Analysis & Comment

Opinion | Protests Against Books by Former Trump Officials

To the Editor:

Re “When the Right Writes, a Storm for Publishers” (front page, April 28):

So now we read that a number of employees of Simon & Schuster have petitioned management of the company to cancel a commitment to publish two books by former Vice President Mike Pence, apparently because of disagreement with Mr. Pence’s political views. Jonathan Karp, the chief executive of the company, has declined the request, pointing out that it “runs counter to the very core of our mission to publish a diversity of voices and perspectives.”

We should be grateful for Mr. Karp’s response. It embodies the very essence of freedom of the press and the First Amendment. It would indeed be a sad day in our country if books by persons deemed by some as politically controversial or objectionable were denied publication. We need not agree with them, but may we never refuse to allow their voices to be heard or their opinions considered.

Barry H. Evenchick
South Orange, N.J.
The writer is a lawyer and former deputy attorney general of New Jersey.

To the Editor:

I sympathize with the protesting staff while understanding, as a retired publisher, the position of the management at Simon & Schuster. But there is a middle way.

While there should not be censorship, those who have made a profession of promulgating unpleasant ideas do not need to be made rich by their publishers. So, Simon & Schuster should agree to publish, but not to pay a significant advance.

If the book then goes to another publisher, so be it. Simon & Schuster will have sustained its commitment to the free dissemination of ideas and been saved from the shame of promoting ideas that run counter to the values of a free and democratic society — let alone the shame of providing an advance that would be used to further promote those ideas.

Frankly, the book from a man who said nothing of interest and remained obsequiously silent through the past four years looks like a loss maker anyway. So what I am suggesting would probably save Simon & Schuster from losing money. A true win-win situation.

Colin Day
Ann Arbor, Mich.

To the Editor:

Book publishers who refuse to enter into deals with former Trump administration officials because of concerns that they would be filled with lies and falsehoods and would antagonize certain segments of the population are hypocritical, because many of them are eager to publish books by authors who also peddle falsehoods since there is a large audience for such nonsense.

Bookstores are filled with books about ghosts, miracle cures, astrology, psychics, absurd diets, time travel, pseudoscience and idiotic conspiracy theories, but somehow publishing self-serving books by conservatives that no doubt will promote a narrative of the Trump administration divorced from reality is a bridge too far.

Steven E. Cerier
Forest Hills, Queens

To the Editor:

What we are seeing here is yet another example of the polarization and fragmentation of our society’s broken political discourse. This can’t be a good thing.

My mentors in the library profession taught me to believe that, in general, for-profit publishers — as opposed to academic and nonprofit ones — are in business to make money by publishing works that they think readers want, that fit their publishing profile and that are reputation-enhancing, in that order. Such works may or may not reflect a publisher’s values.

It is the job of readers to decide what they will buy and/or read. It is the downstream job of critics, academics and specialists to speak to what is true and of enduring value. And, finally, it is the job of librarians and archivists to collect, describe, make accessible and preserve these materials … and to connect readers to them.

This model may seem quaint, traditional and even naïve in our current era of absent gatekeepers, but I continue to believe that it is the most sensible division of labor. And it offers the best hope for all to have a voice in matters of public interest.

Marc Truitt
Sackville, New Brunswick
The writer is a retired librarian.

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