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Amazon Banning Books that Discuss Fictional Incest
December 30, 2010 11:11 AM   Subscribe

In a more recent action of book banning, Amazon appears to be banning books about incest that are not top rated titles. Time Enough for Love by Robert Heinlein is available, for example. Covered here as well.
posted by dibblda (156 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Just to get our terms correct, Amazon is not "banning" books. They are refusing to sell them. A private corporation can sell what they choose. Only a government may ban books.

If you want to see Amazon sell these books, write them and then offer to buy some. They will sell them to you if the market outweighs the number of people pissed off by them being sold.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:14 AM on December 30, 2010 [31 favorites]


Repeat after me: Amazon is a private company that sells books. They are not the Library of Congress, or anything of the sort. Whatever they choose to sell is their business.

Now, if you frame this as, Amazon is once again removing items from your Kindle, from a neckbeard standpoint that is a bit of a !#%()* (the whole "it's my device" thing), but Amazon has a leg to stand on because you sign a terms of service agreement with them when you activate your Kindle stating Amazon may remove and/or refund purchases at their discretion. Your Kindle is, effectively, a loaner from Amazon to use at their discretion. Don't like? Sell it or don't buy it.

There is no first ammendment here. Robert is free to go peddle his wares anywhere he can find a viable buyer. Amazon is a private company. Read from the top.
posted by cavalier at 11:15 AM on December 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


Excellent comment in the first link:

"I just re-read Genesis 19: 30-38 and realized that Lot's daughters got him drunk, had sex with him and bore sons. I demand you follow your clear precedent and remove The Bible from Kindle."

posted by jbickers at 11:15 AM on December 30, 2010 [50 favorites]


Another Heinlein book featuring incest is also available on Amazon.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:18 AM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Repeat after me: Amazon is a private company that sells books.

repeat after me: a corporation that becomes big enough, acting in concert with other corporations, will eventually become a government in all but name - and the fact that they won't be holding elections

it's power that bans books - whether that power belongs to the government or a business
posted by pyramid termite at 11:19 AM on December 30, 2010 [79 favorites]


There is no first ammendment here.

No one is talking about the first amendment but you.

Just to get our terms correct, Amazon is not "banning" books. They are refusing to sell them. A private corporation can sell what they choose. Only a government may ban books.

"Ban" is not a term that implies state action. A public establishment may ban an unruly patron and a bookseller may ban a book.

Please go shit in some other thread.
posted by enn at 11:19 AM on December 30, 2010 [47 favorites]


Only a government may ban books

That's absurd. You may be thinking of "censorship", which is a government activity, but which wasn't mentioned in the original post. Anyone may ban a book.
posted by hattifattener at 11:20 AM on December 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


While you'll find few stauncher opponents of the practice of banning books because of their content I still wish that someone had kept me from reading Heinlein's The Number of the Beast. Not only was it terrible, it managed to erase every fond memory I have of previous Heinlein and replace it with pure suck.
posted by Kattullus at 11:23 AM on December 30, 2010 [10 favorites]


Reminder that a similar incident from last year turned out to not exactly be an Orwellian plot . . . let's keep the pitchforks in the shed until we get an official statement, maybe?
posted by chaff at 11:23 AM on December 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Repeat after me: Amazon is a private company that sells books.

Repeat after me: your condescension is annoying.
posted by blucevalo at 11:23 AM on December 30, 2010 [36 favorites]


Amazon can do whatever the hell they want. It's a free country. If you want to buy incest erotica, I'm sure there is someone who will happily take your money for it.
posted by empath at 11:24 AM on December 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


Reminder that a similar incident from last year turned out to not exactly be an Orwellian plot . . . let's keep the pitchforks in the shed until we get an official statement, maybe?

Yeah, this is getting kind of old.
posted by muddgirl at 11:25 AM on December 30, 2010


It's kind of amusing to watch people get worked up about incest.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:25 AM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


As fellow author, Will Belegon, noted, if Amazon is going to start pulling books with incest in them: "I just re-read Genesis 19: 30-38 and realized that Lot's daughters got him drunk, had sex with him and bore sons. I demand you follow your clear precedent and remove The Bible from Kindle."

Zing!

Or perhaps Amazon should create a new television ad after they follow their clear precedent and ban the book the woman is reading in the advertisement on her Kindle ("Sleepwalking" by Amy Bloom) which tells the story of a 19-year-old boy who has a sexual encounter with his stepmother, which, in some states, is legally incest.

Double Zing!
posted by Sys Rq at 11:25 AM on December 30, 2010 [3 favorites]



Amazon can do whatever the hell they want. It's a free country. If you want to buy incest erotica, I'm sure there is someone who will happily take your money for it.


And there is plenty of free stuff online.

I assume.

Until your ISP bans the sites.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:26 AM on December 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


From the first link: “When some of my readers began checking their Kindle archives for books of mine they’d purchased on Amazon, they found them missing from their archives. When one reader called to get a refund for the book she no longer had access to, she was chastised by the Amazon customer service representative about the ‘severity’ of the book she’d chosen to purchase.”

That shit right there is pitchfork-worthy, I think.
posted by kipmanley at 11:27 AM on December 30, 2010 [40 favorites]


Didn't Lazarus Long clone himself as woman so he'd have a sexual partner after years on the space ship with no action? Is that incest? Or is it masturbation, but with another person, that is a girl, but still me... Does that make her my sister?
posted by brando_calrissian at 11:28 AM on December 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm all for Amazon deciding to not sell books. Every customer it loses opens up the market a bit for other, smaller booksellers that won't "ban" books. I'd like to see recommendations for alternatives or competitors in this thread, as that is the way to go if you disagree with Amazon's decision here.

Of course, I think Amazon's position is that it doesn't care that it's losing customers that advocate child molestation and incest.
posted by jabberjaw at 11:29 AM on December 30, 2010


Hot.
posted by stevil at 11:29 AM on December 30, 2010


I'm not a neckbeard (*sigh*, if only, all the girls think they're just dreamy), but my main problem is Amazon's unselling of the books. I had a book and then *bink* there's a rustle in a cardboard box as some other books settle onto a couple of singles which have replaced the place where the book was.

This is why I won't be getting a Kindle. I simply want a transaction which is finite in duration. Here is some money. Thank you for the book. I do not want to get permission from the bluestockings at Amazon or anywhere else for each and every instance of when I would like to read the book for which I have paid. I most especially would not like to talk to someone who would want to chastise me for my purchases. Eff Ing No How.

Even if this was accidental, it doesn't much affect my decision. If the infrastructure supports propagation of "whoopsies" wherein my book vanishes, it's a problem for me.
posted by adipocere at 11:29 AM on December 30, 2010 [25 favorites]


Oh for Christ's sake do we really need a derail about the difference between fantasizing and advocating? I mean talk about getting old really that is so like 1997.
posted by kipmanley at 11:33 AM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


That shit right there is pitchfork-worthy, I think.

But Amazon's content policy isn't hidden - they've been pretty clear that they will block and remove shit they don't like (even though "what they don't like" may be inconsistent). I explicitely decided not to buy a Kindle for this reason. Other people perhaps did not do the same research, and it is sad that they're suffering the small monetary consequences of that decision. However, I would especially expect erotica readers to be familiar with the fact that content providers are really really uncomfortable with erotica based on taboos, even though it is legal to write and host such works. Heck, fanfiction writers are pooling the resources necessary to set up their own legal defense networks and hosting solutions - should erotica fans pool together their resources to set up a kink-friendly POD service and eBook seller?
posted by muddgirl at 11:34 AM on December 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


I shouldn't have said "small monetary consequences" - that was thoughtlessly diminishing.
posted by muddgirl at 11:35 AM on December 30, 2010


This is why I won't be getting a Kindle.

It's a nice device; just don't buy books for it from Amazon. There are books available from other sources, and Amazon can't touch them. You can jailbreak it and run sshd on it and all kinds of fun stuff.
posted by enn at 11:36 AM on December 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


Hrm, a kink-friendly eBook reader ... there could be some business synergy with teledildonics.
posted by adipocere at 11:38 AM on December 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


let's keep the pitchforks in the shed until we get an official statement, maybe?

But Amazon almost never releases an official statement on these things until it's surrounded by an angry mob wielding torches and pitchforks. Seriously, would it have been so hard for Amazon to clarify what was going on - "Yes, we've made a decision to delete incest erotica" - to the customers whose books had been eliminated?

Only a government may ban books.

*laughs*
posted by mediareport at 11:38 AM on December 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Jeebus Chrimbus! I thought the "only government can censor" canard had died out with Usenet. Anybody can censor. You and I could round up a bunch of people and steal every copy of a certain book from a city library, surreptitiously destroy every copy in local bookstores. Yeah, we couldn't pass a law to make the ownership of said book illegal, but our actions wouldn't be much different from that of a government. Now, if you, I and our friends control large corporations, we can be even more effective, maybe not as effective as a state, but we can severely limit the spread and availability of said book.
posted by Kattullus at 11:39 AM on December 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


I'm ok with Amazon selling, or not selling, whatever they want. It's their business, and it's not like there aren't other places to buy books.

I'm not ok with "buying" an ebook that magically disappears or changes depending on Amazon's whims, however. If I buy something, I want it to be mine, to read or loan to my neighbor or sell when I'm done with it.
posted by Forktine at 11:40 AM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


After reading the descriptions of the books in question, they are just explicit porn. That's it. I didn't know any bookseller had any moral obligation to sell porn. It's always been a specialty market, with its own purveyors.

These are not just books with incest in them or even books about incest. Along with Heinlein and the Bible, I know there is V.C. Andrews on Amazon as well. So clearly it's not just the incest that is the problem. It's that this is incest porn.
posted by Danila at 11:40 AM on December 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


repeat after me: a corporation that becomes big enough, acting in concert with other corporations, will eventually become a government in all but name - and the fact that they won't be holding elections

it's power that bans books - whether that power belongs to the government or a business


I am so baffled by this in reference to what Amazon did. Show me a majority of a population buying from one specific retailer who then controls a market by nature of the amount of population and you have that dystopian future. Here we're talking about an online, albeit, big book retailer, of which there are many.

enn, I was adding a comment to the discussion, if you feel I was doing anything else please FIAMO. I don't appreciate your tone.

Point noted, blucevalo.
posted by cavalier at 11:40 AM on December 30, 2010


Excellent comment in the first link:

"I just re-read Genesis 19: 30-38 and realized that Lot's daughters got him drunk, had sex with him and bore sons. I demand you follow your clear precedent and remove The Bible from Kindle."


I'm sorry, this "excellent comment" is just damned stupid. Comparing a world religious text with the literary offerings ("Under Mr. Nolan's Bed"? "The Plaid Skirt Diaries"?) of some basement-dwelling, pervy user of print-on-demand services doesn't really hold up. Sorry.
posted by jayder at 11:42 AM on December 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Amazon's content policy isn't hidden—

Do they spell out the exact terms whereby one might expect a lecture for demanding a refund for a Kindle book that was whisked from your shelves overnight due to sudden heretofore unnoticed content concerns?

I'm not talking about yelling at them for not adhering to their (deliberately vague) content policy. I'm talking about them having those terms in their policy at all, and the corporate culture that enforces them in this fashion. You can try to change this behavior by doing the hard work of setting up alternate avenues of distribution, or you can yell at them and make a stink to let them know they're fucking up and they need to do some cost-benefit analysis maybe. I see value in both approaches.
posted by kipmanley at 11:42 AM on December 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


As fellow author, Will Belegon, noted, if Amazon is going to start pulling books with incest in them: "I just re-read Genesis 19: 30-38 and realized that Lot's daughters got him drunk, had sex with him and bore sons. I demand you follow your clear precedent and remove The Bible from Kindle."

Yeah, and Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt, and fire and sulfur rained down upon Sodom and Gomorrah. This "argument" doesn't really float very well.
posted by blucevalo at 11:43 AM on December 30, 2010


Repeat after me: Freedom of speech is an ethical principle, binding on everyone, in addition to being a law, binding on the government.
posted by DU at 11:43 AM on December 30, 2010 [15 favorites]


well i think this thread is going smashingly
posted by nathancaswell at 11:44 AM on December 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


Motherfuckers!
posted by Decani at 11:45 AM on December 30, 2010 [24 favorites]



After reading the descriptions of the books in question, they are just explicit porn. That's it. I didn't know any bookseller had any moral obligation to sell porn. It's always been a specialty market, with its own purveyors.


The authors sell other erotica books on amazon that don't include incest.
posted by dibblda at 11:45 AM on December 30, 2010


I didn't know any bookseller had any moral obligation to sell porn.

Who cares what it is this time? Last time Amazon unpublished an ebook it was copyright issues, this time it's porn, next time it'll be something else. The point is that the bookseller has the right to choose what they sell up to the point where they sell. They don't have the right to change their minds a year later and come into your house and take it back, but Amazon is trying to assert that right.
posted by enn at 11:46 AM on December 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


Here we're talking about an online, albeit, big book retailer, of which there are many.

Albeit by far the largest, most well-known, and the online book retailer of choice for most? Right?
posted by blucevalo at 11:47 AM on December 30, 2010


Yeah, and Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt, and fire and sulfur rained down upon Sodom and Gomorrah. This "argument" doesn't really float very well.

The "banned" books in question are also fiction. What's your point?
posted by Sys Rq at 11:47 AM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


So, are people getting refunded or not?
posted by kafziel at 11:47 AM on December 30, 2010


They don't have the right to change their minds a year later and come into your house and take it back, but Amazon is trying to assert that right.

Right now, Amazon DOES reserve the right to remove books from the Kindle cloud. An eBook, for better or for worse, is not treated the same as a physical book.
posted by muddgirl at 11:49 AM on December 30, 2010


They don't have the right to change their minds a year later and come into your house and take it back, but Amazon is trying to assert that right.

Yes, yes in fact they do. It's in their Terms of Service. see this portion for starters.
[...]Digital Content is licensed, not sold, to you by the Content Provider.[...]

Now, you can argue it is unethical or unfair of them to change their minds, but as long as it is their device that they are changing and you have agreed to the terms of their service, they absolutely have that right.
posted by cavalier at 11:49 AM on December 30, 2010


Yes, I know — I'm arguing that that is illegitimate.
posted by enn at 11:50 AM on December 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Katullus isn't the only one thoroughly turned off Heinlein by "Number of the Beast". I recall telling a co-worker (who despite being rather intellectual worked on a shipping dock) about how badly it sucked and he asked to borrow my copy, returning it two days after I gave it to him, wrapped tightly in 30 layers of industrial packing shrinkwrap. I have never seen a better physical manifestation of literary disdain. There is censorship, banning, book-burning, and then there is 30 layers of shrinkwrap.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:50 AM on December 30, 2010 [19 favorites]


as long as it is their device that they are changing

It's not. It's mine.
posted by enn at 11:50 AM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Repeat after me: Freedom of speech is an ethical principle, binding on everyone, in addition to being a law, binding on the government.

I agree wholeheartedly. This is why I support Amazon's ability to sell, endorse, or refuse to deal in any speech Amazon finds objectionable.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 11:51 AM on December 30, 2010 [8 favorites]


Albeit by far the largest, most well-known, and the online book retailer of choice for most? Right?

I'm not sure, do statistics back that up? Borders and Barnes and Nobles come up in the top 3 when I look in Google. Furthermore you've got your Apple Book store, etcetera. Basically, I'm not denying Amazon is huge, but it's a bit of a causation loop to claim they're the only one out there.
posted by cavalier at 11:52 AM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


The point is that the bookseller has the right to choose what they sell up to the point where they sell.

I agree with this, and removing books after you've paid for them is complete bullshit, regardless of why they did it.
posted by empath at 11:53 AM on December 30, 2010


I think the article states that the purchases would remain on the Kindle if they were already there, but could not be re-downloaded. /not-amazon-apologist
posted by cavalier at 11:53 AM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


And just as the courts have held that Apple cannot prevent you by means of its terms of service from jailbreaking your iPhone, I very strongly suspect that eventually the courts are going to prohibit this kind of retroactive deletion of content purchased in good faith and stored on the purchaser's physical storage media.
posted by enn at 11:53 AM on December 30, 2010


There's a lot of rumors being thrown around here. Let me state for the record that I have never had an incestuous relationship. I think. I mean, who can remember?
posted by lazaruslong at 11:54 AM on December 30, 2010 [14 favorites]


I also would whole-heartedly endorse banning Number of the Beast, btw. An awful book. I needed brain bleach after just a few chapters.
posted by empath at 11:54 AM on December 30, 2010


If the infrastructure supports propagation of "whoopsies" wherein my book vanishes, it's a problem for me.

Yep. While this is even a possibility, I have no interest in the Kindle.
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:56 AM on December 30, 2010


Time Enough for Love is still available on Amazon's site in paperback, as is The Number of the Beast and Flowers in the Attic (which is available in Kindle form too).

In other words, if this is Amazon taking a principled stand against fictional depictions of incest, they're doing a pretty incompetent job.
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:56 AM on December 30, 2010


The "banned" books in question are also fiction. What's your point?

You're going to have a hard time convincing a lot of people that it's fiction, just as you're going to have a hard time convincing a lot of people that the planet's not over 6000 years old, but I can't really disagree with you.

My point, such as it is, is that no, Amazon's not gonna be banning the Bible anytime soon.
posted by blucevalo at 11:59 AM on December 30, 2010


Amazon can do whatever the hell they want. It's a free country. If you want to buy incest erotica, I'm sure there is someone who will happily take your money for it.

And there is plenty of free stuff online.

I assume.

Until your ISP bans the sites.


Let's assume that the ISP bans the incest sites. What are we to do? If we are to have the freedom to view what we want, certainly others will have the freedom to sell what they want and not sell what they do not want, no?

Start your own ISPs. There's a solution to these issues. Stop relying on Amazon for your incest-related stuff.

The idea that all corporations, and all other people have to correspond to what we want is crazy. Who then gets to say what is and is not to be sold? Freedom of expression means freedom to not express ourselves too. So go out there and get it done. It is not impossible and the people who are into incest will go there.

Repeat after me: Freedom of speech is an ethical principle, binding on everyone, in addition to being a law, binding on the governmen

So I gotta allow the KKK to publish shit on my blog? I think not.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:02 PM on December 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


Ahem. Before we go all crazy here, have we confirmed that this is not some dude in France entering the wrong term in a database?
posted by Artw at 12:04 PM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's kind of amusing to watch people get worked up about incest.

That's just what my mom said.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 12:05 PM on December 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Ahem. Before we go all crazy here, have we confirmed that this is not some dude in France entering the wrong term in a database?

Well, if it is self-published, there may have been another reason for removal, such as quality.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:06 PM on December 30, 2010


Nothing is banned. If you want incest and rape porn books on an ereader, you're more than free to go ahead and make your own. Nobody's going to stop you.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 12:07 PM on December 30, 2010


Amazon appears to be banning books about incest that are not top rated titles

Well then, just write and market your erotic incest fiction better. How hard can it be?
posted by nomadicink at 12:08 PM on December 30, 2010


Time Enough for Love is still available on Amazon's site in paperback, as is The Number of the Beast and Flowers in the Attic (which is available in Kindle form too).

None of those books are erotica.
posted by muddgirl at 12:09 PM on December 30, 2010


I like how thorough efforts have been made to muddy the discussion by dragging in things that are not part of a semi-automated print-in-demand service, also the invokation of wikileaks, which I guess is now required whenever someone is having some kind of shouty hissy fit on the internets now.
posted by Artw at 12:09 PM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, if it is self-published, there may have been another reason for removal, such as quality.

Sure, because it makes perfect sense that a whole ton of incest-related books would, all at once, be removed due to issues of "quality". And that Amazon would chastise people over the "severity" of the quality problem these books have.
posted by vorfeed at 12:10 PM on December 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Next they will ban Flowers in the Attic, and no new generations will be able to learn about sex the way myself and my classmates did in junior high school: That it was something siblings did on a filthy mattress when locked in the attic.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:11 PM on December 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


Well, if it is self-published, there may have been another reason for removal, such as quality.

Sure, because it makes perfect sense that a whole ton of incest-related books would, all at once, be removed due to issues of "quality". And that Amazon would chastise people over the "severity" of the quality problem these books have.


That was a joke.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:11 PM on December 30, 2010


Of course, I think Amazon's position is that it doesn't care that it's losing customers that advocate child molestation and incest.

Unless it's Heinlenn, or Virginia Andrews, or whatever.

Only a government may ban books.

Can I come live in your parallel universe of rich competition between many corporations leaving them individually powerless to reshape society to the whims of their CEOs? It must be great living somewhere where Murdoch is just another newspaper owner.
posted by rodgerd at 12:11 PM on December 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


So, Amazon pulled out?
posted by nomadicink at 12:12 PM on December 30, 2010


Some folks seem to be protesting Amazon removing content from people's Kindles, but I don't think that happened here. They seem to have removed it from their own servers, albeit that cuts off access to previously "licensed" content. That's marginally better, but only marginally. What it does suggest is that the notion of "cloud storage" is fraught with problems.
posted by OmieWise at 12:12 PM on December 30, 2010 [11 favorites]


This is one of those situations that's just too complicated to discuss on the internet in a fruitful manner.

A while back there was a big to-do over the fact that Amazon was selling a (self-published e-book) nuts-and-bolts manual on how to sexually abuse children. When Amazon elected to stop selling it, the reaction was mixed. Some people were glad, and others felt it was censorship.

In that case, I felt like Amazon had a right not to sell it, in the same way that a bakery has a right not to sell reconditioned Honda Civic transmissions.

Every retailer draws a circle around what they sell, and some things fall outside that circle. The grocery store sells magazines, but they don't sell specialty hardcore porn magazines. No one cries censorship over it.

Just to be clear, this is a different situation. For one thing, this isn't a how-to manual. It's incest erotica. Which may be unpalatable to most of us, but Amazon sells a lot of media on unpalatable topics. Who is Amazon to decide that incest erotica is unacceptable, but the unrated Director's Cut of "Human Centipede" is okay?

For another thing, Amazon un-sold books which people had downloaded to their Kindles. I have to admit, I feel about this the same way I feel about people who fall afoul of Facebook's ever-changing and ever-shitty privacy rules. I don't have a Kindle and I closed my Facebook account, and this kind of thing is why.

Unfortunately, everything about this story lends itself to unproductive knee-jerk snark, axe-grinding, and pitchfork wielding. When what it needs is a lot of thoughtful, nuanced discussion about where to draw the line and why.
posted by ErikaB at 12:13 PM on December 30, 2010 [11 favorites]


I guess this is not what they meant by the long tail.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:13 PM on December 30, 2010


Ok, so basically Amazon is declining to publish some dodgy pr0n via it's POD service? And it's not being removed from anybodies Kindles?

Yeah, Pitchforks down everybody, this one's bullshit.
posted by Artw at 12:15 PM on December 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


Both Amazon and the writers in question are motherfuckers.
posted by Falconetti at 12:17 PM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, OmieWise, the Telereads article seem to imply they've changed their procedure for this since the Orwell incident (where books actually were removed from Kindles) and now they just won't allow new downloads of the title from your account.

What it does suggest is that the notion of "cloud storage" is fraught with problems.

Yes, it does. Someone made an interesting point about this in the e-mail hacking post — we have all these laws about access to and use of computer systems, but who is an "authorized user," and for what uses, of something like your Amazon ebook storage or your GMail account?
posted by enn at 12:18 PM on December 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well, is Amazon gonna put it back in? Somebodies been a naughty author.
posted by nomadicink at 12:19 PM on December 30, 2010


And that Amazon would chastise people over the "severity" of the quality problem these books have.

Morally queeved Amazon customer service rep != Amazon
posted by blucevalo at 12:19 PM on December 30, 2010


Ok, so basically Amazon is declining to publish some dodgy pr0n via it's POD service? And it's not being removed from anybodies Kindles?

That is fine. The bad part is where they are unpublishing stuff.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:20 PM on December 30, 2010


Who is Amazon to decide that incest erotica is unacceptable, but the unrated Director's Cut of "Human Centipede" is okay?

A private party with the full rights of any of the rest of us. If not Amazon, who is to decide? A government board tells Amazon what they may and may not publish? What other possible solution is there? Must Amazon publish the Protocols of the Elders of Zion? You may say this is different, but there is no stone tablet with the Word of God written on it saying your personal judgment as to what should and should not be published is right?
posted by Ironmouth at 12:21 PM on December 30, 2010


What do we want?!
Incest!
When do we want it?!
Now!

or how about

We're here!
We're incestuous!
Amazon won't get the best of us!
posted by Xoebe at 12:24 PM on December 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ironmouth: Must Amazon publish the Protocols of the Elders of Zion?

Hey, guess what?
posted by Kattullus at 12:26 PM on December 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


As fellow author, Will Belegon, noted, if Amazon is going to start pulling books with incest in them: "I just re-read Genesis 19: 30-38 and realized that Lot's daughters got him drunk, had sex with him and bore sons. I demand you follow your clear precedent and remove The Bible from Kindle."
Yeah, and Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt, and fire and sulfur rained down upon Sodom and Gomorrah. This "argument" doesn't really float very well.
I'm not sure if I understand exactly what you're getting at or not, but if your point is that the incest portrayed in that passage was part of why Yahweh decided to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, you should be aware that it occurred after the destruction of those cities, between people who Yahweh had judged as good enough to be spared from the destruction.

And I could easily be wrong about this, but I don't think any punishment came after the incest, either; in fact, I think that all it really says about the incestuous rapists after the incident is that they became the foremothers of two tribes.
posted by Flunkie at 12:27 PM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


>Must Amazon publish the Protocols of the Elders of Zion?

Hey, guess what?


Ha!

Does Amazon.com sell this book? Of course we do, along with millions of other titles. The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion is classified under "controversial knowledge" in our store, along with books about UFOs, demonic possession, and all manner of conspiracy theories. You can also find books in other sections of Amazon.com's online bookstore that analyze The Protocols' fraudulent origins and its tragic historical role in promoting anti-Semitism and Jewish persecution, including A Lie and a Libel: The History of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Should Amazon.com sell The Protocols and other controversial works? As a bookseller, Amazon.com strongly believes that providing open access to written speech, no matter how hateful or ugly, is one of the most important things we do. It's a service that the United States Constitution protects, and one that follows a long tradition of booksellers serving as guardians of free expression in our society.

Not all countries view these issues the same way. And one of our greatest challenges is to work cooperatively with other governments to respect their laws without compromising our core values of free expression and free exchange of information--values that the Internet embodies on a global scale.

Nevertheless, Amazon.com believes it is censorship not to sell certain books because we believe their message repugnant, and we would be rightly criticized if we did so. Therefore, we will continue to make this book and other controversial works available in the United States and everywhere else, except where they are prohibited by law.


Precious.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:29 PM on December 30, 2010 [16 favorites]


Repeat after me: Freedom of speech is an ethical principle, binding on everyone, in addition to being a law, binding on the government

So I gotta allow the KKK to publish shit on my blog? I think not.


Yes, actually; I realize that most people don't have the guts to truly support free speech, but assuming that posting on your blog is open to the general public, allowing the KKK (or whoever) to post there is exactly what free speech means.

If you're somehow incapable of responding to speech with more speech, whether it be a disclaimer or a refutation, then you can't expect others to respect your rights when it's your turn to speak (for instance, against racism on a blog run by racists). I understand the desire to delete things you find offensive or problematic -- I've done it before, myself -- but I regret it, and I'll be the first to admit that doing so was the coward's way out.

A private party with the full rights of any of the rest of us. If not Amazon, who is to decide? A government board tells Amazon what they may and may not publish? What other possible solution is there?

Amazon could publish anything and everything, with a free-speech disclaimer up front, and then let the government ban what's actually illegal. That's the obvious solution, assuming one values free speech more than convenience or money.
posted by vorfeed at 12:30 PM on December 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


well... add another reason why paper still beats electrons... at least for now.
posted by edgeways at 12:32 PM on December 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


I guess they are willing to sell the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

I think there's a great case to say--Hey Amazon, you suck! and to call them out as much as you like. But there is no law out there to force anyone to publish anything. I suggest a boycott. That way you can let them feel it where it counts, in their wallet.

But there is no banning, and Amazon has the right to do this, even if we disagree with it. This is my point. But loudly disagreeing makes a lot of sense.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:33 PM on December 30, 2010


That's kind of an historically important book, though.
posted by empath at 12:34 PM on December 30, 2010


Yes, actually; I realize that most people don't have the guts to truly support free speech, but assuming that posting on your blog is open to the general public, allowing the KKK (or whoever) to post there is exactly what free speech means.


So free speech means I have to let racists use my money to publish their speech? Really? No. That impinges on my freedom. Fuck that.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:34 PM on December 30, 2010


Yes, actually; I realize that most people don't have the guts to truly support free speech, but assuming that posting on your blog is open to the general public, allowing the KKK (or whoever) to post there is exactly what free speech means.

Hey, guess what! Your idea of "free speech" is different from what the law, and common sense, dictates.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 12:35 PM on December 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


If you're somehow incapable of responding to speech with more speech, whether it be a disclaimer or a refutation, then you can't expect others to respect your rights when it's your turn to speak (for instance, against racism on a blog run by racists). I understand the desire to delete things you find offensive or problematic -- I've done it before, myself -- but I regret it, and I'll be the first to admit that doing so was the coward's way out.

I have to disagree with this so strongly I don't know where to begin. These are our freedoms. They allow us to speak or not to speak. To arbitrarily require me to pay for bandwidth for a bunch of KKK people is the exact opposite of freedom. It is telling me what to do. That is compulsion. And that's wrong.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:37 PM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Am I required to invite the KKK over to a public restaurant for dinner if I think we'll be discussing race issues? Am I required to debate them if they come over to my table and intrude on my conversation? It's ridiculous to treat a publicly-visible blog differently than any other public space.
posted by muddgirl at 12:38 PM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, actually; I realize that most people don't have the guts to truly support free speech, but assuming that posting on your blog is open to the general public, allowing the KKK (or whoever) to post there is exactly what free speech means.

This seems to be a uniquely American view of "freedom of speech".
posted by KokuRyu at 12:38 PM on December 30, 2010


This seems to be a uniquely American view of "freedom of speech".

He's not with us.
posted by nomadicink at 12:42 PM on December 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yes, actually; I realize that most people don't have the guts to truly support free speech, but assuming that posting on your blog is open to the general public, allowing the KKK (or whoever) to post there is exactly what free speech means.

This seems to be a uniquely American view of "freedom of speech".


A uniquely insane one. If this were true, then why shouldn't someone just start posting bad self-published incest porn on this thread? Why that would be super free speech, right?
posted by Ironmouth at 12:42 PM on December 30, 2010


This seems to be a uniquely American view of "freedom of speech".

FYI, we're not all complete idiot assholes.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 12:43 PM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I agree they have the right to do this, I just hate how we still have to do the "Porn v. Art/Literature - I know it when I see it" thing. Obviously some level of incest can be present and it is still not offensive enough to ban. At what percentage of incest is it just porn and bannable?

I know a series of stories that repeatedly describe the sexual exploits of a midget with various prostitutes. It also contains a detailed description of a scene in which he displays his erect penis to his new unwilling wife, a 13 year old girl. There are multiple other instances of sex and rape and violence towards underage characters. It describes a scene in which a mentally challenged woman is gang raped on the street by a mob.

This crosses the line, right? Not really, great series of books coming to a TV near you. But what if it was just those scenes in isolation and not the other thousands of pages? What if there were just a hundred pages of other content summing up the rest of the story? Where is the line?

Do we look at intent of the author instead? How can you know? That is why people have a problem with this, if you believe in free speech defending offensive speech has to be important. At some point an ISP is going to be deciding which content you are allowed to look at if we march away from net neutrality, what then?

It's best to encourage Amazon not to filter on content unless it is strictly illegal and let the consumers decide, though they clearly have a right to do what they want.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:45 PM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I agree they have the right to do this, I just hate how we still have to do the "Porn v. Art/Literature - I know it when I see it" thing. Obviously some level of incest can be present and it is still not offensive enough to ban. At what percentage of incest is it just porn and bannable?

Screw them. We'll set up our own servers. Dinosaurs like Amazon are gonna be a thing of the past as publishing tools filter down to the general public.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:47 PM on December 30, 2010


At what percentage of incest is it just porn and bannable?

So, we need an incest scale?
posted by nomadicink at 12:58 PM on December 30, 2010


Screw them. We'll set up our own servers. Dinosaurs like Amazon are gonna be a thing of the past as publishing tools filter down to the general public.

Yeah, but no. Publishing tools have filtered down to the general public. Write a book, make a PDF, stick it on your website, and there you go. It's published. If you'd like it to be purchased, on the other hand, you may want to make sure it's available via Amazon.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 1:00 PM on December 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


If this were true, then why shouldn't someone just start posting bad self-published incest porn on this thread?

Is that a request?
posted by empath at 1:02 PM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


So I guess everything ever written by Faulkner is out.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 1:03 PM on December 30, 2010


So I guess everything ever written by Faulkner is out.

Let me get this straight. You're saying everything ever written by Faulkner features incest?
posted by jayder at 1:07 PM on December 30, 2010


"I recall telling a co-worker (who despite being rather intellectual worked on a shipping dock)" -oneswellfoop

Was that necessary?
posted by futz at 1:15 PM on December 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Amazon is actually a public corporation. They still have the right to sell what they want though.
posted by mnemonic at 1:23 PM on December 30, 2010


So free speech means I have to let racists use my money to publish their speech?

Assuming you're willing to let everyone else, including the public at large, use your money to publish their speech: yes, doing so would be consistent with free speech. You certainly have the right to choose not to do so, but as I said above, I think that flies in the face of free expression. There's a pretty good explanation of this quandary here, with regards to student newspapers.

I'm not suggesting that the government "force" or "coerce" you to support free speech, nor that you "have" to do so. Like I said, I'm well aware that most people aren't willing to. I'm simply agreeing with DU: free speech is an ethical framework in addition to a legal framework, even (especially!) when it asks us to allow speech we're personally uncomfortable with.

Personally, I don't think that deleting KKK screeds, incest porn, or other "offensive" works is preferable to putting a big, loud I DON'T SUPPORT THIS AND I THINK IT'S OFFENSIVE, BUT I STILL SUPPORT THE AUTHOR'S RIGHT TO SAY IT message across the top of it (a la Amazon's message on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion), nor do I understand why advocating the latter instead of the former makes me a completely insane idiot un-American asshole.
posted by vorfeed at 1:24 PM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Let me get this straight. You're saying everything ever written by Faulkner features incest?

I think she's referring to the mysterious absence of Faulkner from the Kindle bookstore (which I don't think is gonna be a Beatles-to-iTunes sensation when it's corrected, but I'm pretty sure it's inevitable anyway).
posted by kittens for breakfast at 1:25 PM on December 30, 2010


I'm simply agreeing with DU: free speech is an ethical framework in addition to a legal framework, even (especially!) when it asks us to allow speech we're personally uncomfortable with.

OK, in that case I disagree with you completely. I do not think there is an "ethical" framework which compels one to publish the thoughts of others at one's expense. I have never seen such a framework described here, and in general, free speech has always been referred to as the government being prohibited from stopping the speech of persons living in the country.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:28 PM on December 30, 2010


Clearly SOME people have the ethical framework that everyone should be able to publish everything and you should help them to do it, that doesn't mean it is the RIGHT ethical framework, or even widespread. But it is out there.

There are also people who will publish just about everything aside from totally illegal stuff for free for you. [nsfw]

There are webhosts that will host just about everything short of illegal content for a price too. More about profit than ethics though.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:42 PM on December 30, 2010


in general, free speech has always been referred to as the government being prohibited from stopping the speech of persons living in the country.

No, it hasn't. Read the article I linked to, or simply scroll up if you prefer; there are plenty of people who see free speech as a larger issue (including Amazon.com, at least when it comes to the Protocols). You're free to disagree with me, but the idea that yours is the only interpretation of free speech is laughable, as is the idea that your personal disagreement with a given ethical framework means there isn't such a framework.

This is an old, old argument among student newspapers, radio stations, zines, blogs, torrent trackers, and other venues dedicated to free speech, and guess what? Not all of them agree with you.
posted by vorfeed at 1:43 PM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Freedom of the press implicitly requires the outlay and commitment of resources. Providing a forum wherein free speech prevails means PRECISELY spending resources to enable and allow all comers to say whatever the fuck they want whether you, as the provider of the forum, agree with it or not.

Every other kind of forum wherein speech is fettered, culled, restricted, and/or censored is not free speech.
posted by mistersquid at 1:49 PM on December 30, 2010


Warning: I'm going to follow up the Lot daughter's incest derail here, with one of my patented obscure Bible info comment essay:

Flunkie: I'm not sure if I understand exactly what you're getting at or not, but if your point is that the incest portrayed in that passage was part of why Yahweh decided to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, you should be aware that it occurred after the destruction of those cities, between people who Yahweh had judged as good enough to be spared from the destruction.

And I could easily be wrong about this, but I don't think any punishment came after the incest, either; in fact, I think that all it really says about the incestuous rapists after the incident is that they became the foremothers of two tribes.


All of the following is marked IMHO, and it wouldn't be hard to find scholars who disagree in part or whole:

The Lot/Sodom story is a small scale repetition of the Noah/Flood story. They each follow the same pattern:


1. Some kind of sexual sin takes place, probably involving angels

Noah: "Sons of God" (probably angels, but there are other interpretations) marry the daughters of humans (Gen. 6:1-4)
Lot: Men of Sodom desire sex with the angelic visitors (Gen. 19:1-11)

2. Complete destruction follows, with only one family spared
Flood covers the earth, Noah's family survives (Gen. 6:5-8:22)
Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed by brimstone, Lot's family survives (Gen 19:12-19:29)

3. Patriarch of family gets drunk
Noah (Gen. 9:20-21)
Lot (Gen. 19:32)

4. Incest instigated by son/daughters
Ham with his mother (Gen. 9:22)
Lot’s daughters with Lot. (Gen. 19:33-35)

Now, here's where a lot of people disagree with me. What the text in Gen 9:22 literally says is that Ham "uncovered his father's nakedness." But it's hard to see how a grown man seeing his drunk Dad in the buff results in such an extreme curse (9:24-27) and it's really hard to see why the object of the curse isn't the offending Ham, but his son, Canaan. One clue to a better interpretation is that to "uncover your father's nakedness" became an idiomatic saying in Hebrew, and it shows up in the sexual morality codes of Leviticus:

Lev. 18:7
You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father, which is the nakedness of your mother; she is your mother, you shall not uncover her nakedness.
Lev. 18:8
You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s wife; it is the nakedness of your father.
Lev. 20:11
The man who lies with his father’s wife has uncovered his father’s nakedness.

This at least raises the possibility that Ham has slept with Mrs. Noah, and the reason that Canaan is cursed is that he is the child resulting from the union. (Admittedly, there are problems with this reading, but the text is muddled enough here that there are problems with any reading, and I lean toward the incest interpretation due to the idiomatic use in Leviticus and the strong parallels with the Lot story, where there is obviously a case of parent/child incest.)

5. Children of the instigator found nations hostile to Israel
Canaanites (Gen. 10:15-20)
Moabites (Gen. 19:37)
Ammonites (Gen. 19:38)

Flunkie is right that Lot's grandkids go on to found major tribes, but more importantly, they found tribes that are historically hostile to Israel. What we have here is a bit of old-fashioned ethnocentric etiology, in which the ancient Hebrews portray the founders of enemy nations as the bastard offspring of drunken incest sex. That's obviously not going to be the story that the Moabites, Ammonites or Canaanites tell about themselves.

There's a further link between the two stories: Genesis 10:19 says that it was the descendants of Canaan who inhabited Sodom and Gomorrah. The implication is that they grew up to behave like their immoral patriarch--and the cycle of sin, destruction, wine and misbehavior begins again.

Someday maybe I'll get my paper about this published. In the meantime, you saw it here first, folks!
posted by Pater Aletheias at 1:52 PM on December 30, 2010 [35 favorites]


I do not think there is an "ethical" framework which compels one to publish the thoughts of others at one's expense. I have never seen such a framework described here, and in general, free speech has always been referred to as the government being prohibited from stopping the speech of persons living in the country.

This isn't so. Without an ethical framework in society to support it, the legal framework falls – see unreasonable searches & seizures for that sort of arc in action. The public no longer believes there is such a thing as an unreasonable search, mostly, thus more and more searches become reasonable. The importance of civics classes in reinforcing our liberties, that sort of thing.

The other arc we see in action here is what's happened to antitrust principles – the idea that it is just to restrain large actors to a greater degree than small ones. You see it in Ironmouth, an obstensible center-leftist who's fully adopted the Reaganite stance that dominant market players must be exactly as free as individuals to do as they feel, and what pricks Amazon also pricks him as well. No ethical framework = no legal framework.

And that's how laws get changed, no matter where they're placed. On the good side, no ethical framework for slavery lead to no legal framework for slavery. No ethical framework for banning gay marriage is leading to no legal framework for banning gay marriage.

But in the case of principles we want to keep, adopting professional blinders on a principle – "free speech only applies to the government" – will, in due time, strangle it.
posted by furiousthought at 1:57 PM on December 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


Freedom of the press implicitly requires the outlay and commitment of resources. Providing a forum wherein free speech prevails means PRECISELY spending resources to enable and allow all comers to say whatever the fuck they want whether you, as the provider of the forum, agree with it or not.

Every other kind of forum wherein speech is fettered, culled, restricted, and/or censored is not free speech.


I'm on the side that says that Amazon, as a company, also has free speech rights, including the right NOT to publish, promote, or sale materials that they don't want to, for whatever reason. That includes the right to be inconsistent, or so finely nuanced in their decisions that others see it as inconsistent. And other retailers are free to capitalize on Amazon's decision by becoming the world's leading purveyors of incest porn. It is not Amazon's responsibility to sell every kind of literature in the world. And if I personally don't like their decisions, I am free to shop elsewhere. I would say that any situation wherein I, as a retailer, am required or coerced to offer things I don't want to be associated with isn't free speech.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 1:58 PM on December 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Forget incest: Amazon sells multiple editions (including one for the Kindle) of a book where a man takes a minor's virginity by shitting up her vagina. Incest porn is, um, family friendly compared to that.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:59 PM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


The last things I ordered from Amazon were a book by Aleister Crowley and a movie called "Wild Zero" which is about a punk band and a transsexual love affair and an alien zombie invasion. I bought them there because the shops near me didn't have them. You can always go elsewhere if necessary when Amazon doesn't stock something you want; a retailer is under no obligation to have a ideologically coherent policy on what particular titles it will and won't sell, nor is it under any obligation to sell absolutely everything anyone ever brings to it and asks it to sell.
posted by Hoopo at 2:07 PM on December 30, 2010


You see it in Ironmouth, an obstensible center-leftist who's fully adopted the Reaganite stance that dominant market players must be exactly as free as individuals to do as they feel, and what pricks Amazon also pricks him as well.

Let's get this straight--I believe that Amazon should not be forced by the government to publish things it does not want to. The fact that Amazon is a dominant player has nothing to do with it. Assuming that Amazon is an overly dominant player by anti-trust standards, I fully favor breaking it up via the anti-trust laws.

What I do not favor is coercion, government or otherwise, to force the publication of certain materials by anyone. I think we should all be free to stop buying from Amazon and to tell them exactly why. We can picket outside their HQ, we can do whatever. But as a private party, (public companies are private parties), their freedom of speech means the freedom to publish only what they want. This isn't ethics--it is the law. You cannot force someone to publish something they do not want to and this is as much a violation of free speech as prohibiting someone from saying anything.

Throwing the whole "dominant market player" in there is a red herring--if they are overly dominant, they should be broken up.

Having said this--let's be clear. These people are upset that Amazon is not allowing them to sell their works using Amazon's system. They are mad because a "dominant market player" cannot be forced to enter into contracts to sell their product. There is no right to force a specific party to enter into a contract with you. Talk about unfree. So, I redraft my question--am I to be forced to sell the KKK's racist hate speech on my servers? I say no!
posted by Ironmouth at 2:18 PM on December 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Providing a forum wherein free speech prevails means PRECISELY spending resources to enable and allow all comers to say whatever the fuck they want whether you, as the provider of the forum, agree with it or not.

Indeed. And in the absence of any white supremacists at your forum on race relations, as a provider of truly free speech you must provide your own, or at least send out invitations. You must also provide NAMBLA members at child welfare fora and cannibals at nutrition meetings.

[Number of the Beast] managed to erase every fond memory I have of previous Heinlein and replace it with pure suck.

Fortunately, I read that book at too young an age to notice.
posted by octobersurprise at 2:20 PM on December 30, 2010


Providing a forum wherein free speech prevails means PRECISELY spending resources to enable and allow all comers to say whatever the fuck they want whether you, as the provider of the forum, agree with it or not.

Indeed. And in the absence of any white supremacists at your forum on race relations, as a provider of truly free speech you must provide your own, or at least send out invitations. You must also provide NAMBLA members at child welfare fora and cannibals at nutrition meetings.

[Number of the Beast] managed to erase every fond memory I have of previous Heinlein and replace it with pure suck.

Fortunately, I read that book at too young an age to notice.


I think my band should get 6 tracks on the next Justin Bieber CD. He can use six tracks to disagree with my songs.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:32 PM on December 30, 2010


I can't believe this has finally happened - but I'm ready to disagree with you on some of your exegesis there, Pater Aletheias.

Noah: "Sons of God" (probably angels, but there are other interpretations) marry the daughters of humans (Gen. 6:1-4)
Lot: Men of Sodom desire sex with the angelic visitors (Gen. 19:1-11)


The bible is pretty explicit about the sins of Sodom - and nowhere does it mention homosexuality as the "cause" of Sodom's destruction. The "sins of Sodom" are recorded to be idolatry and injustice toward the poor.

Originally, lacking some specificity, in Genesis 18: "Then the Lord said, ‘How great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and how very grave their sin! 21I must go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me; and if not, I will know.’ "

Referenced in Deuteronomy 29: "The next generation, your children who rise up after you, as well as the foreigner who comes from a distant country, will see the devastation of that land and the afflictions with which the Lord has afflicted it— 23all its soil burned out by sulphur and salt, nothing planted, nothing sprouting, unable to support any vegetation, like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, which the Lord destroyed in his fierce anger— 24they and indeed all the nations will wonder, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land? What caused this great display of anger?’ 25They will conclude, ‘It is because they abandoned the covenant of the Lord, the God of their ancestors, which he made with them when he brought them out of the land of Egypt. 26They turned and served other gods, worshipping them, gods whom they had not known and whom he had not allotted to them; 27so the anger of the Lord was kindled against that land, bringing on it every curse written in this book."

And most tellingly, in my opinion, from Ezekiel 16:49: "Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy."

Nothing about sex acts in there. It was only much later that homosexuality became linked with the destruction of Sodom.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 2:51 PM on December 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Throwing the whole "dominant market player" in there is a red herring--if they are overly dominant, they should be broken up.

Appealing to a utopian vision of perfect competition everywhere won't change the fact that real world markets are far from ideal, and that monopolies and oligopolies are quite common. It's not a red herring to discuss whether these less-than-ideally-competitive entities take on additional ethical obligations along with their increased market influence.

At one extreme of influence there is the government, which has a monopoly that it can and does maintain by violence. Individual consumers, with virtually no personal influence on the market, form the other extreme. The government takes on a host of ethical obligations (e.g., free speech) while individuals have almost none, being able to make their purchasing decisions based on almost any arbitrary criteria.

What happens in the middle? As an example, consider a grocery in a city where there are many other groceries. Does this grocery have an ethical obligation, for instance, to sell kosher food? What if it were the only grocery for several hundred miles in a rural community with a minority Jewish population?

I would say that in the former case the store does not have an obligation, while in the latter it does. As commercial entities move away from being equal players in highly competitive markets towards being sole providers, they take on ethical obligations to serve the whole community, even the unprofitable or distasteful parts.

Whether or not Amazon.com in particular is in such a position is up for debate, but it's certainly worth discussing.
posted by Pyry at 3:14 PM on December 30, 2010


Appealing to a utopian vision of perfect competition everywhere won't change the fact that real world markets are far from ideal, and that monopolies and oligopolies are quite common. It's not a red herring to discuss whether these less-than-ideally-competitive entities take on additional ethical obligations along with their increased market influence.

No they should be broken up for violating the anti-trust laws. There is no remedy where any one should be forced to publish material they do not want to publish. It is literally unconstitutional.

Bitching at them enough to get them to keep publishing bad incest porn is enough.


but it isn't like these people can't release their bad incest porn, it is just that they can't sell it on Amazon. Two different things.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:25 PM on December 30, 2010


Anyone know about the legality of selling incest porn or whatever it is that was pulled? I assume we are all in agreement they shouldn't be forced to sell a book of child porn pictures published in some country where it is legal.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:37 PM on December 30, 2010


cavalier writes "Repeat after me: Amazon is a private company that sells books. "

Well; some books.

Flunkie writes "And I could easily be wrong about this, but I don't think any punishment came after the incest, either; in fact, I think that all it really says about the incestuous rapists after the incident is that they became the foremothers of two tribes."

Incest is pretty well the unabashed status quo in the bible. After all it all started with just Adam and Eve.
posted by Mitheral at 4:01 PM on December 30, 2010


Throwing the whole "dominant market player" in there is a red herring--if they are overly dominant, they should be broken up.

No, it's not - greater power, greater responsibility, etc., and do you seriously think in today's political climate an antitrust suit is even possible? You don't, come on. Today what passes for an antitrust suit is Bernie Sanders talking on the weekends. In the rest of that comment you simply reiterate that what pricks Amazon does in fact prick you.

There is no remedy where any one should be forced to publish material they do not want to publish. It is literally unconstitutional.

Speaking of Reaganite stances. How'd the Fairness Doctrine sit with you? Was it strictly a matter of the airwaves being public, or was the coercion (there's another Reaganite signal word) of dominant media companies to publish material they did not especially want to publish something that served the public interest? And then there are a number of other situations where companies are forced to say things they don't want to say. Nutritional information. Health warnings. So "coercing companies to print things they don't want to" isn't the line. It's somewhere further back from that.
posted by furiousthought at 4:17 PM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


As of 6:00 P. M. Central Standard Time Anais Nin House of Incest is still for sale on your kindle if you got one.

Also, sort of beside the point, I once (very briefly) dated a woman I met on an internet dating site who fell out with her ex-husband when he went on vacation with his sister and the wife discovered a box load of brother sister incest porno. There are some very strange people sharing the planet with us and I found a few of them on internet dating sites.
posted by bukvich at 4:17 PM on December 30, 2010


Throwing the whole "dominant market player" in there is a red herring--if they are overly dominant, they should be broken up.

No, it's not - greater power, greater responsibility, etc., and do you seriously think in today's political climate an antitrust suit is even possible? You don't, come on. Today what passes for an antitrust suit is Bernie Sanders talking on the weekends. In the rest of that comment you simply reiterate that what pricks Amazon does in fact prick you.

There is no remedy where any one should be forced to publish material they do not want to publish. It is literally unconstitutional.

Speaking of Reaganite stances. How'd the Fairness Doctrine sit with you? Was it strictly a matter of the airwaves being public, or was the coercion (there's another Reaganite signal word) of dominant media companies to publish material they did not especially want to publish something that served the public interest? And then there are a number of other situations where companies are forced to say things they don't want to say. Nutritional information. Health warnings. So "coercing companies to print things they don't want to" isn't the line. It's somewhere further back from that.



If an anti-trust suit is not possible, then how in god's name are you going to impose a constitutional requirement to publish books on companies. It is unconstitutional.

As for the fairness doctrine, it is complex. First, there were many facets to it, and some of it remained as policy for some time after the alleged "repeal." Specifically, the "personal attack" and the "political editorial" parts of the doctrine remained in place until 2000. It was therefore finally and completely repealed under Clinton.

I think the position taken by the Court is a good one--the idea that if the Doctrine was shown to limit free speech rather than enhance it, it should have been dropped. The legal basis for the rule, the licensing of the airwaves does give the FCC the right to impose such a doctrine. The idea is, of course, that the airwaves are public, not private property and that they may be content-regulated by the FCC, which has fined broadcasters on a content basis for years.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:42 PM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's an interesting point that we're having this conversation about Amazon, and not about all the other booksellers in the world who don't sell incest porn. I suspect a lot of people just plain hate Amazon, and are happy to look for any excuse to bash it.

I can guarantee you that if I drive down to the local indie bookstore in town, they will not have a single page of incest porn. Or ANY porn qua porn, for that matter.

Should I picket them for this? [] Yes [] No
posted by ErikaB at 4:42 PM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


How'd the Fairness Doctrine sit with you? Was it strictly a matter of the airwaves being public, or was the coercion (there's another Reaganite signal word) of dominant media companies to publish material they did not especially want to publish something that served the public interest?

Isn't that a false equivalence? It's certainly relevant that airwaves are public, and also that it is in the public interest to have an informed electorate on matters relating to public policy. I don't see how that relates to a discussion about booksellers and erotic fiction about incest.
posted by Hoopo at 4:45 PM on December 30, 2010


I have never seen a better physical manifestation of literary disdain.

There was an "award", I can't remember what, that consisted of a copy of Battlefield Earth that had a hole drilled through it. In the hole was a bolt, with the appropriate nuts and washers, rendering the book unopenable.
posted by eriko at 4:47 PM on December 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


"coercing companies to print things they don't want to" isn't the line. It's somewhere further back from that.

You're probably not fully aware of First Amendment jurisprudence, which is a shiny, shiny mess, which really, really sucks to have to litigate in.


First, constitutional rights can be limited by the government. However, the government must use due process of law when abridging a constitutional right. So speech may be controlled by the government.

However the analysis does not end there. Basically there are different types of speech. There is political speech and commercial speech. Political speech is analyzed by strict scrutiny analysis, which is the highest level of review. It is hard for the government to win under such an analysis.

Regulations and laws regarding commercial speech are reviewed under intermediate scrutiny. The labels and the like are such things. Indeed, laws against fraud, against perjury, and the like impinge free speech. How could we enforce our fraud laws and insider trading laws if we didn't regulate commercial speech? It would not be possible.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:50 PM on December 30, 2010


"coercing companies to print things they don't want to" isn't the line. It's somewhere further back from that.

Let's also point out that we are talking about forcing amazon to sell these works. radio and tv licensees do not sell the programming, they sell ads playing on the shows.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:53 PM on December 30, 2010




There is an inconvenience price associated with not using Amazon, especially for music and software purchases (large selection, no special software required to play music, ruthless Walmart-like undercutting of competitors' prices on software). For me, self-published erotica is not the issue, though I find Amazon's singling out of this one particular taboo as being somehow worse than all the other taboos. But I still haven't forgotten when they tried to hide the gay books. That was personally offensive to me.

posted by subdee at 5:04 PM on December 30, 2010


Aw, my bracketed text disappeared. That comment began: *continues boycott of Amazon* *clutches Sony Pocket Reader to chest*
posted by subdee at 5:06 PM on December 30, 2010


It's an interesting point that we're having this conversation about Amazon, and not about all the other booksellers in the world who don't sell incest porn. I suspect a lot of people just plain hate Amazon, and are happy to look for any excuse to bash it.

I love Amazon, they sell a lot of stuff you can't get easily locally, like (NSFW) sex toys. Clearly not prudes, that is part of the reason people got so weirded out by this. If WalMart pulled porn from their stores people would say "Duh!" because it was obviously there by mistake.

Amazon is in the adult entertainment business, you should expect them to behave like it. If content is legal and being sold alongside other erotic material (and also in a store with art and literature with incest), it's not obvious for someone to expect it would be pulled.

What troubling here is not that they decided to stop selling something, that's fine, it's that they are taking back a product they have sold. That seems to be okay by the TOS, but it is a bad precedent for future publishing.

We are talking about a proprietary device they are hoping to replace paperback books with. They are one of the first with a device like this, and unpublishing is a bad precedent even if it is only halfway like they are doing this time. (No re-download)

I'm not talking about the book shop down the street doing this, because they can't do it with the product they are selling me because it's a physical object stored in my house.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:38 PM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Assuming that Amazon is an overly dominant player by anti-trust standards, I fully favor breaking it up via the anti-trust laws.

I am on Team Ironmouth here.

The thing about Amazon and Walmart choosing to censor content, as they do, doesn't reveal problems with the First Amendment--it reveals problems with the enforcement of the anti-trust laws.

Amazon and Walmart should be able to censor content, because they're private businesses. They also shouldn't have been permitted to so completely dominate the markets for content, because they're private businesses. The problem isn't that they're censoring content, but that they're dominating the markets--in a better-regulated system (i.e., not Gilded Age II: Electric Boogaloo: The Robber Barons Return) there would be more air for their competition.

Trying to exhort Amazon and Walmart to act ethically is bailing out the ocean with a teaspoon. Get some fucking enforcement of the anti-trust laws in there instead!
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:01 PM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Obviously, the US government can't force Amazon to sell books about incest. They can't. There's absolutely no standing for them to do that. There is literally no law on the books that could be used to make that happen.

Okay, so then how could Amazon be pressured to change its policies? Consumer feedback? Boycotts? A nasty note from the FTC?

On the other hand, there are laws in place that are supposed to keep private companies from monopolizing markets.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:03 PM on December 30, 2010


Finally, I've been boycotting Amazon since the "hiding gay books" thing happened. Never going back, either. Does Barnes and Noble have equally good service? Actually, no, but it's still worth it to me.

Don't forget The Book Depository, either!
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:06 PM on December 30, 2010


Book publishers see their role as gatekeepers shrink - or not.
posted by Artw at 6:10 PM on December 30, 2010


Oedipus ist still available...
posted by yoyo_nyc at 7:01 PM on December 30, 2010


Repeating myself: Oedipus is not incest erotica. There seems to be a pretty clear distinction between books that have been removed and books that haven't. Hint: it has little to do with popularity and lots to do with erotica.

It's unfortunate that the OP is so poorly-worded as to continue tricking people into thinking that Amazon is banning literary fiction that "discusses" fictional incest.
posted by muddgirl at 8:12 PM on December 30, 2010


> Let's also point out that we are talking about forcing amazon to sell these works.

Actually, YOU are talking about that and as far as I can see no one else is.

What we're saying is "Shame on you, Amazon, for banning these books."
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:59 PM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Let's also point out that we are talking about forcing amazon to sell these works.

Vorfeed and others have been talking about an ethical obligation, not a legal one. You are arguing a straw man.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:22 PM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sorry muddgirl,

It's not Oedipus, it's clearly erotic fiction. Why does that matter? It's not a trick if you read the links. Frankly no trick is intended.
posted by dibblda at 11:47 PM on December 30, 2010


Albeit by far the largest, most well-known, and the online book retailer of choice for most? Right?

Yeah, it's a long walk across the Internet to Barnes & Noble or any other book store.

Seriously, I find it extremely hard to believe that Amazon is anything approaching a monopoly. There are brick and mortar bookstores all over the place, there are several large online competitors, etc.
posted by wildcrdj at 10:22 AM on December 31, 2010


At least Amazon is still offering Ian McEwan's The Cement Garden, which is as good as it gets for literary incest erotica, in my humble book.
posted by emhutchinson at 1:59 PM on December 31, 2010


It's not Oedipus, it's clearly erotic fiction. Why does that matter? It's not a trick if you read the links. Frankly no trick is intended.

It's clear that lots and lots of people in this thread have missed the fact that the books being banned are all works of erotica. I can tell because they keep bringing up works of non-erotica, like Heinlein novels, which have not been banned.

Personally, I read erotica, but I don't demand that any institution choose to sell it to me.
posted by muddgirl at 4:02 PM on December 31, 2010


Well, lets face it, they keep on brining up works that are not self published via Amazons POD service. And the reason they keep making that miscomparrison is because the agreived author muddied the waters as much as possible in an attempt to drum up sympathy, and in a rather slezy attempt to get some kind of internet mob going.

That people keep on doing it proves what chumps people on the internet are.
posted by Artw at 4:09 PM on December 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Are we supposed to take the Kindle and self-publishing seriously as the future of the industry or not?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:32 PM on December 31, 2010


We're supposed to vaguely know what we are talking about before running around waving our hands in the air.
posted by Artw at 4:51 PM on December 31, 2010


So, that's a no?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:27 PM on December 31, 2010


"the future of the industry" is a bunch of people providing a bunch of services on a bunch of terms

So, the Kindle is one particular branch of the future of the industry. Take it seriously in proportion with how much of the future it is.
posted by LogicalDash at 4:31 PM on January 1, 2011


It's the market leader at the very start of a new industry, it's safe to estimate the impact for the future will be large. If Amazon does it in 2011, the rest of the industry might in 2020.

Anyway, my question goes more to the idea of taking self-publication seriously. If we are all using a device like a Kindle we won't need big publishing houses as much. We should not look down upon something for being self-published. If you want to judge on content, fine, but it seems weird to make any distinction between self-published or not.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:35 PM on January 1, 2011


You know what? I'm sick and tired of hearing folks like Ironmouth screech about Amazon's supposed "rights". Fuck Amazon. They don't deserve any rights, they aren't human. Rights are for humans.

Corporations don't exist except that we humans decide as a group to allow it. We get to decide what they can or can not do. They don't get rights. We can decide to kill them at any time, and let's be real, a few of these bastards need killin' to teach the rest a lesson about exactly who exists to serve who.

Is this situation a suitable one to push the issue? I don't think so. But it sure as hell is a great reason to not by a Kindle, and otherwise generally avoid Amazon, which is just another place taking your money in order to give it to Republicans.
posted by Goofyy at 3:06 AM on January 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


I wonder how many comments have been deleted in this thread so far.
posted by jabberjaw at 3:05 PM on January 2, 2011


Thanks to me clicking through some links in this thread, Amazon is now convinced that I'm an incest-loving white supremacist. Thanks, metafilter.
posted by exogenous at 11:29 AM on January 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


Me too. I'm no white supremacist!
posted by Justinian at 10:58 PM on January 3, 2011


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