Chicago Review Of Books Calls Out Press For Giving Alt-Righter $250K Advance

By Stephen Gossett in News on Dec 30, 2016 5:00PM

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Getty Images / Photo: Dan Kitwood

The news on Thursday that publisher Simon and Schuster gave alt-right poster boy Milo Yiannopoulos a book advance worth a staggering reported $250,000 was met with instant and robust ire among those who prefer not to see racism and transphobia rewarded to the tune of a quarter of a million dollars. One outlet that pushed back publicly was the Chicago Review of Books, which announced that “in response to this disgusting validation of hate,” the book review site would not cover any Simon & Schuster in 2017.

Brietbart, a proprietor of dreck like this and the site where Yiannopoulos acts as Senior Editor, unsurprisingly declared the decision a “war on speech.” Adam Morgan, Editor-in-Chief of Chicago Review of Books, finds that accusation wanting.

“We champion free speech, but it works both ways,” he told Chicagoist via email. "Yiannopoulos has the right to say whatever he wants. Simon and Schuster has the right to publish whatever it wants. And the Chicago Review of Books has the right to cover whatever it wants.”

“Our decision not to cover S&S books isn't censorship, it's free-market capitalism: the freedom to speak your mind doesn't protect you from repercussions in the market,” he added.

Morgan affirmed that he wasn’t advocating that readers boycott Simon and Schuster, and said the decision— which was made unanimously between Morgan and two other editors—also allows CRB to focus on small, indie presses. (CRB covered 15 Simon and Schuster books in 2016 out of some 300, by Morgan’s count.)

"In 2017, we'd just rather give those slots to a publisher who isn't normalizing hate speech," Morgan said.

Yiannopoulos, who styles himself as a truth-telling provocateur but in reality is better characterized as a petulant bigot, was banned from Twitter in July for leading a racist mass trolling against actress/comic Leslie Jones. Here in Chicago, he’s perhaps best known for a controversial and heavily protested appearance at DePaul earlier this year. Earlier this month, Yiannopoulos made headlines when he took his carnival act speaking tour to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and hurled invective against a transgender student.