Grace Manning ‘21
In the year after Breonna Taylor’s tragic death at the hands of Louisville police officers, rage and indignation resurface as one of these policemen, Jonathan Mattingly, prepares to release a book telling his side of the story that rocked the U.S. and the world. Publishers and distributors across the states now face a dilemma: if they agree to ship the book, are they implying to the public that they stand behind the officer in question? And equally, if they don’t, are they complicit in censorship?
A New York Times article on the issue suggests that since the major publishing company Simon & Schuster refused to distribute the book, they are “acknowledging that a distributor bears some ethical responsibility for the books it ships”. This is new territory for the company, as well as for many American publishing houses that would previously have argued for books with varied perspectives and standpoints. So, are publishing companies to blame for the books they choose to distribute? I argue no. I believe that these corporations have the responsibility to continue America’s approach to free speech and to recognize that their personal stance on issues is irrelevant when it comes to the books they choose to distribute.
Actively promoting these books is, of course, another story. I don’t argue that publishing houses should push Mattingly’s book, “The Fight for Truth: The Inside Story Behind the Breonna Taylor Tragedy” on the public, but their distributing of it shouldn’t be interpreted as support. Their job is to allow American society to read books that people can then form their own opinions on. If publishing houses start deciding which books to publish based on their personal views and opinions, all the American public is going to get is books reflecting these singular points of view. As I learned during Trump’s presidency, it is equally as important to listen to and read about views you don’t agree with, as it is to be secure in your own. Hearing from those whose stance I opposed when it came to Trump, allowed me to truly form my own viewpoints and to better understand those around me. Many publishing companies pride themselves on the diversity of their books, however, after Trump’s presidency, the divide between the left and the right has intensified. This led to cancelled book deals, such as was the case for Senator Josh Hawley, and criticism from both sides when books offering the opposite side’s perspectives were published. In order to say that we support and promote free speech and that we condemn censorship, publishing houses have to be able to separate themselves from the books they publish.