Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Amazon, Don't Make Me Boycott You Right Before Christmas

So there was this maelstrom on Twitter today that was picked up by media and bloggers everywhere. Someone found a self-published book, "The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure," being sold as an e-book on, and raised a ruckus. For some, the fact that it was available on the site at all led them to call for a boycott of Amazon. (update: the book's page on Amazon is now a 404 message; not clear if it's just down or if they're really removing it from stock).

So Amazon responded, in part, with: “Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable. 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.”

OK...except that it's not censorship for an outlet to refuse to sell an offensive book, just like it's not censorship when sponsors pull out of Dr. Laura's radio show. No one's coming to arrest this guy, or Amazon, for selling a despicable manuscript. No one's saying he doesn't have the right to be, well, despicable. (For a more in-depth look on why this isn't censorship or book-banning, see Backpacking Dad. Actually, see Backpacking Dad for all your logical rhetoric.)

Today I've been watching the back-and-forth between bloggers on this issue.

We as a society have a responsibility to protect our children. I also think we do a lousy job of it. Maybe I'm overly sensitive to it since my profession involves trying to heal abused children, but actually, I think most of y'all are in denial about how prevalent physical, emotional and sexual child abuse is.

Here we have a how-to manual on how to victimize a child, and how to get away with it. This is not a gray area. This is not a treatise on how incest and child brides have historical relevance and should therefore be considered normal. I'm sorry, but this is not an idea that deserves to be protected. And, as Backpacking Dad also points out, for the slippery slope argument to work, you have to prove that the slope is slippery, not that it's there.

Wringing your hands and asking, "But where does it end? Are we going to ban the Bible too because some people find it offensive?" is as ridiculous as wondering if gay marriage will lead to people marrying animals.

I am not in favor of banning books or restricting free speech, and on the whole I respect booksellers who try to offer as wide a selection as possible. If Amazon really believed in that, they'd sell porn. But I also believe there is a greater principle here, and that protecting children from anyone who'd buy a how-to manual on child molestation is more important than worrying about the rights of Philip R. Greaves II to sell it.


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