Kate Hartson was editorial director of Hachette’s conservative Center Street imprint until last month. Hartson was famous for publishing conservative authors most of her peers wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. Hartson reportedly made good money for Hachette.
Her most recent book is Andy Ngo’s Unmasked: Inside Antifa’s Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy, with a very healthy 106 rank this morning on Amazon.
Ngo’s book may well be the last book bought by Kate Hartson.
The New York Times reports on Hachette’s termination of Hartson and the Gray Lady’s take is fascinating—and revealing. The official reasons for the firing, according to the report, were “mundane” but Hartson believes it was her politics. I’d say, based on the New York Times reporting alone, she’s correct.
The subhead says it all:
Top editors at Hachette have told employees that they’ve learned the lessons of the Capitol siege of Jan. 6: no hate speech, no incitement to violence, no false narratives.
So, if you disagree with anything the liberal subeditors at Hachette accept as reality, you are guilty of a “false narrative.”
Ms. Hartson’s list was a somewhat more direct attack on her colleagues’ politics. The last book she bought was the forthcoming “Wokenomics: Inside Corporate America’s Social Justice Scam.” And so last month, even as Ms. Hartson was riding high with the best-selling political book on Amazon, “Unmasked: Inside Antifa’s Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy,” Hachette fired her.
So Andy Ngo, who was beaten to within an inch of his life to pursue the inside story of Antifa, is considered “a somewhat more direct attack” on the politics of Hachette’s editorial staff. Andy Ngo, one of the few journalists around who follows old-school investigative reporting, shouldering all the risks of this kind of journalism, offends woke subeditors?
This class note in the New York Times story was unmistakable:
Ms. Hartson, a fit 67-year-old who once ran a small press specializing in dogs, had all the trappings of a liberal book editor, including an apartment on the Upper East Side and a place in Hampton Bays. But she also seemed to be that rarest of figures in New York media: a true believer in Donald J. Trump, people who worked with her said. She published “Triggered” by Donald Trump Jr., Mr. Lewandowski’s “Trump: America First: The President Succeeds Against All Odds” and the work of other Trump die-hards like the Fox News host Jeanine Pirro and Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker.
You’ve got to love “all the trappings of a liberal book editor.”
This gives the game away: mainstream publishing isn’t about ideas, of at least not about pondering and debating ideas; it’s about wearing the right ideas. Sporting the wrong idea can lead to ostracism.
This is also telling:
Ultimately, that’s one thing Ms. Hartson, at Hachette, had going for her: Right-wing authors knew she wasn’t privately sneering. She even contributed to the campaign of one of her writers, Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, who said in an email that he “never witnessed or considered her to be an ideologue of the right or the left, just a compassionate and hard-working editor.”
Now, publishers drawing the line on Jan. 6 also appear to be leaving themselves space to defy many of their employees and publish the work of Trump administration officials who acknowledge the reality that he lost the election. A former Trump adviser, Kellyanne Conway, is in talks with major publishers and expects a sizable advance, a person involved in the conversations said. The same person said that former Vice President Mike Pence and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are also working on books and anticipating large advances from New York publishers.
My dear, you simply must sneer at the right people.
This move against dissenting authors represents a turning point in mainstream publishing:
These tensions are, in part, about free speech. An older generation of publishing executives had long argued that they had a responsibility to publish voices they disagreed with as part of their function in a democracy. Thomas Spence, the president of the conservative publisher Regnery, said he regarded the shift by the Big Five (soon to be four, when Penguin Random House completes its acquisition of Simon & Schuster) as a “form of blacklisting.”
I am glad Tom Spence used the B-word.
Publishing houses are private businesses. They can do what they please. However, this heralds a profound change in mainstream publishing if editors don’t come to their senses.
(You might be interested in reading the open letter signed by publishing house employees.)