Macmillan to President: No, You Actually Can’t Suppress Books You Don’t Like

The publishing company’s CEO has read the dystopias and he’s not interested in living in one

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Simon & Schuster publishes Fahrenheit 451, and Penguin Random House publishes 1984. But Macmillan Publishers is doing its best to keep them from becoming reality.

Macmillan—the parent company of Henry Holt, which is publishing Michael Wolff’s combustive Trump administration tell-all Fire and Furyhas already made clear what it thinks about governmental attempts to suppress a book. When the president demanded last week that the publisher “immediately cease and desist from any further publication, release or dissemination” of Fire and Fury, it instead moved the publication date to the following day. The message was clear: oh, you don’t want this book out in the world? Well, we’re putting it out TOMORROW.

Now, the message is even clearer. Macmillan will send its legal response to the president’s cease and desist demand today, but in the meantime, CEO John Sargent has written an unsparing open letter to Macmillan employees about his (and the company’s) commitment to the First Amendment. In it, he calls the president’s demand “flagrantly unconstitutional,” citing Supreme Court decisions with the confidence of a legal scholar.

Here’s the call-to-arms conclusion:

There is no ambiguity here. This is an underlying principle of our democracy. We cannot stand silent. We will not allow any president to achieve by intimidation what our Constitution precludes him or her from achieving in court. We need to respond strongly for Michael Wolff and his book, but also for all authors and all their books, now and in the future. And as citizens we must demand that President Trump understand and abide by the First Amendment of our Constitution.

The letter would, needless to say, be completely lost on Trump; his name doesn’t even appear until the very last paragraph, at which point he would absolutely have wandered off. But it’s a stirring document for those of us who can read and do care about the freedom to publish.

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