Playing the Indian Card

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Dangerous Editing

Dangerous Uncle Tom faggot.

As a former and perhaps future editor, I am fascinated to see that the original manuscript of Milo Yiannopoulos's Dangerous has been released publicly, complete with editor's comments. For one thing, you get to read the book, a current bestseller, for free. For another, you get great insight into the editorial process at a top US publisher, Simon & Schuster.

Those who dislike Yiannopoulos are claiming that the editorial notes amount to a “takedown” and discredit Yiannopoulos.

My impression is quite different.

Milo's original manuscript looks lazy, granted. Close to being stream of consciousness, without any deep research or anything new for anyone who has listened to many of his public lectures. He needed editing.

On the other hand, this editor seems antagonistic to Milo's basic persona and message. The editorial suggestions seem often wrongheaded. The editor seems to be trying to make the book more bland, which does not serve the author, the publisher, or the reader. It especially does not fit with the Milo brand. It amounts to an act of sabotage.

For example:

Milo writes, “the film was limper than a frat boy's penis at a fat-acceptance rally.” The editor strikes that and replaces it with “the film was boring.” That is plain sabotage; this is the sort of colour people come to a Milo lecture to hear. This is why you want to read Milo instead of some generic writer.

Milo writes, in argument, “there was no reason why the left had to abandon its old blue-collar base.” The editor responds, patronizingly, “The reason was partly that the base abandoned the Democrats during the 1960s because the Democrats voted for civil rights legislation.” This is a tired left-wing talking point that Milo is surely entirely familiar with, and long debunked on the right—for one thing, the Republicans voted more consistently than the Democrats for civil rights legislation in the 1960s. That the editor states it as fact, and assumes Yiannopoulos has not heard this, shows that he has no knowledge of thinking on the right. This makes him fundamentally unqualified to edit a book directed at that readership.

To many of Milo's jokes, the editor just notes something like “unfunny,” or “doesn't land,” or “superfluous.” Not helpful. Yiannopoulos is an experienced comedian who has honed his routines in front of live audiences. It is pure arrogance—or sabotage--for this editor to imagine that he is the better judge of what gags work. One suspects the real problem is that they seem to him to sting—that is, they make Milo's point too well.

In one paragraph, Milo states that the non-unionized working class were attracted to Thatcher and Reagan because of their tough stances against unions. The editor comments “Point out that the working class were attracted to Thatcher and Reagan despite their tough stances against unions?” He simply seems ideologically incapable of grasping the point.

Yiannopoulos says of a certain sort of opponent, “They are the type who will be disappointed by a DNA test that shows they are 99% of European ancestry, because they thought 'I might be something interesting,'” and adds a few other amusing hypothetical examples of limp-wristed leftism. The editor notes “cite examples.” This is like jamming a stick in someone's bicycle spokes as they ride by. Milo is not saying these people do this, but that they are the type who would. Not the same thing, and trying to pedantically document examples of people doing this would murder the joke.

Yiannopoulos then calls gay marriage a “relatively trivial” issue. Quite a reasonable thing to say, surely. The editor will not have this, and rewrites it as “previously ignored.” Comment: “Don't call it trivial.” No further explanation. This is thought-policing at its most blatant.

People like to listen to Milo because he says things in the strongest terms. This is the point of Milo: to poke a finger in the eye of political correctness. People buying his book will be buying it for more of this. Yet this editor objects every time Yiannopoulos uses a particularly strong image or analogy. He is not allowed to compare anyone to Nazis. “Ever.” He is not allowed to call himself a “gay Uncle Tom,” because this is “inflammatory.” And so forth.

Yiannopolos calls his boyfriends “denizens of the dark continent.” The editor strikes this, on the grounds that it sounds like “darkies,” and replaces it with “black men.” Granted that “denizens of the dark continent” is awkward—nothing dark about Africa, and probably Milo's boyfriends to not actually live in Africa. But at least it is far better than the editor's substitution, which is bland, boring and lazy; or else deliberate sabotage. He could at least offer a decent alternative. How about “gentlemen richly endowed with pigment”? “Not prime candidates for the Red-Headed League”? “Of the Sub-Saharan persuasion”? “Ethnically somewhere south of Timbuktu”? If he can't write better than that, or does not care to, how can he presume to tell someone else how to write? He should go into accountancy or something.

I'm not sure whether the editor is incompetent or malicious; but it is an interesting window into traditional publishing. Like just about everything else, in recent decades, editing and book publishing have become hopelessly politically slanted. Traditional publishers and editors have decided that their job is not to serve the public by simply to the best of their abilities ensuring a high quality in books, but to ensure that nothing is published that goes against certain political stances and certain shared class interests. They see themselves as an elite in command.

Among other problems, this tends to mean that no interesting books can any longer be published: nothing that says anything new.

The situation is not as bad as in magazines, or newspapers, or in the rest of the media. The general principle in book publishing is that the author, not the editor, has the final say, and all the publisher can do is pull the book if they disagree too strongly.

But it is, at best, an annoying obstacle course, requiring steady nerves. If, of course, you can get a contract in the first case. Myself currently working on a book for self-publishing, I have actually had freelance designers and printers, who work on contract, refuse to bid on my book because of its apparently right-wing tone. They would probably get drummed out of all the industry cocktail parties. Good thing for them I was not asking them to cater a gay wedding.

For this reason, conventional publishing, like the rest of the mainstream media, is ripening for destruction, indeed, seems to be busy killing itself. It becomes overwhelmingly attractive for someone like Yiannopoulos—or little me--to pull their book from the big houses like Simon & Schuster—he was lucky that they pulled the plug, so he did not have to. And now he can sue.

After all, nobody any longer needs them. Fortunately for the public, fortunately for writers, and unfortunately for the traditional publishers, it is now not just possible, but fairly easy, to bypass all of this. With epublishing and print on demand, there is no need for any big capital outlay to publish—other than the significant time investment of writing the book. Strictly speaking, if you do only ebook format, you can publish for free. Nor is there any need for a big distribution operation. The big problem in the business used to be getting it out to those thousand little bookshops. Now, you can cover most of the field by selling only to Amazon, Chapters, and Barnes & Noble. Yes, author tours and book signings help, but traditional publishers were always notoriously unhelpful with them anyway. It was always mostly up to the author.

I think Yiannopoulos can manage it on his own.

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