Saturday, November 13, 2010

Biting the Hand That Beats us

Amazon, it was recently discovered, was offering for sale a book on (Brace yourself) loving children by a pedophile. Apparently it was online for sale for two weeks before people began to notice and descended with sharpened free speech amendment sickles. Amazon briefly defended itself, saying it does not support censorship and relies on the intelligence of the purchaser, then the next day pulled the book off its non-corporeal shelves. Now people are up in arms, because once the hate-beast smells blood, it cannot be deterred, trolling through Amazon to find books on naturalists and such, holding them up as child pornography as one hoists one's petard. The Squawk-boxes are in full bellow, denouncing the evils of Amazon, and 'how could they betray us like this after being held up as a family-friendly, feel-good site'?

What the hell did everyone expect? Did the general public honestly believe Amazon would just turn down profit and traffic to hold up some higher moral code? There is a name for corporations like that; Liquidated (or not-for-profits, shut up). We have carefully crafted and built companies into machines designed only for churning out profit with no other thoughts in mind and then we shy away and furrow our brow when we discover our spit-strewn teeth-festooned maniac gives us a nip on the hand to see what we taste like. The recent trend towards charity and other such heart-warming philanthropy has been proven to be such a cash-cow for corporations and other such profit-aligned groups that I have even seen a "Breast Cancer Garden kit" where the set of tools, a trowel, gloves, and knee mat, were all painted pink in that fight breast cancer color that is recognizable from a hundred yards away in a snowstorm. People think it's wonderful, think they genuinely care, but they don't. The same amount of money could be directly donated to the society and would provide so much more good, but it's just so much more convenient to do it this way. Companies capitalize on this; when people start feeling empathy or other such "soppy" emotions, they tend to rationalize and think less, resulting in more impulse buying. Linking their own product or brand name to a highly recognized, emotionally charged one is publicity you just can't buy.

But we can't blame them. We really can't. This is the nature of the business, and we've put ourselves in a position by adopting a capitalist market system and government that upholds it. I am not defending their actions because they are trying to turn a profit, I'm just saying we shouldn't be surprised. It's not for me to say that we shouldn't, or can't, have a capitalist society but it is my place just to quietly point out that if we want to dance the YMCA, we have to put our arms up and let that cute boy next to us smell our pits.

The free speech aspect is, of course, the only interesting part of the debate, and the only one up for real negotiation. The question we should be examining is whether this man should be allowed to publish this book, and offer it for sale, not whether Amazon should be selling it, and that's a damn good question. We've seen a lot of the dark side of free speech in the past couple months, (Westboro Baptist Church's "Thank God for dead soldiers" and Rev. Jones' proposed KBQ leap to mind) and we've had to pile that heaping crap on our plate, and shovel it in with a smile. Yet, this whole issue is a slippery slope. Outlaw this one, and maybe the next one is Mein Kampf, or Catcher in the Rye (I still have no idea why that book is scandalous). This is a tad alarmist (Hide your Socrates, hide your Plato, and hide your de Sade, cause they're banning everybody up in here!) but if we buckle and allow the government to step in and block our eyes from this horror, it makes the plate of crap we had to eat earlier worth less. It means we have to begin to split hairs and wonder why we were more horrified by a pedophiles guide than the incredible breach of good taste required to celebrate a  soldier's death.  Any breach of freedom of speech devalues all freedoms.

Personally I come down on the side of punishing actions, and since there's no way to punish someone for publishing a book (It was even self-published which should make this case extra-simple for the censorship pundits because we don't have to nitpick between censoring the publishers and the writer - they're the same dude) without being forced to write up a laundry list of offensive materials, or worse, devolving to an argument about whose fault it was (publisher, store, or writer?) or even worse, trying to find a way to ban someone from writing, which anyone who is familiar with the Marquee's story (he wrote in his own blood on the walls of his cell) should know is a damn futile gesture, we should not be allowed to make books illegal.

Two final pieces of food for thought; the first, the author apparently does not identify as a pedophile, although given the firestorm that could result from admitting it I'm not surprised, I just wonder who he thinks he's fooling, and two, that the summary says it aims to help juveniles who "find themselves involved in [pedosexual relationships]" and one can not help but wonder why the author believes kids would be "finding themselves" in such situations unless they were led or coerced into them, thus giving lie to a common pedophile belief that the children are willing and tipping the aim of the book away from the ridiculous pretense of "making it safe" into helping child molesters "get away with it".

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