What Should Be Published?
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Are there some books we should not publish, no matter how well they might sell? The following ruminations are the result of a discussion at my book group of Hitler’s Willing Executioners by Daniel Goldhagen (Random House, 1996), an absolutely stunning book which of course should have been published.
I have for years been irritating my friends with the notion that a publisher should not be much concerned with the moral content of the books it publishes. The books selected for publication should be well written and written by someone who would seem to have good credentials, but as for the “truth” of the ideas expressed or the moral wholesomeness of the message—these are matters for readers to judge, not publishers.
Moreover, I have argued, if you believe that the true and the good win out over time, it would seem to follow that the true and the good are strengthened by being challenged by their opposites; and in a free society, we need absolutely to protect free speech, no matter how wrong-headed or even dangerous some opinions may seem to us.
The Holocaust, as with so much else, puts such ideas to a hard test. When a rising young politician with a huge following sends in the manuscript for Mein Kampf, it is perfectly clear according to the above argument that it should be published. Of course this monstrous book is still available in many editions because it is by now an essential historical document. But should it have been published in the first p…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).
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