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.