I first heard about Amazon.com’s recent foray into Disney-fying its sales ranking and search system from Stacie Hanes’ Facebook link to rydra_wong’s post about the fiasco: Fail, Amazon. GIGANTIC FUCKING FAIL. Mark R. Brobst writes about his experience with this new policy here. Miracle Jones on The Fiction Circus sums is up thus: “Amazon is a Gay-Hating Company for Nazis.” Slashdot is carrying the story here, which provides a link to Edward Champion’s post that succinctly describes the problem:
It’s been called #amazonfail on Twitter, but it represents the greatest insult to consumers and the most severe commercial threat to free expression that we’re likely to see in some time. Amazon has decided to remove certain books that they deem “adult” from their ranking system. But the “adult” definitions include such books as D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover (Amazon link) (screenshot), Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina (Amazon link) (screenshot), Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain (Amazon link) (screenshot), John Cleland’s Fanny Hill (Amazon link) (screenshot), and numerous other titles. Books that, in some cases, have fought decades to gain literary respectability have become second-class overnight because of Amazon’s draconian deranking policy.
It’s hard to imagine Amazon taking such drastic steps to sideline certain texts in order to enforce an arbitrary moral code. Who are they trying to protect through these new measures? According to the email that was sent in response to an inquiry by Probst, Amazon is instituting this new practice “In consideration of our entire customer base.” I suspect that the “entire customer base” is meant to represent, at least in part, what Lee Edelman theorizes as the Child, always in need of protection and representative of the heteronormative future. Edelman discusses this in his enlightening, yet highly theoretical work, No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive, which is no longer sales ranked on Amazon.com either.
Apparently, Amazon.com has made a weak choice to provide a “safe” browsing experience for folks who refuse to accept reality that contravenes or challenges their view of the world. Amazon.com, a company that I used to consider one of the good guys for their ease of access to just about anything you would want to read, see, or hear, including works that deal with sex, sexuality, and gender, has sided with those persons who feel self-righteous enough to police what we choose to read, enjoy, and learn from. Obviously, one may see something that they would not normally want to see or be exposed to on Amazon.com or anywhere else on the Internet, but the mature and responsible person is capable of moving past it and going on about their life. Furthermore, those persons who truly want to police their children’s access to the Internet can take one of two paths–the more draconian (lock them in the attic) or the more enlightened (teach your children about those things that you don’t necessarily want them to find out about on their own). Of course, the second path is the more difficult and time consuming, so I suppose I can see why they would rather attempt to lock down the entire Internet as if they owned the place and shove everyone they don’t like or agree with off into the shadows. Well, I’m someone who has no intention to be shoved anywhere, and I know a whole heck of a lot of other good folks who have no intention of bending over for this one either.
I believe that the demands for boycotts, emails, and phone calls are all steps in the right direction. However, I conjecture that this is a problem that requires an escalation in the way that we, who I consider other persons who desire an open marketplace for the free and non-restricted exchange of cultural works, demand corporations, particularly those that now have an ever increasing control over the marketplace, to institute policies that promote culture rather than retard it. I believe that the critical mass that blogging, twitter, and other digital forms of mass communication brings to bear on an event is enormously powerful, and we should (and almost assuredly will) continue reporting on this event as it careens headlong into on-coming traffic. However, what is the next Deleuze and Guattari nomadic war machine? Remember, these things have an expiry date following appropriation by the State (and Corporation).
See the above blogs for further information on the contact information at Amazon.com, and for information on the boycotts.
UPDATE: Read more on Violet Blue’s tiny nibbles site here.