Thursday, November 11, 2010

Amazon is Amoral and Complicit

This is written in support of Catherine Schaff-Stump. I make this publicly known, because she is making her position publicly known.

Allow me to quote Helen A.S. Popkin from her MSNBC story, "Amazon defends pedophile's guide."

Amazon issued a statement that will no doubt fuel the outraged comments multiplying on the "Pedophile's Guide" Amazon page. "Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable," it reads. "Amazon does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts, however, we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions."

In order to keep this within reasonable bounds, I will be discussing my personal experiences with this issue, and not the many other problems I have with Amazon.

When I worked at a book warehouse, we found ourselves faced with a similar situation. I had an opinion, stated it loudly and frequently, and regardless of my influence we would up handling it the way I thought we should.

The book in question was a collection of essays written by priests in support of pedophilia. It had an introduction by William Burroughs, which really bothered me. I use fucking Burroughs as a resource, he's been a tremendously important and influential writer for me, and the man gives every exterior evidence of being ... Well, shit. You know what I mean. This kind of toxic crap.

There was the initial and major outcry from those who, for whatever reason, needed it to be known that unlike most people they opposed child molestation.

Then came the censorship backlash, the idea that by not carrying the book we were somehow doing something worse than child molestation. People would get a funny look on their face when you got them to admit that that was their position, but they usually stuck to it. See the above Amazon statements for their basic position.

Here's what I said.

"If I pick up that book and put it on a cart and take it down to the packing line and send it on its way, then my energy -- my muscles, nerves, and brain -- are acting directly and conclusively on behalf of that book and its message. Censorship is the act of preventing people from creating and distributing work. Refusing to help people who are opposed to your ideas of right and wrong is something different. It's called discrimination. You fucking idiot!"

If you act as a distributor without discriminating, that does not absolve you of responsibility for the effects of the works you put out in public. And it certainly does not absolve you of complicity when your resources bring financial aid to those who act decisively against the best interests of our society.

Neutrality is amorality, and amorality is complicity. Amazon has taken the book down, but that does not lead me to believe that they are any less amoral -- if you poke a dog with a stick until it stops biting you, that doesn't mean you can throw the fucking stick away.

I don't like Amazon. I don't trust Amazon. And I don't think I'll be buying much from them after this. The MacMillan debacle kept me away for quite some time. This might do it for good.


EFKelley said...

What it boils down to is that they don't want to pay someone to check every title that goes up self-published. I mean I can *SAY* that I'm writing a space opera and halfway through it's erotica. They don't want to have to check that. So they but the 'buyer beware' label on it and have a dip in the money bin.

I'm torn on the issue. I honestly think there should be a like/dislike function. Get enough dislikes, and it should be flagged for review. And then there should be a reviewing process! Don't just say 'yeah we looked at it' when they didn't (coughYouTubecough)

To Amazon's 'the author has a right to his opinions', I would say 'Do you really want those particular opinions expressed via your megaphone?'

Sean Craven said...

I'm certainly not suggesting that they inspect each item, but unless there is some stated procedure for dealing with unacceptable material, I have to go by Amazon's public statement, which is, "We choose to regard information as a value-neutral commodity, and have no intention of publicly taking responsibility for this kind of shit."

That's amorality. And that means that like it or not, everything that comes through Amazon now bears a bit of kid-fucking taint. That's hard for me to swallow.

All they have to do is say, "You know what? Something actually heinous, like dog fights or baby rape or whatever? Yeah, we'll knock that shit out if we find it." That's all I'm asking. Not for any crusade, just a stated policy that states, "Yeah, some stuff is too ugly for us."

Glendon Mellow said...

Hell yeah! Your story about working in the warehouse really hit home.

You can't use your energy to support something you don't believe in. Glad they removed it, and free speech in support of physical abuse to children is too perverse a position to take.

Sean Craven said...

Simply put, Amazon is about nothing but numbers. They have no interest at all in content or culture. And they choose whatever position they take based on profit. That is amorality of exactly the kind that's dragging this world down the crapper.