Astonishing call for censorship of Justice Amy Coney Barrett by publishing industry figures
Even as they claim to oppose censorship, a group of almost 500 people (as of the moment) from the literary world — best-selling authors, publishing industry employees, and others — have signed on to a call for Penguin Random House to drop a forthcoming book by Justice Amy Coney Barrett. Her crime? Signing on to the majority opinion in the Dobbs case, overturning Roe v. Wade, and returning abortion to the states.
You can read the letter and the complete list of signatories, posted to Google Documents, here. It begins:
"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.
Does none of these people, presumably skilled in the use of the English language, see the contradiction here? They hate censorship, but they want Justice Barrett's book suppressed, dropped by one of the biggest publishers in the country. The very next paragraph says why they want her censored, even though censorship harms democracy:
On June 24, 2022, Coney Barrett joined Justices Alito, Roberts, Kavanaugh, Thomas, and Gorsuch in overturning 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 its Code of Conduct.
And even though they have not seen the book, they are pretty sure that it is bad:
The ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health that overturned Roe hinged on exactly what Coney Barrett's book is reportedly about — the judiciary's role and "how judges are not supposed to bring their personal feelings into how they rule." Yet, it seems this is exactly what Coney Barrett has done, inflicting her own religious and moral agenda upon all Americans while appropriating the rhetoric of even-handedness — and Penguin Random House has agreed to pay her a sum of $2 million to do it.
So is it about the money? Jealousy?
There follows pretzel logic:
This is not just a book that we disagree with, and we are not calling for censorship. Many of us work daily with books we find disagreeable to our personal politics. Rather, this is a case where a corporation has privately funded the destruction of human rights with obscene profits. Coney Barrett is free to say as she wishes, but Penguin Random House must decide whether to fund her position at the expense of human rights in order to inflate its bottom line, or to truly stand behind the values it proudly espouses to hold.
So they are saying that getting a book suppressed is not "censorship" because Justice Barrett could stand on a street corner and read her manuscript aloud?
You might wish to scan the list of authors. Lee Child, writer of thrillers including the Jack Reacher series, is one of them. I won't be buying any more of his works.
I hope that Penguin Random House will stand up to these censorship advocates and go ahead with publication. It is a subsidiary of Germany's giant Bertlesmann Group. It might be awkward to be sued by a Supreme Court justice for violating their contract with her.
Hat tip: Richard Baehr.