Amazon in the news – AGAIN!

As many of you have probably heard Amazon was going to sell a book many people were offended/upset by.  While I was planning on not addressing this on the blog (at all) and let the whole thing go by seemingly unnoticed by myself it seemed imprudent to do so.  I’ve spoken about the First Amendment a few other times on this blog and, while that is certainly something that plays out here as well, the larger issues and implications are vital to address.  [I’m currently wishing I had done my post on Corporatism already, but I will nonetheless persevere].

The issue as I see it amounts to a few different things:  Why do we not want this book to be sold?  Why do we hold Amazon responsible for this?  What do we aim to accomplish by getting a massive book retailer to not sell it?

For my part, I don’t care if they sell it.  They’re not hanging out a banner and saying “hey, if you can prove you’re a practicing pedophile you get a discount!” And, honestly, even if they were I probably still wouldn’t do much more than boycott them and encourage others to do so as well.  Power of the dollar and all that.  The reasons I don’t are pretty simple in concept and it does go back to legalities and private industry.  Does the company have a right to sell a book?  Yes.  Does it have a right to sell any book it chooses to?  Yes.  Does Amazon endorse pedophilia by selling this book?  Not necessarily.  Given other people’s hostility about this I can respect Amazon’s decision to not sell the work, although I really wish they would be more stalwart in their defense of free speech by keeping it available to those who want to purchase it.  Truth is, I know few people principled enough to not buy from the guy who has the cheapest deals in town (although that is hardly something one should bank their business practices on) for any significant amount of time.

Amazon is a company whose interests rest pretty solely upon selling lots of stuff to lots of people who, presumably, have varied interests.  Nothing more or less.

By advocating a big seller like Amazon to NOT sell a book like this is nothing more than what other people are doing when they challenge books so their libraries/schools won’t carry/teach them.  What does that solve?  It means a bunch of people offended just told a whole bunch of other people that they didn’t have the right to learn about or read a work.

We can argue about subject matter all we want, but that’s really all it boils down to.  People are offended and upset by the subject matter, which is understandable (yes, I said understandable), but the finger of righteousness is a larger issue at hand.  Where does one limit the reach of that almighty finger that is busy smiting projects it disagrees with from the public record?  How can one do so?

Some people have argued about the responsibility of the company to “society” (I’m reading the Communist Manifesto right now so I’ll hold on my rant about THAT gem for later) in NOT selling this book.  How so?  Don’t buy it.  No one’s making you.  This argument seems to be based upon the notion that a book could encourage people to act on pedophilia urges.  Hogwash.  We can argue until the cows come home about what might encourage certain behaviors, but just as that rampant idiocy about increased violence from video games continues to circulate, so goes this.  People who are prone toward such things are not going to suddenly act out abusive notions on kids because of a book, even if they cited the book as the reason they’d just be denying personal culpability of their actions – and it is not the text that acted (by definition it can’t), nor are people who had no interest in it before reading the book out of potential curiosity going to suddenly feel the urge to attack children.

Even if that’s the reason people are using for their upset there is now something in the US called the Patriot Act (no, I don’t like/support it) that enables the government to track who buys what and put them on a watch list.

And here is my righteous pointing finger as I yell:  How DARE you tell me what I CAN NOT read!  Who gave you that right?!

Matters of interest might be things like Larry Flynt’s impressive efforts in support of the first amendment.

Then there’s this excellent article about legislating morality with the most vital quote as follows:

And again, who gets to decide what’s moral?

I totally admit that I’m actually curious to read this book now simply because of all the vitriol.  Then again, I’m already reading Morrison and Marx so the notion of reading something else that will more than likely raise my blood pressure doesn’t strike me as a good idea.

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31 responses to “Amazon in the news – AGAIN!

  • Glynis Jolly

    Bravo!

    I don’t plan on buying the book but this act by Amazon assures me that if I ever get anything published, they will sell it if the $$ deal is right.

    • kimberlyloomis

      Glynis – Lol! I like your optimism.

      More than likely true. I did hear, however, that they were going to pull it which makes me kind of sad. But, alas, it’s their business and their choice. Either way I have a $10 gift certificate for them that I plan on using at some point. 😉

  • Jan

    I suspect that this issue should be more about morality than dollars. But you are correct, who gets to decide what is moral? My understanding is that the court system was set up in this country so that decisions could be made. My understanding also includes the fact that laws were on the block each time a case came up until the past 50 years or so. Without the right to vote out a law, juries are simply puppets of the court.

    Dollars are only moral when you realize that your life is spent earning them. If you don’t value your life, you don’t value dollars. Very simple.

    Beyond that, freedom of choice is a given so long as no one gets hurt. Pedophilia hurts children. Will reading a book on it make you a pedophile? will it cultivate latent leanings or make you aware of your past? It could. In a world of possibilities anything is possible. In a world of probabilities, the liklihood is perhaps very very small.

    • kimberlyloomis

      Jan – I agree this is about morality in the end, but I have serious issues with people using their own morality to limit the choices of others. It’s tyranny, imperious and brutish in the highest order without ever offering a concrete plan to curtail the impact of such things upon other law abiding citizens.

      If this could encourage pedophilia then so, too, could “Lolita” or even memoirs describing such terrible acts. In the end a person will choose to commit the atrocity or not, a book doesn’t matter – the choice does. People made the choice to do such things before this book was present or thought of leaving the best thing we can do for children by way of protection is in empowering them and making the best choices we can. There are never any guarantees.

  • sara

    Amazon has a responsibility to society just like everyone else. No, I don’t have to buy it but what about my neighbor who does? How does that affect my life?

    I realize, Kim, that you are very firm in your defense of freedom of expression, even when you disagree with the thoughts expressed, but perhaps not everyone has thought this through as thoroughly. So here are some of my thoughts.

    Is hate speech protected by the first amendment? What about words and pictures that harm people, harm children? What about words that encourage others to harm people? Am I allowed, SHOULD I be allowed to write and spread an ideology that advocates evil?

    I realize that if you are consistent in the belief that there is no objective morality then it is impossible for you to say that murder, racism, rape, pedophilia are “wrong” but I am under no such constraint.

    Further, if you really think that there is no objective morality, then you can’t even judge my position that there IS objective morality. You can’t say that censorship is wrong because there is no such thing as wrong. Or rather everything is equally wrong. Or equally right.

    Practically speaking, yes Amazon and other businesses do not usually recognize any moral law and are generally only influenced by the power of money. So those of us who recognize morality, do vote with our dollars and exercise our freedom of speech (ha!) to influence other to our point of view.

    • kimberlyloomis

      Sara – I’m not a collectivist and I hold to the notion that society is merely a way of categorizing people while not acknowledging the individual. Individuals make up society and exist with or without it; society can not exist without people. In order to consider society then one must be forced to consider the individual.

      Morality in definition alone is not objective. It can’t be. People are not objective, their interpretations are based upon their personhood (many cases this is their dogma) and life experiences. One faith has a set of morals that goes completely against another faith’s – so whose morality rules? Who decides?

      Wrong and right is based upon morality itself. Things that are “wrong” or “right” are not universal for reasons already encompassed in my above statement about morality. Each person’s morality (or each faith’s – however) decries different things as wrong and others right. When ruling upon such notions it then does come back to who the dictator is and why. If the new dictator’s morality, as dictated by his dogma, states people with red hair must die because it’s WRONG to let them live then we would be wrong to do otherwise. We might argue contrary to this, but the issue is the morality at play. If we begin by ruling according to SOMEONE’S morality then we all become subject to it.

      Many forms of hate speech are protected even though I do view the limitations of freedom of speech with the ultimate derision. Seems as though freedom has become misapplied and abused to assume one can use them carelessly without concern of punishment or reprisal, i.e. no need for responsibility. This is not the case. With freedom there is great responsibility, without it (as is seen too often in the states with “Big Brother”) we have a constant down turn of people not thinking about their actions and the possible consequences of them.

      • sara

        Kim, I’ve gotten my thoughts together but what I intended as a comment is nearly essay length. Would it be more convenient if I just posted on my own blog? Let me know which you prefer.

      • kimberlyloomis

        Sara – Throw up the blog then link it here in the comments. 🙂

      • kimberlyloomis

        Sara – I thought it would be longer. If I knew it would be this length I would have said go for posting it here. 🙂

        Here’s my response (it’s long so I didn’t want to post it on your blog in case that wasn’t what you desired):
        You’re mixing up law and morality as it suits. I wish I could put that better, but there it is. The Constitution was not set up to promote morality, but to insure freedom. In order for people to be most free the government was to protect the things that enabled it: life and property.

        Morality is a judgment call that differs from culture to culture. Try discussing your values with the Ayatollah for example. Would that work? Why not? You can scream you’re right all you want, but by their own imposed set of morality you’re the one that’s wrong. The only thing declaring you’re right is your belief.

        Objectivity, for it to be applicable, requires people to not be subjective. This would require a concrete interpretation from all individuals with NO variation betwixt them. And still the question would remain: How could you prove the people got it right? What system of measure would you use?

        Society does not exist separate from the people. It is, by definition, a group of people. As such it can not be considered as a separate entity from the individuals. Socialists and other people who vie for collectivism argue contrary to this, but that is incorrect. Take away the individuals and you have no society (assuming society is a group of people). The only way for this to happen is through democracy which then still considers the individuals in the tallying of the majority deciding things for all. Of course it also puts that majority in the position of boss to the others making the smaller group of individuals subject to the moors of the majority.

        As people we have responsibilities. If you commit a crime, get caught, are found guilty, you are put into prison. Why? Because you violated the law. The responsibility to live within the law is yours. If other people get away with it, that matters not. You did it, you got caught, you pay the penalty. By advocating responsibility I am not saying you’re responsible for my actions, but for yours. Nothing more or less. How is it appropriate to argue that I (or my child) should have less choice and less responsibility because you do not want it?

        Natural rights seems to need discussing – will do so in an actual blog post though.

        [Right and wrong can have two contexts: An assertion of fact (correct/incorrect; wrong/right) or a declaration of the righteousness founded upon a belief.]

      • sara

        I don’t mind continuing at my place. I’ll cut and paste your comment.

  • sara

    Hey Kim, let me think about this a bit and let it sink in.

    • Rich

      Sara, after reading your comments I thought I’d like to throw in some thoughts. This is in direct reply to your blog post, but I post it here to keep it in this thread.

      First, I want to say that I accept your claims here as evidence of morality, but not “objective morality.” Any concepts based on the belief of a few, a majority, or every single person is subject to the innate subjectivity of people. There can be no objective standard of beliefs.

      You address rape here. Millions of Dalits in India would be pleased to know that when they are raped, some majority thinks it is wrong somewhere in the world. Too bad it’s not there, one of the largest countries by population in the world.

      The most important point, however, is that either everyone who is sane must deep-down agree or we must live by pure democracy — there is no other way to live in the “objective morality” you propose exists. Since we don’t all agree about everything, not even the deepest points (racism is still alive, for example, and some racists do not consider others to be human at all), who decides what that universal morality is?

      I suppose that is the point: you are saying “objective,” by philosophical definition that is impossible. You seem to be arguing for a universal morality.

      To respond to the last points…
      ” we do, in fact, legislate morality. ”
      Yes, but that doesn’t make it right.
      “Murder and theft would still be wrong even if there were no government laws against them.” Yet we cannot agree on what murder is. Some say killing for beef is murder, some say abortion… if we limit it to born persons we might find agreement until someone wants us to define “people” the way they believe it. Dalits already suffer from this.
      That is exactly why our system is a rule of law: all people are to have equal rights and responsibilities under the law.
      ” We, as a society (there’s that word again), hope to bring our laws in line with our collective (again) conscience.”
      There is evidence of a collective unconsciousness. There is no scientific proof or evidence of an collective conscience. The common use of it implies “we must agree, because I am right” since there is no way to explain for people who disagree.
      “Sometimes our laws are a reflection of the hardness of that conscience, as in the case of slavery and Jim Crow laws in the U.S.” Interesting case, and another topic completely — one that I find makes a good case for NOT legislating morality.

      But the part that drove me to respond was this: ” In that world why would freedom be accompanied by great responsibility? Who has the right to burden me with responsibility?”
      Exactly the point: you have it. All the laws and otherwise simply place an illusion on who is responsible. Yes, people are completely protected to say anything. The biggest issue in this society is that we are removing responsibility. Incite a riot? Each person rioting is responsible for their own actions — yes, people are shown to act herd-like at times (and pro-socialist theorists have done much to derail thousands of years of philosophy), but rational people override this (literally and logically). People make the choice to act as humans, or they default to being animals. That is exactly why each person is responsible to themselves and their own actions, their own morality. After all, if one person’s morality disagrees with the social norms, there are repercussions.

      We are all responsible for ourselves, always.

      • sara

        Oh Rich, I don’t think I could disagree more. I am not only responsible for my own behavior for and toward myself. I am responsible to my fellow man. sappy? maybe, and I don’t have time at the moment to support it. But I do believe that ideas have consequences.

        Did you understand my statement about an objective morality that stands apart from whatever is believed about it? I am not, at the moment, giving a list of moral laws or saying that there is a consensus about what would be included on such a list. I am saying only that such a morality exists.

      • Rich

        Sara, you’re welcome to believe you are responsible for your fellow man. Tell me, though — to what end are you? If someone refuses to be responsible for their own actions, what can you do to help? Do we owe kindness to those who would stab us?
        I am glad to be kind not because it is owed, but because it feels good to be so.

        If there is an absolute morality but it stands apart from what is believed about it, who is to say what it is (or if it is)? You’ve pushed the god argument here: you believe it, so it cannot be disproved.
        Morality, by definition, relates to a society. We are not one great global society. Hence, you must be arguing that some higher power has a morality for all of us? Perhaps I miss something, but that is the only logical deduction I am seeing. I am not saying I don’t believe it: I’m saying it logically cannot exist.
        If you make the claim that there is a universal code of ethics, perhaps I would agree — if you could present that very list. Otherwise you are arguing not philosophy but religion. That’s not something to argue, it’s something to believe. Your right, of course…

        What I disagree with the most is that ideas have consequences. Actions do, but ideas that do not become actions are passing thoughts. Positive thinking can change things, but no evidence of negative thinking hurting another exists… without action. Thought crime creates a level of subjectivity in the law that is so horrible I cannot imagine a good argument for it. Thus far it has created more problems in the small ways it pops up than not in this nation. The socialist and fascist regimes of the past 100 years fared poorly under them as well.

        Back to the point, even if it is semantics alone: if you cannot provide a list moral objectives, how can we have objective morality?

        The idea that we are all free is something that I would not suppose all humanity embraces. Most in this culture claim the “founding fathers” came up with “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Indeed, this was modeled after earlier thinkers… but the concept of universal freedom as a human condition is at least a compelling argument. The idea that we are all slaves to others is a very depressing outlook on life, but one you are advocating by claiming some responsibility to others.

        You asserted a degree of servitude by being told you are responsible for yourself. This is illogical: whom would be oppressing you but for yourself if you are responsible for your own life? One cannot be oppressed by any but themselves and their own willingness to owe others.

      • sara

        Rich, please forgive me for only skimming just now. I will give your comment a more thorough read and a good long think when I am able. Quickly though, I didn’t say anything about absolute morality; I said objective. I see how the two might seem similar but they are not the same. Absolute lives without context and objective lives within it. More another time, ok?

      • kimberlyloomis

        Sorry to jump in here, Sara, but this has been bothering me. The dictionary definition of Objective: ob·jec·tive (b-jktv)
        adj.
        1. Of or having to do with a material object.
        2. Having actual existence or reality.
        3.
        a. Uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudices: an objective critic. See Synonyms at fair1.
        b. Based on observable phenomena; presented factually: an objective appraisal.
        4. Medicine Indicating a symptom or condition perceived as a sign of disease by someone other than the person affected.
        5. Grammar
        a. Of, relating to, or being the case of a noun or pronoun that serves as the object of a verb.
        b. Of or relating to a noun or pronoun used in this case.

        Seems as though you’re operating on a different definition as to work with that in combination with the definition of morality is paradoxical.

        Look forward to checking out that blog when you get to it. 🙂

      • sara

        Hi Rich, I’ve been reading over your comment and thinking about how I’d like to answer. You seem to have a lot of the same objections that Kim does, so I’m going to try to address them at the same time. If, when I’ve finished, I haven’t explained my position clearly to you, please do ask me to clarify.

        I’m not trying to build suspense or anything, since I’m sure my reasoning is fairly immature compared to those who’ve gone before, but it takes me time to put thoughts into sentences. Hopefully by tomorrow or Saturday I’ll have posted my thoughts on my blog and will link back here.

      • sara

        Hey, here it is. http://breakingground.wordpress.com/2010/11/21/objecting-to-morality/

        Kim, I am using a different definition as you’ll see.

        Just because it might be interesting maybe some other time maybe we can talk about whether or not other intangibles (like pain?) exist objectively. But not now! 🙂 You wear me out!

  • Jillian

    … I hold to the notion that society is merely a way of categorizing people while not acknowledging the individual.

    That’s a really interesting point. Makes me think…

  • litlove

    In France a few years back there was huge moral outrage over a novel that depicted a pedophile from his point of view. Children’s associations called for the book to be banned and the author was hunted by a lynch mob. I got hold of the book and read it – it was hilariously terrible. Its real crime was against the gods of literature, and how it got published I shall never know. Oh well, that’s not true – it was published because it would be controversial and evidently there were high hopes it would sell on the back of that. It was certainly the only reason it would sell. I kind of feel that under these circumstances, we should all ignore such acts of aggressively provocative marketing. What’s the real outcome of this? Amazon gets lots of publicity, and if you think that there is no such thing as bad publicity, then it works in their favour. And a book that is probably just provocatively titled gets more sales than it deserves. No real life pedophiles don’t need manuals and ordinary people won’t be seduced into changing their behaviours on the strength of a book. I think it’s best to ignore such stunts and let the products die the death they deserve.

    • kimberlyloomis

      Litlove – That’s actually why I didn’t want to bring it up. Still, I couldn’t get past my own frustrations about the rancor and vitriol of people calling for censorship; remaining quiet wasn’t an option.

      No real life pedophiles don’t need manuals and ordinary people won’t be seducedinto changing their behaviours on the strength of a book.

      Excellent words.

      • litlove

        Oh I hasten to add I didn’t really mean YOU shouldn’t have brought it up – these things should certainly be discussed, and the more voices in the discussion the better. Just that we shouldn’t feel obliged to jump when provoked.

      • kimberlyloomis

        Understood! 🙂 Honestly, it pains me to think it unwise to ignore the subject and its pretexts. These things ultimately boil down to one thing: the righteous looking to impose their morality upon others through disallowing choice. My freedom loving soul rails against such things. My husband said something brilliant to me the other day and so I feel the need to quote him here: “Freedom of speech and regulating contrary to it is not an issue of the slippery slope; it is a threshold that once crossed can not be undone.”

  • martha drummond

    If Amazon doesn’t sell it, someone else will. It is Amazon’s right to decide what they want to sell. No authority should tell them what they can or cannot sell however. Apple has set up specific ethical protocols regarding sexual issues and is concerned about growing abuses on line. Marth

  • objective morality « Breaking Ground

    […] bloggy friend of mine who likes to think and read and write  has put up a post in defense of Amazon regarding the pedophile book scandal.  In it she writes about her belief in […]

  • Hart

    HA! We’ve found an issue on which we agree absolutely, completely and totally! I think you said it very well here–I may not LIKE a certain book, but I will NEVER believe it is my right to keep it from somebody else, and I will fight for the right to read anything I darned well please.

    (and no book has the power to make somebody do something they are not otherwise compelled toward–it’s possible it might be the spark for something already set to explode, but another spark would have come if said ‘book’ had not been it)

  • Arlee Bird

    There are plenty of books on plenty of topics that I think are wrong and immoral and they are sold plenty of places. For that matter there are plenty of activities and behaviors that were once considered wrong which are now deemed by many as acceptable and legal. Viewpoints and morality changes, not always for the good, but according to the dictates of society and the marketplace.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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