On Wednesday, Amazon.com shareholders rejected a proposal to study viewpoint discrimination at the Big Tech company. Conservative shareholders voiced concerns about viewpoint discrimination, citing certain Amazon’s banning of certain books and the company’s use of the scandal-plagued far-left smear factory the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as a gatekeeper on its charity platform AmazonSmile. The SPLC routinely accuses mainstream conservative and Christian organizations of being “hate groups,” listing them as evidence of white supremacy, along with the Ku Klux Klan.
“Amazon consistently brags about its commitment to ‘diversity and inclusion,’ but I don’t think its board of directors knows what that means. By relying on the SPLC to decide which charities are eligible to receive donations through AmazonSmile, the company is expressing public and open hostility toward conservative and religious organizations,” Justin Danhof, an owner of Amazon stock through the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR), said in a statement.
“That’s viewpoint discrimination and it’s abhorrent,” added Danhof, who wrote the viewpoint discrimination proposal.
During the meeting, Danhof and other conservative shareholders repeatedly questioned Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos as to why the company engages in blatant viewpoint discrimination. Bezos refused to answer.
“If Bezos can defend Amazon’s outright bigotry, then we invite him to do so,” Danhof said after the meeting. “It’s pathetic that one of the most powerful men in the world can’t answer a simple question. Yet it is also telling that Bezos seems to have zero defense for this deplorable behavior.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 30,000 people have signed the NCPPR petition pressuring AmazonSmile to drop the SPLC. “In fact, SPLC controls what nonprofits are eligible for AmazonSmile, and they exclude dozens of mainstream conservative organizations purely for political advantage,” the petition explains.
Amazon’s shameful reliance on the SPLC
It seems ironic that a company with more than $178 billion in revenue (as of 2017) would decide to outsource the important work of determining who qualifies for its charity program to an organization like the Southern Poverty Law Center. Amazon claims that users have donated more than $169 million through the AmazonSmile program, and at least $37,739.17 of that has gone to the SPLC, according to tax documents.
As I reported both here at PJ Media and in my book Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center, the SPLC began as a noble civil rights organization. Yet over the years, the SPLC drifted from its original mission of helping poor people in the South to bankrupting the Ku Klux Klan and eventually to exaggerating hate to scare donors into ponying up cash.
Last year, the SPLC fired its co-founder, Morris Dees, amid a decades-long sexual harassment and racial discrimination scandal. After Dees was fired, former employees came forward, admitting their complicity in the “con.” The SPLC’s “hate group” list not only exaggerates the number of “hate groups” by listing defunct or essentially non-existent groups along with the KKK, but it also tars the reputations of law-abiding mainstream conservative and Christian organizations like the Family Research Council (FRC), Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), and ACT for America.
The “hate group” accusation inspired an attempted terrorist attack at FRC. Even left-leaning activists like former ACLU President Nadine Strossen have condemned the accusation against ADF, and the SPLC continues to pad its “hate group” numbers by listing ACT for America chapters that no longer exist. In 2018, the SPLC paid $3.375 million to settle a defamation lawsuit from Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz, whom the SPLC defamed as an “anti-Islamic extremist.”
Due to these and other scandals, many organizations have called on Amazon to drop the SPLC, not all of them conservative. The non-partisan New Tolerance Campaign urged the tech company to drop the “hate group” list, calling its use a “clear case” of “the unequal application of tolerance in mainstream American culture.” One of the organizations unfairly accused by the SPLC, the Christian charity D. James Kennedy Ministries, has sued Amazon along with the SPLC for defamation.
The SPLC silences conservative groups using “guilt by association,” equating mainstream conservative and Christian groups with true hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan. In January, the SPLC testified before Congress that its number of “hate groups” is a statistically significant measure of the increasing threat of white supremacist terrorism, and used that number as an argument for Big Tech censorship.
“It’s a racket,” Danhof argued. “Amazon’s aware of this.” He explained that NCPPR organized a campaign that sent “tens of thousands of emails” to the Board of Directors last year, pressuring Amazon to drop the SPLC. “They can’t claim that they’re unaware of who the SPLC is.”
The proposal Amazon rejected
Yet the Amazon Board urged shareholders to reject the viewpoint diversity proposal, and the shareholders acquiesced. That proposal noted AmazonSmile’s reliance on the SPLC along with the company’s ban on certain books offering hope to people who struggle with unwanted same-sex attraction. “Amazon’s implementation of viewpoint-discriminatory policies in the Smile Program itself stems from a reliance on viewpoint-discriminatory, partisan, and discredited sources,” the proposal argues.
Whereas, Shareholders of Amazon.com, Inc. (“Amazon”) invest in the company to receive maximum return on their ownership investment in Amazon, without the costs and risks associated with Amazon restricting specific social, political, or religious views.
Whereas, any decision by Amazon to either endorse or reject social, political, or religious views may alienate customers, harm the company’s reputation, and negatively impact business performance.
Whereas, the City of Seattle, the State of Washington, the United States, and several International Conventions prohibit discrimination against religious groups and beliefs, and the City of Seattle prohibits discrimination against political ideology.
Resolved: Shareholders request that Amazon issue a report, at reasonable cost and omitting proprietary information, evaluating the range of risks and costs associated with discriminating against different social, political, and religious viewpoints.
“Plainly stated, the current Amazon.com “commitment to diversity” is only a commitment to embracing a progressive-liberal viewpoint about diversity. Conservative, mainstream perspectives are not welcome,” Robert Netzly, CEO of Inspire Investing and an Amazon shareholder, wrote at The Christian Post.
Nezly also noted that all of the Amazon board members who made non-corporate political contributions in the 2016 election cycle donated to liberal, Democratic Party candidates, Political Action Committees (PACs), or other liberal political groups. Amazon board members donated to Hillary For America, the Hillary Victory Fund, Friends of Schumer, Victory Now PAC, ActBlue, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee — but they did not support one single conservative group or any Republican, Libertarian, or even Green Party candidate.
In the 2018 election cycle, Amazon employees gave $971,000, 89.3 percent of that to Democrats.
“If Amazon’s leadership is committed to a progressive-liberal agenda, then shareholders have a right to know about it, as well as the potential risks that position could cause by alienating customers who hold a different view. This is basic corporate responsibility. Denying shareholders material information that can affect their investment is not just bad-form, it is unethical,” Nezly argued.
Amazon provides important services to a global customer base, and its value only increased during the coronavirus pandemic. If the company wishes to cater to conservative as well as liberal customers, it should strive to cultivate viewpoint diversity and combat viewpoint discrimination.
The millions of conservatives and Christians who use Amazon should reach out to the company on this vital issue. While shareholders rejected this viewpoint diversity proposal, Prime members and Amazon customers can still reach out to the company, sign the NCPPR petition, and buy, read, and share my book.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.