The old saw that there is no such thing as bad publicity could be behind the success of The Coming Insurrection, published under the pen name the Invisible Committee, which rejects the official Left and aligns itself with the younger, wilder forms of resistance that have emerged in Europe against immigration control and the "war on terror." Published by Semiotext(e), a small California press, best known for works of French cultural theory by Jean Baudrillard and Michel Foucault, the book has spent much of the week on Amazon's top 10 bestsellers list, alongside better known titles like Game Change and The Help.
True, when Semiotext(e) launched its Intervention series last August with an English translation of The Coming Insurrection, it hit #24 at Amazon. After that it settled back to more typical numbers for a book with a 3,000-copy first printing, distributed by an academic press (MIT). Plus it's available for free online in both English and French.
But even before the official pub date, The Coming Insurrection benefited from an "endorsement" from Glenn Beck. As part of a seven-minute rant on Fox News in July, he said, "I am not calling for a ban on this book. It's important that you read this book." Since then, each time Beck has talked about the book, sales have spiked, according to MIT Press associate publicist Diane Denner. It's latest jump came after Beck devoted an entire segment to The Coming Insurrection, which he called "quite possibly the most evil thing I've ever read."
The book's initial U.S. launch was equally, well, anarchistic. It began with an unscheduled reading on a summer evening at the Union Square Barnes & Noble in New York City. The reader refused to leave until the police arrived. Then the reading regrouped at a nearby cosmetics store.
As a result of the publicity generated by the reading, which was written up in the New York Times, as well as reviews and Beck attacks, The Coming Insurrection is now in its sixth printing. "We're having trouble keeping stock in the warehouse," says MIT Press assistant director Rebecca Schrader. "And we're dealing with reprint quantities that we don't see every day."
Written following the 2005 riots in the Paris suburbs, The Coming Insurrection has generated its fair share of negative publicity in France, where it was published in 2007. The French government called it a manual of terror and arrested a group of people in 2008 known as the Tarnac 9, one of whom, it alleged, was the book's author. The Tarnac 9 were accused of disabling power lines that stranded thousands of passengers on high-speed trains. As of last May, The Coming Insurrection had sold 25,000 copies in France, according to its French publisher, La Fabrique. The French weekly magazine L'Express puts the number higher, at 40,000.