Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life

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November 30th, 2011 3:03 AM

How the Librarians Beat Rupert Murdoch

From the introduction to Dude, Where's My Country? by Michael Moore

I'm lucky, I guess, that I even get to write these words you are reading. Not just because I get to live in the most wonderfulest country in the whole wide world, but because after 9/11, my former publisher, Regan Books (a division of HarperCollins which is a division of the News Corp which owns Fox News and it's all owned by Rupert Murdoch), was trying its hardest to make sure my career as an author would come to an early end.

The first 50,000 copies of Stupid White Men came off the printing press the day before 9/11, but when the tragedy struck the next morning, the trucks that would carry them to the nation's bookstores never left the loading dock. The publisher then held the books hostage for five long months —not simply out of good taste and respect (which I might have been able to understand), but out of a desire to censor me and the things I wanted to say. They insisted I rewrite up to 50 percent of the book and that I remove sections that they found offensive to our leader, Mr. Bush.

I refused to change a word. A standoff ensued until a librarian in New Jersey heard me talking about the phone call I had just received from the Murdoch publisher telling me that it looked as if they had no choice, thanks to my stubbornness, but to "pulp" and recycle all 50,000 copies of my book that were gathering dust in a warehouse in Scranton, Pennsylvania.  I also was told by others not to expect much in the way of a book career after this, as word would spread that I was considered "trouble," a royal pain in the ass who wouldn't play ball.

This librarian, Ann Sparanese, a woman I did not know, sent out an e-mail to a list of librarians, telling them that my book was being banned. Her letter shot around the Internet and, within days, letters from angry librarians were flooding Regan Books. I got a call from the Murdoch police.

"What did you tell the librarians?"

"Huh? I don't know any librarians."

"Yes, you do! You told them about what we are doing with your book and now “we're getting hate mail from librarians!"

"Hmm," I replied, “I guess that's one terrorist group you don't want to mess with."

Fearing there would soon be a crazed mob of wild librarians storming down Fifth Avenue and surrounding the HarperCollins building, refusing to leave until my book was liberated from the Scranton warehouse or Murdoch himself was drawn and quartered (though I would have settled for making Bill O'Reilly wear his underwear on his head for a week), the News Corp surrendered. They dumped my book in some bookstores with no advertising, no reviews, and the offer of a three-city tour: Arlington! Denver!  Somewhere in New Jersey! In other words, the book was sent to the gallows for a quick and painless death. "It's too bad you wouldn't listen to us," one Murdoch operative told me, "we were only trying to help you. The country is behind George W. Bush and it is intellectually dishonest of you not to rewrite your book and admit that he has done a good job since 9/11.  You are out of touch with the American people, and your book will now suffer as a result of it."

I was so out of touch with my fellow Americans that, within hours after the book's release, it went to number one on Amazon—and within five days it had gone to its ninth printing. It's in its fifty-second printing as I write this.

The worst thing to tell a free people in a country that's still mostly free is that they are not allowed to read something. That I was able to be heard “and that my book would go on to be the number-one selling nonfiction hardcover book of the year in the United States" screams volumes about this great country. The people will not be intimidated and they will not be bullied by those in charge. The American people may look like they don't know what's going on half the time, and they may spend too much time picking out different-colored covers for their cell phones, but when push comes to shove, they'll rise to the occasion and be there for what is right.

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