As of now, after an apparent jump in sales, Amazon is no longer selling a guide to pedophilia. And while this may not end child abuse, this is not "book-banning." If it's permanent, Amazon has made the right call.
For everyone who wondered at the actual content of it, Techcrunch reports that it is, in fact, a how-to guide to the abuse of children. Yesterday evening, Amazon was saying this:
"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."
They said similar things in the Early Show clip above, which also features an interview with the creep author himself.
Widespread hysteria over the sale of a book is rarely warranted, and our post was decidedly unhysterical. But that doesn't mean that you can't lodge reasonable objections to the distribution decisions of a powerful company that many of us regularly patronize.
Here are two representative objections to Amazon pulling the book:
I know that there are plenty of people who say those exact things about homosexuality. And that there are people out there who object to books about gay sex or relationships just as vehemently as people are protesting this "book". So where is the line, and who is equipped to make that call?
The answer is that the company selling the book makes that call, based in part on its business interests — which can include the objections of many of its consumers, based on their values and standards. Including objections to distributing material encouraging the abuse of children.
They also sell Mein Kampf, The Anarchist Cookbook, The Turner Diaries, and Ayn Rand. All are just as evil. Get outraged about all of them or none.
But why? There's no rule that a private business needs to draw all lines or no lines at all. Not all "offenses" are created equal, and pretending that all form of moral objection are created equal merely cedes ground to the World Net Daily crowd. Why allow them to lasso never-consensual child abuse with consensual relations between adults?
Once again, Amazon is a private business that can make that call wherever it wants, and when it exercises that right, it doesn't constitute "censorship." It merely means that said objects, which could likely still be found elsewhere, aren't given a mainstream imprimatur or the implicit endorsement of the seller. It's in Amazon's business interests to draw the line in such a way that will alienate the fewest of its customers. It doesn't mean they have to sway with the tides of public opinion, but making no decision at all is also a cop out, and if they choose that path, it's fair for consumers to respond as they see fit.
None of this is an occasion to lose your shit. It is an occasion, however, to talk about norms and boundaries for the companies we give our money to. I for one am comfortable drawing sharp lines around adults' sexual abuse of children, to which they are legally unable to consent. I don't think we cede everything else when we agree on that.
Related: Here's The Pedophile Who Wrote The Banned From Amazon Book [Gawker TV]
Internet Outrage Gives Amazon Pedophilia Guide A 101,000 Percent Sales Boost
Related: Amazon Banning One Vile E-Book: A Victory For What Exactly? [TechCrunch]
Earlier: Amazon Sells Guide To Pedophilia