Thursday, September 6, 2007

Publishing, the First Amendment and Excruciatingly Bad Taste

So here’s my guilty secret: I have been surreptitiously following the saga of O J Simpson and If I Did It.

First, Harper Collins (under the editorship of Judith Regan) was going to publish it. Then they weren’t. The Brown and Goldman families sued to stop it and ultimately it was used as an excuse to fire Judith Regan. Then the Goldman family decided to go ahead and publish it – over the Brown family’s objections. A bunch of booksellers declared they would not sell it. . . Now they are going to.

Please note, I am leaving out all the parts about pirated copies, the boycott movement, the law suit, the Arnelle Simpson factor, the Goldman family explanation of why they want to publish this book, the current Brown/Goldman feud.

Never mind that this whole thing is an exercise in excruciatingly bad taste; it is still great theater with much sound and fury.

My biggest source of entertainment has come from listening to the tortured logic of all parties involved: ‘You know, it is a confession’; ‘it will help battered women’; ‘it finally tells the truth’; it ________ (you fill in the blank since evidently, any excuse will do).

But seriously, if you ever wonder about the human capacity for hypocrisy -- this is a wonderful case study. The range of reactions is a great window into the American psyche and the point at which expressed values and money intersect. :

  • Initially, there was a public outcry against this book even as it rose to the number one position on Amazon’s presales lists
  • No one wanted it published, but thousands of people wanted to see the pirated copy on BitTorent (took their server down). If you are interested, you can still get a pirated copy (just for the record, I have restrained myself – so far)
  • The Goldman family wanted this book stopped until they figured out how to make money from it. How disgusting is that!?
  • The Brown family contents that this book will hurt the Simpson children. Like they don’t know what happened?
  • Barnes and Nobles took the high road and decided not to sell the book.
  • Then decided to sell it online but not in the store
  • Now, Barnes and Nobles is pleased to join Amazon and Borders in selling this book online and in the store.

I am not exactly in a position to get on my moral high horse here. This very post shows that I have been as titillated as anyone.

My fill in the blank?

Well, it’s all about the first amendment and the right to free speech. (Pretty intellectual, huh?)

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