A few words about Amazon and free speech

By Mir
November 11, 2010

Several of you have emailed me about yesterday’s dust-up surrounding the discovery that Amazon is carrying a self-published Kindle book about pedophilia, and Amazon’s subsequent refusal to pull the book from its library. I was emailing folks back one by one when I realized it probably just makes more sense to say something here.

I want to be perfectly clear about this:

1) I am—like everyone else, I’m guessing—horrified by the book in question. I would be delighted if it was never available to anyone, anywhere.
2) That said, in this age of the Internet (and Amazon’s self-publishing platform), anyone can release anything to the masses without any sort of quality control.
3) And finally—and this is where, I suspect, I’m going to get into trouble—I do not support the vilification of Amazon over their refusal to pull this book. Amazon is refusing to participate in censorship, and as someone who writes for a living, I respect that.

I completely respect your right to decide for yourself that you don’t want to patronize Amazon because you feel differently, of course. But I’m just telling you how I feel about it.

Two more things:
1) I read an excerpt from the book and feel confident that the whackjob who wrote it is too far into his own mental illness to provide anything in the way of “helpful tips” to fellow pedophiles,
2) I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. This last point is not really anyone’s business, but I share it because I’m not open to anyone coming and yelling at me about how we need to “protect the children!” I get it, believe me. In my opinion, we protect the children by making our best possible decisions about where they go and who they’re with, and educating and empowering them about their own bodies and rights… not by storming Amazon’s gates with pitchforks in hand.

Again, I’m not here to change your mind, because you’re entitled to your opinion. I just wanted to clarify mine.

[Edited to add: Amazon has now pulled the book, citing violations of their TOS.]


  1. Where’s the “Like” button? Well said, Mir.

  2. Have I said lately how much I like you? Cuz I like you a lot. Applauding your position and your statement.

  3. Very well said – I like you more and more.

  4. Well said Mir – free speech applies to everyone – not just the ones with opinions you agree with. Thank you!

  5. Well written response to a touchy subject. Kudos to you Mir….

  6. Standing on the platform right beside you.

    It always amazes me when people start crusades like this that they don’t see the big picture of what they are doing.

    I’ve always stood by the basic rules:
    If you don’t like it, don’t buy it.
    If you don’t like it, don’t watch it.
    If you don’t like it, don'[t read it.
    If you don’t like it, don’t listen.

    But don’t stop me from doing so and I won’t stop you.

  7. Stop being rational – the people don’t go in for that! Especially not around elections. 😉
    (Also, so sorry for what you’ve suffered, not that it’s any of my business.)

  8. *applauding*

  9. Well said!!!! I’m right there with you!

  10. Great post and your response is right on!!!

  11. The best response I’ve read so far. Level headed and clear. Well done.

  12. Was wondering how sad it would be should amazon recommend that book to you. Sorry, I had to say that. I had an email from amazon this morning recommending some toy and it made me think of that book.

    Right on with free speech!

  13. I also have #2 in common with you, and when I read that info yesterday about amazon, it completely ruined my good mood. As an open-minded person (I hope) I understand the intellectual aspect of this debate, but my strong emotional response demanded I start boycotting amazon. I am relieved they arent selling it anymore if I am going to be totally honest about it.

    People will find a way to get that sort of info if they really want it, but where is the line when it comes to making it available so easily?

  14. Well said.

    “”I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” Evelyn Beatrice Hall

  15. Thank you for sharing your story.

    You are very pretty, Mir.

  16. I agree with The Domestic Goddess. This was well said and I agree with you!

    Go MIr!

  17. Well done, Mir.

  18. In case anyone wants to know – I found an article published at 6:30 this morning. The book hit the best seller list – AND Amazon pulled it because of so many requests from their consumers. So see? Pays to ask!

  19. Mir, you are brave & thoughtful.
    More than just a writing/deal-finding mama.
    I visit you daily.
    Thanks for your courage.

  20. VERY WELL PUT! thank you for sharing your honest view on the subject!

  21. Thank you for being so open and honest.

  22. Mir, Thanks for taking a public stand. I completely agree with you on the issue of censorship.

    Most people agree that this book is outrageous. But what about the next book…on gay sex, or even straight sex? If enough people complain, will Amazon pull that too?

  23. Thank you, Mir. Levelheadedness prevails.

  24. Amen, Mir. I agree with all who have said you are a beautiful and thoughtful person.

    Carry on!

  25. Well said, and I agree 110% and I’m also a child sexual abuse victim.

  26. The author of that book lives in the town south of me. Yesterday there was a bunch of news about his book alongside news on the recent conviction of an also-nearby-towns grandfather for raping and murdering his 8 month old grandson. I’m all for freedom of speech, but I have to wonder what the backlash is going to be like for this “author” from his neighbors.
    It did not concern me that Amazon was selling the book, because I don’t believe in censorship, and I always have the right to not read it, as well as the freedom of speech to express my distaste of the subject matter.
    Well said Mir, and I’m sorry for your experience in this subject matter. Good for you for overcoming!

  27. I really did wait all day yesterday for you to say something! I feel the same way about Amazon. Twitter was ablaze with calls to boycott Amazon. Good luck with that – free shipping, no tax, no one’s really going to stop using it anyway. The only thing that would pry me away from Amazon would be if Internet sales were taxed.

    I appreciate that you have taken this stance, I really do.

    Also, thanks for sharing. And your shoes are pretty.


  28. I really appreciate this post. Thanks for being so logical and honest. 🙂

  29. YEA for logic!

  30. I have a lot of thoughts swirling around my head, but I wanted to outright respond to #22. That kind of talk and logic has been ticking me off.

    Sex between two consenting adults is LEGAL. Pedophilia is ILLEGAL. You cannot claim that books about the former are the same as the latter.

    Here we go, I’m started up now, so I’ll just keep going. I think things worked as they should have yesterday, although I think Amazon was a bit slower to pull it than they should have been. I’ve been researching the first amendment and subsequent court cases that have been ruled on and here is what I’ve found. The first amendment says this: “CONGRESS shall make no law. . .” Amazon isn’t congress, they are a private company, and therefore, if they decide to not sell something, they have a right to do that. It’s not impinging on free speech, it’s a private company exercising their right to sell what they want.

    The second part is addressing the fact that books that promote pedophilia are NOT protected as free speech. The first amendment does not protect things that the government deems obscene. The government has changed over time what its view of “obscene” is, but pedophilia counts, and hopefully, always will.

  31. I agree with you, and I very much appreciate this well written opinion. I personally am disgusted by the book. However, I’m bothered that Amazon is standing behind the First Amendment, because I think they should have pulled it for violating their TOS. I certainly don’t want to punish them, and I think this has been blown way out of proportion.

  32. As always your opinion is well written and thought out. And, I’m proud that you are brave enough to disclose what must be horrifying experiences. My thought process on the Amazon debacle- I fully appreciate our right to free speech. However, there is a distinction between free speech and commerce. This was not a request from a citizen to the government to hold a rally to express his views. It was a private individual using a business’ storefront to profit off of potentially illegal material. At that point, I believe that business has an ethical responsibility to act and not publish. When business fails to act on its moral duty, it is the consumer’s responsibility to demand change. And, that is exactly what happened.My great disappontment was with Amazon’s ineffective consumer response. They could have handled the whole situation much better.

  33. As a writer I definitely understand where you’re coming from, Mir, and to some point I agree. Because how many books are out there that describe rape in detail? I can think of a few “historical” romance novels off the top of my head that do. How many stories talk about the same situation Phillip Greaves wrote about?

    The difference I’m seeing is that in all of these other stories, fictional or not, I’ve yet to see a book saying “here’s how you rape someone”. If there were a guide for rapists on Amazon, I’ll almost guarantee that just as many people would want the guide to be pulled.

    Any book that is written that says it’s “okay” to sexually fondle a child should be burned – no – the man should be beaten upside the head with it. If he wants to write about it, fine, but that shouldn’t mean that Amazon is required to sell it. If I owned a bookstore and someone asked me to sell it, I’d not only say “hell no”, I’d send the police and CPS to his house.

  34. I think you’re out of your mind. I do not think it’s okay for Amazon to have a book that promotes, in any way Pedophelia. That is a crime against humanity and a crime against society and it’s not okay.

  35. Strongly agree.

  36. Well put. Thank you for your level head and great explaination of your thoughts.

  37. you are brave, smart, cool, awesome, hilarious and about as pretty as they get.

  38. I pink puffy heart you, Mir. Not because of what you said, just because you’re so pretty. 🙂

  39. Thank you for this. I had several contradictory emotional responses to this, and you put what was waffling in my head into words very succinctly.

  40. Child Molesters Beware; We Prosecute TOS Violators to the Fullest Extent of the Law

    Amazon claims that their decision to allow the sale of the book “The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure” on amazon.com is based on the principle of free-speech. What a crock.
    Even more dumbfounding is the fact that many otherwise reasonable and intelligent people are applauding Amazon’s position.

    We live in a nation with a constitution that guarantees free speech. But let’s take a look at exactly what that means. Amendment 1 of the U.S. Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech…” The operative term is, of course, Congress (and government in general), not private business. In fact, the right to exercise free speech extends to businesses, business owners and stockholders, as well. In other words, Amazon could practice its Constitutionally-guaranteed right to free speech by making a statement, such as “we think pedophilia is deplorable and we refuse to publish any guides for pedophiles.” Instead they have exercised that right by making the statement, “we think that taking a moral position on censorship is more important (and perhaps more fashionable) than taking a moral position on child-molesting.”

    They are guaranteed that right…the right to bastardize the concept of free speech.
    The right to free speech is outlined in the Constitution as to insure that we, as citizens, can speak out against tyranny. It was not intended to insure that child molesters could promote child raping. Furthermore, your right to free speech ends at my property line, my home, my business. I have the right to say, I don’t want to be associated with your ideas. Amazon knows this. Just show up to work every day, at Amazon, wearing a shirt that says “Amazon Sucks” while claiming free speech. I wonder how generous they will be allowing you to practice free speech.

    But the fact that so many Americans applaud Amazon’s position of moral positionlessness is the real brain-teaser here. Tolerance has become a religion in this nation. It has ascended to become unquestioned dogma—to a place where, whenever anyone plays the tolerance card, we all seem to abandon our God-given right to think rationally. We have become so enamored by the concept of tolerance that we are quickly approaching the point where we will tolerate anything, except perhaps the exercising of free speech by a retailer who chooses to speak out by refusing to sell a guide to child molesting…or any statement made by a “tea-bagger.”

    Have we become so brainwashed that we can no longer recognize that there is a difference between showing tolerance toward things like religious beliefs, race, politics, skin color, gender and sexual preference and showing tolerance toward pedophilia?

    After thousands of complaints, in an incomprehensible act of cowardice, Amazon did ultimately pull “The Pedophile’s Guide,” citing a violation of its Terms of Service (though they continue to peddle the book “Understanding Loved Boys and Boy Lovers.”) So rather than saying, “we’re not going to sell this book because it promotes child molesting!,” they are saying, “we’re not going to sell this book because of a TOS violation.”

    Everyone knows that, in terms of the magnitude of evil TOS violation trumps child molesting…even where one chooses to exercise his right to free speech by violating TOS.

    God help us all.

  41. I think this whole debate was fairly interesting, because it split usually like-minded people into two camps — it was less about being liberal or conservative or religious or secular, but about how far we go in an open society. Of course, violence against children is a subject that touches mothers very personally, because who wants this disgusting book in our midst. But I agree with Mir, not because I’m an advocate of illegal perversity, but because I’m thinking of the bigger picture. The fact that this is an illegal act could now be used as an argument to ban Cheech and Chong movies. While Mein Kampf deserves to be on Amazon for historic reasons, I would say that David Irving’s Holocaust denying books shouldn’t be there (in fact Holocaust denying is illegal in most of Europe). Once we start going down this road, it opens the door for many to stand up, some for good reasons, and some for bad, calling for boycotts of unpleasant material. By the way, Plato’s Symposium, one of Western civilization’s greatest works talks about the perfect love of an adult man and a boy. That’s not even bring up all the anti-homosexual passages in the Bible.

    I’m glad the book was removed, but I don’t think we should really applaud that much. It’s not a great policy.

  42. Thank you Meghan and David for your thoughtfull and reasonable comments. I’m all about free speech but this is ridiculous.

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