Nathan Robinson cuts right to the bone here on why it’s perfectly legitimate for employees of Penguin Random House to protest any contract with Jordan Peterson.
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?
Unfortunately, there’s also a reason Peterson’s new book should have publishers lining up to take it on: there is a legion of gullible fans willing to pay good money for it.
That is a short-term excuse, though. In the long run, you’d think a publisher would want to be able to maintain some level of prestige and some quality control over the books released under its imprint. I think the employees of Penguin Random House are seeing an imminent degradation of the value of their work, while management just has dollar signs in their eyes.
Jordan Peterson really is just one step toward Holocaust denial and phrenology; a publisher shouldn’t aspire to be Quillette, either.