Bruce Sterling on Fri, 23 Aug 2002 00:30:23 +0200 (CEST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> As we like to say here in America, "Follow the Money"

Begin forwarded message:

> From: Dan Clore <>
> Date: Wed Aug 21, 2002  09:56:15 PM US/Central
> To: "" <>
> Subject: [smygo] Angry White Men
> Reply-To:
> News for Anarchists & Activists:
> Village Voice
> Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky, and Greg Palast Hit Bestseller
> List With Incendiary Books
> Angry White Men
> by Eric Demby
> August 21 - 27, 2002
> The success of a handful of books that assail the Bush
> administration as hypocritical, incompetent, and corrupt has
> demarcated a groundswell of Americans who desire truth about
> their leaders amid the dearth of critical and official
> information that is today's mainstream media. It's a
> demographic large enough that any politician or pollster
> would identify it as pivotal in an election: Stupid White
> Men by Michael Moore now has 500,000 copies in print and is
> still number five on the New York Times Top 10; 9-11 by Noam
> Chomsky has 205,000 in print; and The Best Democracy Money
> Can Buy by investigative journalist Greg Palast, published
> by an indie British press, just sold its paperback rights to
> American publisher Penguin Putnam for an undisclosed amount.
> After griping extensively during interviews with the Voice
> about a media blackout of the viewpoints expressed in their
> books, each of these authors arrived at a similar
> conclusion: Their popularity as "dissenting" authors has
> extended beyond the liberal fringes and represents the fruit
> of a grassroots movement that corporate America, and
> potentially the government, can no longer ignore.
> On Michael Moore's recent lecture tour, he became convinced
> that he was no longer just preaching to the converted. "I
> look out at the auditorium or gymnasium, and I don't see the
> tree huggers and the granola heads," he told the Voice. "I
> see Mr. and Mrs. Middle America who voted for George W.
> Bush, who just lost $60,000 because their 401(k) is gone.
> And they believed in the American Dream as it was designed
> by the Bushes and Wall Street, and then they woke up to
> realize it was just that, a dream."
> In a September 19 interview collected in his latest book,
> 9-11, Noam Chomsky called America "a leading terrorist
> state," and he explained how September 11 will "accelerate
> the agenda of militarization, regimentation, reversal of
> social democratic programs [and] transfer of wealth to
> narrow sectors." This mix of unsettling and prescient
> commentary helped ignite the sales of 9-11, a paperback
> collection of interviews with Chomsky, in which he catalogs
> questionable U.S. government actions (the boycott of Iraq
> and the vengeful "terrorist attack" on Nicaragua in the
> '80s, for example) that have sullied its reputation around
> the world. The 205,000 copies in print place it among the
> bestselling titles of Chomsky's more than 30 books. It's
> worth recalling that Chomsky's early books criticizing U.S.
> policy in southeast Asia were bibles of the Vietnam anti-war
> movement.
> Although its views are in many ways the most incendiary of
> the three books, 9-11 followed the most conventional
> promotional path. Chomsky's small but influential New
> York-based publisher, Seven Stories Press, took out
> full-page ads in liberal publications like The Nation, In
> These Times, and The Progressive; the book also received
> prominent placement in bookstores upon its release. When it
> started selling, the mainstream media came calling on the
> iconoclastic Chomsky. After profiles ran in The New York
> Times and The Washington Post in May 2002, he faced off with
> arch-conservative Bill Bennett on CNN's American Morning
> With Paula Zahn, an appearance that created a definite spike
> in sales, according to Greg Ruggiero, Chomsky's editor.
> The public's hunger for an alternative analysis of America's
> role in inciting terrorism drove sales beyond expectations,
> surprising even Chomsky himself. He believes 9-11's strong
> sales suggest that, "for many people, the 9-11 atrocities
> were a kind of 'wake-up call,' which has led to considerable
> openness, concern, skepticism, and dissidence." For the
> September 11 "anniversary," Barnes & Noble has elected to
> display the book prominently, with no prodding from the
> publisher.
> Skepticism and dissent have fueled the runaway sales of
> Michael Moore's Stupid White Men. But according to Moore,
> his publisher, HarperCollins's ReganBooks, saw these
> qualities as a liability after the WTC attacks. In the
> months following September 11, the book's original release
> date, Moore claims the publisher pressured him to revise
> Stupid White Men, threatening to pulp the book if he did not
> change the section that refers to Bush as a "threat to our
> national security" in a letter calling for his resignation.
> The book also calls Bush's election a "coup," making him a
> "trespasser on federal land, a squatter in the Oval Office."
> Moore said he was told by an executive, at a particularly
> contentious meeting, "We're united-we-stand behind George W.
> Bush . . . and we are asking you to tone down your dissent."
> HarperCollins wouldn't comment on its discussions with
> Moore, but Lisa Herling, director of corporate
> communications, explained the publisher's revision request:
> "As with any political book, you want to make sure it hasn't
> become outdated or need any adjustment based on the events
> of 9-11." At a time when Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer was
> telling people to "watch what they say" such adjustments
> seemed Ashcroftian. But after steadfastly refusing to alter
> the content of Stupid White Men, Moore claims he was faced
> with the sole option of censoring himself and then paying
> for the reprint costs. He dropped the gloves--the book was
> finished.
> Were it not for librarians, the story would have ended
> there, with a book by one of America's most popular liberals
> essentially suppressed by the publishing division of Rupert
> Murdoch's News Corp. However, on December 1, Ann Sparanese,
> an Englewood, New Jersey, librarian, heard Moore complain
> about Stupid White Men's untimely end in a speech to the
> annual New Jersey Citizens Action conference. Within days,
> librarian chat rooms and listservs were ablaze with rumors
> of censorship, and, according to Moore, HarperCollins was
> deluged with angry e-mails from librarians calling them
> censors and book-banners. Herling said the publisher was
> "not aware of [HarperCollins] receiving a large number of
> e-mails from librarians." Spectacularly, by December's end
> HarperCollins agreed to release the book without change in
> February.
> "If I seem to have this kinda weird optimism in the people
> of this country," Moore said, "it's because I know that
> they're the ones responsible for the success of this book."
> Stupid White Men has since reached number one on bestseller
> lists in the U.S., Canada, and England, and has remained in
> the New York Times Top 10 for all 25 weeks since its
> release, placing it among the top-selling nonfiction books
> of 2002 thus far.
> Following a four-city book tour organized by HarperCollins
> (the tour was increased to 12 cities once the book took
> off), Moore sensed an expanding chink in Bush's
> unanimous-support armor. Soon after, Moore embarked on a
> 47-city American tour that he had assembled with his two
> sisters. In March, he addressed 7000 potential readers at
> the Austin launch of populist writer and radio commentator
> Jim Hightower's Rolling Thunder Down-Home Democracy Tour; in
> April, he spoke to 5000 people at a Ralph Nader rally at
> Tampa's Sun Dome; and he attracted 3500 people to a solo
> lecture at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington.
> In May, Moore had bounced publishers to Warner Books,
> garnering a $3 million deal for his next two books. Last
> week, Variety reported that he was negotiating to make an
> animated movie based on Stupid White Men. Just a year after
> a sea of flags virtually drowned it out, political dissent
> is now a bankable commodity.
> "My appearance in their towns gave them the opportunity to
> not be afraid to speak their minds, and to be there with
> thousands of other people who felt the same way," Moore
> explained. "It was a great emotional and morale boost to
> those who believe that the strength of a democracy is built
> upon the willingness of the citizens to question what's
> going on."
> It's this sort of questioning that has turned Greg Palast's
> The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, a collection of his most
> explosive articles about everything from what he calls the
> "Bush family cartel" to the purging of African American
> felons from Florida's voter rolls by Republicans during the
> 2000 Presidential election, into a hot-selling book as well.
> Published in February by the small, London-based Pluto
> Press, the book has more than 40,000 copies in print,
> despite spotty U.S. distribution and scant mainstream review
> coverage. Nevertheless, in June, it managed to crack the Top
> 10 of the Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle
> bestseller lists.
> Palast, an American journalist who publishes mainly in The
> Guardian and reports for BBC TV's Newsnight, told the Voice
> that many of his book's sales have been driven by
> non-traditional media outlets. He credits Pacifica Radio
> Network, for instance, for plugging the book, as well as his
> appearances at places like Washington, D.C.'s Politics &
> Prose bookstore. Like Moore, but without the benefit of his
> name recognition, Palast cobbled together his own reading
> tour through 20 American cities, drawing crowds of more than
> 1000 over two March nights in Berkeley and 350 to Walker
> Studios in Tribeca in April. "What I'm happy about is that
> with no money, no marketing, and a completely amateur
> operation, you can get 40,000 copies sold in the U.S.,"
> Palast said, "if you've got something to say." The Best
> Democracy Money Can Buy has now been translated into
> Spanish, Japanese, Croatian, Turkish, Italian, Korean, and
> Bulgarian.
> His underground success caught the eye of Kelly Notaras, an
> editor at Penguin Putnam's Plume imprint, which recently
> purchased the U.S. paperback rights to The Best Democracy
> Money Can Buy. "The way this book did so well in hardcover
> was almost exclusively through Greg's events," she told the
> Voice. The paperback will be updated with new information
> about Bush's Enron connections for its February 2003
> release. "It's not the kind of book you have to be
> ultra-liberal to be interested in," said Notaras, "because
> the things that he's discovered are appalling, and there's
> nobody out there right now doing the same thing."
> The rise of Palast's media star--he's putting his Observer
> column on hold to work on films and books, and will be
> contributing to Harper's--is coinciding with the expanding
> of America's appetite for unsanctioned perspectives. After
> joining the NAACP's Voter Empowerment Tour through Florida
> in September (where he'll also be filming Jeb and Kate
> Bush), he's hooking up with People for the American Way in
> October, then Jim Hightower and Ralph Nader's "democracy"
> tours in November. He is also scheduled to speak at the
> Apollo Theater in October (date to be announced). Palast
> responded to this explosion of attention and his jump from
> an indie press to a mainstream publisher by way of
> complimenting Michael Moore: "Apparently, this is the moment
> for the awful truth. No one wants to miss the next Stupid
> White Men."
> Stupid White Men
> By Michael Moore
> ReganBooks, 224 pp., $24.95
> 9-11
> By Noam Chomsky
> MBS Textbook Dist, Trade Paper., $8.95
> The Best Democracy Money Can Buy
> By Greg Palast
> Pluto Press (UK), 224 pp., $25.00

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: contact: