March 20, 2021

ROGER KIMBALL: Amazon’s book bullying is just the latest act of woke intolerance.

But in the meantime, how exactly is When Harry Became Sally an instance of ‘hate speech’? Brief answer: it’s not. More extended answer: ‘hate speech’ is a bogus category wheeled out to forbid or criminalize speech that you don’t like.

But in their response to the letter from Messrs Rubio et al., Amazon went a step beyond the language set forth in their content guidelines. Henceforth, the spokesman for Amazon said, the online emporium will not ‘sell books that frame LGBTQ+ identity as a mental illness’.

Note the deployment of the verb ‘frame’. I wonder how many meetings it took for Amazon to come up with that weasel word? Simply as a matter of rhetoric, I admire its encompassing vagueness. But what does it really mean? Ryan Anderson replied that ‘Nowhere have I ever said or framed LGBTQ+ identity as a mental illness.’ This is true. But in the context of Amazon’s interdiction, it signifies nothing. Amazon’s suppression of this one book is just an express stop, a skirmish in a much larger battle.

In their letter to Amazon, Sens. Rubio et al. touch on that larger battle when they ask whether the delisting of When Harry Became Sally was ‘part of a broader campaign against conservative material and voices on Amazon’s platforms?’

Bingo. ‘Amazon said ‘No’, of course — ‘We offer customers across the political spectrum a wide variety of content that includes disparate opinions,’ their letter insisted. But this is supremely disingenuous. Sure, you can buy Mein KampfThe Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the anti-Semitic ravings of Louis Farrakhan and many other Tabasco works on Amazon. And as for works that ‘frame LGBTQ+ identity as a mental illness’, you’ll find various works by Sigmund Freud, publications of the American Psychiatric Association, and works by other authors and entities that do just that.

But Amazon’s decision to squash this one book was never about any matter of principle. It is about the deployment of power in the battle now raging to determine the shape of American culture.  Amazon has sided firmly with the bullies. We firmly expect to witness fresh interdictions, delistings and suppressions from the internet giant. They can do it, so they will do it. In a joint statement we published at the Encounter website, Ryan Anderson and I noted that

I’m so old I can remember when Jeff Bezos was believed to have been a libertarian.

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