This last weekend, Amazon removed sales rankings from a number of products, namely erotic romances and basically anything that had to do with gay people, and made many of those books damn near impossible to search for, too.
What the rationale was for this, I can’t say. But it makes me sad and angry.
Thing that makes me angry #1: The books that have been censored by Amazon include Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain, Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness, and Alex Beecroft’s False Colors–none of which could be considered even remotely pornographic or obscene. These are books about gay people, not books about gay sex, and censoring these books contributes to, and is indicative of, one of the worst and most invidious forms of discrimination against gays: the sexualization of gays, treating everything that has to do with gay people as if it has to do with sex. It doesn’t, and this makes me so angry that I could spit.
Thing that makes me angry #2: Censoring books just because they happen to be about sex. The books I write would not fall under Amazon’s censorship ban–today–but if I fall silent about it now, might they one day? Perhaps. But even if nothing will ever happen to me, things are happening now to people I consider friends. My good friend Jackie Barbosa–who writes lovely, sensual, emotional romances which happen to also be erotic–whose first print book, Behind the Red Door, is scheduled for release on June 1–used to show up on Amazon when you searched for her name, “Jackie Barbosa.” Now she doesn’t. Do a search for her name, and you get “product not found.” And she’s not alone. Hundreds of books have lost their sales rankings and have simply ceased to exist when you do an Amazon search.
It’s as if these people don’t exist, as if they are no longer persons or authors to Amazon. You wouldn’t type in the name “Jackie Barbosa” if you weren’t looking for Jackie Barbosa–who or what is this censorship trying to serve? If you know who Jackie is, it’s not “family friendly” for Amazon to pretend she doesn’t exist. And I’ve seen Jackie work so hard for her print release, and I know that this book is good–so what is it going to mean if people can’t find it? Its sales, for her, are crucial in determining what happens for her future career.
This is barbaric. It’s dehumanizing. It makes me feel sick to my stomach. Amazon, WTF?
EDITED SOMEWHAT LATER TO ADD:
Lady Chatterley’s Lover has been deranked. Fanny Hill has been deranked. Books about lesbian parenting have been deranked. Mein Kampf has not been deranked. Books about training dogs to fight have not been deranked.
I do not think that Mein Kampf should be deranked, or that books about dog-fighting should be either. I think this demonstrates the dangers of going down the dark path of censorship. Even if you don’t care about erotic romance or GLBT books, this should make you feel sick. What if Amazon had decided that they didn’t want to offend Jews by offering them books about Christianity, and they deranked the King James Version of the Holy Bible, or Pope John Paul II’s In My Own Words? What if they didn’t want to offend Obama supporters and deranked Bill O’Reilly? What if they deranked the Koran so as not to make children think about terrorism, and deranked all holocaust books because some people think it didn’t happen, and deranked The Origin of Species because people don’t agree on evolution?
Part of being a free society means that we are sometimes going to see things we do not agree with. It is a blessing, not a weakness. And it’s not okay just because it happens to someone else.
I am strongly, firmly, against all content-based restrictions imposed on book browsing, purchasing, and buying.