Thursday, November 11, 2010

Amazon and Censorship

That's the latest scandal...and this time its a self-published book about...pedophilia.

Disgusting to any sane, rational adult..and also very poorly written and clearly not edited. It would simply have been lost in the crowd if it wasn't for the subject matter. Some have said it might have been an FBI sting...but I would think the FBI can type, spell and punctuate. It appears, in fact, to have been written by a manic depressive off his meds.

After a massive boycott threat, Amazon took the book down.

Now, here is the question. Did they do the right thing?

From the business point of view...absolutely. They were being threatened with a large scale boycott right before Black Friday. They realistically had no choice.

From the legal point of view...very much so. I'm fairly sure the FBI were on their doorstep. Given people have been arrested for not reporting unsolicited child pornography sent to their email, Amazon was on VERY shaky ground when they initially refused to take down the book.

From the moral point of view...hrm. Truthfully, Amazon sells a lot of things various people would call obscene. GLBT erotica? Check. Mein Kampf? Check. And the book was not, in fact, child pornography. Likely the book was nothing but a stunt to draw attention to the man's other books...a stunt that was ill thought out as he's likely in a small room with FBI agents right now. Not like he's hard to track down... However, it was a book that crossed the obscenity line with not a certain proportion of the population but a vast majority.

I suppose I have very mixed feelings. The book did need to come down; it promoted illegal acts. But as writers we need the freedom to touch on aspects of human nature that others might consider obscene.

We need the freedom to write about relationships between two men or two women. The freedom to write about illegal acts...heck, there are entire genres based around writing about murders and murderers. In fact, one of the most powerful stories I've read recently was about a pedophile...one who genuinely did love children and stalked child molesters to dish out vigilante justice. Frankly, that story crossed the obscenity line...but then so, for many people, would some of MY stories.

Which makes me realize where the line really is.

Writers have a responsibility not to promote as a good thing acts that cause harm.

Homosexuality? Does not cause harm. So its fine to 'promote' it...especially by the definition of showing healthy homosexual relationships between adults. Heck, its fine to promote BDSM...between consenting adults. One of the nicest people I know is into 'that kind of thing'.

But writers should always take care that they do not show things like rape (including child rape), murder and terrorism as good and moral things. They need to be in our work, because these things can give a piece great power. (Note I say murder, not killing...a writer can, of course, show the acts of a soldier in a good light and thrillers are dependent on a good gunfight. Its cold blooded, premeditated murder that should be shown as 'wrong'). Because we need to show the darkest part of human experience to display the light.

Yes, there are books that are entirely sweetness and light, but...

However, yes, there is a line. This book crossed it, because it implied that a form of rape could be a good thing. And yes, the author had the right to write it.

Everyone else had the right to call him a disgusting man for doing so.

Actually, I hope he did get arrested...or I wouldn't be surprised if the postscript to this story is him showing up in a ditch somewhere. People do NOT like child molesters...