“America’s favorite mischievous gay conservative,” is how publisher Simon & Schuster bills its newest high-profile author, Milo Yiannopoulos.
The news that the Breitbart senior editor had received a reported $250,000 advance for his book “Dangerous” (to be published in March 2017) has set the publishing and literary worlds aflame (Breitbart itself is already calling it “booklash.”)
For Milo (he goes by one name) is no ordinary writer, but a media figure who has made himself famous for his right-wing, extremist views.
Positioning himself as the defender of victimized white males, he goes after those he sees as their antagonists: feminists, people of color, and immigrants, cloaking his hate speech under the mantle of the right to free expression. He’s banned for life from Twitter (for his harassment of African-American actor Leslie Jones).
Milo is banned from Twitter not for his harassment, but for harassment directed at Jones by others.
Profit, for one thing. “Dangerous” immediately went to the top of Amazon.com’s bestseller list on the strength of its pre-orders. The media opportunities generated by the publishing house’s parent company, CBS, will likely compensate for any boycotts that materialize (the Chicago Review of Books has announced it would not review any Simon & Schuster books in 2017 as a protest and others, from indie booksellers to celebrities, are talking about boycotts).There’s also the issue of freedom of speech. Opinion is divided, even among liberals, about whether Milo, and his book, should be censored. Where are the boundaries about what’s fit for public circulation and who should decide or enforce them? This same debate arose last year in Germany on the occasion of the reissue of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, which had been banned in Germany since the end of World War II. For every reader who came away from reading it disgusted by the violence of fascism, the concern was that there could be others inspired by exactly that.
In the United States, many of Milo’s fans are also supporters of President-elect Donald Trump. Milo sees Trump the political disrupter as a kindred spirit. As he noted at the opening of the art show #DaddyWillSaveUs (during which he sat almost naked in a tub full of cow blood to honor Americans killed by undocumented immigrants), Trump’s “Make America Great Again” has revived “the dissident element in culture — punk, mischief, irreverence…” Such boosterism apparently made Milo a good fit for Simon & Schuster’s Threshold imprint, which publishes not only Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh but also Trump himself (most recently “Great Again: How to Fix our Crippled America”). By signing Milo’s “Dangerous,” the publishing house simply makes more evident what Trump’s campaign already proved: for today’s GOP, racist rhetoric has become normal political discourse.