Which brings us to the “Why Muslims Hate Me” chapter. Unlike the other chapters, which try to argue that these groups are merely confused, this section paints Muslims as essentially irredeemable. The edits offered here are, for the most part, merely rhetorical. “Yet Islam is the most bigoted ideology” is changed to “Yet Islam, which arguably contains some of the most bigoted religious practices.” “Let’s NOT issue statements like ‘the most bigoted,’” suggests the editor, as “all they do is make YOU the issue rather than your statement.” Later, he replaces “The growth of Islam should be one of the most disturbing things in the world for liberals” to “the growth of Islam ought to be concerning for liberals,” noting, “Do you see how ‘ought to be concerning’ makes your point without the bombast of ‘should be one of the most disturbing things in the world’?” Respectability is of utmost importance here—all we can ask for is prejudice without bombast.
Blair Beusman on sanitizing hate.
The whole “loling over Milo Yiannopoulos’s edits for his terrible manuscript” thing left me with a bad taste in my mouth, for a variety of reasons. Beusman pretty clearly nails down one.
It also, ironically, is illustrative of one of the most difficult truisms in publishing: as an editor, you can’t have a different vision or voice for a work than your author (and vice versa). Yes, Yiannopoulos is a shitstain on a white silk dress, and yes his editor, Mitchell Ivers, was (one assumes) beleaguered and underpaid and trying to do the best he could with something he obviously loathed,1 but…
Ivers’s “vision” for the book is obviously not Yiannopoulos’s. The thing is/was going to be awful either way, but that’s Yiannopoulos’s brand. Being a hateful Nazi-suckup trainwreck is literally the only thing he’s famous for or, it seems, capable of. Clearing dirt off the twisted carriages and putting neat white sheets over the bodies doesn’t change the human tragedy. Or, to ditch the metaphors: Ivers’s differences with Yiannopoulos mean his edits don’t make the book “better” and, as I think Beusman correctly argues, may in fact make it worse (by trying to make the hate it touts “respectable”).
All that being said, I don’t think this as a sole incident reflects on Ivers as a person or his abilities as an editor. If anything, his only real sin here was trying to, yanno, be a freakin’ professional about his job rather than, like, writing the whole thing off and phoning it in. But nonetheless his notes are still kind of the mirror-inverse of the sorts of “conservative editor tells progressive author to ‘tone down’ diversity in her manuscript” stories people like yours truly like to scoff and roll our eyes at. Being an editor (especially this sort of editor) isn’t some mechanical, objective task; it’s a creative field, just like writing is, and it’s subjective, just like writing is. Which means it’s entirely possible to be a great editor and still be the wrong editor for a particular work. Especially when that work’s a heaping steaming pile of bigot shit.