If You’re Going to Platform Extremists You Should At Least Check Their Facts

On June 21st, Threshold, a conservative imprint of Simon & Schuster, announced a new book deal with New York Times bestselling author and entrepreneur and noted conspiracy theorist Vivek Ramaswamy. Although it’s rumored that Donald Trump passed him over for the role of running mate, Vivek Ramaswamy is still “eyeing a Cabinet job” in the Trump administration. He’s just one more Trump crony that mainstream publishers continue to platform and thereby implicitly validate.

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Given that Ramaswamy known to play fast and loose with facts, the title and description of his new book is already a feat of doublespeak:

In TRUTHS: The Future of America First, Ramaswamy reveals how brutal honesty about controversial subjects, from climate change to gender ideology to the existence of God, is a requirement for the continued existence of the United States.

Here I must point out the irony that a book called Truths will likely not be fact-checked. I’ve written about this before but it bears repeating: nonfiction does not mean “true.” It’s a marketing term for a book in which the author(s) purports to be telling the truth.

Allow me to quote myself:

The sad fact is that many books are not fact-checked at all. In most publishing contracts, it’s the responsibility of the author rather than the publisher to make sure the facts are correct. As you might imagine, some authors try harder than others. (Publishers will say that they simply don’t have the money to pay for fact checkers, which is a weak excuse in an era when politicians of all stripes are consistently getting 6-and 7-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 brain. The biggest takeaway, or at least one out of many, is that America is desperately in need of fact-checkers. If Joe Biden is going to have some off nights (which is a generous way for me to put it, but fine) while campaigning in the 2024 election, we must be sure there are other people in the room who are able to call out Trump when he lies.

America is desperately in need of fact-checkers.

Lies fly out just about every time Trump opens his mouth (check the Wikipedia page if you don’t believe me), and it’s in this climate that he perpetrates the Big Lie about the 2020 election results. Every single person in his administration is expected to fall in line, according to Steve Bannon who recently reported to prison for ignoring a Congressional subpoena to address his role in fomenting the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol. Bannon recently told The Guardian that, “There shouldn’t be anybody in the Trump campaign or the RNC in a paid position that does not believe to the marrow of their bones that the 2020 election was stolen.” Never mind that Trump himself was recently caught slipping.

So who will catch the lies and dismantle them if Trump’s political opponents or debate moderators don’t? Ideally there would be numerous checks and balances to elucidate the truth, but as we’ve seen from a recent Supreme Court ruling, the judicial branch isn’t all that concerned with reigning Trump in. What do we do when so many of us feel helpless because we’ve been told over and over again that our democracy is at stake?

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

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

Fine, platform all of Trump’s cronies. They have the right under the Constitution to be published, and Vivek Ramaswamy’s books have done well for publishers in the past. But I beg of the publishing community to demand that known liars who are supposedly working to overthrow our democracy are subject to a rigorous fact check when they publish books. It’s the very least we could do.

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