I despise Milo Yiannopoulos, but Roxane Gay is wrong to try to censor him

Caucasian man with duct tape on mouth, white .

I oppose censorship.

I guess that’s not surprising since a rival blogger tried to force my blog off the internet because she disagreed with what I wrote. She was initially so successful that I had no choice but to sue her in Federal Court in 2013. The case, Tuteur v. Crosley-Corcoran, was ultimately settled confidentially, but you will notice that my blog is still here.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Gay’s move is a terrible philosophical mistake, and an utterly bone-headed move on a practical level.[/pullquote]

In is inevitable then that I cannot join in the general Leftist glee that feminist scholar Roxane Gay has withdrawn her work from publisher Simon & Shuster to protest their publication of a forthcoming book by Milo Yiannopoulos. Don’t get me wrong; I have the utmost contempt for Yiannopoulos and his lazy fascism. I intend to fight back against Yiannopoulos and his ilk with my heart and soul. But I think it is absolutely critical that the Left should not betray its own values in an effort to stymie the Right.

According to The Week:

Bestselling author Roxane Gay will no longer publish her forthcoming book with Simon & Schuster after the publishing house’s decision to reportedly buy alt-right personality Milo Yiannopoulos’ book in a $250,000 deal last month, BuzzFeed News reports. Gay’s book, How to Be Heard, was scheduled to be published by the Simon & Schuster imprint TED Books in March 2018.

“I can’t in good conscience let them publish it while they also publish Milo,” Gay said Wednesday. “So I told my agent over the weekend to pull the project.”

Don’t get me wrong. Gay is well within her rights to do this, but I think she is making a terrible mistake, both philosophically and practically.

It is philosophically wrong to use financial leverage to attempt to censor another author’s work, and that’s just what Gaye is trying to do. Gaye wants to send a signal that publishing houses will feel financial pain if they publish works by hard right/fascist authors. Perhaps it has escaped her notice but some of the most profitable published works are from conservative authors. How would we feel if Ann Coulter threatened to pull her work any company willing to publish Gay? I hope we would be outraged. It’s no less an outrage when Gay attempts to do the same thing to Yiannopoulos.

Free speech and the free exchange of ideas is at the heart of democracy. I may disagree with you profoundly but I will defend to the death your right to express yourself. That principle appears to face its greatest threat ever in the person of Donald Trump. It is at this critical moment that we must stand forcefully and unambiguously for that right and not invoke special privileges for ourselves that we would not see extended to our political opponents.

Gay’s move is a terrible philosophical mistake, but it is also an utterly bone-headed move on a practical level.

Yiannopoulos got a $250,000 advance of his book. That’s not much more than I got for my book. In other words, Simon and Shuster are not expecting a chart busting bestseller. He would not be able to afford a massive publicity campaign, but now Gay has handed him a million dollars worth of free publicity. This is the BEST THING that could have happened to his book and there is no doubt that he will exploit it to the last penny.

He also could offer a better demonstration of Left Wing hypocrisy than a this. And at this moment in time, when the Left Wing is caught on it’s back foot, that’s likely to be terribly damaging. It feeds into every stereotype relentlessly promoted by Yiannopoulos and his cronies. Why give them this gift?

I understand the righteous rage. It’s hard to be more angered than I am by the new Trump despotism. But free peoples have always understood that freedom to say, write and think things that offend others is a precious freedom. We should not betray that freedom by carving out special exceptions for censorship for ourselves, for we are the ones who will almost certainly suffer most from such hypocrisy.


Edited to correct Dr. Gay’s profession; she is a feminist scholar.