Penguin Random House ceases publishing 'Rothschild conspiracy' book following external review

How They Rule the World:The 22 Secret Strategies of Global Power by Spanish author Pedro Baños’ is judged to be 'problematic' but reviewers say it is 'not in itself antisemitic'.


Penguin Random House UK has stopped publishing Pedro Baños’ book How They Rule the World:The 22 Secret Strategies of Global Power (Ebury) following an external review into allegations of antisemitism.

The inquiry found the found that publishers Ebury should "have asked more questions and conducted deeper due diligence to determine whether it was appropriate to publish". 

Penguin Random House UK (PRH UK) launched the review of the book earlier this month after British author Jeremy Duns raised concerns about references to the Rothschild family contained in the original Spanish-language version of the book and drew attention to the book cover, which bears an image of octopus tentacles. 

The octopus symbol is commonly associated antisemitism and was often used in Nazi-era propaganda.

An intial internal review by PRH UK had cleared the book of the charges – but the publisher initiated an external review led by Baroness Julia Neuberger, Senior Rabbi at West London Synagogue, Martina Weisz at the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, Jerusalem, and Stefanie Schueler Springorum, director of the Berlin Centre for Antisemitism Research.

The reviewers found they did not consider the UK edition of the book to be antisemitic and they did not consider the original Spanish edition of the book to be antisemitic, but they did describe certain passages and references (which do not appear in the UK edition) as carrying echoes of Jewish conspiracy theories.

Responding to the announcement, Mr Duns tweeted: “I think it's right to cease publication of the book. But I think the idea the Spanish edition isn't antisemitic is an insult to people's intelligence, and I'd like to know how the changes happened in the English version.

“Setting aside interviews, the text about the Rothschlds in the Spanish edition is simply the antisemitic conspiracy theory about them, claiming they have gigantic economic power and an unaccountable and hidden ability to influence and 'intervene in key global decisions'. Come on.”

In light of the review, PRH UK will print no further copies of the English language edition and rights over the English language edition will revert to the Spanish publisher. Audio and e-book editions will no longer be available, the publisher confirmed. 

In a statement, PRH UK said: "Penguin Random House UK has carefully considered these findings and notes the review’s judgement that the book is not in itself antisemitic, but that some passages are problematic. It therefore accepts the review’s finding that some of the material should have prompted further enquiry and due diligence on Ebury’s part in view of the complex and highly sensitive subject matter, in order to inform its publishing decision-making."

The management of Ebury has committed to strengthening its diligence in publishing decision-making, and PRH UK will provide full support, it said.

Tom Weldon, PRH UK CEO, said: “This is a highly sensitive and nuanced set of issues, and we are grateful to Baroness Neuberger and her fellow reviewers for their objective counsel as we have tried to navigate them. Penguin Random House UK publishes for readers of all backgrounds, faiths and nationalities, and the review and our resulting actions underline our commitment to that mission. But it also demonstrates that, in this particular case, our publishing judgement fell short; we must learn from that and improve.”

Baroness Neuberger added: “I was very impressed with Penguin Random House UK’s speedy reaction to this issue, and pleased with the review process. The other two advisors, appointed independently as experts in antisemitism in Spain, and I all came to the same view.  There clearly were some complex questions here, but the thoroughness with which the publisher investigated shows considerable integrity.”


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