Amazon And The Ghost Of Thomas Jefferson

20 Nov

What if Amazon decided not to carry my book? 

I can’t think of any moral reason for them to do so, as in the case of The Pedophile’s Guide To Raping Children, or whatever that book was called, the one they recently yanked down, so what if instead, there was simply an inspiring movement of thousands and thousands of people who swarmed Amazon saying, Tom sucks and his book sucks and we don’t want you to carry it.

And then suppose Amazon finally caved, called me up and said, Tom, listen, we’re not going to distribute your book because the consensus is that it sucks. 

Is that a violation of free speech?  See, I know that Amazon doesn’t determine if your book sucks or not, I’m just saying, not having your book distributed isn’t equal to outlawing it, or burning it, or violating your rights in terms of writing it.  You can say or write what you want.

The fact is, if you’re a writer, you’re going to hear something along the lines of “we’re not going to distribute your book because it sucks and you suck” approximately five million times before anyone ever says anything different.  That’s part of the gauntlet you have to run, in order to get your work out there.

So if I’ve been told for twenty years that various agents and publishers and magazines are not going to distribute my work because I suck and my work sucks, then how does this pedophile somehow get the automatic right to the same thing? 

I’m seriously confused here – it’s not because he’s a pedophile is it?

Of course, yes – I know.  Amazon will currently distribute just about anything. 

But those are two different concepts, the Constitutional protection of free speech, and Amazon’s policies regarding what kind of books they’ll sell.  Just because they happen to be  very similar doesn’t mean they’re dependent on each other.

Amazon’s decision to carry just about anything is almost certainly not an idealistic one.  They’re not saying, we are the Right Arm of the Constitution and we will defend the liberty of all who wish to have their voices heard.  They might want you to think that, and they might posture as such, but really, that doesn’t sound like an enormous, profitable corporation to me. 

No, I think their rationale is a far more cynical type of Let’s Sell As Many Books As Humanly Possible.  Unlimited subject matter equals more books.  And if you don’t think that’s the case, if you think Amazon’s policy is idealistic as opposed to profit-driven,  then please explain why, when this erupted into horrible publicity for them, they went ahead and took it down?

Also, Amazon does place limits on what they sell.  Here’s a link to their Content Guidelines, where you will find a long list of things they won’t sell, despite the Constitution.

They won’t sell pornography, for instance, even though pornography is protected by the Constitution.  Did everybody notice how the Thought Police failed to show up, when Amazon made the decision not to sell pornography? 

If you’re a writer, you can write what you want, but distributors still get to tell you to go screw.  You’re also free to get your picture taken in all different kinds of sexy underwear, but Victoria’s Secret doesn’t have to put you in the catalogue.  You can sing all you want, but that doesn’t mean you get a record deal. 

It really doesn’t seem that complicated to me.

Now, in this article, CNN quotes an anonymous commenter – which I hadn’t seen that before, a news article quoting a guy who dropped in a comment, but okay – as saying “I think we can all agree that we don’t want someone else censoring a subject matter that we may be interested in. Religion, atheism, homosexuality, etc. are some subjects that spring to mind …”

His comment goes on longer than that, go on over and check it out if you like.  But I can’t help but notice, this person has selected three harmless concepts for his analogy, and then ignored any of the fifteen or so concepts on Amazon’s own list of what they simply decided not to distribute.

Again, try releasing The Terrorist’s Guide To Beating Airport Security.  Now we’re in the Analogy Ballpark, see.  Speaking of things that “we can all agree on,” terrorism and child molestation seem to me that they’d make the list. 

But listen, go to a Christian press, ask them to distribute your Atheist book.  They don’t have to, you know – you have to go somewhere else.  Oh, you can write it, folks can read it, but Jericho Publishing doesn’t have to print it for you or mail it anywhere. 

Two debates here.  Is the book protected by free speech – almost certainly.  CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Tobin states that quite clearly at the end of the article.  This is a perfectly legal book.

So is a picture book about hookers and donkeys and torture machines, so it doesn’t seem to me like that’s the point.

Can Amazon sell the book?  Well sure, it’s protected by free speech.  But they choose not to sell the hooker/donkey book and they (briefly) chose to sell the pedophile book, and the subsequently chose to stop.  See how they make choices as a company and the ghost of Thomas Jefferson doesn’t show up with flames coming out of his eyes?

All that happened here was a bunch of customers showed up instead, and helped Amazon make the right decision here about what else they should refrain from distributing. 

Apparently, they needed it.


Earlier, and considerably angrier:  The Pedophile’s Guide To Shutting The Hell Up


Posted by on November 20, 2010 in News/Commentary, Writing/blogging


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 responses to “Amazon And The Ghost Of Thomas Jefferson

  1. Kimberly Kinrade

    November 20, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    Well written, Tom. It’s really not a free speech issue. Apparently, (and thank you for this inadvertent defense strategy) I am NOT an evil anti-civil liberties that some folks tried to paint me as.

    I’m just anti-pedophile/child rapist. Seems reasonable to me.


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