On Thursday, Attorney General Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) warned Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos that his office is considering legal action after the company removed a conservative book from its inventory.
In 2018, Ryan T. Anderson — now the president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC) — published When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment, a scholarly and scientifically-informed warning against the transgender movement. The book disappeared from Amazon shortly before the House of Representatives voted to pass the pro-transgender Equality Act.
“I will be watching closely and with interest how Amazon continues down this path of censorship and the impact it has on Hoosier consumers. My Office will not hesitate to take action if and when Amazon’s practices harm consumers and violate Indiana law,” Rokita warned Bezos.
“I ask you to inform me promptly who made Amazon’s decision regarding Mr. Anderson’s book and why. While Amazon issued a statement providing that it will not allow books that call LGBTQ+ issues mental disorders, Mr. Anderson has since indicated that his book does no such thing,” the attorney general noted. “I also ask that you inform me of any statements by Amazon that inform consumers that Amazon makes decisions whether to offer certain products based on considerations of ideology.”
Rokita noted that Amazon is essentially “the world’s largest bookstore.” He also noted that Mein Kampf, The Communist Manifesto, and the Peaceful Pill Handbook (an assisted suicide book) remain available on Amazon. “Certainly, those books have contributed to more death, pain, suffering, and destruction than Mr. Anderson’s ever could,” the attorney general wrote.
“The pernicious effect of Amazon’s actions will be to severely limit consumers’ options because of a desire to crush opposing viewpoints,” Rokita warned. “Amazon has decided to put its thumb on the scale to determine what can and cannot be published and therefore what people can and cannot read. If people disagree with Mr. Anderson, they should be free to rebut his arguments or not purchase his book. Censorship by one of the world’s largest corporations is the stuff of would‐be despots and tyrannical regimes and is wholly inconsistent with the foundation of our Republic.”
Rokita’s letter came two days after Anderson wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal suggesting that “an enterprising state attorney general might want to look into why [When Harry Became Sally] was withdrawn from sale now.”
“The timing of Amazon’s move is telling, coming the weekend before the House voted on a radical transgender bill—the so-called Equality Act—of which I have been publicly critical,” Anderson wrote. “Why did Amazon suddenly delist my book without warning me or my publisher? Did an advocacy group or elected official reach out to Amazon on the evening of a big vote to ask it to remove a book it had happily sold for three years? An enterprising state attorney general may have ways to find out.”
The EPPC president argued that “state attorneys general have the authority to investigate Amazon’s conduct to learn whether the company is abusing its vast market power, doing so in a patently dishonest and deceptive way, or otherwise violating state consumer-protection and antitrust laws.”
“Amazon’s actions potentially run afoul of both,” Anderson warned. “Authorities in both the U.S. and Europe have raised serious questions about the company’s dominant position in online retail. No bookseller can deny the critical importance of placing its products on Amazon’s platform. For an author, to be banished from the site is akin to being silenced.”
Amazon has long relied on 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,” putting them on a list with the Ku Klux Klan.
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 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.
In 2012, a deranged man targeted FRC for a mass shooting, aiming to kill everyone in the building and place a Chick-fil-A sandwich by his victims’ heads. He told the FBI he targeted FRC because of the SPLC list. The SPLC has paid millions to settle defamation lawsuits, particularly one involving a Muslim reformer the SPLC branded an “anti-Islamic extremist.”
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos admitted that relying on the SPLC is “an imperfect system” to blacklist organizations from AmazonSmile, but he has not reversed that policy.
In addition to attacking conservative and Christian organizations, the SPLC promotes transgender activism. In 2019, the SPLC attempted to demonize opposition to transgender activism and Drag Queen Story Hour by connecting it to white nationalism and neo-Nazis. The SPLC also attacked Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham for “speaking to a hate group that brands ‘trans’ activists as guilty of harming children.”
The SPLC seems intent on silencing dissent on transgender issues, and Amazon’s relationship with this far-left group is very concerning.
When Harry Became Sally is also not the first book Amazon has targeted. Last June, Amazon banned Regnery Publishing from purchasing ads to promote the book Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters. Like Anderson’s book, Irreversible Damage took a scientific approach in criticizing transgender ideology, focusing on the idea that transgenderism has become a “social contagion” affecting a broad swath of American teenage girls and warning that various transgender “treatments” will leave girls permanently scarred.
Facebook has suspended public figures’ accounts for criticizing President Joe Biden’s transgender policies, branding such criticism “incitement.”
People who suffer from gender dysphoria (the condition of persistently identifying with the gender opposite their biological sex) do indeed face harassment and deserve compassion. However, the idea that these people should embrace a transgender identity, that they should undertake medical interventions to permanently alter their bodies, and that society must remake its rules regarding biological sex to kowtow to transgender identity is rightly controversial.
Tragically, transgender activists harass anyone who disagrees, and powerful organizations are moving to silence dissent, from the SPLC to Amazon.com.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.