The other day there was an uproar over Amazon’s selling of a “how to book” for pedophilia. The book discusses, in graphic detail, how to practice pedophilia without getting caught. It’s a disturbing book.
I read about it here, on TechCrunch (beware, it’s graphic.) When asked, Amazon originally defended its position, saying they don’t censor. Amazon’s response and Michael Arrington’s post on the response created a heated debate. The debate was around freedom of speech. Many folks felt requesting Amazon to remove it was in violation of free speech. GigOm and the New York Time also suggested this was a free speech issue. I disagree. This is not a free speech issue.
The most popular comment was this one:
“We are very much in favor of free speech. But ”
Like I said on MG’s post, once you include a ‘but’ then it is no more free speech. You use the exact same words as another commenter did: “I support free speech, but…”
People always say that just before proving that they don’t support free speech. It’s the human tendency to rationalize by compensation. Similar to someone saying “I’m not a racist, because I have black friends. But black people (insert racist stereotype here).”
Mike, you are clearly NOT a believer in free speech. You supported Facebook censoring Holocaust deniers, now you support Amazon censoring this author. That’s fine- you have the right to an opinion like anyone else. Just please stop the hypocritical “I support free speech but…” and be honest about your biases.
And posting excerpts of the book in the hope of inciting an emotional response and support for your view may work with readers that are not so smart. More intellectual readers will see through your transparent emotive manipulation. The objectionable nature of the excerpt only serves to reinforce the point that free speech arguments are only relevant precisely when someone is saying something disgusting that you don’t like.
I think this person got it all wrong, on two counts. First, this isn’t a free speech issue and two, free speech has never been completely free. It’s never been all or nothing as this person suggests.
Here was my response to his comment:
No matter how you try to slice it, free speech has never been completely free. This has been accepted for years. You can’t yell fire in a crowded movie theatre, you can’t use language with the intent to incite riots etc. To suggest free speech is black or white, all or nothing is disingenuous at the least.
That being said, despite Michaels reference to free speech, this isn’t a free speech issue. Free speech is a right given and protected by the Gov. Free speech is alive and well here because:
1) The book has been written and can be sold openly
2) Amazon has the choice to carry it or not
3) You, me, or anyone else can buy the book, without legal reprisal
As it stands, free speech and our constitution are doing just fine.
This is an issue of values and individual/corporate responsibility. Facebook and Amazon are not the government, they have the right to sell what they want to sell or block what they want to block, just as we have the right to buy what we want or not buy what we don’t.
The disturbing part of Amazon’s decision is it appears to be in contrast to their own policies. I find it hard to believe Amazon would take this stance against a book title: How to Kill a Nigger and Not Get Caught or How to Get Away with Killing your EX Wife, that depicted real and tangible approaches to being successful.
Amazon has every RIGHT to sell what ever they want. They have the right to create their own policies, what is at issue here is how they are choosing to interpret their own policy. And I think that’s where they are dropping the ball.
I am a huge advocate of free speech. I would never keep the KKK from marching and spewing their words. However, I don’t believe free speech is a free for all. “But” has always been part of our definition of free speech. We have free speech “BUT” we can’t yell fire in a movie theatre. We have free speech, “BUT” you can’t call someone a Nigger or Chink to their face and claim free speech. We created “BUTS” to free speech a long time ago. I like the boundaries we’ve created. They provide almost unfettered freedom, while still protecting society. I also believe free speech is provided by the government and individuals and businesses have every right to choose their own boundaries with in that.
Amazon has every right to sell that book and the rest of us have the right to tell them to stop. If Amazon chooses to listen it’s not censorship or a violation of free speech, it’s just the opposite. It’s them exercising their right to say they don’t agree with that material and their not going to sell it. If they choose not to listen, that’s them also exercising their right to sell what ever they want.
No matter what Amazon chose to do, free speech is doing just fine.
What do you think?
Is it censorship?
Is the authors freedom of speech being violated?
Is this a free speech issue?