Should Amazon Sell a Manual for Pedophiles?

UPDATE:

In response to overwhelming pressure to remove it, Amazon has taken down the offending book.   Good for them.  I’ll get into the problems with self-publishing in a later post and probably mention this ill-conceived, misspelled piece of garbage then.

See more about Amazon’s decision here.

Today I read something on MSN that I wasn’t quite sure how to take, but it involves censorship, a thorny issue for writers.

According to this article by Helen A.S. Popkin, Amazon is selling an e-book in its Kindle store about dealing with pedophila…from the pedophile’s point of view.

I won’t mention the title; you can find it in the article, and I don’t want to give the writer the attention, frankly.  The book apparently offers advice for people in adult/child sexual situations, to help make it safer for the pedos.

Amazon has defended its decision to sell this material by issuing a statement about why they refuse to take the book down.  It reads in part:

Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable.  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.

There’s a problem inherent in this.  Having sex with kids IS a criminal act, in every state.  Pedophilia is a paraphilia, a psychosexual disorder marked by abnormal and intense urges toward persons or things that fall outside the norm of sexuality.  Since children are not able to make viable decisions in this area, sex with kids is illegal.

But removing the book is technically censorship.   And nonfiction books describing other criminal acts or advocating questionable activities, even for entertainment-–The Anarchist’s Cookbook, George Hayduke’s Revenge books come to mind—aren’t restricted.

Where does that leave writers with something controversial to say, even if it’s horrifying?  And where should booksellers draw the line?

Amazon doesn’t sell porn in the Kindle store.  Is this book porn?  Bnet’s Style Inc. blogger Lydia Dishman reports that because it has no pictures or illustrations,  it doesn’t even qualify as child porn.  Thus, it’s breaking no laws and Amazon can’t be charged for selling it.

Booksellers have a right to carry whatever material they like, if they think they can sell it and they’re not running afoul of the legal system.  They can sell adult pornography, graphic crime novels and other fictional works describing the sexual abuse of children.  We as consumers are free to avoid or boycott the store or the writer if we like.

In my opinion, maybe the law is too lax on this kind of material.  I’ve seen child pornography (in a Citizen’s Police Academy course).  If I had to name the worst scourges on this earth, it would be right up there with genocide, war and slavery.  I can’t imagine anything instructing pedophiles on how to conduct these activities as acceptable in any context.  I’ve heard sexual abuse described as “soul murder.”  That’s what it is, and that’s what it does to kids who go through it.

Is it okay to talk about it? Well, yes, we have to, in order to save children from it.  There are good tips here for preventing child sexual abuse.  Children whose parents or guardians don’t pay much attention to them are prime pickings for pedophiles.

Is it okay to write about it?  Authors can write about anything they want.  I’ve read well-written books both fiction and nonfiction that contain scenes of child rape.  Makes me sick, but in the context of the narrative, the scenes were necessary to establish character motivation and show the degradation of a person’s psyche.

So should this book be taken down?  Amazon isn’t going to remove it.  They won’t take down the Holocaust denial books they sell either, even though they are illegal in certain countries.  It’s still okay in the United States to say it never happened, even if it makes you look like an idiot.

Barring certain wartime situations or yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater when there isn’t one, one of our basic freedoms in the U. S. is the right to say or think whatever we want without fear of reprisal.  If we insist libraries, booksellers and authors restrict their content to that which is sanitary and uncontroversial, do we undermine that right?  I think we do.

As a writer, if you pen something questionable, remember we have this freedom.  But I would take this particular incident as an object lesson.  There are some subjects people feel extremely strongly about, and you must be prepared for a possible backlash if you choose to tackle them.

As a consumer, you control your money.  You can vote with your wallet.  You don’t have to buy the book or read it, and if you disagree with Amazon’s policy, you can walk away from them.  If you have knowledge of a crime committed against someone, you can report it (and please do).  Under the law, the fact that the book may be sick is not a crime.

I myself don’t plan to boycott Amazon because of this.  I won’t buy the book, I won’t mention the author’s name, I will exhort anyone not to buy it out of curiosity.  This twit might be able to publish it, but if it doesn’t sell, it will eventually vanish.

If you have an opinion about censorship in general, or about this particular issue with Amazon, feel free to share in the comments.  Please be respectful of others’ opinions. No personal attacks or your comments will be deleted.  It’s okay to disagree as long as we remember that we each have a right to do so.

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9 thoughts on “Should Amazon Sell a Manual for Pedophiles?

  1. This situation is a good example of the consequences of a society not understanding the cognitive purpose of words. Words aren’t just tools of communication, they are also tools of thought: they name, and their definitions define, the concepts we use in our thinking. Our thinking is only as good as our concepts. If our concepts are muddy, blurred, imprecise, then so also will be our thinking.

    In our times the word “censorship” is often taken to mean the obstruction of free speech. But the way most people understand the word is that it means any instance of someone preventing someone else from communicating something. This is a very broad meaning, and that’s where we start to run into problems. Because people tend to think of censorship as obstruction of free speech, and because they tend to think of it as meaning any sort of obstruction of communication, it becomes very easy for people to feel that any instance in which someone prevents someone else from communicating is a violation of free speech.

    But there is a crucial difference between a government restricting speech, and an individual or company refusing to provide an avenue for someone’s speech. A government has a monopoly on the legitimate use of force in a society, and when they prevent someone from speaking or publishing something, it is by threat of force. When a private citizen or company refuses to provide an avenue for someone to speak or publish, they are just exercising their right to do what they will with their own property.

    This is a very important difference, and is the reason why a government must be restrained by a specific recognition of its citizens’ right to freedom of speech. Censorship, in the sense of government using force to prevent a citizen from speaking their mind, is a horrible and dangerous thing (think of a certain imprisoned recent Nobel Prize winner).

    Sadly today all the moral weight of this word is retained in many people’s minds when they apply it to the private action of a private citizen or company. In this instance, Amazon, and many onlookers, would consider it an example of “censorship” (with all the odious connotations of the worst instances the word calls to mind) if they refused to sell a particular book because they found the content objectionable. This is, in a word, silly. There are actions so reprehensible that we can all agree they are wrong, and pedophilia is one of those. Amazon should take a moral and indeed life-serving position here and refuse to distribute this book. They should stand up for their right to do so, and they should point out that doing so is NOT an example of “censorship” in the original sense of the word (censors were government functionaries in the Roman Republic).

    There is another side of this issue that is even more important than the individual freedom of booksellers to choose what books to sell. If we do not understand what censorship is and what makes government prohibition of free speech dangerous and wrong–if we are lulled by instances in which private citizens or organizations legitimately refuse to provide avenues for people to promote their views, and call this “censorship” and say in some cases censorship is okay–then we are in very grave danger of being asleep on guard duty should the day come that our government attempts to curtail free speech, saying to ourselves as we allow it that “in some cases it’s okay”.

    • I think you have a good point, Andres. The bookseller has a choice to sell particular material, and they also have a choice NOT to sell it. Choosing not to do so doesn’t stop someone else from selling it. Amazon could take the high road here, but they have chosen not to. There’s no law against it so they’ll do what they can to make a buck.

      I guess I should have clarified it is censorship IN THEIR VIEW. Also, I would like to add that anyone who buys this book, whether for curiosity or because they advocate the author’s views, is going to be scrutinized. Don’t think they don’t know what you’re buying? Think again. Your name is on that credit card, buddy! Your ISP is exposed like underpants in a strong wind!

      I’m still not going to boycott them for it, because I maintain I don’t have to read it. The public library has books I think are nutcase crap but I don’t boycott them either.

  2. I woke up today to this story. It seems that this author, and I use the term lightly, is in Pueblo Colorado. The very idea of the book is highly offensive. It is certainly nothing I would buy at any time.

    should it be banned? No absolutely not. Free speech is not absolute, as Elizabeth mentioned you can not shout “Fire” in a crowded theater. Laws are in place to punish those that speek in a manner to create panic or cause harm to others. The other restriction is on slander. I can not write a book or rent a billboard in your town and put. “so and so kicks puppies” I can be sued for that and for good reason.

    Now back to this ummmm book.

    Amazon is a private company. They can choose what they will and will not sell. If you are a consumer you can choose what you buy and will not buy. I am not a fan of boycotts other than what I choose to purchase.

    I may not agree with what someone is saying but I will never infringe on someones right to say it

  3. As a victim of childhood maltreatment, sexual, physical, emotional, and mental I must say a how to guide for pedos is not something I would want to see published. It destroys a child’s life and new research is discovering there are physical and neurological changes that occur, some permanent. This is an area of research for me to learn how to manage my “dis-ableness.”

    On the other hand, we do have the right to free speech, the right to voice our opinions, share our insights, and promote that which we think is acceptable. That said, we also have freedom of choice. As you said Elizabeth, we can choose to read, watch, listen to what we want. I do not want to see the book. Thank you. Would rather see a book written by a pedo to instruct others in treatment, not how to get away with it safer. They do that enough through their networks.

    Freedom is what this country is founded on. No one person or organization has the right to take that away. As sick as it makes me to think there is still a society like this out there. The book would have sold well, at least I imagine so.

    I am glad that the book is no longer available. However, it does smack of censorship. Unless the author was instructing in criminal acts.

    I did not know the Anarchist’s Cookbook was available through publishers, thought that was outlawed. But then there we are again, trying to discern what is and is not an infringement upon freedom of press and speech.

    It would seem this is one freedom that needs to be explored further.

    Thank you again for this article.

    • You’re welcome, Connie. Amazon did take the book down (good for them). I know someone looked at it and it apparently wasn’t violating any laws, and we don’t have laws against being a jerk or an idiot. If we did, we’d probably have to build a prison the size of several states to hold everybody!

      *The Anarchist’s Cookbook *is available on the Internet in its entirety I think, and also on Amazon. The author wrote a disclaimer that he regrets putting that material out there, that his views have changed in the years since he wrote it, and the material is outdated and even dangerous.

      Everyone should remember is that with the digital archiving of information everything you post, all your comments, blogs, probably emails, books, reviews, etc. are now out there FOREVER. They may have future repercussions people haven’t thought about.

      I still don’t believe we should suppress people’s right to speak even if what they say is idiotic or hateful. But you’re right; there are moral issues here that should be explored. I don’t know if we can come up with a way to limit the harm certain types of speech can do without running afoul of our rights or bringing the religion hammer down on people (and not everyone in America is Christian, or has to be).

      As long as we use common sense and are able to lodge protests the way people did here, perhaps companies like Amazon will continue to heed the word of their customers and realize that because some yahoo can self-publish garbage doesn’t mean they have to sell it.

  4. FYI and thank you. There is a new Christian guide out on the rearing of children which Amazon is planing to replace the Pedophiles Guide with now that it can be purchased as an ebook. The new paper back guide is tentatively called. ¨A Holy Whipping is NOT a Pedophiles Licking¨. And there are all sorts of appropriate punishments in it that can be used by the Christian family for everything from making the child eat hot jalapeño peppers for using the wrong words…to other more sever but not as ¨scaring¨ punishments.

    And there is an entire chapter devoted to telling in such beauty that we are not animals like K9s or bears who lick and preen their young to bond with them. And that for the sake of the child´s sexual maturity affection should be held to a minimum and only used sparingly as a reward for positive behavior. B.F. Skinner is mentioned in the preface as being among those the author strongly admires.

    Thank you once again for pointing this out. You should feel very proud.

    Dr LaBra

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