Over the past few days, Jordan Peterson’s critics have been doing their utmost to publicise his forthcoming book, Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life. The famous clinical psychologist announced the publication on his YouTube channel on Monday, and within hours the book was being widely denounced on social media for its hateful content. This is quite a feat of the collective imagination, given that nobody has read it yet.
Much of the furore has come about because employees at the Canadian branch of the publisher, Penguin Random House, have called for the book to be cancelled. After multiple complaints were filed, they confronted their management at a meeting in which some burst into tears and shared their stories of how the evil Professor Peterson had caused such emotional havoc in their lives due to his ‘problematic’ opinions. According to a report in Vice, ‘one co-worker discussed how Peterson had radicalised their father and another talked about how publishing the book will negatively affect their non-binary friend’.
This is just the latest example of a new trend of activist employees threatening to strike for ideological reasons. At the audio-streaming company Spotify, workers recently demanded editorial control of Joe Rogan’s newly acquired podcast series, after they had successfully removed a number of episodes deemed to be controversial. At publishing giant Hachette, employees threatened to walk out after JK Rowling’s children’s book, The Ickabog, was announced. All these internal revolts have failed, presumably because figures such as Rowling, Rogan and Peterson are too popular to cancel. One wonders how a less lucrative artist would fare under such circumstances.
As Ray Bradbury predicted in Fahrenheit 451, books will be burned to protect everyone’s feelings as much as to block the content within them. But I’m not sure if even he would have predicted that it would be the publishers’ staffers who would be manning the flamethrowers. Of course, in Penguin’s case, their bosses are partially to blame as well:
On Wednesday, America’s Newspaper of Record had a simple cure: Staffers Crying Over Jordan Peterson Book Cured By Forcing Them To Read Jordan Peterson Book. Those who manage such a crybully workforce would benefit from reading Peterson as well.