You may recall the literary drama that unfolded about this time last year as Simon & Schuster granted, and later revoked, a book deal for a memoir by former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos.
The book, Dangerous, was to be produced by Threshold Editions, a conservative imprint of the publishing giant, but was dropped in late February following intense criticisms by other authors and the general public. (The same month, Yiannopoulos made comments seemingly defending pedophilia, in addition to his regularly scheduled promotion of racism, sexism and other forms of intolerance.)
Yiannopoulos subsequently released Dangerous independently and watched as reviewers yawned in unison. He also filed a lawsuit against the publisher that rejected him.
Now we owe Simon & Schuster’s legal defense team a small debt of gratitude. Last week, they pulled back the curtain on what went down between the alt-right agitator and his would-be publisher through a series of documents filed to the New York County Clerk’s office. Among them is Yiannopoulos’ first submitted manuscript ― chock-full of criticisms by his editor, Mitchell Ivers, who serves as vice president and editorial director of Threshold. Through his own affidavit, Ivers presented among his qualifications a publishing career spanning more than 30 years and experience editing “hundreds” of books including “many” on “controversial topics.”
In short, Ivers determined Yiannopoulos’ book was a mess.
He doesn’t exactly rebuke Yiannopoulos’ ideas on women, people of color, gay people, the political left and Muslims. Instead, as an editor, Ivers suggests ways to strengthen the writer’s arguments on those topics and make them palatable for a broad audience of all ages. Yet many of the hundreds of comments he made in Yiannopoulos’ first manuscript suggest the author’s thinking to be unsubstantiated, simplistic and, in Ivers’ words, “ridiculous,” “preposterous” and “phenomenally petty.”
An email summarizing seven main problems with the manuscript stated that a chapter originally titled “Why Other Gay People Hate Me” needed “a better central thesis than the notion that gay people should go back in the closet.” Additionally, the feminist chapter needed a “stronger argument against feminism than saying that they are ugly and sexless and have cats.” While Yiannopoulos made passing reference to Leslie Jones, the comedian he harassed over Twitter until the platform banned him, Ivers told him a more complete explanation was necessary ― sans jokes about her looks. A chapter called “Why Ugly People Hate Me” needed to be cut entirely.
The most stinging edits, though, were contained in the first-draft manuscript itself.
“This entire argument is ridiculous,” Ivers wrote alongside a section about JCPenney marketing itself “to women who think Cool Ranch Doritos are a food group.”
“Unsupportable charge,” he stated next to a line about progressives “importing” minority voters.
“Can you offer proof?” he asked beside Yiannopoulos’ claim that he is privately loved by “mischief-making musicians, actors and writers.”
“This entire paragraph is just repeating Fake News,” Ivers noted alongside a bizarre section on witchcraft, blood, semen and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
“This is what people say about you,” Ivers said next to a line describing feminists as “more desperate to be noticed than Kanye West at an awards show.”
The list of criticisms goes on.
Alongside a headline “Feminists Don’t Hate Men, But It Wouldn’t Matter If We Did” that Yiannopoulos termed as hate speech: “If that headline is hate speech, THIS WHOLE BOOK is hate speech.”
Next to an argument that feminism is merely a “money-grab designed to sell t-shirts to Taylor Swift and Beyoncé fans with asinine slogans and feel-good girl power motifs”: “Um .. like your MILO SWAG?”
Beside a claim that fake news is “an invention of the mainstream media”: “No. You can’t say this. It actually exists and is used on both sides of the political spectrum.”
Some of Ivers’ most repeated complaints came back to Yiannopoulos’ insistence on writing for his base ― the editor encouraged him to define terms such as “rare Pepe” and “4chan” ― and his all-too-frequently-irreverent tone. A chapter on “Why Black Lives Matter Hates Me” was apparently one of the more readable ones, but it, too, suffered from attempted humor, the editor noted.
Ivers wrote “dumb joke” several times throughout the text.
And still, the list continues:
“Unclear, unfunny, delete.”
“You construct this metaphor very badly.”
“Let’s not call South Africa ‘white.’”
“Let’s keep ‘fecal waste’ analogies out of this chapter.”
“Ego gets in the way in this paragraph. Delete.”
″‘Autists’ sounds like a mental health slur.”
“Do you have credible evidence for this?”
“This rumor cannot appear in this book.”
“No need to drag the lesbians into this!”
“Three unfunny jokes in a row. DELETE.”
“Is this even true?”
“This is definitely not the place for more of your narcissism.”
“So much inappropriate humor is irritating.”
“Can you really prove a causality between [Black Lives Matter] and crime rate?”
“Too much ego.”
“This paragraph doesn’t make sense.”
“Stop spreading fake news.”
“Are you seriously telling the reader that you advocate SMEAR CAMPAIGNS?”
“Attempts at humor here are too weak and too long.”
“This is not the time or place for another black-dick joke.”
“Don’t make fun of school shooters ― and certainly don’t compare them to liberals.”
“You MUST ACKNOWLEDGE that this is EXACTLY what people accuse you and Breitbart of being: a new age of partisan propaganda masquerading as journalism.”
“I still want to know if trolling is really planning out these things in advance or just throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks.”
“NO MORE REFERENCES TO YOUR BOOK ADVANCE OR THE PUBLISHING PROCESS.”
“This is a stupid way to end a terrible chapter. Not worth keeping in. DELETE.”
Yiannopoulos submitted a revised copy of Dangerous around one month after receiving Ivers’ edits.
Lawyers for Simon & Schuster noted that “among other issues,” Yiannopoulos’ text “remained riddled with what [he] labeled ‘humor’ but actually constituted the incendiary speech that [Simon & Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy] declared that Simon & Schuster would never publish.”
Reidy released a statement in late January affirming that her company would not publish material intended to “incite hatred” in response to overwhelming criticism over the publisher’s decision to work with the alt-right figure in the first place.
Through a statement provided to news, Yiannopoulos said that Ivers had actually praised his work, with the editor telling him “you done good” in a text just two days before the publisher axed his book contract. news reached out to a representative for Threshold for comment on the alleged message and have not yet received a reply.
In the end, Yiannopoulos gets to keep his $80,000 advance.
This story has been updated with comment from Milo Yiannopoulos.
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