In the aftermath of the Christchurch mosque attacks, the New Zealand bookstore Whitcoulls removed psychologist Jordan Peterson’s bestselling book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, claiming that the book was connected to the shootings. Shortly afterward, the bookstore’s social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter mysteriously disappeared.
Internet journalist Tim Pool shared a message from Whitcoulls on Twitter. “Unfortunately 12 Rules for Life is currently unavailable, which is a decision that Whitcoulls has made in light of some extremely disturbing material being circulated prior, during and after the Christchurch attacks,” the bookstore wrote. “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.”
So they banned Jordan Peterson's book… but… uh… pic.twitter.com/V9tfxpRrog
— Tim Pool (@Timcast) March 21, 2019
Pool slammed the bookstore, noting that Whitcoulls still sells Adolf Hitler’s notorious manifesto, Mein Kampf.
Other users pointed out books explicitly criticizing Islam, given the Christchurch shooter’s hatred for Muslims.
Here’s a list of books you CAN buy at #Whitcoulls #12rulesforlife #jordanpeterson
– the wolves of Islam: Russia and the faces of Chechen terror
– the rebuke of Islam
– tolerant Islam vs extremism
– ideals and realities of Islam
– Islam and the economic challenge
— Nathan Mulholland (@natetha68) March 22, 2019
Despite Whitcoulls’ suggestions, there are no known direct links between the shooter and Jordan Peterson. When the shooter live-streamed his attacks, he encouraged viewers to subscribe to PewDiePie, a YouTube star who has hosted Peterson. Peterson himself has subscribed to PewDiePie, but that hardly means the shooter was inspired by his book.
The shooter also attacked “nihilistic and degenerate pop icons,” and 12 Rules for Life attacks nihilism. Peterson’s book slams nihilism because it inspires mass shooters as in the cases of Columbine and Sandy Hook.
Finally, some have suggested that Whitcoulls may have removed Peterson’s book because the author just returned from a speaking tour in New Zealand, and he posed for a photo with someone in a t-shirt reading, “I’m a proud Islamophobe.”
This is @jordanbpeterson and a fan during his speaking tour in New Zealand.
February 19th, 2019. Less than one month ago. pic.twitter.com/kQzhY39eSl
— Dan Taipua (@D__T_____) March 15, 2019
While anti-Muslim animus is indeed a real problem, the term “Islamophobe” has been so overused as to lose its meaning. Many who have merely criticized radical Islamic terrorism have been branded “Islamophobes.” In such a context, some have embraced the term as a sign of their opposition to terrorism and the ideology behind it.
That strategy may deserve criticism, but Peterson’s book should not be censored merely because he posed with a man in a t-shirt that offends some people.
Indeed, Whitcoulls has received a great deal of criticism for its decision.
The Federalist’s senior contributor Daniella Greenbaum Davis slammed the censorship.
— Daniella Greenbaum Davis (@DGreenbaum) March 22, 2019
Quillette editor Andy Ngo rightly called the decision “bizarre.”
— Andy Ngo (@MrAndyNgo) March 21, 2019
PragerU did the same.
This is just bizarre.
New Zealand bookseller Whitcoulls has BANNED @jordanbpeterson's book "12 Rules for Life" following the mosque massacre.
Yet Hitler's Mein Kampf is available for sale.
— PragerU (@prageru) March 21, 2019
Stuart Weston, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Maryland, mockingly praised the bookstore for banning “a book about taking personal responsibility for your life because of ‘extremely disturbing material being circulated’ regarding [Jordan Peterson]. I’m don’t remember Hitler having disturbing material being circulated, so keep selling Mein Kampf.”
Good job Whitcoulls, ban a book about taking personal responsibility for your life because of "extremely disturbing material being circulated" regarding @jordanbpeterson. I'm don't remember Hitler having disturbing material being circulated, so keep selling Mein Kampf #bravo
— Stuart Weston (@StuartMWeston) March 22, 2019
Perhaps due to the backlash, Whitculls seems to have pulled its social media accounts on Twitter and Facebook. The @WhitcoullsStore Twitter handle is now blank, as is the Facebook account “Whitcoulls.”
— Tyler O'Neil (@Tyler2ONeil) March 22, 2019
It seems this bookstore did not just censor Jordan Peterson, but also responded to criticism by cowardly withdrawing from the spotlight. Shameful.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.