By Vaimoana Tapaleao, New Zealand Herald , Thursday Jun 30, 2011
The Paper Plus group and The Warehouse yesterday said they would not stock Breaking Silence: The Kahui Case because of an overwhelming outcry from the public.
Last night, 30,000 people had joined the Boycott the Macsyna King Book Facebook page.
Whitcoulls is expected today to make an announcement on whether it will join the boycott.
Author Ian Wishart defended the book, saying the stores had given in to unfair public pressure.
"I am saddened that New Zealand booksellers, who have been going through a hard time in recent months, have fallen victim to a Facebook lynch mob campaign.
"It's a sad day for the New Zealand media because if we can't tell stories by going to both sides and getting people to speak up because it offends various groups in the community, then freedom of speech is being seriously threatened.
And also the rights of New Zealanders to buy books."
Full story at New Zealand Herald.
This story raises serious issues about which The Bookman will be commenting later today.
Is this the first New Zealand published book to produce this kind of reaction? I can't think of any others.
'The death of free speech' is rather hyperbolic. As you (I think) pointed out on Nine to Noon today, no bookseller can possibly stock every one of the hundreds of thousands of books published every year. Selections are made, and I support the right of retailers to decline to stock titles for whatever reason they see fit - even if I find that reasoning unconvincing, to put it mildly.
However, I do think it's in order to point out the double standards of booksellers who decline to "profit from human misery" by stocking 'Breaking Silence' while they are perfectly happy to do precisely that. It's not exactly hard to find in Paper Plus and The Warehouse dozens of "true crime" books containing graphic details of horrific crimes (and/or rank speculation about unsolved cases), memoirs by convicted sociopathic thugs and novels/DVDs containing excruciatingly graphic depictions of violent abuse of women.
It annoys me when people like Wishart bandy about phrases like 'death of free speech' - this situation is not that at all.
Freedom of speech is the right to be able to voice your opinion without the government throwing you in jail (or worse) because they don't like it.
It's not the right to say whatever you want with no consequences whatsoever.
Wishart is free to write whatever he wants, and self-publish it. He doesn't have any intrinsic right to have bookstores stock his book, just as no writer has an absolute right for anything they write to be stocked and sold by a bookstore.
It's all about choice. He can choose to write it. Other people can choose to read it or not - and voice their opinions about it. Bookstores can choose to stock it, or not. If they choose to stock it, then they accept that other people are free to choose to not buy it, boycott it, or change their opinion of the bookstore because of the decision they made.
Personally, I have no interest in reading King's 'side of the story', or anything written by Wishart in general. But I also haven't joined the FB group opposing the book.
Post a Comment