Thursday, February 21, 2019

Must Writers Be Moral or Just Profitable?

     The New York Times recently ran an op-ed piece titled "Must Writers Be Moral?" focusing on the recent trend of publishers adding a morality clause into their writers' contracts.  This stipulates that, should a writer become the target of a scandal that could damage their sales or readership numbers, publishers are released from the contract and no longer have to publish the work as agreed.
     There are plenty of heady issues to address here and the piece engages with some of them.  One that it doesn't touch on is this: publishing companies don't care if writers are moral or not, they only care if writers endanger the profit margin.  This clause isn't saying writers mustn't act immorally, only that if they get caught for doing something (or get blamed for doing something they didn't actually do, or even traffic in ideas that are too controversial for the company), then they suffer the contractual consequences.   
    In a capitalist society, money is how we enforce morality, which seems dangerous for many reasons, not the least of which is that it allows profit to trump the the free exchange of ideas.

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