If you want to tackle extremists, you should at least check their facts ‹ Literary Hub

If you want to tackle extremists, you should at least check their facts ‹ Literary Hub

On June 21, Threshold, a conservative publisher of Simon & Schuster, announced a new book deal with New York Times Bestselling author and entrepreneur and noted conspiracy theorist Vivek Ramaswamy. Despite rumors that Donald Trump passed him over for a running mate, Vivek Ramaswamy still has “an eye on a cabinet position” in the Trump administration. He is just one of the Trump cronies that mainstream publishers continue to promote and thereby implicitly validate.

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Since Ramaswamy is known for being loose with facts, the title and description of his new book are themselves a feat of ambiguity:

In TRUTHS: America’s Future First, Ramaswamy shows how brutal honesty about controversial topics, from climate change to gender ideology to the existence of God, is imperative to the survival of the United States.

Here I must point out the irony that a book entitled Truths probably won’t be fact-checked. I’ve written about this before, but it’s worth repeating: nonfiction doesn’t mean “true.” It’s a marketing term for a book in which the author(s) claims to tell the truth.

I quote myself:

The sad fact is that many books are not fact-checked at all. In most publishing contracts, it is the author’s responsibility, not the publisher’s, to ensure that the facts are correct. As you can imagine, some authors try harder than others. (Publishers will say that they simply don’t have the money to pay fact-checkers, which is a poor excuse in an age when politicians of all stripes are consistently getting six- and seven-figure book deals.)

I didn’t watch the first presidential debate, but I’ve heard enough about it to feel like every painful second is etched in my memory. The biggest lesson, or at least one of many, is that America desperately needs fact-checkers. If Joe Biden is going to have a few bad nights (which I say generously, but that’s OK) during his 2024 campaign, we need to make sure there are other people in the room who can call Trump out when he’s lying.

America is in dire need of fact-checkers.

Lies fly every time Trump opens his mouth (check out his Wikipedia page if you don’t believe me), and it’s in this climate that he’s spewing the Big Lie about the 2020 election results. Everyone in his administration is expected to play by the rules, according to Steve Bannon, who recently reported to jail for ignoring a congressional subpoena to address his role in inciting the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol. Bannon recently said The guard that “there should be no one in the Trump campaign or the RNC in a paid position who doesn’t believe in their bones that the 2020 election was stolen.” Never mind that Trump himself was recently caught in a slip-up.

So who will spot and dismantle the lies if not Trump’s political opponents or debate moderators? Ideally, there would be countless checks and balances to illuminate the truth, but as we saw in a recent Supreme Court ruling, the judiciary is not so concerned with keeping Trump in check. What do we do when so many of us feel powerless because we’ve been told over and over again that our democracy is at stake?

Well, this column is about book publishing, which is just the smallest subset of media that should be concerned with promoting the free exchange of ideas in a democratic society. But why aren’t publishers at least doing their part?

This isn’t about free speech. As S&S CEO Jonathan Karp told employees after he refused to address their concerns about the publishing of Mike Pence’s book, “Ethics are subjective. It’s really not our job as publishers to impose an ethical standard.”

Fine, give all of Trump’s minions a platform. They have a constitutional right to be published, and Vivek Ramaswamy’s books have done well with publishers in the past. But I implore the publishing community to demand that known liars who are supposedly working to overthrow our democracy be subjected to rigorous fact checking when they publish books. It’s the least we can do.