The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has come under fire for signing onto a letter with the National Coalition Against Censorship to defend Simon & Schuster‘s plan to publish a book by controversial alt-right/hate personality Milo Yiannopoulos. Yiannopoulos is reportedly being paid $250,000 for the deal which will see the book published under the Threshold Editions which specializes in conservative personalities/books.
The NCAC joint letter/statement described Yiannopoulos as “a self-described “super-villain”, is notorious for comments and views that are deeply offensive to many.” A nice sanitized description of a ringleader and “voice” behind online harassment campaigns aimed primarily at women, minorities, and those of the liberal persuasion and language that many describe as “hate speech.”
It should also be noted the Yiannopoulos’ self-published book of poetry contained plagiarized lyrics unattributed to musician Tori Amos.
The announcement goes further to state:
NCAC’s statement supports the right to boycott a book or a company for any reason. It underlines, however, the chilling effect the response will have on authors and publishers who want to tackle topics and ideas that some may find disfavorable. The statement argues that “the suppression of noxious ideas does not defeat them; only vigorous disagreement can counter toxic speech effectively.
The CBLDF is joined by the American Booksellers Association, Association of American Publishers, Authors Guild, Freedom to Read Foundation, Index on Censorship, and the National Council of Teachers of English.
The announcement by the CBLDF of the support has led to a backlash with individuals questioning the need for the CBLDF to get involved in the first place, the focus on equating boycotts with censorship, and the lack of recognition that Yiannopoulos and his ilk are an actual threat to the lives of marginalized individuals. There’s also irony since the alt-right and their affiliated movements like GamerGate regularly coordinate in attacks to censor the left or anything they disagree with. The
The comic industry recently saw that in a dust-up concerning writer Chelsea Cain and the Marvel series Mockingbird. These same organizations were silent during that not issuing a statement of support. In fact the CBLDF has been silent towards the attacks on and sustained harassment women and marginalized communities in the comic industry in an attempt to drive them out.
The backlash to the CBLDF’s decision was bad enough that they felt the need to further clarify their support again conflating a boycott with censorship. They are not one and the same since a boycott occurs after something is released and has a goal to drive further decisions through the manipulation of the free market and capitalism. A boycott of South Africa was not a censorship of Apartheid as an example.
Read the “clarification” below or directly on Twitter.
The response was not positive as many noted this is more akin to the hate speech that actually threatens lives, stirs hatred, and advocates for the stripping of rights and protections from groups. They also remind the CBLDF by paying money and publishing a book, that is an endorsement of the ideas within the book and a debatably worse reality of profiting from hate. You become an enabler to the hate speech giving it a platform. There’s also a valid questioning that since censorship is not happening, again a boycott is not censorship, of why the CBLDF didn’t sit this one out.
As a donor to the CBLDF, I do question where dollars are being spent in this case (UPDATE: No money has been spent on this). One Tweet said it best, “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”