25 November 2020 20:30
For employees of Canada's largest book publisher, it was just too much to handle. Outrage, anonymous complaints and even fits of crying were on full display during an employee town hall at Penguin Random House Canada following Monday's announcement that the company would publish Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life — the new book by controversial psychologist Jordan Peterson. Try refreshing your browser, or New Jordan Peterson book causes tears to flow at publisher Back to video Beyond Order will be Peterson's third book, expected to hit bookstores next March. The publishing news caused outrage among some employees, so says a story inVICE. Try refreshing your browser, or Monday's announcement happened alongside a company-wide town hall meeting, where a number of upset employees reportedly lashed out at executives defending their decision to publish the book.
One employee, who VICE chose not to identify, accused Peterson of being an "icon of hate speech and transphobia," as well as "white supremacy." Another described staffers openly crying during the meeting, detailing the trauma Peterson caused in their lives. There was a time when publishers had to battle with external forces for their right to publish controversial authors. It was censorious politicians and moralistic campaigners who marshalled state power and boycotts to try to ensure that allegedly subversive or risqué material never saw the light of day. Witness the goings on at Penguin Random House Canada, where several staff members have confronted management over its decision to publish a new book by controversial Canadian psychologist / self-help guru Jordan Peterson, called Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life. According to Vice, a 'townhall' meeting was held to discuss staffers' concerns.
Another improbably claimed Peterson had 'radicalised their father' with his self-help advice. This isn't the only time recently that a publishing house has been plunged into civil war over allegedly 'hateful' authors. In June it was revealed that staff in the children's department at Hachette were refusing to work on a title by JK Rowling, because of her views on gender identity. In the world of journalism, heads have rolled following revolts from younger and woker staff. The New York Times' opinion editor was forced out this year for publishing an op-ed by a sitting senator, calling for the army to be used to quell rioting in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. A generation of staff is emerging within previously liberal institutions, who think being confronted with opinions they disagree with is tantamount to violence; who act, when a writer they dislike is signed by their firm, as if management had just hired a registered, unreformed sex offender. But before that it's also worth making a simpler point: that the behaviour we've seen at Penguin Random House and elsewhere is babyish and pathetic. If these people cannot deal with the existence of views different to their own, they probably shouldn't work in publishing. Too often polite society tries to placate this unhinged illiberalism, treating it as misguided but trying to be right. But this worldview is not only authoritarian, it is also risible, and claims that a kooky psychologist's self-help book is basically Mein Kampf should be met with the derision they deserve. Big-ticket authors can look after themselves, but the same isn't true for those writers and workers further down the pecking order. For the sake of free speech, liberal institutions – and everyone else, for that matter – need to grow some backbone, and refuse to indulge the overgrown infants in their midst. Penguin Random House Canada staff members have criticised the company's decision to publish a new book by controversial psychologist Jordan Peterson. On Monday (23 November), the publishing house announced that it would be releasing Peterson's forthcoming book Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life. In the UK, the book will be published by Penguin Press, a subsidiary of the Penguin Random House conglomerate. As reported by Vice, a recent town hall meeting at the company saw several employees confront management about its decision to publish the book. The 56-year-old Canadian author and professor of psychology is a hugely controversial figure. Peterson has attracted a substantial far-right following, having styled himself as an opponent of so-called political correctness. One town hall attendee told Vice: "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." The Canadian clinical psychologist and university professor has become hugely popular for his 'anti-PC' views and is beloved of many on the alt-right. Another claimed that "people were crying in the meeting about how Jordan Peterson has affected their lives". A third told the publication that the company's decision to publish Peterson's work goes against its anti-racist and inclusion initiatives, rendering them "completely performative". Multiple employees also said that they believed the company had been intentionally secretive about publishing Peterson's book. One staff member claimed that the title did not appear in an internal database that normally includes all future releases. "I felt it was deliberately hidden and dropped on us once it was too late to change course," said one staff member. They suggested that if workers had known of the decision earlier, they could have considered a walkout in the same vein that Hachette employees had done when the publisher announced it would be releasing Woody Allen's memoir. In a statement issued to Vice, Penguin Random House Canada said that it remains "committed to publishing a range of voices and viewpoints". The statement read: "Our employees have started an anonymous feedback channel, which we fully support. We remain committed to publishing a range of voices and viewpoints." The Independent has contacted Penguin Random House Canada for comment. Peterson was fairly unknown until 2016 when he posted a lecture to YouTube declaring that he would not use gender-neutral pronouns for transgender students at the University of Toronto. In the video, he also condemned Bill C-16, a legislation that increased protection for trans and non-binary Canadians. He quickly became an alt-right figurehead and has since amassed 3.26 million subscribers on his YouTube channel where he posts videos on a number of topics, including his take on why white privilege is a myth.