Another day, another publisher treating authors like rubbish. This time it’s Pan Macmillan, who has dropped Australian author Pete Evans due to a poorly thought out cartoon. In the cartoon, there was ‘Nazi imagery.’ Never mind context or Evan’s personal beliefs. All that matters is Evans made the Twitter mobs uncomfortable. And because they are a bunch of babies, a writer lost his book contract.
It is outrageous and rather sickening that publishers continue to treat authors like garbage. Whilst authors must sign morality clauses in contracts, publishers themselves are not beholden to such standards. This is because publishers are wielding the power in this situation. Authors are desperate to be published, and hence, the publishers can twist that into submission.
Writers shouldn’t walk on eggshells, worrying about Twitter mobs (who get offended at anything). They should focus on writing the next book and cultivating a fanbase that cares. It’s time consuming and demoralising for writers to see publishers act cowardly in the face of a mob. And worse, the mob will do it again and again. Like clockwork, the publishers will continue to appease the mob instead of standing up for their authors.
Publishers today give no reason why authors should publish with them. The ‘big five’ publishers have shown little to no commitment to free speech or ideological diversity (but don’t worry. They’ll grandstand about Black Lives Matter). As someone who wants to be traditionally published someday, I am quite scared that a publisher will drop me for ‘wrongthink’ or offending someone. It’s rather sad, and I know that I’m not the only one who thinks that.
What’s also weird is the conflation between an author’s actions and the ‘views of the publisher.’ If you honestly think a publisher shares the same viewpoints as every single author they publish, then you need a reality check. Personally, I prefer big publishers to be politically neutral. Books are for everyone, and that includes people with the ‘wrong’ kind of politics. (Aka, me!)
There’s a great quote from C.S Lewis that sums up this situation:
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”
Now, Pete Evan’s cartoon was lost on me. Didn’t get it. But comedy isn’t a crime, and it is not a reason for a grovelling apology or loss of a book contract. Last time I checked, no one died or got physically injured when they are offended. The Twitter mobs should remember that. The most offensive and sinister aspect of ‘cancel culture’ is the lack of redemption or improvement. The ‘bad’ person is given no opportunity to improve, unless they bend the knee.
Evans has since apologised. Personally, I think this is dangerous territory, and Pan Macmillan set a scary standard for publishing today. I know that the Twitter mobs will continue to hold this ‘crime’ against Macmillan and Evans, and there is no capacity for forgiveness or moving on.
A sad day indeed.