Kahui book hubbub – Moral outcry or madness?

Ian Wishart’s book – Breaking Silence: The Kahui Case – has spurred some retailers to not stock the book. All I ask is, what are people afraid of?

I agree with Wishart

I never thought I’d say that I agree with Ian Wishart but I support his position that free speech is the loser in the debacle surrounding his book on the Kahui twins.

I am as insulted as any decent human being that no one has been formally punished for what appears to be the murder of two defenseless children. However, if we are to get to the bottom of this and justice is to be served, we should encourage all sides to be heard. At the moment we’ve heard nada.

Wishart’s book, Breaking the Silence – The Kahui Case is a tell-all from the perspective of Macsyna King, the twins’ mother. The ensuing public outcry is based in part on the claim that Mrs King will profit from the tragedy, a claim Wishart denies. He says Mrs King will not receive any of the royalties from the book.

Let’s hear what someone has to say. The knee-jerk “how dare you profit from the death of the twins” emotional appeals achieve nothing of value. 

Capitulation to the mob

Perhaps the worst aspect to this hubbub is the refusal of Paper Plus and the Warehouse to stock the book. This appears to be an act of utter cowardice and capitulation to a loud and angry group of Facebook users.

Why should some people decide what can or cannot be sold in a book store? What right do they have to deny others the choice?

I noted with amazement the statement in the NZ Herald by Warehouse representative Nick Tuck:

We have received significant comment from our customers today both directly and online with regards to this book. Overwhelmingly, they have told us that they do not wish to buy it or see it on the shelves.

This is where the disconnect with reason occurs and why Ian Wishart is correct in saying:

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.

At the time of writing, Whitcoulls hadn’t made a call on whether to sell the book, though one feels that with the companies recent woes the phrase “beggers can’t be choosers” is appropriate.

Thankfully, one retailer – Booksellers NZ has maintained its integrity by not only choosing to stock the book, but they also stated: “We have never and will never ask or tell any of our members not to stock a particular title. The titles they stock are their choice as individual business owners.”


Disagreeing with the content of a publication is NOT a reason to demand it be suppressed. There is a reason free speech is cherished in democratic societies and why it is despised in authoritarian and ideologically driven ones.

As much as I disagree with Wishart’s  climate change denial and find his religious views somewhat puzzling, I support his right to make these claims and let the arguments stand or fall on their own weight.

It seems everyone loves free speech when it is their views being represented. Demanding our views be heard while expecting others to shut up when we don’t like what they have to say is the height of hypocrisy.


2 responses to “Kahui book hubbub – Moral outcry or madness?

  1. I wonder what kind of response I would get if I emailed a store every time I saw something I didn’t want to buy. How is the petition to the Warehouse any different? The logical answer is, if you don’t want to buy it, then don’t buy it. The rational answer also says that just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t exist.

    But when have these discussions ever been logical or rational?

    • viewfromreality

      True Phil. I understand bookstores make marketing decisions about books but this is clearly a different animal altogether. So if we shout loud enough we can stop books from going on sale? People seem to get way too uptight when they find something distasteful – their feelings shouldn’t overtly influence mine or anyone else’s choices in a negative way.

      I think this book will be successful because in part humans generally are attracted to what is taboo.

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