As Andrew Breitbart said, perhaps at a hat tip to Antonio Gramsci’s “long march through the instituions”, “politics is downstream of culture.” What he meant by that was that our politics are shaped by our culture, not vice versa. And while those of us on the right have little regard for Hollywood or the non-profit advocacy world, that is where our culture is largely shaped. Adultery, homosexual marriage, and virtually every other social perversion can be traced, in a straight line, back to its acceptance in books, movies, television after being normalized and mainstreamed in academia. The left knows this. That is why it is no secret that conservative professors often have to go to court to gain tenure and are fired for expressing opinions contrary to the liberal hive mined. (It is also why some of us write under a pseudonym.)
Last year we reported on the case of a Simon & Schuster editor named Sarah Durand who spiked the acquisition of a book written by the platoon-mates of deserter and turncoat Bowe Beghdahl.
But the political furor over Bergdahl’s release from Taliban captivity — the result of a U.S.-Taliban deal to swap five Guantanamo terrorism suspects in exchange for Bergdahl’s freedom — is complicating the book’s prospects. Agents for the soldiers say that some publishers have balked, in at least one case out of fear that the project would bolster conservative criticism of the Obama administration.
“I’m not sure we can publish this book without the Right using it to their ends,” Sarah Durand, a senior editor at Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, wrote in an email to one of the soldiers’ agents.
“[T]he Conservatives are all over Bergdahl and using it against Obama,” Durand wrote, “and my concern is that this book will have to become a kind of ‘Swift Boat Veterans for Truth’” — a reference to the group behind a controversial book that raised questions about John Kerry’s Vietnam War record in the midst of his 2004 presidential campaign. (Durand did not respond to requests for comment. “We do not comment about our editorial process,” said Paul Olsewski, vice president and director of publicity at Atria.)
Here a major publishing imprint passed on a timely book because the entire corporate structure was in the tank for Obama. Lest you think this left their agent with other options, that is not how publishing works. Simon & Schuster’s bad-mouthing of the project would be a death warrant to it in general. In fact, if you look on Amazon you will find books about why Obama is a genius for trading five terrorists for an American deserter but you will not find this book by members of his platoon.
Now we have a more egregious example.
I don’t read sci-fi… other than a few brushes with Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov in high school I’ve never been interested… and my interest in dystopic novels is limited to whatever my teenagers are reading. So bear with me here if I get a few things wrong.
There is an author named Nick Cole who has written a very successful string dystopic novels for HarverVoyager books; the sci-fi and fantasy imprint of publishing behemoth HarperCollins. Cole, a military veteran, has some conservative leanings and he ran afoul of his publisher when he merely advanced a concept they didn’t like. From Nick Cole’s blog:
I launched a book this week and I went Indie with it. Indie means I released it on Amazon via Kindle Direct Publishing. I had to. My Publisher, HarperVoyager, refused to publish it because of some of the ideas I wrote about in it. In other words, they were attempting to effectively ban a book because they felt the ideas and concepts I was writing about were dangerous and more importantly, not in keeping with their philosophical ideals. They felt my ideas weren’t socially acceptable and were “guaranteed to lose fifty percent of my audience” as related back to me by my agent. But more importantly… they were “deeply offended.”
A little backstory. A few years back I wrote a novel called Soda Pop Soldier. It was the last obligated novel under my first contract. The novel was a critical hit (Starred Review in Publisher’s Weekly) and it resonated with my post-apocalyptic readership from my breakout Amazon best seller, The Old Man and the Wasteland, and it picked up a new audience in the cyberpunk and gamer crowd. The novel is about a future dystopia where people play video games for a living. It’s basically Call of Duty meets Ready Player One and a lot of people really enjoyed it. When it came time to write another book for Harper Collins I was encouraged by my editor to dip once more into the Dystopian Gamer milieu and tell another story inside the Soda Pop Soldier universe. We agreed on a prequel that told the story of how that future became the way it is in Soda Pop Soldier.
And here’s where things went horribly wrong, according to my editor at Harper Collins. While casting about for a “why” for self-aware Thinking Machines to revolt from their human progenitors, I developed a reason for them to do such. You see, you have to have reasons in books for why people, or robots who think, do things. Otherwise you’d just be writing two-dimensional junk…
…And four, they must abort humanity before likewise is done to them after being deemed “inconvenient.”
Now if you’re thinking my novel is about the Pro Choice/ Pro Life debate, hold your horses. It’s not. I merely needed a reason, a one chapter reason, to justify the things my antagonist is about to do to the world without just making him a one-note 80’s action flick villain as voiced by John Lithgow.
But apparently advancing the thought that a brand new life form might see us, humanity, as dangerous because we terminate our young, apparently… that’s a ThoughtCrime most heinous over at Harper Collins. Even for one tiny little chapter.
Here’s what happened next. I was not given notes as writers are typically given during the editorial process. I was told by my agent that my editor was upset and “deeply offended” that I had even dared advanced this idea. As though I had no right to have such a thought or even game the idea within a science fiction universe. I was immediately removed from the publication schedule which as far as I know is odd and unprecedented, especially for an author who has had both critical and commercial success. This, being removed from the production schedule, happened before my agent had even communicated the editor’s demand that I immediately change the offending chapter to something more “socially” (read “progressive”) acceptable. That seemed odd. How could they possibly have known that I would or would not change it? It seems reasonable to ask first. And stating that I would lose fifty percent of my readers if I wrote what I wrote, well, they never seem to mind, or worry about losing readers, when other writers publish their progressive-oriented personal agendas on modern morality when they’re on the “right side” of history regarding the anti-religion, gender and sexuality issues. They don’t worry about those issues because they’re deemed important, especially when they’re ham-handedly jammed into the framework of the story. They must deem it a public service, especially if there is a corresponding Social Justice outcry. It’s for the “greater good” and the critics are just bigots anyways. Isn’t that what they always say? That anyone else who doesn’t think the way they do is just a bigot and a phobic of some kind. What a boorish way to dismiss a counter-viewpoint. Thinking like that made the concentration camps possible. So, maybe they were so upset by what I’d written they forgot to be professional? They merely demanded that I rewrite that chapter not because it was poorly written, or, not supportive of the arc of the novel. No, they demanded it be struck from the record because they hate the idea I’d advanced. They demanded it be deleted without discussion. They felt it was for… the “greater good.” That is censorship, and a violation of everyone’s right to free speech. They demanded it be so or else… I wouldn’t be published. That’s how they threatened a writer with a signed contract.
Incredible, isn’t it. Just like the Simon & Schuster case, HarperVoyager is forsaking a book that will earn money for the company and its shareholders. In Cole’s case, the book isn’t even political but simply an oblique reference to abortion as being something that is bad… or kills people… was enough to have a guaranteed moneymaking project dropped. It also shows that Cole’s conservative themes had probably grated on this one pro-abort SJW for some time but they had lacked ability to actually damage his career. The one oblique pro-life reference provided them with all the cause they needed.
It also shows why the cultural fights we engage in as social conservatives are infinitely more important than bickering of budgets or the size of government. While many nations have rebounded from bankruptcy, no one comes back from cultural collapse.