House of Shh

From the anarchist librarians list this morning, an article in the Guardian about “Bush, the Saudi billionaire and the Islamists: the story a British firm is afraid to publish”:

A book investigating links between rich Saudis and US politicians has been suppressed by the giant publishing firm Random House because, it says, of growing “libel tourism” by wealthy foreigners, and exorbitant legal “success fees”.

Libel lawyers are stifling free speech, the deputy chairman of Random House, Simon Master, said yesterday.

The UK publication of House of Bush, House of Saud, by the American writer Craig Unger, has been cancelled because Secker and Warburg, a Random House subsidiary, says it can no longer afford such risks…. [read more]

3 thoughts on “House of Shh

  1. i can’t dismiss his concerns, as UK libel laws are essentially designed to bankrupt the losing party. though it doesn’t say much for Random House’s intestinal fortitude, and i’d wager the UK press would be happy to serialize the book for Mr. Unger, if in fact the allegations are substantiated.

    my bigger issue is this: have the Brits never heard of international shipping? (and is Amazon.co.uk barred from selling U.S.-only imprints?) is it too hard to simply buy copies in the English-language bookshops in Paris and then carry them home on the Eurostar?

    my understanding of UK libel law is incomplete, to be sure, but an imported foreign imprint — especially if it’s imported by private citizens — seems like it would be hard to sue in a British court.

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  2. What I don’t understand is how the refusal on the part of the publishing house is stifling this man’s right to free speech. Nor do I see how declining to publish the book means that they are suppressing it. The author of the story seems obviously biased.

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  3. It was really amusing the other day, I had a conversation with somebody with the power wielded by librarians because of their general tendency to be, among other things, wired, liberal, and often in front of a computer. In particular, he was relating how he had talked to Michael Moore at some random gathering, and Moore related to those gathered the story of how Stupid White Men (I think) got published. The one that came out right after 9/11, at any rate. I guess they hard-tabled his book because it was ‘against the national zeitgeist’. And, understandably depressed, he showed up for some speaking engagement and said “You know, nobody’s ever going to read these things I wrote, now, and that’s all that’s on my mind, so I’m just going to read some of my book to you, and that way at least YOU will hear it.” Little did he know there was a librarian frowning quietly in the back row. The next day, he woke up to a desperate sounding call from his publisher, “Jesus, Michael! What the @()#*$& did you do!?!? The…the LIBRARIANS!…we…WHAT DID YOU DO!?!? His book was published shortly thereafter.

    I thought immediately of you. =)

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