an attention span to sit and read a book. It’s not a need for permission that is the problem, it’s a lack of interest in… reading.

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