About a year ago, Random House pulled the plug on a novel about the prophet Mohammed and his child bride.
When time permits, please compare the Weasel Words in this old press release about "The Jewel Of Medina" by Sherry Jones, and John Donatich's whimpering in yesterday's NYT about "The Cartoons That Shook The World", a Yale University Press book about the cartoons published in Denmark that won't be published in Yale's book about the cartoons. (See previous post.)
After sending out advance editions of the novel THE JEWEL OF MEDINA, we received in response, from credible and unrelated sources, cautionary advice not only that the publication of this book might be offensive to some in the Muslim community, but also that it could incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment.
We felt an obligation to take these concerns very seriously. We consulted with security experts as well as with scholars of Islam, whom we asked to review the book and offer their assessments of potential reactions.
I'll bet you dollars against donuts that the security experts and "scholars of Islam" in the Jewel Of Medina controversy overlap with the security experts and schoolmarms that John Donatich allowed to squash the Danish cartoon book.
These people are authoritative, yet anonymous.
We stand firmly by our responsibility to support our authors and the free discussion of ideas, even those that may be construed as offensive by some.
No, you don't. You didn't. You can't say that any more. You really can't. The point of publishing something like this is to offer another point of view, change people's minds, provoke a discussion, and possibly offend people. You caved in. You didn't support your authors and the free discussion of ideas. Notice the Weasel Words "may", "construed", and "some".
However, a publisher must weigh that responsibility against others that it also bears, and in this instance we decided, after much deliberation, to postpone publication for the safety of the author, employees of Random House, booksellers and anyone else who would be involved in distribution and sale of the novel. The author and Ballantine subsequently agreed to terminate the agreement, with the understanding that the author would be free to publish elsewhere, if she so chose.
- The Random House Publishing Group
So who are these people that can tell Yale and Random House what to censor? Who elected them? Do they even exist? If you look at the article on the cartoon book, you'll see that they only way to learn what they said is by promising not to tell anyone.