This blog certainly forces me to defend some unsavory characters.
Woody Allen is one among the small group of artists who I find so personally repellent that I can’t enjoy their work even while recognizing and appreciating its excellence. That does not mean, however, thatAllen’s work is not important nor that his life and career lack cultural significance. As I wrote here,
“I found myself unable to enjoy any of Allen’s films after he cheated on his de facto wife with his de facto daughter. I also don’t believe in enriching, even indirectly, horrible people in their professional endeavors if I can conveniently avoid it.”
That, however, is a personal choice that I would never impose on others, nor on the arbiters and trustees of culture, as it would be unethical to do so. Thus I wrote, just a few days ago, of Ronin Farrow’s demand that his publishers refuse to hand Allen’s memoirs because he believes his sister’s account that Allen sexually abused her when she was a child,
“I yield to no one in my contempt for Woody Allen as a human being, but he is a major figure in film and cultural history, and his memoirs are of obvious value and interest. Farrow’s publisher’s obligation is to readers and stockholders, not the sensibilities of one author.”
Now we learn that the publishers have been intimidated into dropping Allen’s book after all:
Hachette Book Group on Friday dropped its plans to publish Woody Allen’s autobiography and said it would return all rights to the author, a day after its employees protested its deal with the filmmaker. “The decision to cancel Mr. Allen’s book was a difficult one,” a spokeswoman for the publisher said in a statement. “We take our relationships with authors very seriously, and do not cancel books lightly. We have published and will continue to publish many challenging books. As publishers, we make sure every day in our work that different voices and conflicting points of views can be heard.”
But she added that Hachette executives had discussed the matter with employees and, “after listening, we came to the conclusion that moving forward with publication would not be feasible for HBG.”
There are those pesky rationalizations again! Oh, it’s a hard decision, so that excuses it from being a bad decision. This is 19 B. Murkowski’s Lament, or “It was a difficult decision” again, which I reviewed yesterday. Next, we get this nauseating sequence, which perfectly embodies 64, Yoo’s Rationalization, or “It isn’t what it is!”
The statement says that “We have published and will continue to publish many challenging books. As publishers, we make sure every day in our work that different voices and conflicting points of views can be heard,’ and follows it up by saying that it will not publish this “challenging book” and thus this different voice and conflicting point of view will not be heard. Seldom does such complete hypocrisy define itself in the span of so few sentences.
The “difficult” decision that contradicts the company’s stated values results from nothing better than cowardly capitulating to a mob carrying out the goals of cancel culture. In this case, those goals include infringing on free speech and the public’s right to know, if they want to know. Our democratic ideals and the principles enunciated in the Bill of Rights have no chance of surviving if those who own and run companies like Hachette emulate the spineless administrators of educational institutions and dissolve into pools of passive submission every time holding to those ideals and principles threatens to entail a risk of sacrifice or adverse consequences.
Hachette should have told its rebelling employees that they could return to work and stop complaining, or find other employment. About 75 employees staged a walk-out over company policy that was not theirs to control. Hachette’s response should have been “keep walking.”
The free-speech nonprofit PEN America had their metaphorical heads screwed on properly, declaring,
“We believe everyone — including authors and publishing employees — has the right to express their opinions and raise their voices in protest. That said, we also are concerned about the trend of pressuring the withdrawal of books from publication and circulation, depriving readers of the chance to make their own judgments and disincentivizing publishers from taking on contentious topics. While we don’t take a position on the editorial judgments in question, we think that once a book is slated for publication, it should not be withdrawn just because it’s controversial or gives rise to vociferous objections.”
Well, of course. But this is an industry dominated by the Left, and the Left in today’s America only supports free speech that they agree with, otherwise it’s “hate speech,” or supporting individuals they feel must be “cancelled.”
Conservative pundit Rod Dreher wrote persuasively on this episode at The American Conservative (and why is it that it has fallen to conservatives to defend freedom of speech in the 21st century?). Read the whole thing, but below are some highlights. Note that Dreher wrote this before Hachette collapsed like cardboard tent in a rains storm…
- “I would love to know something about the demographics of the crowd — specifically, how many of the walkout protesters are under the age of 40. The reason I ask is because for a long time now, I’ve been hearing from conservative academics that as the old-school liberals move into retirement, they are being replaced by Millennial and Gen Z academics who are Jacobins, with no respect for liberal values of free speech, free inquiry, and expression.”
- This scares the hell out of me. … Put me down as standing 100 percent in their defense on this Woody Allen thing, solely as a matter of principle.I say that as someone who used to be a Woody Allen fan, but soured badly on him after the Soon-Yi scandal broke in the early 1990s. What he did was morally reprehensible — a symbolic form of incest. I think he’s a real creep. I have found it difficult to watch his movies since all that. I am not the target audience for this book…That said, we do not know if Woody Allen abused Dylan Farrow. He has been accused of doing so. He was investigated and not charged. Perhaps he really is guilty, but investigators didn’t find enough evidence to charge him. Perhaps he was, and is, falsely accused. I don’t know. I don’t know that anybody other than Woody Allen and Dylan Farrow will ever know….But employees of a publishing house demanding that the publishing house not publish a book because its author is a pariah to them is something very, very different.”
- ” [An] anonymous publicist within Hachette told Slate: “I don’t think any of that matters in the slightest considering the things he’s been accused of doing.” Accused. Woody Allen has never been tried in a court of law. He was investigated, but Dylan’s mother, Mia Farrow, declined to press charges. He is judged guilty of a sex crime by this protesters simply on the basis of an accusation.”
Yes, it is now up to conservatives to defend due process and basic fairness as well. More Deher..
- “My argument is with publishing industry employees who demand that the book be canceled. My argument, as a writer and former editor, is about professional standards in a liberal society. I’ve been a professional journalist for over thirty years….”
- “Where does this stop? Do publishing employees (or journalists at newspapers) reserve to themselves the right to dictate who their employers can and cannot publish, based on the sentiment of their employees? It’s Woody Allen today, but tomorrow, it could be someone less vividly controversial who has nevertheless gotten on the wrong side of the woke mob.”
- We have seen these past few years important liberal institutions – universities and academic associations, chiefly – surrendering to the illiberal demands of the progressive mob. Now it’s moving into publishing. I hope Hachette will stand firm. If the protesting employees win, then precedent established will give staffers a heckler’s veto over editorial decisions – and any writer whose work, personal life, or demographic status (“older white men”) offends militant progressives within a publishing house will find their livelihoods in jeopardy.”
- One more time: I do not like Woody Allen, I think his sexual exploits have been ugly, and I have no interest in buying his book. But I strongly defend his right to write the book, and the decision ..to publish it, because I don’t want any writer to have to face cancellation by an internal revolt of publishing industry employees. It’s a terrible, illiberal precedent. Yale University, like many other institutions, have surrendered to the demands of the woke mob. Stand firm, Hachette.
Well, it didn’t stand firm.