Paul Little at large
Paul Little is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Paul Little:Controversy a publisher's dream

The publicity around Ian Wishart's book on Macsyna King has been a publisher's dream. Photo / NZ Herald
The publicity around Ian Wishart's book on Macsyna King has been a publisher's dream. Photo / NZ Herald

The Facebook page urging a boycott of Breaking Silence, the story of Macsyna King, written by Ian Wishart, has been a stunning victory for unthinking hysteria.

Those opposed to the book would have done more damage to its fortunes by saying nothing and not drawing attention to it. As it is, they have made Ian Wishart the beneficiary of the sort of publicity most small publishers can only dream of.

Wishart is a professional controversialist and fundamentalist Christian whose beliefs prey on our worst instincts. Big brother is watching us. Helen Clark had a secret agenda. The justice system favours criminals. Name a right-wing piece of lunacy and he is likely to be for it. Fortunately, we live in a society where he has every right to express his opinions, no matter how crazy.

Publishing is not a democracy. We don't get to vote on which books are printed. From Mein Kampf to the Bible we allow books to be published and sold that propagate ideas many of us find offensive.

But it is one of the fundamentals of our society that everyone is entitled to express their opinion, no matter how extreme. Once our reading matter is determined on the basis of witch hunts, we are in real trouble.

Wishart has said that King will receive no money for this book, but admitted he will. He hasn't said how much, but that's quite easy to work out. He is certainly paying no more than $4 (and probably considerably less) a copy all up to produce the book, which he is selling for $33.99. A print run of 30,000 has been mentioned. That would make it one of the best-selling books of the year and is unlikely. Let us be conservative and allow that Wishart will sell 2000 copies of his book. That will net him a tidy $60,000.

Wishart is not the only person to benefit from the controversy. Various media bottom-feeders have also made a meal of it. I watched one radio announcer on social media trumpeting his upcoming interview with the publisher - first as "after four o'clock", then "in the next hour" then in "five minutes". The same announcer had sacrificed any pretence of objectivity by joining the Boycott the Macsyna King Book Facebook page not long after it was set up, but neglected to mention that on air when doing the interview.

And the person who lived through the case, and gave Wishart her story will, apparently, not receive a cent. Clearly, whatever else she may have done or not done, King has let herself be exploited for someone else's benefit.


SAS, injuries, electoral reform and Macsyna King left little space on the news landscape this week for the results of a survey into joy. In what appears not to be a hoax, chocolate-maker Cadbury has gone to the trouble of finding out which sounds inspire most joy. The top three are: children's laughter, music and native bird song, all of which, in my experience, have a powerful ability to drive any sane person to distraction and misery, depending on the context in which they are heard.

The stunning findings don't stop there, however. The research, credited to Aaron Jarden, president of the NZ Association of Positive Psychology and a "share the joy consultant", also unearthed the facts that people laugh more on the weekends and we don't much care for the sound of fire crackers or V8 engines. I'm no psychologist, but I'm pretty sure I could have come up with those conclusions on my own in five minutes for probably half the money that Cadbury spent. I look forward to seeing the results of Dr Jarden's research into whether eating affects hunger and if sleeping has any impact on fatigue.


I too was shocked by the Newsweek cover showing a digitally altered photograph of Princess Diana as she would look now if she were still alive. It was one of the worst jobs of photoshopping I have ever seen.

- Herald on Sunday

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