BY RENN ELKINS ’20
For an over a year now, controversial internet personality and former Breitbart writer Milo Yiannopoulos has been engaged in an ongoing legal dispute with publishing company Simon & Schuster. The trouble began when other writers who had contracts with Simon & Schuster spoke out in defiance of the company’s decision to publish Yiannopoulos. Among these protesters was feminist author Roxane Gay, who visited Mount Holyoke to deliver a talk last February, and mentioned that she did not believe she could publish her book in good conscience via Simon & Schuster.
The same month as Gay’s visit, Simon & Schuster cancelled the $255,000 contract with Yiannopoulos. The book, “Dangerous,” was subsequently self-published in June, and was met with mediocre sales. In response, Yiannopoulos filed a $10 million lawsuit against Simon & Schuster last summer, accusing them of breach of contract.
The lawsuit led to the release of several relevant documents, including the original manuscript with edits by Simon & Schuster employee Mitchell Ivers. These edits are copious: there are 598 comments in the margins of the book’s 264 pages, plus strikethroughs and additions throughout. While some seem to be more concerned with fact-checking — Ivers calls out many unsourced claims, such as the mention of the Clintons engaging in Satanic rituals — other comments are more opinionated. Within his nearly 600 comments, Ivers refers to the writing of Yiannopoulos — or, according to leaked emails provided by BuzzFeed, that of his ghostwriter — as “unfunny,” “egotistical,” “narcissistic” and “unclear.”
Yiannopoulos’ response to this mountain of criticism has been notable. According to BBC World News, he referred to Ivers as “a liberal gay editor” who “hates Republicans,” also accusing him of flirting with Yiannopoulos himself in the past. Ivers has not responded to these claims.
Salem De Geofrey ’20 has not been following this story, but sees the entire lawsuit as a product of Yiannopoulos’ infamous ego. “It doesn’t seem like an entirely abnormal thing that a publisher would redact the contract of a book, especially one so controversial and damaging,” he said. “I haven’t heard of cases similar to this one, and it does seem a bit abnormal, but Yiannopoulos’ reaction read as absolutely far-fetched and the publishing company’s decision was certainly a good one.” He added that his visceral reaction to Ivers’s scathing edits was “honestly one of joy.”
Pax Carberry ’19, who has considered a career path in the publishing industry, has “a lot of respect” for Ivers and his edits. “The publishing business isn’t as straightforward as most people think. Contracts are changed, rewritten and broken in any line of business, especially when handling a personality like Yiannopoulos,” they explained. “Edits like these are not uncommon. Editors have opinions and aren’t afraid to put them in your margins if you’re trying to publish. Not all edits are the correction of incorrect facts. At the end of the day, publishing houses want to put out good books because their name is at stake as much as the author’s is. It wasn’t just Yiannopoulos’ reputation — whatever that may be — that suffered for this debacle, but Ives and Simon & Schuster, too.”
The lawsuit, as of now, remains unresolved. If Carberry and De Geofrey are correct, the reveal of Ivers’s heavy editing job is unlikely to have a major impact on the case.
The most recent development, according to a statement from Yiannopoulos published by BuzzFeed News, is the separation of Yiannopoulos and his lawyer. He will now be representing himself in court “so (he) can directly see the material.”