Is publishing Jordan Peterson an act of bigotry?

December 4, 2020 • 11:00 am

On November 25 I reported on a fracas at the publisher Penguin Random House Canada, where employees were outraged at the company’s decision to publish a sequel to Jordan Peterson’s 2018 best-seller, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaosthe sequel being Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life.  As I said, “It looks pretty much like what it purports to be: more self-help, more rules. It will be published in March of next year.”

The objection to the new book isn’t based on its contents but on Peterson’s published or spoken opinions on other subjects. From my previous post:

Four Penguin Random House Canada employees, who did not want to be named due to concerns over their employment, said the company held a town hall about the book Monday, during which executives defended the decision to publish Peterson while employees cited their concerns about platforming someone who is popular in far-right circles.

“He is an icon of hate speech and transphobia and the fact that he’s an icon of white supremacy, regardless of the content of his book, I’m not proud to work for a company that publishes him,” a junior employee who is a member of the LGBTQ community and who attended the town hall told VICE World News.

On Wednesday a writer in the Guardian came out justifying the employees’ beefs, and similar sentiments were echoed by bloggers like P. Z. Myers. Unfortunately, the article, like the critiques of Myers and the employees themselves, fails to distinguish between Peterson’s (supposed) bigotry expressed outside of the book, and what’s in the book itself.

The column is written by Nathan Robinson, editor of Current Affairs and a Guardian writer (click on screenshot to see it):

First, we get an indictment of Peterson’s views. As I have stayed away from his writings and talks, for I think he’s weird and I haven’t been able to muster up interest in reading him, readers who know more about Peterson can judge these claims:

It’s not reasonable to claim that employees who object to publishing Peterson are “censorious”. A publisher is not a Kinkos. Penguin Random House rejects far more books than it accepts, and it does not treat all points of view equally. It does not publish works of Holocaust denial or phrenology. It has standards, and it’s reasonable for employees to argue that Peterson does not meet those standards. After all, he has suggested that gay marriage might be a plot by cultural Marxists, that women wearing makeup in the workplace is “sexually provocative”, that trans women aren’t women because they’re not “capable of having babies”, that women cannot handle truth, and that transgender activists are comparable to mass-murdering Maoists. He peddles debunked scientific theories and dangerously dodgy diets. I have gone through his work myself and shown that he is a crackpot, whose writing is devoid of basic reasoning and full of wild unsubstantiated claims. When Pankaj Mishra wrote a critical review of Peterson’s work in the New York Review of Books, Peterson called Mishra a “prick” and said he’d “slap [Mishra] happily”. The things he says are often false, prejudiced and dangerous. What possible obligation does a publisher have to publish the ravings of bigots?

I looked up only one of these accusations, the claim that Peterson thinks that “trans women aren’t women.” It goes to a YouTube video, and his views given there are distorted by Robinson, for Peterson’s careful to distinguish between biological women on the one hand and biological men who assume a woman’s gender identity (he avers that the latter must be treated with respect). But I can’t be arsed to investigate all of the other claims, as to me they’re irrelevant to his new book of advice.

A publisher has no obligation to publish anyone, but none of these opinions have anything to do, I suspect, with Peterson’s new book—likely, and like its antecedent, a combination of the anodyne and the clever.  Repeatedly throughout Robinson’s article, he conflates Peterson’s views listed above (if they’re fairly represented, which I doubt) with what’s actually in his new book. The implication is that if a Bad Person publishes a Potentially Good Book, that book should be rejected. Here’s what Robinson says:

Believing that a prestigious publisher should not give such a person a contract is not the same as believing that they should be punished for speaking, or that they should not have access to the internet, a printer, or the marketplace. It’s important to make this distinction clear, because many conservative claims about being “censored” actually just amount to demands that their opinions be elevated far beyond their worth – that evidence-free, bigoted speech be given any prestigious platform it demands, with criticism seen as proof that the critics are intolerant.

As I said, I highly doubt that the upcoming book “elevated Peterson’s [other] opinions far beyond their worth”. Robinson’s argument, similar to that of other Pecksniffian censors, is that a book that doesn’t contain the author’s noxious opinions somehow, by virtue of being published, gives the publisher’s imprimatur—and additional status—to the bad stuff expressed elsewhere. Robinson goes on:

There is no problem, then, with staff arguing that Peterson’s work is not worth the company’s imprimatur. The real problem is that this doesn’t happen enough, that publishers are amoral and bring out books on the basis of whether they will sell rather than whether they have social value. The staff revolt against Peterson is a very rare instance of a publishing company being criticized on moral grounds for its choices.

Granted, publishing is a company, and profit is one aim. And one has to admit that Peterson’s new book, like the last, is liable to make the company a substantial amount of money. But quality counts as well, for many publishers, like Penguin Random House (my own publisher) take pride in pushing good products. You would not, I suspect, find Penguin Random House publishing a Peterson book about how to use personal pronouns. Did the company lose any cachet by publishing Peterson’s first book? Not to sensible folks, and already in 2018 he was been typed by many as a Nonperson.  But wait! There’s more!

If book contracts are canceled, rightwingers will claim that they are being silenced for expressing “disagreement”, when the truth is that private parties are simply declining to financially reward noxious views.

No, the contract for Peterson’s book is not a financial reward for his noxious views; it is a financial advance for a self-help book that the publishers think is okay, that its ideas tempt an editor to engage with them, and, sometimes (not always) might sell well.

According to Robinson, canceling this book by refusing to publish it shouldn’t represent just a decision based on views in the book, but a punishment for views he expressed elsewhere. This is what Cancel Culture excels at: ruining every aspect of someone’s life if they don’t like that person’s views—even if the views have nothing to do with the object being censored. In fact, Robinson analogizes Peterson’s book with Henry Kissinger’s books, for Robinson (like Hitchens) sees Kissinger as a war criminal. I haven’t yet read Hitchens’s book, but I suspect that Kissinger truly was guilty of deeply immoral actions during his tenure as Secretary of State. But does that make his memoirs not worth reading? I don’t think so: one can gain some insight into the inside baseball of statesmanship (and into Kissinger’s own actions), and one important person’s view of history. It would be a loss to history, regardless of any of Kissinger’s distortions or self-aggrandizement, if his view of history were not to be published. He was a major player in his time.

The final conflation: Robinson brings up his own journal, Current Affairs:

If Jordan Peterson or Henry Kissinger submitted an essay, it would be rejected. And yes, it would be because we “disagreed” with the opinion – we don’t publish arguments we find morally debased and poorly reasoned, by people whose views we do not wish to promote as sensible and worth listening to. I’ll fight for the free speech rights of both men, but nobody has a human right to a lucrative book contract without regard for whether their opinions are sound or valuable.

Note that Robinson says he would reject the essay because he disagreed with the opinion, but then adds, as an afterthought, that another consideration should be that the publisher, by virtue of publishing a book, implicitly promotes all the author’s other views. But they wouldn’t be doing that: an essay is an essay, and the opinions in the essay can be judged on their own merit.

Publishing a book by people whose views you don’t like, but views that aren’t in the book, is no different from putting out a movie starring an actor who also has odious views. There are plenty of those! And there are plenty of books written by people whose views you may abhor. Christian fundamentalists or even middle-of-the-road religionists may find my book on evolution, or the one on the incompatibility of science and religion, offensive and disagreeable. Should Penguin Random House then not publish any of my books? I also criticize the Woke and the far Left on this site. Does that render me offensive and not worthy of being published?

It would—to some editors. But has Robinson considered that there may be some editors out there who like some of Peterson’s opinions that offend other people? Are his views on not wanting to be coerced to use preferred pronouns (though he uses them voluntarily), or on trans women being biological men with a woman’s gender identity, objectively immoral?  Publishers may have standards, but they don’t all have values or missions that conform to Robinson’s. That’s the way publishing works. And his essay shows the modus operandus of Cancel Culture: if someone’s ideological views don’t align perfectly with your own, try to destroy those people in every way possible. For the Woke, it is the person—and not just their ideas—who must be taken down and “erased”.

54 thoughts on “Is publishing Jordan Peterson an act of bigotry?

  1. I have no real issue with the public or the employees expressing their opinion to Penguin. This is analogous to previous generations’ boycotting or Chick-fil-a or Dominos pizza; you’re not doing it because you have an issue with the food, you’re doing it because you don’t want to put money in the owner’s pocket, as you are pretty sure he’ll use it to fund causes you deem odious.

    But I do wish that more people chose to stand up for free speech and valued it more than such knock-on consequences. That publishers like Penguin would have more backbone. Very much like U. Chicago’s dedication to freedom of expression – they don’t have to do it, but I’m glad they choose to do it.

    1. The only thing that bothers me is that it seems to show that the protestors at Penguin don’t really understand what their company and industry does. Perhaps they should go be content moderators at Facebook if they want to stop the dissemination of ideas.

  2. I wouldn’t be queuing up to buy, say, Watercolour Painting for Dummies by Adolf Hitler, but if the content wasn’t offensive I don’t see why it shouldn’t be published. Of course, there might be many people who wouldn’t want to put money in his pocket because of his views on things other than painting technique, to which an easy remedy would be available to them. If only Hitler had been a better painter history might have turned out differently…

    1. If the content IS offensive I don’t see why it shouldn’t be published (in general).

      Mein Kampf is still published, after all.

      This is the U.S. we live in; the far left will get up in arms about a milquetoast self-help book because of the opinions of the author on trans issues, yet Mein Kampf sails through with nary a word.

      Not that I’m advocating it be banned. Rather, I’m advocating that (a) maybe we should save our moral outrage for people that are a bit more outrageous, and (b) we should generally permit the publication of offensive things on the principle that the best way to fight the things that feed on darkness is to shine a light on them.

      1. The continuing publication of Mein Kampf has probably done more to dissuade people from becoming Nazis than convert them, since the book is so hideously boring. The same goes for the works of the Marquis de Sade. Pure evil is not as exciting as people think. Reading such books is like being trapped in a room with a droning bore who will not shut up about his obsessions.

  3. I’ve mostly ignored Jordan Peterson, so I can’t speak to what degree he might be considered odious. I did see his previous self-help book, which seems unobjectionable (at least to someone who isn’t woke). I would say that publishers should be in the business of choosing whether or not to publish books, not authors. No reason for a blacklist.

  4. Notice this illogical shift: “[Random House] does not publish works of Holocaust denial or phrenology. It has standards, and it’s reasonable for employees to argue that Peterson does not meet those standards.”

    One the one hand, this statement correctly notes that publishers can reject books if the books don’t meet basic standards. On the other hand, though, it is claimed that **the person** (Peterson) – not the person’s book – doesn’t meet certain standards.

    Which is it? Do we judge the book or the person? If we judge the person, shouldn’t you have to be without sin to cast the first stone (apologies for the religious reference, but it was apt).

    If we judge the person, no one should publish any book because everyone has done or said something crappy or hurtful at some point in their lives. It’s just that we don’t know about the vast majority of those crappy things. But they’re still out there.

  5. The Guardian is arguably the worst “woke” trash can media in the world, and Nathan Robinson is their vigilant janitor. This alt-left pulp journal is busy doing the Corbyn/marxist work in the UK to deny anti Semitism in the labor party so it is no surprise that their authoritarianism is in full bloom with regard to Peterson, who is clearly not right wing as the left depicts him but an independent thinker. One starts to wonder just what other news has been distorted or misreported by this loony left publication. All this is more than tiresome; it is an expanding source of worry over the resurgence of Stalinism on the left. And the worst part of this is that it gives the right lots of ammunition and allows them to be perceived as the champion of civil liberties and free speech. This apparently does not slow down the left one iota.

    1. Oh the Streisand Effect is building quite a bit with this one. I suspect all this hoopla will make the book a best seller in no time and put Peterson and all his crack pot ideas back in the spotlight.

      1. One could almost (jokingly) suspect a conspiracy between Peterson and his detractors to get lots of publicity. How many songs, such as “Roxanne” by the Police, became hits especially because the BBC banned them.

    2. To be fair to the Grauniad, while a lot of their comment pages are unbearably woke, their news reporting is relatively balanced. I’d sooner look to them for accounts of current issues than, say, the Daily Fail or the Torygraph. (I realise this is setting the bar pretty low).

      I understand that Nathan Robinson comes originally from Stevenage. For many UK people, that alone would justify taking no notice of him.

      1. Former Grauniad journalist Gary Younge was also from Stevenage, it must be where they recruit their non-Oxbridge staff (though Robinson went to both Harvard Law School and Yale…).

        Re “setting the bar pretty low”, when Wikipedia decided to stop regarding the Daily Fail as a reliable source, not least because of the cases in which it was proven to have made up quotes – most notoriously when it published the “wrong” version of the verdict about Amanda Knox in the Meredith Kercher murder appeal – the paper sent its finest to doorstep the parents of the Wikipedia editor who had initiated the move.

  6. We live in a capitalistic society where the publishing industry is private and publishing executives work in the best interests of their shareholders. Hence, they decide whether a given book, regardless of its content or author, should be published. They may be pressured from various groups with very varying ideologies as to whether or not to publish a submission. In making their decisions, they take into account how publishing controversial works or authors will affect the financial health of the organization in the short and long term. Time will tell whether these decisions are correct. There is no freedom of speech issue here. Peterson will be published elsewhere if Penguin doesn’t publish it. This situation is not analogous to corporations that make decisions that would degrade the environment. Governmental policies are not involved. What is involved is free enterprise and Penguin’s business decision whether or not to publish Peterson is how capitalism should work. Penguin’s decision may be influenced by cancel cultural. But, so what? It is one element in a decision made by a capitalistic organization.

    1. Yes, yes, but doesn’t it bother you (even a little) that the reason they want to censor the book is Peterson himself – the man- and not the content of the book? Doesn’t that get your spidey sense for fascists tingling? Image these people with real power.

      1. Penguin is not censoring the book. When this site doesn’t publish creationist comments, the views of the commenter are not being censored either. In both instances, the owners of the business can determine what they allowed as long as those decisions do not involve the breaking of laws. People can go elsewhere to have their views brought to the public’s attention. Real censorship is only of concern to me when the government attempts to regulate speech, whether is paper, verbal, or digital form.

        For those who get upset by Penguin’s decision, they have the tried-and-true methods of airing their grievances: letter writing and boycotting. Again, in a capitalistic society, if an organization is not violating any laws then it is free to do what it chooses. In a capitalist society, the free market makes the decisions. This is why monopolies are bad. If you don’t like this reality then you can agitate for the transformation of a capitalistic country into one where the government can step in and censor or forbid the publication of a work.

        1. You evaded my question and I wasn’t talking about Penguin the publisher being fascist, I meant all those delightful wokettes hounding the publisher to censor Peterson. If it were in their power they wouldn’t let anyone publish his book (or anything else), not just their employer.

          Just so it’s clear, I (for one) am not the slightest bit upset about this foo-fa-rah. I don’t give a damn about Penguin’s decision, partly because you’re right – someone else will publish his book. But mostly I’m not upset because I don’t give a damn about Peterson or his ideas. If these little fascists really want to silence dangerous ideas they picked a pretty ridiculous target (from the limited reading I have of him). And besides, all they’ve really accomplished is making sure his book (whoever publishes it) will be a best seller.

          But we should be very careful to ensure that these happy smiling fascists never get any more power than to force their employer to do their bidding.

        2. For those who get upset by Penguin’s decision

          What decision? Have they announced that they won’t publish the book? Google searching brings up nothing but stories about the crybaby staffers. If the company said they were pulling out, I would think the announcement would be easy to find.

        3. Real censorship is only of concern to me when the government attempts to regulate speech, whether is paper, verbal, or digital form.

          So, Jerry bans you from posting here, that wouldn’t concern you at all? You just shrug and move on?

          Of course it would bother you. Particularly if you thought the ban was arbitrary or unfair treatment, or otherwise unwarranted. Even though it’s within his rights, a person exercising their rights to do something we consider unethical bothers us. Or at least, most of us.

          That’s the complaint here. Nobody’s complaining what Penguin did was a constitutional violation. Nobody’s complaining what Penguin did was a violation of lesser corporate rules. They’re complaining because the ethics of it stinks. The same way a private college cracking down on student speech stinks. The same way McConnell doing an about-face on SCOTUS appointments in an election year stinks. These things are not illegal – they’re just show a selfish disregard of broader principles of equality and fairness.

          1. Penguin haven’t done anything yet. AFAIK they are still publishing the book. In fact, the cynic in me says that they manufactured the whole episode in order to generate some free publicity.

    2. There is indeed a freedom-of-speech issue if the employees are of the opinion that Peterson’s book should not be published by anyone, anywhere (ditto Abigail Shrier’s book, etc). The fact that they may not have the power to impose their wishes doesn’t negate the fact that they are highly censorious and need opposing. After all, we may be heading towards a future where they do indeed obtain that power.

      1. There is no freedom of speech issue here. Private employees are expressing their views. You have just expressed an opposing view. If enough people support your views and advise the company of them, they will respond. That is how capitalism works. If your fear, greatly exaggerated in my view, that the Woke are going to take over the governments of the U.S and possibly Canada comes to pass then a free society would be imperiled, just as Trump did. However, I don’t lose sleep worrying about a Woke putsch.

        I find a certain irony in the discussion of this post. I have always been critical of capitalism in many of its aspects, but not in this one. Many of the commenters on this site were critical of socialism during the presidential primary season and campaign. Yet, these staunch defenders of capitalism are now greatly vexed because a private business in a capitalistic society is making a lawful business decision. How strange, indeed.

        1. Except that there are people losing their jobs for “crimes” that really don’t warrant it. Even if a person is a bigot by some definition of the word, do we really think that they shouldn’t be allowed to hold a job? This is really what the Woke are saying in many of these cases. They call for someone to lose their job and even if the management is not also Woke, they fire the person because they don’t want the negative publicity.

          What happens when the supposed bigot gets a new job? Don’t you think some Woke person will find out and try to throw them out of that one? The only thing that would stop that from happening is if they lost interest. With the memory of the Internet and the number of fools online, I would not count on that.

          1. I am not disagreeing with you some people have lost their jobs or reputations because of unwarranted attacks by the Woke. Organizations that succumb to such pressure may be making bad business decisions, but if their actions are lawful then what do you propose to do about it? We can whine all we want about how bad the Woke are, but what can we do to counter them? As true believers in freedom of speech, we can’t shut them up. So, it would seem that the only action to take is counter speech. If that doesn’t work then society is in a hell of a lot of trouble, which will only help the right wing. In other words, the influence of the Woke is a symptom of a much larger problem: the polarization and breakdown of civil society. In this country, the idea of “two Americas,” based on very different visions of what the country should look like is becoming more powerful. This situation helps explain the rise of Trump. There seems to be no notion of how to bring the country back together (or at least not as fractured). The Woke will not be going away anytime soon. Neither will the Trumpist right. But, fear not, we will go on bitching and watch as Rome burns.

            1. First, one who identifies a problem is not also required to solve the problem. It is a difficult problem to solve, that’s for sure.

              When a company dismisses someone for reasons unrelated to their jobs, they may well sue. My guess is that this will happen more and more and that a new set of HR rules will gradually be developed. Right now, the Woke seem to have the upper hand but that may not last. I would suspect that judges and juries will not be so sympathetic to these dismissals.

              Certainly “shutting them up” is not going to be a solution. Counter speech is probably not going to be enough but it’s a start. Many are starting to fight back. Even Obama got into it with his recent comments about how bad “defund the police” was for the Democratic Party. This past election has shown that the center is angry at the extremes on both sides. Rather than demonizing the Far Left and the Far Right, though it is tempting and fun, will probably not work as well as strengthening the Center. These cultural battles take decades. Let’s hope we are in the early days of a swing back to normalcy.

            2. What to do about it? In the same way that it’s illegal to fire someone for being black or gay or female or religious, make it illegal to fire someone for expressing views and opinions.

        2. There is indeed a freedom-of-speech issue here. Freedom of speech is wider than what the government itself censors. Since Mill, it’s always been regarded as being wider, about whether people can speak as part of the mainstream conversation in society.

          We are in the position where a few companies (Twitter, Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc) play dominant roles in society’s conversations. And already they censor sensible, moderate, mainstream opinions because the woke don’t like them (e.g. Amazon banning the Shelby Steele film on the Ferguson killing, Twitter banning people like Megan Murphy, Google deciding search rankings on political grounds). I could easily envisage a near future where, under woke pressure, Amazon refused to handle Peterson’s books, whoever published them. From there the pressure would be on any distributor that did handle them. Many would cave. Are you ok with that?

          And yes, I do think we should regulate private companies where they have dominant market share, to ensure free speech. Companies (rightly) cannot refuse custom because the customer is black or gay; similarly we also need to protect opinions.

          1. Perhaps your ideas would work in the U.K. I don’t know. I doubt that in the U.S. we will see a time when a national censor would have the power to regulate what speech businesses must or must not allow. Such a proposal sounds much too socialistic for the American taste. It is true that organizations such as Facebook and Twitter have bowed to pressure and at least made attempts to censor untrue assertions made during the presidential campaign. But, I find it hard to believe that these businesses will be forced by government to publish certain speech. Such a proposal is probably unconstitutional.

            1. Didn’t the US used to have a “fairness doctrine” applying to broadcast media? That was then repealed, and has led to the current situation where one TV station broadcasts non-stop pro-Trump propaganda and another TV station broadcasts non-stop anti-Trump material — this is not good for society.

              Let’s suppose, in the next US election in 2024, Facebook, Twitter, Google and Amazon get blatantly partisan, and actively promote one candidate and denigrate the other, in all the content that they allow. Would you say, well, as private companies they have every right to do so?

              1. The old ways only worked because the cost of publishing or transmitting was high. Organizations with power and money supported policies like the Fairness Doctrine because they had reputations and business interests to protect. Now anyone can say anything to anybody for free so none of that works very well.

              2. This is for Paul Topping but there is no reply button beneath his comment.

                The old ways only worked because the cost of publishing or transmitting was high. Organizations with power and money supported policies like the Fairness Doctrine because they had reputations and business interests to protect. Now anyone can say anything to anybody for free so none of that works very well.

                Amazon, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube wield far more power than any organisation pre Internet.
                If you can’t get your video published on Youtube, you can publish it elsewhere, but who’s going to see it? Likewise, what percentage of the population of the developed world uses a different online book retailer to Amazon?

              3. Don’t know about the missing reply button.

                I agree that those companies have cornered their respective markets. It’s an issue worth addressing from an “unfair competition” point of view but that’s a separate concern from what I was talking about. I’m not an antitrust expert but the Feds don’t seem to go after such things much or, if they do, it is too late for the complaining competitors. Since the Internet makes it so easy for companies to create new product categories and then dominate them, perhaps a new approach is required.

                As far as the original issue is concerned, I think something does need to be done about the ease with which misinformation can be spread, the lack of accountability by the spreaders even if we can identify them, and the general lack of trust, is something that should not be addressed as an antitrust issue, IMHO. These companies would much rather stay out of the monitoring, verification, and censorship business but they are unable to. Some kind of solution needs to be set up that allows them to do business without having to worry about those things. We don’t want them worrying about it and they don’t want to worry about it either, although the reasons probably differ. Instead of pointing fingers at them, we should help them. Of course, neither side has any idea how to solve the problem which is partly why each blames the other.

                Twitter currently marks tweets that question the validity of the presidential election. It is a very mild statement to the effect that instructs the reader to question the tweeter’s claims. This was demanded by Dems and Leftists. Twitter would much rather stay out of it. On the other hand, Trump and his followers call it censorship. Of course, it isn’t censorship and their election claims are wrong but many of their followers don’t understand that. Trump can easily convince his followers that Twitter is just part of the giant conspiracy against him. In short, it is a complete mess that really doesn’t improve the situation.

        3. To appropriate the hymn, “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name”:

          All hail the pow’r of Capitalism’s Name!
          Let angels prostrate fall;
          Bring forth the royal diadem,
          And crown It Lord of all!
          Bring forth the royal diadem
          And crown It lord of all.

          Ye chosen seed of Capitalism’s race,
          Ye ransomed from the fall,
          Hail It Which saves you by Its grace,
          And crown It Lord of all!
          Hail It Which saves you by Its grace,
          And crown Capitalism Lord of all!

          Aahhhhh-Human Capital.

    3. > Penguin’s decision may be influenced by cancel cultural. But, so what? It is one element in a decision made by a capitalistic organization.

      That’s poor reasoning. Having a capitalist economy does not prevent business owners and employees from pursuing goals other than making money.

      Your argument can be summarized as “might makes right”.

    4. I don’t think it is good enough to simply say that this is just capitalism working the way it should and that the book will get published elsewhere if Penguin make the business decision to drop it. The posse of protestors will undoubtedly follow the book from publishing house to publishing house doing their level best to prevent it from being published at all. By making enough sound and fury they might well succeed and a book that is certainly a strong commercial proposition would not get published – not because of the ideas it contains but because of other views the author is alleged to hold. It is hard to see how that is not censorship. Nathan Robinson is not analogous to Jerry Coyne choosing to not permit someone to post something he finds offensive on his own web-site. Robinson is not a representative of Penguin saying thanks but no thanks. Rather, what he is doing is arguing that a person whose views he disapproves of should not be published by anyone anywhere. Of course in the marketplace of ideas Robinson has the right to express those views every bit as much as Peterson does to express his; what is distasteful is when vociferous lynch-mobs shout down views that don’t chime with their own and prevent them being expressed at all.

  7. I have noticed that the woke seem to have no understanding of how businesses operate.

    Penguin Random House should tell the employees their expected profit from the book. Then they should allow the concerned employees to take pay cuts in exchange for not publishing the book. If enough employees put their money where their mouths are, PRH could cancel the book.

  8. Once again we have a bunch of ordinary people demanding that all or part of someone’s professional life be destroyed or damaged simply because they express ideas with which they don’t agree. This is enabled by social media but it is ridiculous to blame the technology. It simply enables a level of communication that never existed before. Cancellation, the spread of fake news and conspiracy theories, and the failure of trusted media outlets are all part of this problem. Society is going to need to adjust to this new reality. It’s good that the Internet allows everyone to be a publisher but, as with pretty much any big change, there are downsides that must be dealt with.

  9. Peterson is not a crackpot, by any stretch. There is a decent youtube video of him with Harris discussing various topics, and though Peterson’s style of talking can be a bit annoying, his ideas are interesting. Watching a discussion with Harris gives you a quick insight into his thinking. The crackpot designation given to him by the left is insip at best, containing plausible deniability via woke parsing of his words.

  10. Employees should be able to petition their employer for any reason, and it doesn’t have to make sense to anybody else. If they feel their publisher should not publish a Peterson book, they should be allowed to air such opinions and try to influence their house. It would be better they wouldn’t squander such possibilities on frivolous cases as long as strong labour laws aren’t cast in stone, which I favour. Perhaps, they are solid in Canada.

    I still don‘t agree with PZ Myers who is very woke. He is not motivated by left wing concerns such as giving more power to employees. He made abundantly clear that his principle is simply a disdain for Peterson or anyone opposed to woke culture. That principle is really tribalism. When the woke are the subject of criticism in any way, he defends it totally. If they are themselves the critic, or as is typical for callout culture (woke by an ealier name), they are the harassers, bullies and dog-piling hordes, he was always seen defending them with absolute certainty.

    An aeon ago, he was adamant that it was “exactly right“ when Adria Richards took a picture of two guys a row behind her (violating privacy), who allegedly made a “dongle joke” she had overheard. One of them was fired after online pressure mounted. To the likes of Myers, he wasn’t fired, and when he really was, it was for a different reason, and if not, it’s alright that he was fired.

    Last point. It‘s indeed a typical issue that woke people just cannot accurately criticise, and aren’t worth paying attention to. The reason is that histrionic hyperbole is rewarded, while “walking back” or in any way correcting misrepresentations is heavily discouraged. Myers’ comment section was a great example for this. He later just banned everyone not a perfect clone of his woke commentariat. His content and naming scheme (“freethought”) follows the “Democratic” People’s Republic of North Korea.

    Nathan Robinson likewise is completely incapable. He says “After all, [Peterson] has suggested that gay marriage might be a plot by cultural Marxists“ which leads to a short clip, which is about the right of bakers to not bake for gays. Peterson says they shouldn‘t be forced, but that does not make their view “right”, i.e. he disagrees with the bakery. Then the interviewer brings up whether someone should be allowed to refuse serving a black couple. Peterson ponders this, and then corrects his view and ends with “maybe I was wrong about that”, that a bakery can refuse to serve gays.

    So much for the first link. Of course Peterson was often ranting about “cultural Marxists” and his views are often simply false, conspiratorial or incoherent. But the trouble with the woke is that they never want to engage with others or their ideas. They favour bullying, harassment, doxing, and lying. They want to cancel any perceived opponents of them, and create a chilling effect, their blasphemy laws around woke culture mumbo jumbo. Their arguments are ultimately just a pretense to persuade other dumb people who don’t check the source.

    1. I agree with your first paragraph entirely. Publishers can publish or not publish anything they like (within the law) for whatever reason and that might include “because our employees object”.

      Likewise, employees are free to refuse to do their job if it requires them to compromise their principles, but they should be prepared to accept the consequences, which include the possibility of having to resign or being fired.

      By the way, Adria Richards also ended up being fired. If she had followed the appropriate procedure in the conference’s code of conduct, nobody would have got fired and everybody would have ended up a little wiser and perhaps better.

  11. Mein Kampf is still published, after all.

    As is Marx’s Capital, and both by Random House, though not Random House Canada.

    Given the murderous rampages of the two authors’ fanboys last century, not only should these books be withdrawn from publication, but so too should any books making use of Nazi or Marxist notions, which would significantly dent critical theory and sociology publishing.

    Alternatively, we could trust readers to use their judgement, and let book publishers deal with the financial consequences of their (mis)judgement of the market place.

    1. Marx’ ideas can be critisised in all sorts of ways, in particular by flatly ignoring the 19th century working conditions of the time it was written. But simply dismissing it, or wanting it banned, on the grounds that it somehow inspired atrocities 50 years after Marx’ death is not a serious position to take. I know you don’t say it should not be banned, but even the hypothetical doesn’t work.

      What’s more, Marx “Das Kapital” is a standard work of economics. It’s ridiculous to compare that with Hitler’s ramblings or some 12-rules leaflet.

      The controversial work would be the “Communist Manifesto” which is pretty harmless by today’s standards; argues for such things as public transportation but in the end wants the much-cited revolution. It cannot be meaningfully connected to Stalin’s crimes, such as the Holodomor and nobody does, except for right wing cranks who also blame Stalin’s crimes on “atheism”. Reality is much more complicated. Already the Trotzkyists saw Leninism-Stalinism as a counter-revolution that pretty much returned Russia to a kind of monarchy, but with a different Tzar. Christopher Hitchen identified himself as a Marxist and Trotzkyist, for example, which means, there is no connection that would inexorably lead to starving millions in the Ukraine.

      And no, this is not a full-throated defense of Marx and his ideas. I am just annoyed by this kind of “criticism” that uses Marx more like a loose scare word. Such critics want to say Soviet, or Stalinist, where it would be correct, but of course deep down the right wing propagandist knows that usual leftists have not much love for Lenin, Stalin or the Soviets (though a faction exists, known as “tankies” — not well regarded). That’s why they try to smear more basic concepts, like socialism, or Marxism with Stalinism.

      Peterson himself is fond of this too, but he only looks silly to connect completely class-poverity-desinterested woke people with Marxism, which is about class. As if Marx had any idea about 2010s American critical race theory rubbish, that ran through a Tumblr telephone game and was then regurgitated out on Twitter, half digested. The World Socialist Web Site is one of the biggest critics of wokism, by the way.

  12. HAHA! Peterson IS weird – good way of putting it, but I’m convinced he’s not a bigot, nor a transphobe (I’m generally suspicious of that term anyway as outside the cross worshipping fundies most people simply don’t have time or interest in transphobia).

    I’m very familiar with his work and his dodgy religious shell games piss me off AND his dietary advice is indeed extremely nutty bordering on dangerous. He’s not alt-right, if anything he is a vaccine against alt-right thinking and white supremacy.

    Is there a term for people who see transphobia, alt-right or white supremacy in EVEYTHING – even in a toasted sandwich or a window smudge – b/c there should be as it is a common affliction.

    So my jury is out on a final verdict of this undeniably bright and I think well meaning weird guy.
    His odious, narcissistic daughter Michalia however….. don’t get me started…


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