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Mark Crispin Miller publishing controversial history books he says were silenced (Interview)

Historians in the News




Despite Banned Books Week (September 27–October 3)—a week-long recognition of the importance of reading banned or censored literature—few are aware of the practice of silencing books. Not only can the publishing process be stopped altogether, but these books are almost impossible to obtain through local channels and lack support from the publisher, never going into reprint.

That’s where the Forbidden Bookshelf comes in. Founded by Mark Crispin Miller, a media studies professor at New York University, the book series aims to finally give long-awaited life to these censored works. Covering some of the most controversial issues in recent history—from organized crime in professional football to America’s use of The Phoenix Program—these books offer alternate and lesser-known accounts that deserve to be part of mainstream culture....

How have you seen books banned outside the conventional means?

Mark Crispin Miller:  As a media critic, I’ve continually come across cases of books that have been deliberately killed. I would meet the authors, or I would read stuff they had written about their experience, so I came up with the idea to do a series precisely to republish these kinds of titles.

So a book like The Du Pont Dynasty, is an indispensable book about American history, about the power of capitalism and of a particularly wealthy family, since the beginning of the 19th century. A family and an enterprise whose influence on modern history and the American economy is enormous, and whose story therefore really must be told and is told masterfully in this book. Because of which, the Du Ponts managed to have it killed not once, but twice.

In 1974, they colluded with the publisher, Prentice Hall, to subvert the marketing of the book by printing too few copies to basically not meet the demand. And then 10 years later, Maverick Publisher brought out a second edition of the book. And somehow mysteriously and conveniently, one-third of the print run was damaged. Specifically, missing the very same 30 pages of book that told the story of what happened to the first edition … That damage made it impossible for Lyle Stewart to make a profit.

Votescam is a staggering work of investigative journalism, and also of how that journalism was suppressed. The Collier brothers discovered abundant evidence of election fraud in the 70s. It tells the story of that fraud, and even more frightening, of how they were blocked at every turn, how the story was suppressed throughout the media. And indeed, the book was self-published. I would never have known about it if I wasn’t directly involved in the issue.

The long effort to wipe out books of this kind has been pretty successful. It’s had a chilling effect on journalists and academics of all kinds, who are more ready to tow the line, and shy away from material that will have them labeled as crack pots. For example, Christopher Simpson’s Blowback, the first and the best history of the U.S.’s recruitment of Nazi fascists after WWII, is a forbidden book. It could only find a British publisher. And when it first came out, the review in the New York Times was hostile, and it killed the book, And Douglas Valentine’s book, [The Phoenix Program], the CIA tried to interfere with the completion of the project, and when the book came out, it was destructively reviewed in [prominent outlets], which killed the paperback deal....

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