The kids at Penguin Random House Canada (PRHC) were shocked – shocked! – this week to learn they worked for a company determined to profit from selling books, even those written by Jordan B. Peterson.
PRHC announced Monday that the author of 12 Rules for Life, which sold millions of copies for the company worldwide, had penned a sequel entitled Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life. It will be released in Canada in March under PRHC’s prestigious Knopf Random House imprint.
According to Manisha Krishnan at Vice, who has the best account of the heated town-hall held at PRHC the day of the announcement, several employees confronted management about its decision to invest further in a man world-famous for refusing to refer to transgender students by their preferred pronouns — a man they say is “an icon of hate speech and transphobia and… white supremacy.”
It was not simply the fact that PRHC was publishing another Jordan B. Peterson (above) that irked. The book was not announced, even internally, until the last minute.
“I feel it was deliberately hidden and dropped on us once it was too late to change course,” an employee told Vice.
Management’s subterfuge supposedly prevented staff from getting out in front of the book and canceling it the way employees and writers at Hachette had bullied their bosses into dumping Woody Allen’s memoir last March, the week before the world changed.
Another complaint was that since last spring, PRHC “has been doing all these anti-racist and allyship things and them publishing Peterson’s book completely goes against this. It just makes all of their previous efforts seem completely performative.”
For my part, I was shocked it took the PRHC employees this long to figure out what was going on under their roof. SHuSH broke the story more than a year ago.
As SHuSH reported, Peterson’s representatives, Creative Artists Agency (CAA), were shopping his sequel around New York in the summer of 2019, right around the time young staffers at Manhattan media outlets were enjoying their biggest successes in canceling people whose views they considered wrong or objectionable or dangerous. The New York Review of Books had just rebelled against their editor-in-chief’s decision to print Jian Ghomeshi’s non-apology for his reprehensible antics, leading to the dismissal of said editor-in-chief. And the New Yorker’s staff revolted when editor David Remnick’s invited Steve Bannon to speak at a magazine event. Bannon was outlawed and Remnick apologized.
[Correction: Just learned that Peterson moved from The Cooke Agency to CAA, the mega-American agency, after the success of his last book. The text has been changed to reflect the move.)
CAA’s first stop with the sequel was Penguin Random House US, rich cousin of Penguin Random House Canada, and both of them part of the Penguin Random House multinational publishing company, a division of Bertlesmann, based in Gütersloh, Germany.
Penguin Random House US had famously whiffed on the opportunity to publish 12 Rules for Life a few years earlier, leaving all of its phenomenal profits for Random House Canada, which sold the book around the world almost by default. Penguin Random House US wasn’t going to make the same mistake this time. The CAA people were warmly welcomed. Jordan B. was offered a fat contract with the Random House U.S. imprint. He signed. All was good.
At least, all was good (as reported earlier) until Random House U.S. announced to its staff the good news that the best-selling Canadian controversialist had joined their ranks. Inspired by their peers at the New Yorker and New York Review of Books, the staff howled. Management swiftly folded. Peterson was told that Random House U.S. wouldn’t be his publisher, after all. PRH would release him under another suitable (i.e., inconspicuous) imprint — it’s got hundreds of them.