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Friday, February 28, 2020

Should Amazon Go Communist On Nazi Books?


Image result for book bans images

Amazon recently caused a stir on the right and left when news leaked it has been banning certain books or selling materials that were censored by others. It again raises the argument: should books be banned in America?

If you are going to ban books, you should publicly list which ones they are, state why, and show a consistent approach in your rules as to what makes the cut -- and what doesn’t.

Amazon doesn’t do any of that.

They are hypocritical. While it bans books by David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader, and George Lincoln Rockwell, the founder of the America Nazi Party, it still sells books with plenty of questionable imagery and views. It also sells other controversial memorabilia, just as it does with Confederate books or memoirs of killers, rapists, and terrorists.

No one believes the world is better by Amazon selling hate-filled propaganda – except for racists – but the world is worse off when the biggest bookseller quietly bans books. If it does it with these books, what stops them from removing books espousing other views, values, theories, or histories, simply because it disagrees with the content?

I suppose some books challenge us, legally, morally, and psychologically.  Do we want books about bomb-making, pedophilia, or encouragement for violence?

There’s never a good answer to any of this. Free speech cuts both ways – Amazon can choose to sell what it wants to and writers can choose what to write about, just as consumers choose what to buy. But free speech can’t force a store to sell something anymore than it can force a writer to write something. Free speech really is a government issue. 

The U.S. can’t stop Amazon from selling a book by or about a white supremacist nor can it stop or force someone to read/buy the book. But we all tend to think of free speech has going beyond that.

Americans want free speech without retaliation from a government, employer, or housing development.  It wants to have people speak freely, without retribution. But it also expects people to be respectful, fair, and kind-hearted. Well. Americans don’t really agree on anything. One person’s love is another’s hate. One’s garbage is another’s gold.

Amazon gets a huge demerit for not having a clear and consistent policy and for not stating which books are blacklisted. But the bigger issue is beyond all of that. We need to resolve how to allow for all views to be heard while voluntarily encouraging that we have more tolerance by both writers and readers.

It’s a tricky balance. It’s an unending quagmire than many have been nuddied and bloodied by.

Perhaps Amazon should just go back to the ethos Jeff Bezos espoused in 1998, when Amazon was an ambitious start-up, when he said:“We want to make every book available – the good, the bad and the ugly.”  He believed customer reviews would “let the truth loose” and dictate what gets purchased or rewarded.

The Nazis, ironically, rose to power once information was controlled by the state and books were banned, burned or censored. First they keep you in the dark. Then they confiscate your rights and property   Then they enslave or kill you.  Amazon has triggered that first stage, though no one would compare them to the Nazis. But knowledge and information are invaluable assets to keep our nation a free and thriving democracy.

I will always err on the side of books. Write what you wish. Publish and sell them. We hope writers, publishers, and stores will act responsibly, accurately, honestly and fairly. But as we can see, challenges and loopholes are always with us. It is something we must live with.


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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2020. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by WinningWriters.com as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America.

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