Hopefully, it won’t be long before Donald Trump and his imbecilic sycophants are removed from the White House, preferably by force so we can all watch the carnage unfold on live TV. Trump may still be crying foul and refusing to concede but it’s clear that the rest of his toadies have seen the writing on the wall. In an ideal society, the rest of the world would look at this shameless crew of pseudo-fascistic grifters who tore democracy to shreds and poisoned public discourse beyond repair and choose to shun them for life. Under sensible circumstances, it would be blatantly appalling to work with such people after they’ve been cast out into the real world. Of course, capitalism has never cared much for frivolous issues like ethics or not actively engaging with white supremacists, not when there’s cold hard cash to be made.
We know that Trump, his awful children, and the gaggle of gorgons that aided him for four years will be fine once Joe Biden moves into his new home. For evidence of that, just check out the sheer number of Trump’s staff who landed cable news contributor gigs after their unceremonious sackings. They’re also raking in the big bucks with book deals, and that seems like an inevitable stepping-stone for 45’s crew. Rumors have already swirled that publishers may be willing to pay eye-watering advances to Trump for his Presidential memoirs — a source told the New York Post that Trump was ‘being bombarded with book and TV deals that could be worth a staggering $100m’. While it’s somewhat admirable that they think he’s capable of reading or writing, it’s another pile of salt in an already weeping wound.
Publishing has long made deals with toxic and politically dangerous individuals in the name of profit. Literal fascist and unrepentant lifelong supporter of Hitler Diana Mitford was a ‘beloved’ feature of the British literary scene and regular critic as well as a published memoirist. Holocaust denier David Irving has several books to his name. it’s debatable as to whether any publicity is, indeed, good publicity, but in publishing circles, it certainly seems that controversy of all kinds is heartily welcomed. We saw this with recent examples like the book deal given to professional alt-right troll Milo Yiannopolous. While that backfired spectacularly due to the writer’s own ineptitude and his becoming too toxic even for publishing, the fact that the man best known for harassing Leslie Jones off social media was seen as a viable investment speaks volumes.
The age of Trump cronies book deals is ongoing. Look at the stack of ‘talent’ who lined up without much fuss to get their slice of the literary pie: John Bolton; Omarosa Manigault Newman; Donald Trump Jr.; Michael Cohen; Sean Spicer; Sarah Huckabee Sanders; Cliff Sims; even Melania Trump’s confidante who had garnered zero press attention before upping the ante for her own book tour. The $100 million deal posited by that New York Post source is almost certainly untrue, but it’s not impossible to imagine him pulling in a solid seven-figure number for one of those token post-President books. Such deals have proven good business over the past four years. Whether you’re pro-Trump, one of the ‘Resistance’, or a fame-hungry journalist withholding key information on a pandemic to up your sales, publishing has a place for you. In December 2018, Publishers Weekly honored six different publishers as their Person of the Year. What they had in common was a veritable assembly line of Trump books, from Bob Woodward to Jeanine Pirro to James Comey. There were more Trump books on the market than vampire YA romances post-Twilight. The message was stark: the fascist is good for business, so let’s milk that battered teat for everything it’s worth, regardless of optics, ethics, or the precedent it sets.
Conservative publishing has always played with a limited but highly effective bag of tricks. Check out the New York Times best-seller list and the chances are strong that you’ll see those conservative books listed with a disclaimer of sorts. The paper tracks suspicious purchases and puts a dagger symbol alongside any book it believes to have fudged its sales numbers, typically through group or bulk purchases. Conservative books are basically dependent on this model. Donald Trump Jr.’s ‘best-selling’ book Triggered was caught out using this tactic, as were Mark Levin, Ben Shapiro, Cory Lewandowski, Glenn Beck, Howard Schultz, and, of course, Donald Trump himself. This false inflation of popularity doesn’t seem to bother the publishing world, and while best-seller lists are flawed by design, this gaming of the system hurts authors who would truly benefit from that status. The myth of conservative publishing as a goldmine is partly built on this quicksand, which makes the industry’s eagerness to fan the flames evermore perplexing.
So, when the inevitable Trump crony book deals get announced, what happens? This can’t and shouldn’t be a mere issue of business. It takes a lot of people to get a book to market, and a hell of a lot of those workers won’t want anything to do with this. Editors, staffers, fellow authors, booksellers, and so on can and probably will revolt in protest, much as they did with Woody Allen’s memoir. A Trump memoir or new badly written screed about how he’s definitely still the President would probably do good business. Presidential memoirs are solid bets for any publisher, and I’m sure that Alex Jones would buy up a crate or two to give away to his listeners whenever they buy his merch. Publishers need that money, but they don’t need it like this, especially when such a deal would risk uproar from employees and other big-name authors on their payroll.
It’s not just about the money, anyway. This is an issue of basic human decency, a quality that was never in rich supply for any for-profit sector. Donald Trump is a fascist and his administration was populated by complicit goons who tore shreds out of the nation for their slice of the pie. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are dead because of this President’s embarrassing failure to deal with a pandemic. The last thing Trump needs is to be showered in more attention, more money to pay off his debts, and free reign of a promotional tour to further stoke up hatred among his cult-like fanbase. There is nothing to be gained, artistically, politically or ethically, from stroking this creep’s ego even further than it has been for the past five or six years.
My plea feels futile because I know what’s on the way. We’ll get some #girlboss guide from Ivanka on her totally legit political career. Kayleigh McEnany will continue to taint the name of good Kayleighs everywhere with a book on her time as one of Trump’s many right-hand blondes. Eric and Donny Jr. will do more 4Chan-esque ‘are you triggered?!’ screeds and Rudy Giuliani’s ghost-writer will work overtime to bring a semblance of cohesion to his client’s man-on-the-subway bellowing. A publisher will snap up all of them, and the cycle will begin anew. The question now is whether or not we accept that as the old normal or demand something else.
Header Image Source: Getty Images.