March 25, 2019

Major New Zealand bookstore chain removes Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life from its shelves


New Zealand’s response to the horrific string of deadly shootings in mosques on March 15 is one worth studying.

Most notably, the country’s Prime Minister Jacinda Arden announced in no uncertain terms: “Every semi-automatic weapon used in the terrorist attack on Friday will be banned in this country.” I’m not using a rhetorical device when I say I can’t imagine such a phrase ever being uttered by a politician in this country, both for its directness and for the clarity of its vision for a better world.

Now, according to the New Zealand Herald, a major New Zealand bookstore chain, Whitcoulls, is no longer selling rightwing psychologist and professor Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life, as a response to the viciously anti-muslim attacks.

Peterson is known for invoking a type of a Jungian analysis to ward off the evils of cultural marxism (by which he often just means multiculturalism). In this spirit, on a recent tour of New Zealand Peterson posed for a photograph with a fan wearing a shirt that says, “I’m a proud Islamaphobe.” It is perhaps the clearest example of his ideas about free speech, and the tidiest possible takedown of those misguided ideas—all wrapped up in one photograph.

Enter Whitcoulls, who emailed their customers the following message, describing their decision to pull Peterson’s work as:

A decision that Whitcoulls has made in light of some extremely disturbing material being circulated prior, during and after the Christchurch attacks.

As a business which takes our responsibilities to our communities very seriously, we believe it would be wrong to support the author at this time.

It’s beautiful in its simplicity. Surely there will be cries of censorship (as there would be tenfold on the right wing in this country), but, of course, it is not censorship. It is merely an organization choosing who and what to support based on their values.

And, bravo, it is excellent praxis. You too can help fight the creep of fascism and xenophobia in your community, and we have a handy guide for you.


Ryan Harrington is a senior editor at Melville House.