Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Belated Notes on the Milo Yiannopoulos Boycott

This has probably all already been said elsewhere. But it's been annoying me for several days now, so here goes...

Noted right-wing asshole [1] Milo Yiannopoulos has signed a book deal with the Simon & Schuster imprint Threshold Editions, for a reported $250,000. The book will be called Dangerous, and it will go on sale in March. Yiannopoulos previously was most famous for being banned from Twitter for harassing actress Leslie Jones and for proving that a gay man can indeed be homophobic, but he's still young: he has many years of assholishness ahead of him and will likely top them.

Many people who are not right-wing assholes are deeply unhappy with this, and right-wing assholes are ecstatic. (And, like everything else in this world, the vast majority doesn't really care.) A collection of non-assholes have called for a boycott of Simon & Schuster in retaliation.

First Point: I don't recall any similar boycotts of the publishers of books by Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney, who actually lied this country into war and arguably committed war crimes along the way. Perhaps being an asshole on the Internet is just worse behavior than that?

Slightly less snarkily, where have you people been? This is what the right-wing imprints do -- they put out quick fatuous books by currently popular right-wing assholes (Sarah Palin, that fake plumber guy) with deliberately incendiary titles and themes to grab the money of angry old white men (of various ages, races, and genders). I find it hard to believe that Yiannopoulos is clearly worse than the dreck that has been pouring out of that sector of publishing for the last couple of decades.

Second Point: You know that S&S is just a mid-rank link in the corporate chain, right? The actual decision-maker for the Yiannopoulos book was presumably Louise Burke, the publisher of the group of imprints that Threshold is part of. If you want to target the actual people connected to this book, boycott Gallery and Pocket as well as S&S mass-market paperbacks. The rest of S&S is run by other people who weren't part of this decision. (Anyone thinking about joining this boycott isn't going to buy any Threshold books in the first place, of course.)

Alternatively, if you want to punish the actual larger company, that isn't S&S. S&S is just a division of the CBS Corporation. So your boycott should include Showtime, The CW, Stephen Colbert, 60 Minutes, and so on.

But Andy! you say, those things aren't books! I want to boycott books!

Well, then head your time-machine back to 1969, because big publishers these days are firmly ensconced in large global media companies as part of a deliberate multi-media strategy. Books are one revenue stream of many, as part of a synergy strategy for continued incremental growth in major markets, among other bullshit buzz terms. They are not a separate thing from other media.

So: your choices are:

  • boycott books from Threshold, Gallery, Pocket, and S&S mass-market
  • boycott the entirety of CBS
  • whine online but not get around to doing anything
  • be an idiot and boycott some slightly larger piece of a big media company

Seriously, this is like boycotting ESPN but not ESPN 2, because you want to keep watching soccer. Or boycotting PTI but nothing else because you want to watch the playoffs.

And perhaps...just might want to find some kind of positive message to rally behind, and not just "fuck everyone associated with this asshole." Because the world is full of assholes, and the next four years are going to bring that home over and over. You're quickly going to run out of ability to boycott if you start out like this.

[1] Not exactly his job description, but pretty much what he does for a living: he's an asshole to various people (mostly minorities of one kind or another) in public for the entertainment of others. He's also an instigating asshole: his thing is inciting virtual hate mobs.

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