Thursday, November 08, 2007


I wasn't going to post anything about the New York Times article on Regnery and its disgruntled authors, but Jane Hamsher (seconded by Atrios) has responded in the standard way, using the term "wingnut welfare."

I'm not quite sure what Jane is trying to say in her post, but I think what she's saying is this: (a) Regnery used to do sneaky things to get books onto the bestseller list that nobody ever really wanted to read, (b) Regnery is now doing sneaky things that seem to prevent its books from getting onto the bestseller list, but (c) either way, you'd be an idiot if you think right-wing publishing is anything but one big scam. Maybe I should let Jane speak for herself:

These "authors" seem to believe that if Richard Mellon Scaiffe wasn’t giving away copies to replace the Monkey Ward’s catalog as outhouse toilet paper that people would be paying full price for their brilliant tomes.

I think that's incredibly naive. Republicans win a lot of elections -- why is it impossible to imagine that they'd win a few at the bookstore? And if right-wing publishing is a huge scam, why did so many mainstream publishing houses set up right-wing book divisions over the past few years? And why have a number of right-wing authors sold quite well for publishers other than Regnery?

Ann Coulter, for instance, published one Regnery book and then moved to Random House's Crown Forum -- where she had her biggest successes. Other righties -- Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity, to name two -- have bypassed Regnery altogether to go with big New York houses. And Rush Limbaugh had two huge bestsellers, also at a big New York house, that preceded the current wave of Regnery bestsellers.

Look, if you think the Swift Boat liars had a huge impact on the '04 election, why wouldn't you believe that a lot of people actually bought their Regnery book at retail? If you believe that a large chunk of the population thinks the Clintons are a two-headed Antichrist, why wouldn't you believe that some people paid real money for books saying the Clintons are a two-headed Antichrist? If you can accept the fact that Fox is the #1 cable news channel and Limbaugh has the #1 political radio show, why can't you believe Regnery can have a legitimate #1 book?

I'm not happy about this. I'm just saying it's silly to downplay it, or dismiss it as phony.


By the way, I do think it's possible that Regnery bulk-buys some books, or used to bulk-buy them, to get them on bestseller lists. But that doesn't mean that the fan base that eventually developed wasn't legitimate. Consider this bit of pop-culture trivia:

October 5, 1962
The group [the Beatles] release their first single, Love Me Do. [Brian] Epstein [their manager] reportedly buys 10,000 copies to ensure it a place in the top 20.

(George Martin, the Beatles' producer, said the number was "about 2,000 copies.")

You'll admit that those guys eventually developed a rather large group of real fans, won't you? You'll admit that their subsequent success wasn't phony, right? Well, if Ann Coulter once benefited from a Regnery bulk buy, think of her as the Beatles of hate. Surely you'll acknowledge that she has a disturbingly large number of real fans -- although her fan base does seem to be shrinking these days.


By the way, I'm not denying the existence of "wingnut welfare" -- it's true that there does always seem to be a nice, cushy think tank job available to any right-winger who's suddenly in need of some extra pin money, and up-and-coming young right-wingers certainly are carefully cultivated and lovingly pampered. But whatever Regnery has been doing all these years, it seems less about lining fellow wingnuts' pockets and more about spreading right-wing memes and making money from doing so. And certainly what the disgruntled authors are saying now -- that Regnery's cheating them out of royalties and lower their profile by making it harder to get on bestseller lists -- seems like the exact opposite of wingnut welfare.

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