First it was Big Tech that entered the censorship arena by banning conservative ideas and people from their platforms. Now, Big Publishing (henceforth, “Big Pub”) has entered the same arena after being captured by woke ideology. The first salvo fired by Big Pub in its censorship campaign occurred back in January when Simon & Schuster canceled its contract to publish U.S. Senator Josh Hawley’s book The Tyranny of Big Tech because of his role in fighting for voting integrity in U.S. elections. Then in March, publisher Random House decided to cease publishing six books by beloved children’s author Dr. Seuss—an advocate for colorblindness and racial equality—due to alleged racism that was “found” in them after not being seen for several decades. Now Random House is at it again by canceling its contract to publish the The History Makers, a book about famous historians of the past 2,500 years, because author Richard Cohen did not include enough black historians in its pages—in spite of the fact that Cohen wrote an additional 18,000 words on black historians in the book at the demand of Random House.
When an author writes a book, he should be free to include—or exclude—any information he likes. In any society that considers itself free, this should be the prerogative of all authors; especially of those who are experts in their fields as they have to use their professional judgment in choosing what material to include or exclude. If people feel that an author wrongly included or excluded information in a book, they are free either to not buy the book (and tell others not to buy it) or to write another book containing the allegedly correct information.
However, to force an author to include or exclude information against their better judgment is to engage in blatant censorship and/or compelled speech: two things that are supposed to be non-existent in the free societies of the West. This is especially egregious when an historian is forced to modify his writing against his learned judgment in order to appease the gods of political correctness and identity politics.
In the case of The History Makers, Random House contracted with Cohen to produce a book where he would write about those historians of the past 2,500 years that he believed had the greatest impact on the world. He was to use his expert judgment as an historian to determine whom to include and whom to exclude; he was to judge candidates for inclusion or exclusion based on his professional opinion of their impact, rather than on their race, sex, ethnicity, or other immutable characteristic. While everyone may not ultimately agree with whom he chose to write about, he would produce a book according to the best of his ability. It goes against the freedoms we hold most dearly in the West for his publisher to first force him to override his professional judgment based on political correctness and include more text on black historians and then to cancel the book entirely when it determined the book was still not politically correct enough. The parallel to state censorship and compelled speech in the old Evil Empire of the Soviet Union is all too clear.
It is time for Americans and all people living in supposedly free societies to courageously stand up to those left-wing oligarchs in the tech, publishing, and other industries that are engaging in censorship and compelled speech in order to force people to conform to their woke ideas. If we do not act soon, we may wake up one day asking why our fate is no different from that of Winston Smith in 1984.