The literary world comes out for censorship

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

If there is one thing you can count on from publishers, academics, writers, MSM figures, and Leftists it is defending the right to shove pornography right into the faces of children. Anything less than pornographic books in the classroom is book banning.


But when it comes to publishing books by conservatives, not so much. Publishing books by conservatives is an attack on human rights and should be stopped. It is a literal violation of human rights to allow conservatives to have their say in the public square.

That is the position that over 325 (and counting–people are signing up continually) editors, publishers, booksellers, and other figures in the literary world. They are calling on Penguin Random House to not publish Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s forthcoming memoir. As reported by Publisher’s Weekly:

An open letter has begun circulating in publishing circles, in protest of the acquisition of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s forthcoming memoir by Penguin Random House. The statement, posted today, has been circulating online, including on the Instagram account @publishersbrunch, whose anonymous administrator told PW that the statement was drafted and circulated by “a group of concerned publishing professionals.”

In April 2021, AP reported that Coney Barrett had inked a book deal with Sentinel, an imprint of Penguin Random House. At the time the deal was announced, Sentinel founder, president, and publisher Adrian Zackheim declined to provide additional details. However, Politico, citing three anonymous “publishing industry sources,” reported that the Coney Barrett had garnered a $2 million advance for the book—a sum repeated in the statement.


The open letter, much of which I quote below, was inspired by the danger of violent fascists like you and me destroying America by voting.

“With the midterms coming up, and the 2024 election looming, the group decided it was time to make a statement,” @publishersbrunch told PW on behalf of the group. “We cannot, and will not, amplify the voices of extremists (like Amy Coney Barrett) who would gladly take away the rights of millions of Americans if given the chance. I’m extremely proud to see the responses thus far and hope that this action encourages others in the industry to speak out!”

The publishing world’s definition of free speech has been “evolving” for some time now. As you may recall the American Bookseller’s Association actually publicly apologized for distributing Abigail Shrier’s book on the transgender movement:

As soon as Casey Morrissey opened the box of books, they were furious. [DS–“they” pronoun, of course]

The title at the top of the stack was Abigail Shrier’s “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters,”a contentious tome that has sparked cries of transphobia since its release last summer.

“Do you know how that feels, as a trans bookseller and book buyer?” Morrissey, who works at Greenlight Bookstores in Brooklyn tweeted Wednesday. “It isn’t even a new title, so it really caught me in the gut. Do better.”

The American Booksellers Association quickly apologized for including the nonfiction book, which it characterized as “anti-trans,” in its July mailing to its 750 member bookstores. The trade organization’s monthly “white box” includes marketing materials, advance copies of books and finished titles the ABA wants booksellers to consider stocking.

“This is a serious, violent incident that goes against ABA’s … policies, values, and everything we believe and support,” the ABA wrote on Twitter. “It is inexcusable.”

The organization also vowed to take concrete steps to remedy the harm it said it had caused.


Sending out a book is “violent,” if it is the wrong book. Yet books that instruct children in oral sex, sadomasochistic practices, and other obscenities must be in elementary school classrooms because doing otherwise is censorship.

The open letter is a hoot, twisting around itself to insist that demanding the book not be published is not censorship, but upholding basic human rights.


“Now there will be those who will argue that this could all too easily drift into a form of censorship, albeit self-censorship, but I don’t buy that argument. It has to be possible to balance freedom of expression with wider moral and social responsibilities.”

– David Puttnam,“Does the media have a duty of care?” (TED Talk)

As members of the writing, publishing, and broader literary community of the United States, we care deeply about freedom of speech. We also believe it is imperative that publishers uphold their dedication to freedom of speech with a duty of care.

We recognize that harm is done to a democracy not only in the form of censorship, but also in the form of assault on inalienable human rights. As such, we are calling on Penguin Random House to recognize its own history and corporate responsibility commitments by reevaluating its decision to move forward with publishing Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s forthcoming book.

On June 24, 2022, Coney Barrett joined Justices Alito, Roberts, Kavanaugh, Thomas, and Gorsuch inoverturning the landmark ruling Roe v. Wade, dismantling protections for the human rights to privacy, self-determination, and bodily autonomy along with the federal right to an abortion in the United States. International human rights organizations widely recognize abortion access as a fundamental human right and have condemned the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision. In fact, Human Rights Watch—founded by Random House’s second publisher, Robert L. Bernstein, who held nascent meetings in Random House’s offices—notes that the human rights on which a right to abortion access is predicated are set out in the [United Nations’] Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” a document to which Penguin Random House parent company Bertelsmann commits itself in Section 2.2.1 of itsCode of Conduct.


Presumably this means that any book that dissents in any way from the current position of abortion absolutists should never be published because doing so is equivalent to gassing people.

The literary industry has always had a tilt to the Left. That’s unsurprising, of course, as creative people in general tend to be more open to utopianism than most of us, and often have a bit of trouble distinguishing between fantasy and reality. But the publishing business has until recently been pretty good about promoting intellectual diversity for ideological reasons, for self preservation (prevailing attitudes change, so opposing censorship is vital to their business), and for pecuniary reasons–reach the largest possible markets to make money.

That has changed recently, as ideology has crept into publishing more and more. The science fiction publishing world has been going woke (ironically, since it used to be conservative to libertarian in the main), and as intellectuals have moved from liberal to Leftists the impulse to suppress dissent has spread far and wide.

There is still money to be made in publishing books conservatives will read, so there is little danger that those books will be totally suppressed. Somebody will sell them.

But don’t be surprised if getting access to them will get more difficult. As booksellers go woke, alternative venues for purchase will likely have to spring up. If Amazon caves to the woke mob completely (they have had to adjust to satisfy their workforce) it will be difficult  to buy anything written by a conservative.


In any case, every time you hear a Leftist accusing people of “banning books,” remember this: they aren’t bothered by censorship, because they are the chief censors in our society.

UPDATE: I screwed up. Inserted a word to make a sentence actually make sense. Thanks to the reader who caught the error!

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