Censoring censorship: Amazon’s pedophilia problem and the ambiguity of “free speech”

You’ve probably heard by now Amazon’s problems with pedophilia. As CNN describes the situation:

An e-book for sale on Amazon.com that appears to defend pedophilia has sparked hundreds of angry user comments and threats to boycott the online retailer unless it pulls the title.

And, according to the most recent updates, Amazon has pulled the title. But, before they did so, they apparently defended selling the book based on the premise that it would be “censorship not to sell certain titles because we believe their message is objectionable.” And, of course, they’re right that this would be censorship. But, they’re wrong about this being a problem. Amazon is a for-profit company with every right to exercise censorship over the products that they will put up for sale. Indeed, their own publication policy prohibits selling “pornography” on the site. That is also censorship. And, it’s also okay. The problem is that we’ve turned “censorship” into a bad word that is necessarily wrong in all its forms, which is absurd. Unless a business is going to sell everything imaginable, it necessarily exercises some level of censorship.

And, of course, in this case censorship is very much called for. As CNN reports,

The author of “The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure: A Child-Lover’s Code of Conduct” said he published the controversial tome to address what he considers unfair portrayals of pedophiles in the media.

So, the author’s explicit purpose is to make pedophilia more acceptable. And, as he explains in an interview, he thinks he can do this by making clear which sexual acts with children are inappropriate and which are perfectly fine. If there’s a book worthy of censorship, this would seem to be an obvious candidate. And, while “free speech” may cover the author’s right to say such things, there is no “right” that says Amazon has to sell it.

About Marc Cortez

Theology Prof and Dean at Western Seminary, husband, father, & blogger, who loves theology, church history, ministry, pop culture, books, and life in general.

Posted on November 10, 2010, in Misc, Sin and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I buy a lot of books and stuff through Amazon, but I would boycott them in an instant for selling filth like that. I am glad they had the decency to stop selling it.

  2. Isn’t this just the reductio on the ethics that the world operates from everyday? They’re (amazon) on a slippery slope, which slides which ever way the masses do; thankfully even “fallen” man still has a conscience.

    I wonder what’s worse the avarice that drives Amazon, or that which drives these pedophiles? I know, on a graded scale what my response is (the pedophiles). It’s just an interesting situation to see pagans deal with pagans around ethical concerns. What’s the basis? Cultural mores, what are those?

    Anyway, I hadn’t heard about this, Marc, so thanks for sharing, I think 😉 .

  3. Marc,

    I commented on this on another blog, the libertarian in me wants to protect free speech, but the subject is evil. But, in reality there is so much evil allowed in other areas, advertising, etc. Truly the free world, is an evil world now, with the loss of the Judeo-Christian worldview, which was spiritually alive once. But no more!

    • But, of course, this really isn’t a free speech issue at all. This guy may have a right to write the book, but that has nothing to do with whether Amazon is going to sell it. That’s a business decision. Amazon might decide to carry the book because they think it’s good for business not to make moral judgments on books. Or they could make the opposite decision. But neither decision would have anything to do with free speech.

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