[Note: the following is a guest editorial from Charles “Zan” Christensen, founder of publisher Northwest Press, about the reactions to the recent controversy surrounding Simon & Schuster.]
So the news has been buzzing for weeks over a certain bleach-blond rightwing troll. How it’s unfair that he’s been denied the opportunity to do some of the paid speaking engagements at colleges. How it’s terrible there’s been pressure for him not to appear on cable talk shows. How it’s censorship that his book deal has been cancelled.
I would expect right-wingers online to cry “foul” at these. This hollow shell of a provocateur is on their team, after all.
But I’ve been hearing from a lot of “principled” left-wingers crying “free speech”, and saying we should never silence voices with differing opinions to our own. They’ve been pushing back at the people who are calling for him to be disinvited, cancelled, and denied his valuable platform. Even putting aside the idea that harassment and incitement are not protected speech, and that’s a big part of what he’s peddling, I want to talk about how messed up this still is.
Why weren’t these principled defenders of liberty this mobilized when the biggest digital distribution services—Apple, Google, and Amazon—blocked our graphic novels and comics, some of them award-winners, from distribution because they dared to include sex?
I’m talking Lambda Literary Award winner Teleny and Camille, by Jon Macy, blocked from Amazon’s KDP program. From Headrack to Claude, the gay anthology from the Godather of Gay Comics himself, Howard Cruse, pulled from Google Books. Al-Qaeda’s Super Secret Weapon, the brilliant gay political satire (with weiners) rejected by Apple’s iBooks. And on, and on, and on.
People are jumping up and down to make sure a well-to-do political shill advocating for statutory rape gets heard, but when I was begging for help to pressure these big companies to let adults see adult material, I don’t remember them at my side.
For the Hitler youth with frosted tips, the uproar is free advertising and the inconvenience of taking his business elsewhere. For me, it’s loss of real revenue with few good alternatives, and yet another obstacle to continuing as an indie publisher. (Seriously. I’m fucking poor right now. I love my work but this shit is hard.)
Sometimes I’m able to win these fights; I give credit where credit is due to ComiXology (and I hope you will, too) for bucking the trend and getting each and every book of ours onto their platform. I also thank every news outlet that brought attention to the problems. Quite often, though, it feels like I’m alone, shouting at a brick wall. It would really help if all these principled folks standing up for normalizing pedophilia right now would put even half as much of that passion into defending independent books.
The fact is, every day people who are already marginalized and ignored get another rejection or runaround, or are passed over for a platform in favor of someone who’s white, who’s straight, who’s cisgender, who’s male.
I know it’s exhausting to constantly stand up for all the little people whose voices are silenced.
I get that it’s easier to get worked up over someone like our lady of perpetual hair damage because they get rebuffed much less often and know how to get more attention.
Nobody has infinite energy and time, and you’ve got to choose where you’re going to spend them.
But we see you making those choices.
Charles “Zan” Christensen is the founder of Northwest Press, a Seattle-based publisher dedicated to publishing the best lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender comics collections and graphic novels. Comics Bulletin offered to publish his essay in the interest of providing an independent, often-marginalized perspective on the controversy surrounding Simon & Schuster’s recent decisions.