As organisations dedicated to protecting freedom of expression, we write to comment on the calls for a boycott against Simon & Schuster because Threshold Editions, one of its imprints, has contracted to publish a book by Milo Yiannopoulos, a provocateur and self-described “supervillain,” whose views and statements are highly controversial and deeply offensive to many.
Calls for boycotts have become a familiar response to the publication of controversial books. Typically, such online campaigns go viral at lightning speed, instantly igniting a firestorm of criticism. We are aware of at least seven other similar situations involving threats or fears of boycotts, four of which were successful in having books withdrawn, delayed, revised, or not reprinted.
In the present case, the calls for a boycott stem not from the content of a book, which has not been published, but because of previous statements by the author which critics characterize as hate speech. The Chicago Review of Books has announced its intent to protest the publisher’s decision by refusing to review any books published by Simon & Schuster, even though that would deprive its readers of information about books from more than two dozen Simon & Schuster imprints, including Salaam Reads, which focuses on books with Muslim characters.