G.O.P. D.O.A.
July 28, 2004 6:25 PM   Subscribe

G.O.P. D.O.A., the new novel by Brooklyn-based Contemporary Press, just got denied a reprinting by St. Louis-based Plus Communications. Although they printed the first edition less than one month ago, the publisher says that their religious clients would be upset by the book's 'language' and have refused to reprint it.

I guess that is in the same spirit as Rev. Breedlove's attempt to rekindle the tradition of book burning earlier this month.
posted by Miyagi (12 comments total)
Can they switch, or are they stuck with that company for reprints? It's asinine (especially now that the attention will only help sales).
posted by amberglow at 6:37 PM on July 28, 2004

Plus (now cenveo) looks to me to be your standard printing press, as opposed to a publisher.

Businesses have a right to decide what projects they will and will not take on. They may have signed the initial print run contract, and then having seen the proofs on the galley, decided not to run them again. Sucks for the author...but the printer has that right. It's not censorship. It's not even a story. An author lost a point in the supply chain to market and is trying to make hay with it.

IMHO, there's nothing to see here.
posted by dejah420 at 6:52 PM on July 28, 2004

You're right, dejah420 - Plus is a printing press and not a publisher. I had that incorrect, thanks for pointing that out.

But regardless of print run contracts or printer rights, it most certainly strikes me as an act of censorship...And worthy of a mention.
posted by Miyagi at 7:06 PM on July 28, 2004

I disagree. Censorship is when the government or other entity makes it impossible, or very difficult for a work to be produced anywhere in the region where the entity has power.

To decry this as censorship, in my opinion, is to devalue the instances where real censorship is taking place, because it misuses the term.

As an example, I did a series of art prints a couple of years back that were considered by some to be risque because there were nude women in them. The printer with whom I contracted with did not see the work before the first run. After the prints were sent though the prepress, the owner of the company saw them, and apparently his little Christian heart about gave out. (Something about dance poles and Christians...two things that don't go well together, it would seem.)

Because they had already accepted the contract, they agreed to do that run of prints, but asked me to find another printer to do subsequent art.

Was I censored in any way? Not at all. They didn't black out the "offensive" parts of the image, they didn't declare me a heretic and toss my files out into the street to be piddled on by dogs...they simply refused any future business from me. Which they have every right to do.

This company didn't refuse to run the book the first time. They said they wouldn't do it again. For all we know, the author is a pain in the ass and they just made up an excuse not to have to deal with him in the future. Perhaps the distribution chain was too tricky. All we have is the author's explanation.

Even if we give full credence to his story, which I am willing to do, the printer is still not out of line, nor is it censorship...because...and this is a big because...the author can get it printed somewhere else, just as easily as opening a phone book and looking under "printers".

Business owners cannot be cudgeled into promoting an agenda which is counter to their own. Imagine, if you will, that a leftist printer found that they had accidently agreed to publish something from the spewing hole of the lunatic neo-con fringe. And they refused to do a second printing...would you be calling that censorship, or would you be saying that was their right as a business?
posted by dejah420 at 8:01 PM on July 28, 2004

"The city wasn't hot, it was angry. The air sucks you dry and the concrete steals your soul. Shit, I've been walking around limper than Bob Dole's lap during a Teamsters' strike, know what I mean? It was fucking limp, I felt ugly, and there was madness in the air. My body's sagging, but I still feel jagged and blistered, with more than just unfocused anger for fuel. The rest? The anarchists, priests, teachers, firemen, students, Democrats, lefties—those guys?" - Another question is : how's the writing ?
posted by troutfishing at 8:06 PM on July 28, 2004

Or, to expres that in the words of others : "We don't want a situation where people are burning rubbish as a recreational fire," said Brad Brenneman, the fire department's district chief.
posted by troutfishing at 8:41 PM on July 28, 2004

two points - it seems just as likely that this printer is shutting out the book for political/ideological reasons as for religious ones.

Also, my understanding of the industry isn't great, but won't they have to pay all the one-time set up costs of a first printing all over again? A small press or independent author might be unable to pony up the capital - if those costs are significantly higher than the second print run would have been then that voice is being silenced.
posted by dorcas at 8:56 PM on July 28, 2004

A private business has the right to refuse service under (just about) any circumstances they chose. Obviously contracts and agreements come into play but other than that - why would they have to run a book?

This isn't "censorship" - its the free decision to associate. As a business, and a business owner, I get to decide that.

Imagine the chaos otherwise, some neo-nazi group could demand that any press they wanted run their stuff for example.
posted by soulhuntre at 11:22 PM on July 28, 2004

i agree that this doesn't sound much like the kind of censorship one should get very upset about (although i don't think there's as clear and obvious a disctinction as some suggest - if you're deprived of a voice for financial reasons, because your society encourages great differences in wealth, for example, then that could amount to indirect censorship).

however the following comment is so odd that it needs comment:

some neo-nazi group could demand that any press they wanted run their stuff for example.

what is that supposed to mean? if this is a free speech issue then the whole point is that neo-nazis should be just as free as anyone else. that's what free speech is. it's not free just for people you agree with. and if it's not a free speech issue then why mention neo-nazis? - the problem is that a company could be forced to do things they didn't want to do by anyone and so their business interests could be damaged. neo-nazis (or whatever political view) have nothing to do with it - it's about commercial freedom.
posted by andrew cooke at 6:20 AM on July 29, 2004

this is what makes the spectre of universal consolidation a spectre. Presses are not yet as consolidated as, say, commercial FM radio, but consolidation is certainly happening (anecdotally, my neighbor, who is a corporate account manager for a local printing press, has had his company bought twice in as many years), and all it would take is a corporate ideologue like CC or Sinclair to start snapping up the regional printing consolidators and there goes the ability to get anything you want printed.

Markets that are self-regulating - i.e. markets still sufficiently diverse in both supply and demand to be governed by free-market dynamics - are certainly not capable of censorship, by definition. But the goal of the corporate system seems to be the reduction of market diversity by consolidation in order to mitigate or eliminate the risks inherent in competition. Once the diversity of the printing supply market is sufficiently low, and nobody is willing to take a risk printing anything other than ad copy, does it really matter that it's not the government suppressing publication? The inability to buy a service due to collusion is no different than the same inability due to the law.

I'm not saying this consolidation has happened in the printing market, yet; for now, the inconvenience of being dropped as a client and the attendant set-up costs for a second run for this author are just that, an inconvenience, not an abridgement of liberty. However, in the event that it does happen, I certainly think it would be in the best interests of the government (consistent with its implicit mandate to "promote the useful arts," which in turn increases the total commercial opportunity within the economy) to ensure access to self-publication services to all authors.
posted by Vetinari at 7:18 AM on July 29, 2004

what is that supposed to mean? if this is a free speech issue then the whole point is that neo-nazis should be just as free as anyone else. that's what free speech is.

In America at least, a neo-nazi is free to use any legal means to promote his views. And I, as a (theoretical) business owner, have the right to disassociate myself with anyone holding those views. If I don't feel like accepting his or her money to publish a book on their behalf, I'm well within my rights (assuming, as has been pointed out, that I'm not violating a previously established contract).

because your society encourages great differences in wealth, for example, then that could amount to indirect censorship

What's indirect censorship? Again, I think this is the problem dejah420 is referring to - a situation in which a voice has a hard time being heard because of economics is not the same as, or even close to, a situation in which a government body is actively trying to stifle a voice. It is probably not a good thing, but that doesn't make it censorship.
posted by deadcowdan at 12:37 PM on July 29, 2004

sure, it's their right to publish what they want. but that doesn't make it any less shady.
posted by mcsweetie at 4:25 PM on July 29, 2004

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