Publishers Weekly: Gatekeepers of Political Correctness

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Shortly before his excellent book Bully Boy, a biography of Teddy Roosevelt, was published my friend Jim Powell emailed me that something called "Publishers Weekly" had attempted a "preemptive strike" on the book by slandering it on Amazon.com. The obvious objective of this attack was to try to stifle sales before the book was even released.

I had noticed this outfit before, and thought it very odd that it often has the very first comments about newly-published books on Amazon.com and other book sites, yet the comments are all anonymous. Who are these people, and why do book sellers give them such a prominent place?

Searching the internet, I discovered that its anonymous "reviews" (which are actually catty little diatribes) are distributed to hundreds of publishers, libraries, and booksellers. The editor-in-chief of this shadowy operation is one Sara Nelson, formerly of Glamour and Self magazines, those pinnacles of American intellectual rigor and serious scholarship.

It is well known that the commercial publishing industry in America, like universities, Hollywood, and so many other institutions, is almost totally dominated by liberals and leftists. So much so that it was newsworthy a few years ago when Random House established a division (Crown Forum) that would publish conservative books, as did a division of Penguin Publishing. Before that, only Regnery Publishing was known to publish conservative or libertarian books on a regular basis. So it was big news when, all of a sudden, there were three — out of hundreds — of commercial publishers that would not automatically censor manuscripts submitted by conservatives or libertarians.

The politically-correct publishing industry apparently uses Publishers Weekly as an additional censor, or outside filter, that discourages readers from reading "the wrong" books while lavishly praising the "right" ones. Hence, one sees vicious, anonymous attacks on books like Bully Boy or my own books, alongside ludicrously worshipful comments about some of the most shallow and talent-less (but politically correct) authors in America.

I decided to do a brief survey of what Publishers Weekly has had to say about a few of the more notorious leftists in America, and here’s what I came up with. Hillary Clinton’s Living History should "appeal to people on both sides of the political fence." In the audio version of the book "her Midwestern accent is evenly pitched and pleasant." "The casual and straightforwardness of her delivery will engender a sense of trust . . ." and will leave readers with "a new respect for the former First Lady." Yeah, whenever I hear the name "Hillary Clinton" that’s exactly what pops into my head: trust and respect.

As for her husband’s long-winded autobiography, My Life, Publishers Weekly announces that "when matched against other presidential memoirs . . . [Bill] Clinton’s scores favorably, certainly exceeding the flaccid efforts of . . . Ronald Reagan." Nothing "flaccid" about ole Bill Clinton, according to the feminists at Publishers Weekly.

Mario Cuomo co-authored a book with Lincoln idolater Harold Holzer a few years ago entitled Why Lincoln Matters: Today More than Ever, in which they argue that if he were alive today Lincoln would be a social democrat like them. It is, says Publishers Weekly, a "heartfelt moral tract" by "a centrist Democrat." "One comes away . . . nicely uplifted by Cuomo’s intentions." So, if you feel the need to be uplifted, there’s the recipe: Inquire about Mario Cuomo’s "intentions" and you’ll feel better.

Ted Kennedy has a new book out this year entitled America Back on Track. Publisher’s Weekly calls it "An effort to reawaken the belief in progress . . ." Americans only believe in "progress," apparently, when far left-wing Democrats are in power.

Kennedy’s "straightforward solutions . . . like increasing the minimum wage to $7.25 — are refreshing." The economics profession discredited the notion of reducing poverty with job-killing minimum wage laws several generations ago, a fact the anonymous "reviewers" at Publishers Weekly are obviously oblivious to.

Then there’s the book by James Carville and Paul Begala entitled Take it Back: Our Party, Our Country, Our Future. This book, written by two of the more ridiculous political hacks in America, offers "an intelligent, carefully outlined strategy: to seize power from the Republicans and restore it to its rightful place slightly left of center." Why "slightly left of center" is to be preferred to "slightly right of center" (or the center itself) is not explained. My guess is that is where the anonymous Publishers Weekly scribblers see themselves, which means they are probably in reality miles to the left of center.

The Carville/Begala screed (a word that is frequently used by Publishers Weekly to describe books they don’t like) is said to be "remarkably reasonable," "most persuasive," and "a refreshing entry" into the field of political books. Yeah, whenever I want to "refresh" myself I reach for something written by James Carville, like a Bill Clinton speech.

In sum, if you want reasonably reliable information about newly-published books, take everything Publishers Weekly says with a giant grain of salt. Better yet, ignore them completely.

Thomas J. DiLorenzo [send him mail] professor of economics at Loyola College in Maryland and the author of The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War, (Three Rivers Press/Random House). His latest book is Lincoln Unmasked: What You’re Not Supposed To Know about Dishonest Abe (Crown Forum/Random House).

Thomas DiLorenzo Archives at LRC

Thomas DiLorenzo Archives at Mises.org

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