On Friday, two liberal organizations released a report blasting Amazon.com for breaking its own policies and selling hateful products online, including children’s items branded with Ku Klux Klan symbols and Nazi images. Since the report relied on the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)’s debunked “hate group” list, however, it also attacked Amazon for selling Christian gospel tracts.
In “Delivering Hate: How Amazon’s Platforms Are Used to Spread White Supremacy, Anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia and How Amazon Can Stop It,” the Action Center on Race & the Economy (ACRE) and the Partnership for Working Families (PWF) alleged that Amazon has provided a “number of channels through which hate groups can generate revenue, propagate their ideas, and grow their movements.”
According to its policies, Amazon prohibits the sale of “products that promote or glorify hatred, violence, racial, sexual or religious intolerance or promote organizations with such views.” The report found, however, that Amazon sold kids’ backpacks with neo-Nazi symbols, a swastika necklace, baby onesies displaying a KKK-style burning cross, and more.
The report detailed products with swastikas and the Confederate Battle Flag of Northern Virginia — which the company banned in 2015. Other products that arguably violated the policy included a noose vehicle decal and images of Pepe the Frog, which the report attacked as the “newly adopted imagery of the modern white nationalist movement.” The Anti-Defamation League marked Pepe the Frog a hate symbol in September 2016 (despite the fact that its creator does not want the image used to represent the alt-right).
To be fair to Amazon, it is important to note that many products have since been removed from the site. The Pepe the Frog fidget spinners, a flag mimicking the Nazi war flag, a German SS officer hat and sword, the baby onesies, and some Nazi figurines have been removed.
“Third party sellers who use our Marketplace service must follow our guidelines and those who don’t are subject to swift action including potential removal of their account,” Amazon said in a statement responding to the report.
Some of these symbols may be arguable, but most Americans would agree that nooses, burning crosses, and swastikas have a hateful meaning and Amazon should remove them. Even so, the ACRE and PWF report painted with far too broad a brush.
Like the SPLC’s “hate group” list, which lumps in mainstream conservative and Christian groups with racist groups like the KKK, this report targeted a publishing outlet responsible for numerous Christian gospel tracts.
“Chick Publications, long identified as a hate group due to its ‘militant, vitriolic propaganda war against anyone who doesn’t adhere to its particular brand of Christianity,’ has 85 Kindle titles available on Amazon, including titles that focus on conspiracy theories about Islam, debunking the Qur’an, and converting Muslims to Christianity,” ACRE and PWF reported breathlessly.
“Additionally, Chick Publications is a seller on Amazon, meaning it distributes its print publications directly via the site,” the report added.
Oh no! People might be able to buy tracts presenting the saving grace of Jesus Christ and responding to atheist and Muslim arguments against it!
Chick tracts defend the gospel. The publications suggest that people who do not accept the Christian gospel will go to hell — a traditional Christian claim supported by the Bible. In order to save people, these tracts attack atheism, Islam, Mormonism, Roman Catholicism, and other religious options that conflict with a Bible-based evangelical Christianity. This is par for the course in religious dialogue, but the SPLC branded Chick Publications a “hate group.”
When Jack Chick, the founder of the publishing outfit, died in 2016, the SPLC took note. Chick, “prolific cartoonist and founder of the anti-atheist, anti-gay, anti-Muslim, anti-Mormon and anti-Catholic Chick Publications — died on Oct. 23 at the age of 92,” the leftist group reported.
“Chick, whose cartoons warning against various evils including homosexuality, Satanism, Halloween, freemasonry, evolution, infant baptism, Harry Potter, and the children’s fantasy game Dungeons and Dragons have been described as ‘a form of religious pornography,’ was a World War II veteran,” the SPLC added. “He used images to great effect, spreading his fire-and-brimstone interpretation of Christian Scripture through accessible black-and-white comics known as Chick Tracts. His best-selling tract, ‘This Was Your Life,’ shows the angel of death reviewing a man’s sinful path, then shows the man being cast into hell.”
While the SPLC described Chick Publications as “anti-atheist, anti-gay, anti-Muslim, anti-Mormon, and anti-Catholic,” the outfit focuses on presenting the evangelical Christian gospel and does not advocate violence against anyone. Sorry, but most religions are exclusive and believe other religions are false. This does not make them “hate groups.”
The SPLC is known for attacking mainstream conservative and Christian groups, branding them “hate groups” on par with the KKK because they oppose same-sex marriage. In attacking the pro-family Ruth Institute, the SPLC quoted the Catechism of the Catholic Church as an example of anti-LGBT hate. Last year, 47 nonprofit leaders denounced the SPLC’s “hate list” in an open letter to the media. The SPLC has admitted that its “hate group” list is based on “opinion.”
Last month, the SPLC apologized to Maajid Nawaz, a Muslim reformer whom the group attacked as an “anti-Muslim extremist” because he went to a strip club for his bachelor party. Nawaz sued for defamation, and the SPLC settled, paying $3.375 million to his organization, the Quilliam Foundation.
After that settlement, Liberty Counsel told PJ Media that no fewer than 60 organizations were considering defamation lawsuits against the SPLC. The organization’s “hate group” map directly inspired a terrorist attack against the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C., in 2012, and its attacks on Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) may have inspired the shooter at the Congressional Baseball Game practice, who “liked” the SPLC on Facebook.
By associating Chick Publications with symbols of Nazism and the KKK, ACRE and PWF have followed the SPLC’s lead in stigmatizing conservative Christians as hateful.
This report may rightly push Amazon in the direction of keeping Nazi and KKK symbols off the platform. But ACRE and PWF’s decision to include Chick Publications in this report unjustly slandered that organization and demolished the report’s credibility.
Christians are not “hateful” for believing the Bible, and disagreeing with atheists, Catholics, or Mormons does not make them on par with the KKK. Until groups like the SPLC understand that, they will not be “hate” watchdogs but rather partisan smear factories, and they will be vulnerable to defamation lawsuits.
Ironically, Amazon itself is being sued for applying the defamatory SPLC “hate group” list. Go figure.