By now most of you would have heard about the furore that erupted over the decision of Amazon com to sell a book praising paedophilia. After a huge public outcry, the mega online bookseller finally pulled the book. The episode again raises questions about freedom and censorship.
Here is how the story was first reported: “Amazon is selling a self-published book defending paedophiles, sparking discussions about the retailer’s obligation to vet items before they are sold in its online stores. The book, The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure: a Child-lover’s Code of Conduct by Philip R Greaves II, offers advice to paedophiles afraid of becoming the centre of retaliation.
“It is an electronic book available for Amazon com Inc’s Kindle e-reader. The book has triggered mounting outrage on Twitter and beyond. A chorus of Twitter users is calling for Amazon to pull the book, with a few threatening to boycott the Kindle store until it does.”
As mentioned, a fierce public reaction soon resulted in Amazon having second thoughts. This is how one news outlet describes the situation: “An e-book for sale on Amazon com entitled ‘The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure,’ was apparently pulled by the online retailer late Wednesday after shocked consumers across the nation called for a boycott.
“The title, authored by Philip Greaves, was published late last month, according to product details previously available on Amazon com. It sold for $4.79 on the company’s Kindle Store. ‘This is my attempt to make pedophile situations safer for those juveniles that find themselves involved in them, by establishing certian [sic] rules for these adults to follow,’ a product description read. ‘I hope to achieve this by appealing to the better nature of pedosexuals, with hope that their doing so will result in less hatred and perhaps liter sentences should they ever be caught.’
“The content led to hundreds of tweets criticizing Amazon for allowing the title to be sold and a Facebook page was created calling for a boycott of the Seattle-based company. ‘This is totally unacceptable,’ one Facebook posting read. ‘This is not about freedom of speech. This is a HOW TO GUIDE FOR PEDOPHILES! Shame on you Amazon com’.
“Another posting read: ‘They are screwing themselves over just in time for holiday shopping.’ Earlier Wednesday, Amazon stood by its decision to sell the e-book. ‘Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable,’ the company said in a written statement. ‘Amazon does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts, however, we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions’.”
The article continues, “This isn’t the first time Amazon has sold material that promotes illegal activity. It is currently accepting pre-orders for the hardcover version of ‘I Am the Market: How to Smuggle Cocaine by the Ton, in Five Easy Lessons’ by Luca Rastello.
“Nor is it the first time Amazon has come under attack for selling objectionable content in its store. In 2002, the United States Justice Foundation, a conservative group, threatened to sue Amazon for selling ‘Understanding Loved Boys and Boylovers.’ That title is still available through Amazon. In 2009, Amazon stopped selling ‘RapeLay,’ a first-person video game in which the protagonist stalks and then rapes a mother and her daughters, after it was widely condemned in the media and by various interest groups.”
While it is good to see Amazon bowing to public pressure, it seems this is not the end of the story. Evidently Amazon is still selling other books by the same author. But the question remains, why in the world did they allow a book like this to be sold in the first place?
Of course libertarians will claim that censorship is always worse, even worse than allowing pro-paedophilia books. Sorry, but they are dead wrong. Indeed, only a moral midget would make such reckless claims. There are some things worth having limits on.
Indeed, there are some things worth banning altogether. Paedophilia is one such thing, and books praising it would be another. Anyone who thinks that adults should be free to have sexual relations with children – whether consensual or not – is not someone who should be handed a microphone in public.
Amazon was quite happy taking the libertarian position on this. Of course they would do so not out of a great love for the freedom of speech or expression, but to simply make greater profits. They will want to sell anything and everything, just to make more money.
So it does no good having them lecture us on the importance of free speech and letting the public decide what it wants to read. Not surprisingly, other libertarian groups sprung to the defence of Amazon. As the above news article notes:
“That doesn’t mean Amazon should be prohibited from selling it, countered Christopher Finan, president of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression. He said that Amazon has the right under the First Amendment to sell any book that is not child pornography or legally obscene. Finan said Greaves’ book doesn’t amount to either because it does not include illustrations.”
Wonderful – there are no illustrations, so this textbook for paedophiles and how they can get away with their sheer evil is quite acceptable. As has been said before, a lot of open minds need to be closed for repairs. All civilised societies have limits and regard certain things as taboo.
As one American commentator put it, “Censorship is a defining act of civilisation. Societies cannot exist without proscribing certain things. When we outlaw racial discrimination or drunk driving or price-fixing, we are defining who we are. And just because we proscribe drunk driving does not mean that we’re on the slope to forbidding driving. Only the weak-minded find it impossible to make simple distinctions.”
Or as G.K. Chesterton long ago said, “Art, like morality, consists of drawing a line somewhere.”