I’ve spent much of Thursday afternoon combing through the manuscript of Milo Yiannopoulos’ Dangerous—which Simon & Schuster submitted (with editor’s notes intact) as a rebuttal to Yiannopoulos’ lawsuit against the publishing house for canceling his book deal and shuttering the book.
The contract, if you recall, was very publicly voided after a recording where Yiannopoulos appeared to endorse pedophilia was leaked. But after reading through some of these notes, “We’re stopping this book because this guy is advocating sexual assault” could’ve just been an easy alibi for “OMFG THIS DUDE IS AN IDIOT AND HE CAN’T WRITE AND HOW THE FUCK CAN WE GET OUT OF THIS DEAL BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE?”
The tone is set in notes on the prologue to the manuscript. Ivers writes to Yiannopoulos: “Throughout the book, your best points seem to be lost in a sea of self-aggrandizement and scattershot thinking,” and adds: “Careful that the egotistical boasting … doesn’t make you seem juvenile.”
“Add something like this – only less self-serving” reads another comment early in the manuscript.
Ivers frequently calls on Yiannopoulos to back up his assertions in the text. In the first nine pages of chapter one, notes include: “Citations needed”, “Do you have proof of this?”, “Unsupportable charge” and “Cite examples”.
Yiannopoulos is repeatedly warned his choice of words is undermining any argument he is attempting to make. “The use of phrases like ‘two-faced backstabbing bitches’ diminishes your overall point,” reads one comment. “Too important a point to end in a crude quip” is another. “Unclear, unfunny, delete,” reads another.
The early sections of a chapter on feminism prompt the note: “Don’t start chapter with accusation that feminists = fat. It destroys any seriousness of purpose.” Yiannopoulos goes on to criticise contemporary feminism as “merely a capitalist con-job – a money-grab designed to sell T-shirts to Taylor Swift and Beyoncé fans with asinine slogans”. “Um … like your MILO SWAG?” the editor responds.
Ivers’s evident exasperation becomes clear by page 84, where Yiannopoulos’s call for lesbians to be thrown out of academia altogether simply elicits the all-upper-case comment: “DELETE UGH.”
Book editing is a hard and deliberate and (occasionally) cruel process for the writer, where words and ideas and themes you’ve poured your entire self into are dissected and prodded and sometimes ripped to shreds. For instance, one of my friends shared with me that her editor asked her to scrap 40,000 words from her 100,000-word-long manuscript and write 40,000 more to replace them.
Most (good) editors are aware of how sensitive this back-and-forth can be, and while they don’t hold back on their criticisms, they do choose language that’s meant to be constructive instead of insulting. So an editor saying something like “DELETE UGH”—which Yiannopoulos’ editor does when addressing his thoughts about feminism—is basically him saying, “FUCK YOU, YO MAMA AND THE HORSE Y’ALL RODE IN ON!”
But while reading through this was and will continue to be entertaining—my quota for Milo-induced schadenfreude is unlimited—I remembered that Roxane Gay pulled a book from Simon & Schuster because of Yiannopoulos’ deal. She couldn’t, in good conscience, work with a house that would publish a person like him and give him such a generous advance. And then I thought about all of the talented writers I know—particularly people of color—who continue to get passed over while fuckwads like Yiannopoulos get cash thrown at them. And how this dynamic exists in other industries. Shit, in pretty much every industry.
In a Fast Company piece from May, Bari Williams writes on how black women have to move mountains to get funding while white male inventors get red carpets:
Women start companies at twice the rate of men, yet women comprise only 16% of tech founders. According to a study by First Round Capital, founding teams including a woman outperform their all-male peers by 63%, but female CEOs get only 2.7% of all venture funding, while women of color get virtually none: 0.2%.
The fact that black women are educated and entrepreneurial yet so underfunded is a confluence of broadening thoughts of diversity, use of technology, and economic policy. The Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 increased limits for tax write-offs for startups, such as the ability to deduct cell phone bills and depreciation, and health care costs. This was great news for black women, who tend to be younger when they found their companies, have more debt, and less access to capital. Black women have greater difficulty receiving funding from investors and creditors, and difficulty securing lending due to racial bias.
But tax write-offs don’t make up for the funding gap. When black women are funded, they get the short end of the stick, with the average raise round totaling just $36,000. Compare that figure to the composite of the average white male startup founder, who banks an average of $1.3 million in funding. The secondary problem with not receiving mainstream large VC funding? Scaling.
When there’s such a discrepancy in support, a self-sustaining loop is created in which white men continue to get the money because investors/publishing houses/networks trust them more than anyone else because white dudes’ successes are more spectacular because white dudes get more chances to be spectacular because white dudes get the money because investors/publishing houses/networks trust them more than anyone else. In Milo Yiannopoulos’ case, this is especially apparent—and especially disheartening—because nothing about him is particularly interesting or compelling. He’s (bleached) blond and gay and a troll and a bigot ... and that’s it. There’s nothing else there. The only there there is a scarf. I get his editor’s exasperation with him, but what the fuck did they expect?