I was on Twitter, as I usually am, and saw someone RT a link to a book being sold on Amazon. The book is called: The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure and its description says:
This is my attempt to make pedophile situations safer for those juveniles that find themselves involved in them, by establishing certian rules for these adults to follow. 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.
My first reaction was that of revulsion and I not only RT the link with a “I have no words” attached to it, I also wrote and I admit it, without thinking about what I was saying:
Seriously @Amazon? YOU NEED TO REMOVE THIS FROM YOUR SITE http://amzn.to/9SKcJi
Which is of course an attempt at book banning.
Needless to say, madness ensued and we got hundreds of @ replies who shared the feelings of disgust and who retweeted the request to pull the book off Amazon.
There were also quite a few replies who questioned the request on the grounds that censorship should never be encouraged even if the content of a book is disgusting and reprehensible. The ensuing conversation was not only interesting but also eye opening. Because I have always, always seen myself as someone who would never EVER condone book banning or censorship on any grounds, there I was facing a very uncomfortable truth about myself: a line I never ever thought I would cross and yet I did, in a heartbeat.
And it is something REALLY hard for me to reconcile with. On one hand, I think that Amazon should be able to sell the book, even in its incredibly bad taste (to put it very mildly). Because the problem is that objecting to the book based on content is dangerous ground and it sets a precedent. Amazon isn’t an arbiter of taste. They aren’t judging and vetting everything; they simply are a platform. If we start saying certain books can’t be sold because of their content, why wouldn’t people be able to ban books about homosexuality, for example? Because to some people, it’s unnatural and disgusting and morally reprehensible, just like this book is to me.
On the other hand, I consider this book to be not only offensive but also criminally so. It says right there in the description itself: it teaches people to get around doing something that is against the law. And against children. How can I not see red when I read this? How can I not want to remove this book from the shelves and deny its very existence?
And here is yet another problem: I have not actually read the book in question, only its description of content. I am doing exactly what I MOST hate about book banners who want to discuss without even having the FULL information on what they want to ban.
This book is NOT pretty. But neither is my reaction to it.
AllyNovember 10, 2010 at 11:59 am
I actually saw your first response. Let’s define banning books. Banning books is not allowing it to be printed or distributed. That is not the same as asking Amazon to remove it from their site. Neither would it be wrong to go down to your local bookseller, and say, hey, I don’t think you should sell this book. If you do, I won’t shop here. Fair enough. That is not book banning. That is allowing your money to express your opinion. This author has every right to say whatever he wants to, and to put it into print. But that does not protect him from the reaction to the book or poor sales or few outlets at which to market such a book.
I too am against censorship in any form. You may say or print anything you want. But I may say or print anything in a reaction to it — and spend my money accordingly — as I so choose.
Kudos to you for being willing to explore this issue.
KMontNovember 10, 2010 at 12:00 pm
Ana, once again, all I can say is I think you’re having a very normal reaction, given what this book is about. I’m sorry you’re struggling with your reaction to it. I understand. You already know my thoughts, so I’ll just say ((hugs)).
Vanessa Di GregorioNovember 10, 2010 at 12:03 pm
I feel the exact same way. I think book banning is horrible, and I had to pause after tweeting that the book should be removed.
And maybe this is me trying to justify my reaction, but I think that banning literature is wrong. I also think banning non-fiction is wrong. But when it is a how-to guide on something illegal and wrong, I think it deserves to be banned. Even just from reading the description you can tell that it is a how-to guide. It promotes illegal and dangerous activity – not through fiction, but through non-fiction. It encourages people to be in sexual relationships with children. And I think THAT’S where the difference lies.
But yes, I agree – I haven’t even read the book and I’m demanding it be removed, which is what I hate most about people who ban books.
LilyofDarknessNovember 10, 2010 at 12:03 pm
I am also outraged by the fact this book was ever even published. It makes me sick. As a victim of childhood rape nothing and I mean NOTHING would make me feel “safer” in that situation. Rape is Rape. Would a publisher like to publish a book about how to commit hate crimes? What if it was a stalkers guide to rape? How well would that fly? Amazon as a seller has the right to refuse to sell this book. I don’t see them advertising child porn magazines on their site. This should fall into the same area of law as that.
Teaching a pedophile it’s ok to do something as long as they “follow rules” is not ok. How Ok would the publisher be if they went to see their childs teacher/coach/mentor and saw that book on the shelf?
RachelNovember 10, 2010 at 12:06 pm
I was watching the whole thing go down on Twitter, and I wanted to jump in, but how to do? Because I agree with you. The book is absolutely reprehensible. But if Amazon removes it, we’re guilty of book banning. And how hypocritical is that, when as book bloggers, we promote controversial books all the time? It sets a precedent, one that I’m not comfortable with at all, precisely for your reason – that homosexuality is just as reprehensible to some people. Or pre-marital sex. But Amazon also sells books about how to make bombs. Are we up in arms about those? The point is, it’s easy to say we take a stand against book banning when the answer is obvious, but its a true test of your principles and how willing you are to stand by them when you’re confronted with a situation like this – when you have to support everyone’s right to say and publish and sell what they want even if you vehemently disagree with it.
Good for you for taking a second look at your knee-jerk reaction.
Amy @ My Friend AmyNovember 10, 2010 at 12:10 pm
It is an interesting question. What was most interesting about the pieces of this conversation that I caught was the idea that removing something from Amazon equaled book banning because almost everything is available there. It is in fact one of the reasons I support the existence of Amazon and tire of Indie only campaigns because of the kind of book ownership Amazon has made available to many people.
However, if a book is an instructional manual on how to break the law I suppose there is a bit of a difference. I just don’t know.
NymethNovember 10, 2010 at 12:13 pm
One of my library school professors told us in our very first lecture that we’re all censors, as in, we ALL have some books that cause us to have the exact same gut reaction you had to this one. It just may be that some of us haven’t come across them yet. However, the first step to becoming a true advocate of freedom of information is exactly to acknowledge this, just like you have bravely done in this post. I’ve been going through a similar process myself, with class debates and assignments, and though it can be scary to find out that we DO have the same censoring instincts we hate to see in others, I’ve found that it’s a necessary process. My own recent “ARGH ARGH ARGH ARGH ARGH MAKE THIS DIEEEE” book was “A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality”, which flabbergastingly enough is the first result if you search for homosexuality on Amazon.co.uk. I’m all for making the creation of a safe space a part of a library’s selection policy, and I think that therefore there are valid arguments for not having it in a library. But Amazon is a private company, and if the book is legal, I guess they have the right to sell it. I hate that both this and the pedophile’s book even EXIST, but like you said, it’s hard to ask for their removal without opening dangerous precedents.
Argh, sorry for writing a comment as long as your post 😛
ReneeNovember 10, 2010 at 12:13 pm
Thought-provoking comments, and you’re right, Ana, it’s a dilemma for all of us who find book banning abhorrent. (It goes without saying that this book’s subject matter is beyond abhorrent.)
When I was in college, I had a t-shirt that said something to the effect of:
A free society reads banned books.
A free society writes banned books.
A free society publishes banned books.
(Yes, I was a typical free-thinking, liberal, lit major.)
Now, 20 years later, I still think that’s true. IMO, the author of said book does have a right to write what he wants. And, at each step of the way, publishers, bookstore owners, and readers have the right to either publish, sell, buy, read the book OR (my hope) decide that we as a society will NOT support him in his endeavor by choosing NOT to do business with him.
I would like to believe that there are people behind the business at Amazon (idealistic, I know) and that they, as responsible society members, can choose not to give this author a forum to sell his books.
I have a right to let Amazon know how I, as a reader–and customer–feel about this book and their decision, but in the end, it is their choice whether or not to sell the book. And, if I choose, it is mine not to buy from them in the future based how I feel about their decision.
My ideal scenario would be that the book would sit, unread and unnoticed, mouldering in the author’s attic, a testament to what we all think of his work.
Kai charlesNovember 10, 2010 at 12:14 pm
Its such a slippery slope with these things and your reactions are all valid . I agree with you the taste value in this is awful! That a publisher would think this is a good idea horrifys me but it would open the door to a bigger censorship situation. It’s wonderful that you observed your reactions and discovered something about yourself and you are definitely allowed to disapprove of a book. 🙂
katiebabsNovember 10, 2010 at 12:24 pm
I’m more in shock that someone would actually write a book like this and not think people wouldn’t freak out. It’s a tasteless book and my gut reaction at first was to remove it.
Amazon has sent out a response to those who report the titles and they have said they won’t remove the book because then that would be censorship.
Ole A. ImsenNovember 10, 2010 at 12:24 pm
I’ve said this in comments on several blogs today, but I really want to know if anyone knows this:
From the description the author’s intent is to “aid and abbett” the crime of pedophilia. And I can’t understand that this is illegal. At least the author has, to my limited knowledge of law, shown that the act of writing the book had criminal intent.
-Another point that seems lost is that this is Kindle-only. You could say that Amazon is not only selling the book, but publishing it.
T.N. TobiasNovember 10, 2010 at 12:24 pm
It’s perfectly OK to have a whiplash reaction to something so fundamentally revolting. That said, censorship isn’t just squelching unpopular speech, it’s disallowing that speech a platform as well. This book… I don’t know. There’s a chance that it is up to something criminal. More than that, I think it’s the rambling of a broken mind. The description is disjointed and misspelled. This is hardly the kind of criminal mastermind that will be shepherding in a new era of wanton pedophilia.
And, once you make the exception, then we have to reevaluate. We have joined hands with those that would ban books like Lolita, 120 Days of Sodom, Mein Kampf, The Anarchists Cookbook, Steal This Book, American Psycho, etc…
Ask a librarian. Librarians deal with these issues front and center on a daily basis. They have to divorce their personal feelings for ideas and stand on a principle of free speech.
C.L.WilsonNovember 10, 2010 at 12:31 pm
I understand your mental struggle, but this book is not the memoir of a man who struggled with pedophilia. It’s a handbook the author wrote specifically to encourage pedophiles to follow his code of conduct when molesting children in the hopes that, by following that code, they’d get lighter jail sentences for their crimes.
I have no qualms about censoring books that advocate the sexual molestation of minors. It’s not a slippery slope for me. It never will be.
Howard ShermanNovember 10, 2010 at 12:33 pm
Putting aside the moral considerations for just a moment, the publication and distribution of this book more than likely violates United States federal law as well as the laws of (probably) every state in the Union.
I wouldn’t be too surprised to learn the FBI already paid him a visit.
KMontNovember 10, 2010 at 12:34 pm
T.N. Tobias, but doesn’t someone, at some point, also need to stand up for the rights of children? I see what you’re saying and it makes perfect sense. Points on both sides of this issue have made perfect sense – which is why it’s not an easy issue to untwist and iron out. It probably won’t ever be a neat, pat issue, solved. And that’s why I am still balking at this point in the day at it only being an issue of free speech.
To me, there may be a bigger issue here, or at least several all wrapped in one, and saying it’s only about free speech is, to me, not true. To say we’ve joined hands with book banners, I’m not so sure that’s true either, but even if it is – again – what about the fact that there also needs to be a voice for children? Which issue is more important here? Does the fact that it’s a book being discussed in some part of the conversation mean that all the other obvious problems it presents, or might present, should be overlooked?
I’m just thinking out loud here. I really do appreciate your points and they add to the discussion.
AmberNovember 10, 2010 at 12:38 pm
As repugnant as this book is, the day we start censoring books based on content is the day we give up on intellectual freedom altogether.
There are lots of books, some listed in the comments above, that advocate for truly repugnant things, describe or promote illegal activity, and otherwise offend the heck out of me.
But there are books I love that offend that heck out of others as well.
And while there’s near universal disapproval of the content of this book, restricting access to it based on that disapproval is the very definition of censorship.
This is where being an intellectual freedom supporter is tough. It’s easy to fight for the books you love. Far harder to fight for the books you despise.
KimNovember 10, 2010 at 12:39 pm
What an awful book! Personally, I don’t have any problem judging this book by its cover. There are too many books and life is short, if the few sentence summary revolts me, I’ll pass.
To my knowledge, writing about how to commit a crime isn’t a crime, committing the crime is a crime. Moreover, there doesn’t seem to be any specificity with regard to event or victim or perpetrator.
As distasteful as the book is, and I completely share your reaction, it shouldn’t be banned because of the collateral cost of banning any book. The proper reaction, IMHO, is to not buy it, and/or not buy from the places that sell it, and/or not buy from the publisher.
King RatNovember 10, 2010 at 12:39 pm
Amazon deciding not to sell the book isn’t censorship.
Someone else trying to get Amazon not to sell the book is. Or is at least attempted censorship.
ErinNovember 10, 2010 at 12:41 pm
I have to agree with the comment pointing out that Amazon removing this book from their site is actually neither censorship nor book banning. I have not seen anyone suggest that any government entity prevent Amazon from publishing and selling this title (this would be banning). And nobody is suggesting the content be altered (censorship).
Among other things, Amazon is a bookstore. Every bookstore on the planet chooses which books to stock. Amazon chooses to stock this one, and so I will choose not to shop there. They, as a corporation, have made a decision to profit from a person who freely admits to facilitating child abuse. That’s their choice, and I’m glad they have it to make. I can’t understand why they made the choice they did, but now I can simply make the choice not to shop with them.
As a large company that claims to want to be a responsible corporate citizen, I would think removing the book from their “shelves” would be a wise business move. Regardless, calls for them to do so can hardly be accurately characterized as book banning or censorship.
Vanessa KellyNovember 10, 2010 at 12:47 pm
Maybe I’m an old poopyhead, but it seems to me that you CAN draw definitive lines when it comes to protecting children from rape and sexual abuse. If, in fact, the purpose of that particular book is to coach pedophiles on how to “safely” molest children, then it seems to me to go far beyond bad taste or even the complexities of banning books. Yes, I understand that certain laws are subject to changing cultural or social mores, but certainly child molestation and pedophilia don’t belong in that category. I would think the sensible thing to do is for Amazon to at least temporarily remove the book and submit it to a thorough review. If the book does, in fact, promote pedophilia – which is clearly against the law – then Amazon should take the appropriate legal action as guided by their lawyers.
I’m a huge advocate of free speech and I oppose book banning, but I oppose child abuse a whole lot more.
silviamgNovember 10, 2010 at 12:47 pm
OK, first of all, this book looks to be self-published.
Second, letting a company know how to feel about a book is not book banning nor censorship. It’s expressing your opinion.
Amazon sells all kind of questionable titles, from Holocaust Denier books to anti-homosexuality books. At the same time, it has also pulled titles before. I recalled they pulled a Japanese rape video game last year due to complaints.
Amazon can sell whatever it wants. If it experiences a customer backlash, that’s their problem.
T.N. TobiasNovember 10, 2010 at 12:52 pm
The world is a dangerous place. You can get people to stand up and cheer by saying its “for the children” but I think whether a book is being sold at Amazon is irrelevant to the wider issue. The fact that people are pedophiles has no more to do with this book than rock and roll has to do with the suicides of emotional teenagers or sex education has to do with the rate of teenage pregnancy. We are ascribing the full weight of the putridness of human nature onto a little book that I’m quite sure is preaching to the choir.
On the other hand, saying that it deserves to be banned (if it is determined that it is legal) take a rather solid stand on the side that censorship is OK if speech is unpopular enough. I’m willing to say that there are awful things out there we have no control over and fighting this battle sets the wrong precedent.
MailiNovember 10, 2010 at 12:57 pm
It depends on the contents of this repulsive-to-me book. If it contains a pornographic or sexualised image (illustration, sketch, photographic, mixed media or wooden block) of a minor, then yes, it’s highly possible that it’s breaking a law in probably all U.S. states.
I have no idea about the U.S.’s current legal stance on text in the context of a minor in a sexual situation, though. What differs this book from, say, A Teenager’s Guide to Sex, for instance? Even so, I’m desperately hoping that this author has crossed a legal line in this aspect somehow!
King RatNovember 10, 2010 at 1:00 pm
I should point out that above where I wrote “someone else” I did NOT write “the government.” Censorship does not require the government. All it requires is one entity controlling or attempting to control the choices of another entity.
KateNovember 10, 2010 at 1:04 pm
@Renee – you said precisely what I think on the matter, far more eloquently than I could. Brava.
Refusing to sell a book is not the same as banning it. There are other avenues for this guy to distribute his work. He can print it up and sell it out of the back of a truck, if he really wants to. Not promoting something, or distributing it, is not the same as censoring it or banning it. It’s a fine line, when the entity refusing to distribute is as big as Amazon, but it’s still a distinction.
He had the freedom to write this how-to manual for paedophilia. Amazon has the freedom to not sell it.
KMontNovember 10, 2010 at 1:07 pm
T.N. Tobias, I guess then that I don’t consider anything that encourages folks to be pedophiles as a “little book” and therefore a smaller issue at play. I don’t agree that this book has no bearing on the larger issue of pedophilia and its effect on children. It exists because it is catering to the fact that pedophiles are out there and it encourages the act. You could argue all day long that sitting back and not championing an issue is the way to go because the world is a huge place and it’s difficult to be heard in it and make a difference. You’ve got to start somewhere, and perhaps people expressing their own freedom of speech to Amazon about their revulsion of the product is a start.
You’ve made your thoughts clear, though, and I appreciate that, so maybe we can just wave at each other across the line, then? *waves*
T.N. TobiasNovember 10, 2010 at 1:13 pm
I didn’t mean to minimize the issue. I just don’t think that in the long run this book will amount to any net gain in active pedophiles. Furthermore, it is my opinion that ascribing it that importance in fact minimizes the actual problem of pedophilia.
That said, I’m perfect happy to agree to disagree. *waves back*
titania86November 10, 2010 at 1:26 pm
I think that this book should be able to be sold. I think that a book community that prides itself on reading banned books is kind of hypocritical when they are shocked by a book like this and demand that it be removed from the shelves. I see this as no different than a parent or group of people or a school demanding that a book be removed from a library or a curriculum or a bookstore. If you don’t like the book, don’t read it or buy it.
The subject matter is disgusting and disturbing, but I support Amazon’s right to sell it. The book may encourage illegal acts, but the same could be said about The Anarchist’s Cookbook, which is still sold on Amazon. The behavior is unfortunately out there, but books don’t implement these actions. People do.
KMontNovember 10, 2010 at 1:32 pm
What if Amazon decides NOT to sell it? Plenty have pointed out on Dear Author, here and on Twitter that it’s a bookseller’s right not to carry an item for sale and they do so all the time. Does that already make them book banners then? No, not really. They’re just exercising their freedoms, aren’t they?
@titania86 – you make a compelling point, though, that “books don’t implement these actions. People do.” Very true.
DiaNovember 10, 2010 at 1:40 pm
I had the same reaction to as Tobias to KMont’s “won’t someone please think of the children” response (and I’m not picking on you, KMont, just so you know; I TOTALLY get where you’re coming from).
My problem with the “won’t someone please think of the children” argument is that EVERYBODY uses that to justify banning and censorship: “I don’t want MY kids seeing/reading/hearing THAT.” And “that” can be anything–TV shows, movies, video games, books, music, etc.
But I don’t think it’s fair to use children as a way to make your own personal hatred/dislike of something seem somehow righteous. My stance is either you believe in freedom of speech or you don’t believe in it at all. You cannot have it both ways. You cannot in one breath vilify Amazon for removing gay books from its sales rankings and in the same breath say remove this pedophilia book. Being an advocate for free speech is like being pregnant–either you are or you aren’t. In the same way you can’t be just a little bit pregnant, you can’t be just a little bit FOR banning books.
T.N. TobiasNovember 10, 2010 at 1:40 pm
Amazon has decided not to remove the book, believes it censorship.
I imagine this will ruffle a few feathers…
Shaun H.November 10, 2010 at 1:43 pm
First off: when I first saw the link on Twitter and realized what I’d clicked on, I was horrified. I hope everyone will be more clear what people might be clicking on. That’s not the sort of thing I want sticking around on my Amazon history. Ugh.
Second, in terms of Banning this: I think there’s a difference between fictional accounts of immoral acts (Lolita), or the rants of madmen (Mein Kampf). Hitler’s book wasn’t a step-by-step instructional manual for how to eliminate an entire people. Yet this book is. It’s a how-to manual for raping children. I don’t think we, as a people, should ever–EVER–ban books because they look at topics which are revolting or make us uncomfortable. However, there must be a line somewhere when people are writing books that not only might incite someone to commit a crime, but which actually encourage said crime.
I am a hardcore advocate for individual rights. But I also believe that your right to swing your fist in a circle ends the moment it hits my face. What I mean is that horrible books on “curing” homosexuality don’t advocate the committing of crimes. This book has absolutely NO social or artistic value. It’s only purpose is to aid pedophiles in committing a crime. Therefore I see no problem in banning this.
And I know that some people will say that I haven’t got the right to judge what has value and what doesn’t, but I think that in this case, you can make an absolute argument for the lack of value. Not because it’s popularly unpopular but because it has NO use except as an aid in a criminal act.
BethanyNovember 10, 2010 at 1:47 pm
He had the freedom to write the book and Amazon has the freedom to sell it. I think the only issue is the publisher in the middle. Publishers publish books that they think will sell (and hopefully fit a certain moral view the publisher has). I want to know what went through the editors mind when they thought this was a good idea. It doesn’t appear to be self published, and while freedom of speech is one of our rights there is also freedom for a publisher to not do business with someone.
I don’t think censorship is really the issue, it’s the acquisition of this text and how the publisher thought publishing this text would benefit them. Because while the author will get heat for writing it I think that the publisher is at fault for the fact that there is even a conversation going on now. They lost credibility by publishing something of this nature.
Ole A. ImsenNovember 10, 2010 at 1:51 pm
Someone pointed out elsewhere (I’ve read several hundreds of comments on this issue today, so sorry for not linking, hope you understand.) that writing a book about “How to make bombs” is legal according to US law.
-But that if you say: “Place bomb at location X”, it is illegal.
From the authors description, this seems like a description of “where to place the bomb”, i.e. how to do an actual crime, and how to get away with it.
A legal student on another blog thought it might be illegal.
silviamgNovember 10, 2010 at 1:52 pm
Umm .. this is self-published. The publisher is the same as the author.
Shaun H.November 10, 2010 at 1:52 pm
One last thing to add: To those offering up The Anarchists Cookbook as a similar book, I say this:
While there are certainly things in the TAC that are illegal, I would argue that there are some which are not. I would also argue that the time during which it was written gives it sociological value. Furthermore, one can also imagine a possible future scenario where the ability to protect oneself would be a handy skill to know. TAC is the kind of book the founding fathers would have gladly protected.
On the other hand, at no time ever will child rape be a worthwhile pursuit. This book can’t claim sociological value in the same way that TAC does, and at no time will it ever offer any skills valued to anyone other than criminals.
KMontNovember 10, 2010 at 1:57 pm
Wow. Dia. I didn’t directly address Tobias’ let’s all stand up and cheer for the children thing because, well, I don’t think what he and you are implying is what I’m actually saying. I’m not using that as a crutch, and despite you saying you’re not picking, I might be a little offended. I might be if I think about it too much. I’d hate to be the first to fly the I’m Offended flag, though, AND the Think of the Children one too. Two such gross foul plays in one day, how obscene.
The reason I mention the fact that there’s another issue here at play – that of children and their rights, is because it IS an issue that’s amongst this whole mess. Lumping that particular issue into the idea that people like me who feel that way are also trying to swab kids in cotton is not true. I never said my own child wouldn’t know this kind of thing happens, or that any other kid shouldn’t know of it. They should for their own safety realize at some point that bad things can happen to them and not all people are trustworthy. And no, I don’t think this one incident on Amazon will change the world. But just because I brought it up doesn’t mean I’m using a cliched crutch to silence people. Using children, am I? The hell I am. I’m speaking out AGAINST people that use children and condone using children.
The fact does remain that children are minors and that adults have to speak up for them. If that’s a cliched crutch to some, I admit I don’t understand it since I was speaking from a place of 100% honesty as an adult who would choose to protect a child over something else. So please don’t accuse me of using children to make my points seem more passionate or more heard. I didn’t accuse anyone here who disagreed with me of being a pedophile-encouraging asshat. Because you know what – I never once felt that way in this whole brouhaha today. Because I don’t know you and why make those kinds of assumptions.
BethanyNovember 10, 2010 at 2:00 pm
My mistake, I got confused by the (2nd) at the end of the name.
This then shows how utterly stupid self publishing is and why “publishing” should be a separate thing from writing. Everybody thinks they’re an author but the publishing process is necessary to pull actual authors out of the chaos of “I wrote a book I must be good!”
EIther the guy honestly believes it or is trying to gag people to buying it out of curiosity of what is inside. I have to give it to him it’s a decent marketing ploy, and he’s gotten tons of coverage. That said if he couldn’t get published through a legit publisher that’s saying something.
Carolyn CraneNovember 10, 2010 at 2:01 pm
If the book isn’t illegal, and I don’t know if it is or not, I think Amazon should be free to sell it. I’m proud to live in a country where even the most repulsive people have a right to speech – Nazis, pedophiles or [insert group you hate here]
Do people remember Amazonfail? Where they delisted all books with GLBT content? Effectively erasing them on searches and rankings and stuff? I’m not comparing pedophiles to GLBT, obviously, but I DO NOT want Amazon back in the business of saying what offends people and what doesn’t.
I don’t need Amazon to decide what offends me. I’ll say what offends me.
Shaun H.November 10, 2010 at 2:07 pm
This isn’t about a thing being offensive. To shrug this book off as simply offensive ignores what this book is. The author is clearly attempting to aid those who are attempting to commit a crime. Pedophilia is always a crime. Banning this book isn’t an attempt to “protect” people from ideas (the argument that most make when they attempt to ban books) this is an attempt to protect children from actually being raped. If this “book” gives one pedophile the push he needs to go out and commit a crime, then we as a people have failed by letting it happen. At that point we stopped protecting ideas and we began protecting criminals.
CaseyNovember 10, 2010 at 2:07 pm
We have all seen and read published works that include pedophilia. This is nothing new. Many of these books are award winning, best selling publications. “A Thousand Acers” by Jane Smiley was actually required reading in my school and it along with thousands of other books depict the rape and sexual abuse of children.
The outrage of this book seems to be based in the thought that it’s telling people how to successfully sexually abuse children. But I don’t see how that it is in any way different then telling people how sexual abuse against children is done. Can someone please illuminate me?
Because it seems to me that we are beginning to talk about “thought crime.”
Are we saying that it’s okay to write about pedophilia if your trying to bring awareness to the topic so that it can be stopped. And that it’s not okay to write about pedophilia (even if you use the same words to describe the actual action) if you’re telling people how to do it.
Is that the general consensus here?
The fact is that whether you’re talking about book banning, or hate crime it’s easy to get emotional about the issue and go with a gut reaction – but we live in a society that has laws. If we begin to use laws to punish people for the “reasons” the committed a crime then they didn’t just commit one crime – they also committed a thought crime – straight out of Orwell’s 1984.
It can’t be the reason/motive that matters – it has to be the result.
It’s easy to say that we have to protect children – that we are allowed to make exceptions for children – but we can’t if we want to continue to live in a free society.
So ask yourself – are you willing to give up your freedoms? And remember that none of us have read this book – and the fact is we don’t know what it is really about. All we know is what the blurb says, and I have read plenty of books that didn’t match the blurb.
Man of la BookNovember 10, 2010 at 2:08 pm
It doesn’t bother me that Amazon sells this book. The two things which bother are:
1) Who would write such a thing?
2) Who would buy it?
Shaun H.November 10, 2010 at 2:14 pm
There is a fundamental difference between literature and a how-to manual. A book that includes child abuse is different from a book that provides step-by-step instructions for committing the abuse. No one is saying that the author should be locked up or that anyone who reads it should be locked up. I’m simply saying that this book was created solely for the purpose of aiding pedophiles in a crime. Therefore it should not be sold. There is absolutely NO moral stance you can take that makes child molestation okay.
With most books, you can make arguments. Like when Amazon was removing gay books. Well someone people say gay is bad and some say it’s cool (being gay, I fall on the cool side). But being gay isn’t a crime. Nor is hating gay people. So you can argue that a book about “saving” gay people has artistic value, that it has societal value. Since, under no circumstance, is pedophilia okay, there is simply no justification for allowing a book like this to exist.
Hal DuncanNovember 10, 2010 at 2:14 pm
Kudos on a very balanced post. I think there’s a danger of… an expedient exceptionalism where we react against such books. I mean, we’re not actually talking about a ban in legal terms, imposed by an authority. But I’ve seen some argue that shouting for Amazon to remove the book isn’t censorship, and this seems disingenuous to me. If self-censorship is a meaningful term — and it is — then we’re not just talking state-authorised sanctions when it comes to the term “censorship”; we’re talking the exertion of power/control in order to suppress speech.
Like it or not, I’d say joining a chorus of protests shouting for removal is one way of exerting power/control. This is moral pressure, the force of public opinion. Whether it’s protesters wanting the BBC not to air Jerry Springer: The Opera or Amazon not to stock this book, to campaign for a work to be suppressed *is* an attempt at censorship. Saying it’s not is too much of an easy out, one which only empowers those who’d seek to apply such moral pressure elsewhere. Cause then, you know, pressure groups pushing for the removal of gay literature from school libraries, well, *they’re* not attempting censorship either; they’re just “making themselves heard”.
Of course, people are perfectly entitled to exert that pressure, but I think it’s dishonest handwaving to say it’s not an attempt at censorship. If you’re not happy with Amazon exercising its own judgement on what it stocks, if you’re seeking to pressure it into *not* stocking X, Y or Z, then you are not a free speech absolutist. You *do* believe that censorship is legitimate in the case of X, Y or Z. I think it behooves one to have the strength of one’s convictions in that case, and say, yes, I think we should not be allowing this book in circulation; there are limits to free speech.
And there are grounds for that, it seems to me, if that’s your feeling. In US law at least, you have “incitement to crime” as an established exception to free speech. One might well even argue that this book is aiding and abetting a felony. It may not constitute such in existing legislation, but any legitimate argument for its removal from Amazon has to be ultimately, I’d say, founded on a case that it does or should. As a free speech idealist, I’m not wholly comfortable with that myself, but I’d far rather see open censorship of works specifically designed to facilitate felonies than back-door censorship of works that simply offend enough people’s sensibilities.
EddieNovember 10, 2010 at 2:33 pm
You know what I hate more than censorship (And I really hate censorship) pedophilia hiding behind “free speech”
Vanessa KellyNovember 10, 2010 at 2:36 pm
On the most basic level, there are always limits to free speech. One cannot go into a crowded movie theater and yell “fire” simply for the fun of it, for instance. The reasons for that are self-evident (well, you could actually go into a theater and do that, but you’d probably be arrested, and rightly so).
It seems to me that something similar is at play with this book. If it does advocate for molesting children and tells you how to circumvent the law in doing so, then it potentially poses a risk to others. When does someone’s right to free speech outweigh another person’s right to be free from harm?
Ole A. ImsenNovember 10, 2010 at 2:39 pm
This has been my argument all day, the incitement/aiding and abetting.
The author’s own description on Amazon seems to me to have criminal intent, in that he wants to help pedophiles. He mentions “rules” and hopes his book will help getting “liter sentences”[,his spelling error], so he seems aware he is helping/facilitate a crime.
If he wrote a book titled “My life as a pedophile”, I would support his right to distribute his book. And I would not wish to censor a book I disagree with.
-But this is a different matter from censorship for me.
Liorah GolombNovember 10, 2010 at 2:40 pm
This is an interesting issue. Now that self-publishing has become so easy, books on all sorts of repugnant topics may appear for sale on Amazon and elsewhere. In this particular case, it does sound like the book may be violating laws and perhaps Amazon, by shipping it, could be guilty of mail fraud. So I think that notifying Amazon (who may well not even realize the book is on their site) or the FBI is the best course of action. In the unlikely event that some bookstore actually is carrying the book, you do of course have the right to tell them you won’t patronize them. That would bother me, though, because it’s the same tactic people use to cancel tv shows, pressure publishers and librarians, etc. — very often to rid the world of books and shows I quite like.
LisaNovember 10, 2010 at 2:44 pm
Just so you all know, this is the law on being an accessory:
(a) Whoever aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures the commission of an offense, is punishable as a principal.
(b) Whoever willfully causes an act to be done which if directly performed by him or another would be an offense, is punishable as a principal.
Now, of course, this can only be applied if a crime is actually committed. This book itself is not committing any crimes. But I wonder: would anyone’s opinions change if their kids were molested and the predator admitted to being able to do it because of this book?
I’m with the others on this who think the safety of children is more important than the censorship of a book on how to rape them.
CaseyNovember 10, 2010 at 2:57 pm
Pedophilia is not protected by the first amendment and therefor pedophilia cannot hide behind free speech.
You started to explain the difference to me between a “how-to” and “literature” – but you stopped at the labels. Can you go further please? I really am trying to understand and would greatly appreciate anything more.
I still think that this whole topic has less to do with censorship and more to do with our personal emotional reactions. Emotionally I’m appalled like everyone else. BUT I am equally appalled by how quickly we reach to remove rights. By how quickly we sacrifice liberty for safety as Ben Franklin warned we might.
Lets take emotion out of this as much as possible and discuss the facts if we can.
Has anyone actually read this book? Do we actually KNOW for a FACT what it is about? Or are we all basing our comments exclusively on the book blurb?
Hal DuncanNovember 10, 2010 at 2:58 pm
When does someone’s right to free speech outweigh another person’s right to be free from harm?
Legally, in the US? When there’s a “clear and present danger”:
It seems to me that a book like this is more likely to facilitate a crime than The Anarchist’s Cookbook, say, because it’s seriously exploiting/propagating that profound delusion of NAMBLA types that paints child rape as… well, not child rape. More than just a How To manual, it’s providing the very mechanisms of self-justification that might make the difference between a would-be abuser and an actual abuser. I doubt it would be easy to make the case let alone win it, but if I was a judge? I certainly wouldn’t throw it out of court.
Ole A. ImsenNovember 10, 2010 at 3:09 pm
See my comment on this blog, #34, and also #47.
For me it’s not a case of cencorship, but auding and abetting a crime.
As mentioned in comment #34, “how to make a bomb”” is legal,”place bomb here is illegal”.
I think this author is at “the place bomb her point”.
Also, someone commentad at another blog that the book had been downloaded, and that it contained exactly what the author’s description on Amazon said. I.E. a “how to” manual.
DanielleNovember 10, 2010 at 4:27 pm
My theory is that the goverment has tracking devices in every copy and will use them to hunt down prospective petophiles. It’s what helps me sleep at night.
But yeah, ew. Appropriate reaction.
JodieNovember 10, 2010 at 4:30 pm
Ana upholding rights in the face of seriously bad people is hard. We all have gut reactions to things like this, we’re not saints (how much do I want all the copies of the book Nymeth mentioned to explode). The test is in whether we follow through on these thoughts and in your case you stopped from organising a campaign to get the book removed and I’m not about to get out a lighter.
Although I’m not for censorship, or people making Amazon remove this book I do just want to point out one thing about the comparison being made between censorship of books featuring gay relationships and this book about child abuse. While being gay was at one point a crime (which was stupid by the way), as is child abuse (this is an example of a good law), gay sex has always taken place between two consenting adults and aimed to cause no unpleasurable bodily harm. So if anyone is comparing their own feelings about wanting this book to go away forever, to the feelings of people who want to banish books about gay couples and feeling bad because it seems like you’re making the same claims about morality that they are, you’re really not. You didn’t have a gut reaction to remove a book that encourages sex that was made arbitrarily illegal, or a book that doesn’t gel with your own moral code, you had a gut reaction to remove something which encourages something which is harmful to another human being – that last one is the real important differentiator. Although actually moving to ban the book would in my personal opinion be censorship, it’s a mighty fine reaction to be express anger at a book which promotes harming another human being. Do I ever hope that made some sense.
I’d also debate whether the promotion of harm that this book seems to encourage can be compared to murder novels, because of the fact that it encourages harm where many murder novels do not, but that discussion could go on all day.
So personally I say no on campaigning for Amazon to remove the book because that’s censorship, although Amazon did have the right as a bookseller to decide it wouldn’t carry this book on practical grounds (financial etc) we don’t have the right to ask for it to be removed. Would it be censorship if Amazon had refused to carry it on moral grounds? I feel like that has to be a yes too (can only imagine what some stores would refuse to carry) but since it didn’t happen not sure I’m fussed about debating that issue. I wonder if the police will start watching this author now though – no idea what the ethics would be on that issue.
silviamgNovember 10, 2010 at 4:58 pm
Well, Amazon will continue to sell the title (they’ve said so). Though don’t expect huge profits.
There’s an interview with the author at Smoking Gun where he says he spent some time at a mental facility (surprise!). He also says he has sold only one copy of the book. Bad-taste self-publishing doesn’t really pay, it seems.
JohnNovember 10, 2010 at 5:00 pm
Ana, I feel in the same boat as you. While I would immediately have said WTF – TAKE IT OFF to Amazon, I also get your feelings concerning it.
It’s not our place to tell Amazon they ‘have’ to do anything, or that they are doing anything legally wrong. Banning books isn’t cool, and I feel bad for thinking that it’s okay for even one second. It’s a bad book because its intents are not to shed light on how pedophilia is bad or how to spot it and protect your children – but that doesn’t mean we can censor it.
:/ The best thing to do is just not link to it, make sure people don’t buy it, and let it eventually go away into oblivion. It may officially be banned if/when people get arrested for something similar and the book is found in their possession. Similar things happened with Richard Bachman’s book about a crazed student who commits a school shooting.
Still, that won’t help anything. It’s a futile effort, really, but the confusion is massive. Don’t feel bad about reacting that way. We all did.
silviamgNovember 10, 2010 at 5:03 pm
John, Richard Bachman is a pseudonym for Stephen King, and he asked that the book not be reprinted after concerns about its content. He said “Now out of print, and a good thing.” So it was the author deciding he didn’t want the content out in the world anymore.
BenNovember 10, 2010 at 5:25 pm
Of course Amazon is free to choose which books to carry, for whatever reasons they like (moral, economic, political). And we are free to patronize a business or not, for whatever reasons we like (offensive books, rude staff, bad paint color). But is it right to use our buying power to affect others’ access to information? Economics is a powerful weapon; its use should be principled, not just self-interested. And it probably looks different when the only LGBT bookstore in town closes b/c it’s being boycotted. (To those who suggest that financial coercion is neither banning nor censorship: I don’t see any reason why using the dollar to take a book out of someone’s hand is any different from using a gun, or a statute.)
Abigail [All Things Urban Fantasy]November 10, 2010 at 5:33 pm
What the hell? I think the whole censorship/free speech debate needs to consider that we’re talking about a book that teaches an adult how to rape a baby. Seriously? We’re debating this? I think Eddie (#44) said it perfectly:
You know what I hate more than censorship (And I really hate censorship) pedophilia hiding behind “free speech”
JesslynNovember 10, 2010 at 5:39 pm
Hmmmm. I wonder what Amazon’s reaction would be if I self-pubbed a book on how to remove Kindle DRM?
Ole A. ImsenNovember 10, 2010 at 5:57 pm
I suggested (,as a joke,) on Twitter that I’ll publish my “How to kill Jeff Bezos and make Amazon go bankrupt” book on Kindle. If they care about free speech that should not be a problem.
-If however they choose not to publish that, I can site this case and sue them for loss of income.
DiaNovember 10, 2010 at 7:19 pm
See, KMont, I *knew* you would get offended, but like I said, it’s not you personally (because I don’t know you either), but rather the sentiment which I don’t like. Because while you would never do such things, there are people who do and it’s those people I take issue with, again, not *you* personally.
But getting back on topic, whether or not to protect children isn’t an issue here, as I see it. What sane person takes up the stance of ah who cares what happens to kids? That in itself is an issue: whenever you throw any mention of kids into the mix, people’s hackles go up–it’s inevitable. That’s why it makes for such a good crutch, to use KMont’s term. And when people are busy being upset, things like protecting freedom of speech get lost in the conversation. It’s always a slippery slope.
katiebabsNovember 10, 2010 at 7:25 pm
Unless tens of thousands boycott Amazon, nothing will happen. And if Amazon does take of this disgusting book, then what? Will that lead to other questionable books that a group may not like to be taken off the site as well?
I am torn because I feel this book should not be out there where the public can have easy access to get it and for anyone to read. But then again, if this book is taken down, it could lead to other books being treated the same.
There seems to be no right answer in this case.
AmberNovember 10, 2010 at 7:43 pm
I’ve stood on a soap box many of times telling people that book banning is wrong. Then I saw this on twitter. The idea that book is out makes me want to puke. That is disgusting, horrible, and beyond wrong. Anyone can feel free to tattoo hypocrite on my forehead and I will wear it proud because for once in my life I am saying this:
This book should be banned!
katiebabsNovember 10, 2010 at 7:45 pm
And the guide’s Amazon ranking is going to be in the top 100 by tomorrow. This guide was at 101,000 in the rankings, and now is at 114 as of 9:30pm EST. People are buying this book because it’s like a car accident where you stop and watch.
Moonsanity (Brenda)November 10, 2010 at 7:54 pm
Would you be okay with a book that tells men how to capture and rape women? A guidebook for rapists? Would we be having this same discussion?
CaseyNovember 10, 2010 at 8:12 pm
The answer always is, always has been, and always will be personal responsibility.
It is very hard – but it’s ALWAYS the answer.
Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it. ~George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, “Maxims: Liberty and Equality,” 1905
You cannot shift the responsibility to the legal system or government because, “there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” ~James Madison, speech, Virginia Convention, 1788
And to Abagail – this debate isn’t about this specific book. It’s about banning ANY book.You can’t give liberties to some and not to others as it suites you personally. The question is whether or not banning books ever okay? I say no – it isn’t.
“The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.” ~Louis D. Brandeis
“He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from opposition; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach himself.” ~Thomas Paine
“We have enjoyed so much freedom for so long that we are perhaps in danger of forgetting how much blood it cost to establish the Bill of Rights.” ~Felix Frankfurter
“Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.” ~Abraham Lincoln
Sorry to quote drop – but I very strongly believe these things, and clearly I’m not alone. I know that not everyone who reads this blog is American – but I don’t think these ideals are exclusively American in nature. I agree with my founding fathers that these truths are self evident – and true for all people, not only those privileged enough to be born into freedom.
StephanieNovember 10, 2010 at 8:25 pm
The govt. makes laws about what a company can say about their product. The govt. has also specifically disallowed the dissemination of child pornography through the USPS,as well as the purchase, creation, storage of pornography involving children (minors). If there were illustrations that could be considered child pornography it would be illegal to hold, purchase, disseminate or create said illustration if it were child porn under the statute. While this law has been taken to extremes like arresting parents sending pics of a child naked on a bear skin rug, it is sound and has met legal challenges.
Having said that and having sent Amazon a request to remove the book and for my friends to boycott Amazon, I am remembering that birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger was jailed repeatedly for using the US mail to disseminate what was then considered pornography, information on prevention of pregnancy. Now it is considered medical information.
So definitions of pornography change.
But free speech is and also has been limited throughout the history of the country. And its current definition developed in the 20th century. There are restrictions placed on it regarding the safety of others and the public good. Public good has been a moving line too: Sedition was, and perhaps still is illegal during war, but the line on what sedition is has changed. Protesting a war was considered sedition until the middle of the last century, and then it was considered unpatriotic, and then somewhere in the sixties protest became more patriotic than not, and then in the past few years we have seen that slide back the other way. So with censorship in mind it is important to remember that definitions change.
So, it seems that the line changes on what constitutes the public good, as it has in certain other “inalienable ways:” whether slaves were human beings in a legal sense, what is considered porn.
We have said many things in the past few months about censorship and book banning, without much discussing the legal aspects of it. In the legal sense it seems we as a people have empowered our government to censor some things to protect others from injury. Would we want to allow a book on how to fly a plane into a large office building? We don’t want to allow that and our government spends a lot of time overtly and covertly preventing schools and camps where this information is being taught from operating. So, if the textbook for those schools and camps was being sold on Amazon I think there would be more than a public outcry against Amazon selling it, I think they would be arrested.
While murder/suicide bombers harm many at once, pedophiles harm many one at a time. But I cannot think our society will ever condone either. The line has some absolutes murder, rape , theft are not moving lines. Those crimes are not protected. This book amounts to yelling fire in a crowded theater. Personal freedoms have to be balanced against public good. And, should be balanced by responsible behavior.
Freedom carries responsibility. Amazon operates because they garner our good will through their responsible behavior and through acting legally. They lose business by operating outside those strictures. Simply, this is a product that is likely to cause harm.
I don’t think this book meets the definition of free speech under current social and legal definitions.
Keeping in mind that these definitions change and therefore freedoms and restrictions on those freedoms have to be examined constantly for biases that limit free speech based on other freedoms. But, there is no freedom to rape children, and I can’t imagine a society where it is acceptable being one I would wish to live in. And, a store selling a book telling us how to do that is not one at which I care to shop.
KMontNovember 10, 2010 at 8:27 pm
Well, Dia, do you think you could somehow manage to change the definition of pedophilia to not include children? Maybe then they won’t be brought up? And the need to make it only about what you see as important will be the only thing discussed. Problem solved. None of those emotional types muddying the free speech waters.
Pedophilia involves children.
A book about pedophilia involves children.
This is a no-brainer for me. The two things, pedophilia and children, are definitely related. How can you discuss the merits of a book promoting the act, in any capacity whether it’s about free speech or not….without acknowledging the affects on children in the process?
You seem to think people are trying to shift this discussion into one thing or the other. I just think there’s more than one issue at play here, and why can they not all be discussed? You only want it to be about freedom of speech. Well…good for you? Others don’t see it that way. If you look around, plenty of folks have no problem calmly discussing the fact that this does in fact involve children. I haven’t seen anyone becoming emotionally overwrought as a result. Nor muddying the freedom of speech waters in the process.
SolNovember 10, 2010 at 8:29 pm
So? Should pedophiles have freedom to do whatever they want to do with innocent children and ruin their lives? COME ON!!!
As much as you can believe in freedom, there has to be a limit if we’re talking about raping children and getting away with it.
CaseyNovember 10, 2010 at 8:45 pm
You seem pretty emotional to me.
No one is arguing your point that “Pedophilia involves children” – it clearly does and that is in the definition. Neither is anyone arguing that pedophilia is good or should be allowed. We’re just saying that’s not the only issue at play and it doesn’t address the questions of “is banning books ever ok?” which was the question posed at the beginning of this forum.
It is however (and I agree with Dia here) an easy scapegoat. Just about everyone would rally around protecting children. But you can’t guarantee that legislating will protect children. Anyone who says otherwise is lying or selling something.
You both believe in freedom – and choose to support it or you don’t. There is no middle ground there. Check out my quotes above in #67 if you disagree.
I think that’s what Dia is saying.
And Sol, I don’t think anyone is trying to say the action of pedophilia is ok – it is clearly illegal and those caught doing it are very strongly persecuted. The questions is about banning books…and I say that it’s not ok to ban books.
MaryKNovember 10, 2010 at 8:49 pm
You are against boycotting publishers who whitewash covers, I take it.
Hal DuncanNovember 10, 2010 at 9:01 pm
You know what I hate more than censorship (And I really hate censorship) pedophilia hiding behind “free speech”
The bad news is the law doesn’t care how much you or I hate censorship or how much you or I hate paedophilia. The good news is this means the law also doesn’t care how much you or I hate homosexuality or “miscegenation”.
I mean, that “why are we even discussing this?” reaction sounds so simple… unless you’re gay and used to the constant equation of homosexuality with paedophilia, bestiality, necrophilia and you sodding name it, by moralists who think their emotional reaction of revulsion, disgust, hate, fear, horror and general abhorrence is a legitimate ethical judgement rather than… well, an emotional reaction. One that’s clearly appropriate with an utterly unconscionable act like child rape, but one that might equally attach to a gay sex act like sodomy, or to a black guy marrying a white woman, or whatever. And that’s leaving aside the inverse scenario where actions that are wrong don’t invoke that emotional reaction. Back when a whole lot of people didn’t feel that abhorrence at the thought of slavery, slavery was still wrong. So again, the law doesn’t care if you’re not horrified at a gaybashing, say, because it’s “just desserts” in your twisted morality; the law says it’s wrong, period.
It would be sweet if we could rely on our emotional reactions to be unerringly right where we recoil in repugnance from some action we deem monstrous, but if we assume that, if we think we can just play our outrage as a trump card that renders all discussion moot… that’s the principle that leads to legislation like Section 28 in the UK. The public opinion that led to that was founded in precisely the same sort of emotional response — a moral outrage at liberal teachers (some of them maybe even gay!) working in the schools, giving kids books that said (shock! horror!) homosexuality was OK, and worst of all “hiding behind notions of ‘tolerance’ and ‘equality’.” There were plenty of upstanding citizens whose repugnance at the mere thought of such shenanigans overrode any notion that this issue was remotely debatable, enough that the law was passed easily. School libraries were purged of anything that might be considered “promoting homosexuality”. Hell, our debating club couldn’t even debate Section 28 cause for the teacher to allow that might have been a breach of Section 28. Seriously. That’s what I think of when someone plays outrage as a trump card in a censorship debate.
As I say, I have no problem at all seeing the book in question as a crime in its own right — incitement / aiding and abetting — but “free speech” isn’t a woolly abstract ideal for me. If it’s going to be limited by censorship because we think some restraints are valid, necessary even, I want that on the basis that this or that type of speech is criminally irresponsible, not happening on an ad hoc basis whenever enough members of the public get sufficiently noisy that Amazon kowtows to their outrage.
Moonsanity (Brenda)November 10, 2010 at 9:03 pm
I was going to stay away but I have to say something. Amazon makes a choice what books to sell and not sell–they do it every fricking day. Someone made the decision to sell this book. They could have made the decision NOT to. How many times do we see warnings on websites/blogs etc. and rules for forums that hatred, bigotry, etc will not be tolerated? That’s okay though. I say again, would you be okay with a manual that told rapists how to best rape a woman, or a book on killing a person in their sleep just because they were a Muslim? Can you honestly tell me that Amazon would sell a book with either of those topics? Then how the hell is it okay to sell a book with guidelines on raping children with tips on making it “easier” on them. The very idea that this was approved by amazon makes me sick to my stomach. The fact that my fellow book bloggers think it should be allowed makes me sad.
CaseyNovember 10, 2010 at 9:11 pm
It’s not the topic that I agree with. I don’t think anyone here thinks that raping children is ever okay. But that wasn’t the question asked in the forum.
The question asked if book banning was ever ok.
I say no, its NEVER ok. I don’t care about the subject – because I want my free speech, and as such I have to afford that same freedom to others.
Hal DuncanNovember 10, 2010 at 9:11 pm
Same means, different ends. Boycotting a publisher who whitewashes covers is using buying power, but it doesn’t affect others’ access to information and isn’t intended to. The aim is not to suppress that book, simply to reverse the whitewashing.
Hal DuncanNovember 10, 2010 at 9:17 pm
For those positing an equivalent manual on how to rape women, a quick Google on “rapist’s handbook” brings up a Jezebel article on the work of one Don Diebel, whose The Complete Guide to Meeting Women purportedly includes tips on how to spot a drugged woman, advice to go after them when they’re drunk and alone — charming date rapist tips like that.
And, yes, it’s available on Amazon:
MaryKNovember 10, 2010 at 9:28 pm
CL Wilson is my new hero.
Somebody mentioned the collateral costs of banning books. What are the collateral costs of disseminating this book?
There are plenty of books that I loathe and despise. And I would not advocate censoring or banning them. I do advocate censoring/banning this book.
Who is the audience for this book? Consenting adults, people with questionable ideologies? No. Child molesters are the audience for this book. I am all for banning books written for the enjoyment of that audience.
MaryKNovember 10, 2010 at 10:08 pm
To reverse the whitewashing or what? What is the hoped for end if the publisher doesn’t reverse?
Of course it affects others’ access to information. It can kill a book. It’s intended to kill books with “inappropriate” covers. The aim is to suppress books with “inappropriate” covers. To financially coerce a publisher into agreeing to the demands of the boycotters.
I am not against financial coercion. No publisher, bookstore, or author is entitled to my money. I question the idea that using my buying power as a weapon is only acceptable in certain circumstances.
Hal DuncanNovember 10, 2010 at 10:22 pm
Child molesters are the audience for this book. I am all for banning books written for the enjoyment of that audience.
Is that really a legitimate basis? It’s a book for child molestors. Child molestors are particularly evil — beyond the pale evil. Books written for sufficiently evil people should be suppressed. So this book should be suppressed. To me, that’s the line of reasoning that, as soon as it’s in place, some will be lining up to put “homosexuality” in place of “child molestation,” because they feel that “perversion” is also crossing an essential boundary of acceptability. If we argue for banning on the basis that a work appeals to a group we find abhorrent, or even on the basis that it advocates an act we find abhorrent, then we just get demagogues and opportunists doing their damnedest to persuade everyone that this or that prejudice is righteous and true, that we should revile this or that abjected act or group as abhorrent; and when they succeed we get Section 28. Or actually you (assuming you’re in the US) get Section 28. Or the unofficial Amazon version of it. Here in the UK… been there, done that.
What are the collateral costs of disseminating this book?
Now that‘s the crucial point, to my mind. It’s not that the target audience will enjoy the book, surely, (given that a child molester might enjoy something like, hell knows, Harry Potter,) but rather the use to which they’ll put it, the impact it will have. In that sense the book can be treated as an action — inciting, facilitating a felony. Would prosecuting on that basis be banning, censorship? Maybe, but it would be prosecuting a clearly-defined action of criminal endangerment, not simply slapping down works that go “beyond the pale” for whatever value of “beyond the pale” causes a public shitstorm.
Hal DuncanNovember 10, 2010 at 11:58 pm
To reverse the whitewashing or what? What is the hoped for end if the publisher doesn’t reverse?
A pony? Sorry. Less facetiously, I mean, a boycott on the basis of whitewashing is just that. The pressure is being exerted to stop whitewashing, to pressure a publisher into changing their racist marketing strategy, for a specific book and ultimately in general. There’s no satisfactory alternative. If you were boycotting South African produce in the apartheid era as a protest against apartheid, you weren’t pressuring for the abolition of apartheid “or, um, something else just as good, please!” It’s a piss-poor boycott if its objectives are fuzzy and fractured.
It’s intended to kill books with “inappropriate” covers. The aim is to suppress books with “inappropriate” covers.
Really? The response to the whitewashing of Justine Larbalestier’s Liar, say, was aimed at killing/suppressing this book because it had an inappropriate cover? What readers wanted was for the book not to be published at all because it had this cover?
For people to think that way would require them to think of the book and the cover as inseparable: this book has this cover and can have no other cover, therefore it must be quashed; the cover is a part of the book’s essential being, so in order to end whitewashing we must sacrifice this book and all like it. That’s completely arse-backwards. People were protesting, threatening boycott, precisely because they knew the book could and should be published with another cover, an appropriate cover, a cover that wasn’t an example of whitewashing racist bullshit. They knew the book didn’t have to have that cover; that was the whole fricking point.
Killing the book is not the aim. The last thing someone who cares passionately about whitewashing wants is for the absenting of the abject that such whitewashing manifests visually — the thing about it that’s wrong — to be manifest on an even more fundamental level in the quashing of a whole novel featuring characters of colour front and centre.
So, no, that type of boycott just isn’t equivalent. It’s the same sort of pressure being exerted, but to a different aim.
For sure, no publisher, bookstore or author is entitled to your money; I haven’t disputed the legitimacy of boycotting in and of itself. But do you really question the idea that using buying power is only acceptable in certain circumstances? I seriously doubt you can sustain an argument that every boycott is essentially hunky dory, a just and righteous action we could never possibly question.
I mean, if some racist dickwad on my street puts a leaflet through my door proposing a boycott of our local corner store because it’s run by people of colour who might just be Muslims (ergo terrorist immigrant threats to society blah blah BNP bollocks blah)… those circumstances wouldn’t constitute “unacceptable”? That boycott would be fine and dandy?
You could refuse to give that shopkeeper your money because he stocks Israeli fruit and you’re pro-Palestinian. You could refuse to give them your money because he stocks Gay Times and you find that morally unconscionable. You could refuse because you hate “Pakis” and want him to “go home” (despite the fact that he’s Sikh and was born here.) Damn straight the circumstances affect acceptability. The use of buying power as a weapon is tactical pressure, and any ethical evaluation of such use has to take into account the specific aims and potential results.
And here it’s not even really about refusing to buy from Amazon. Actually it’s about the more direct pressure of protest, demands for them to remove a work from their listings. In this scenario of tweets and retweets as shouts, this is not about boycotting the shop but about gathering en masse outside. It’s not picketing because there’s no line to cross for would-be shoppers, but it’s comparable to the pressure exerted on the BBC not to air Jerry Springer: The Opera, I’d say. Yes, given that it’s a different work, a different battle, a different objective, one could argue that this protest is ethically sound in that its aim is to suppress a How To book on child rape. I think to argue that on vague grounds of moral outrage is to inadvertently legitimate censorship demands born of any righteous indignation. It’s just shouting out for sanctions against “indecency,” “impropriety,” which can only end up being abused. By all means, nail the author for incitement, aiding and abetting, facilitating child rape. That’s the crime here, not the shock and horror felt by poor little us.
HasNovember 11, 2010 at 12:11 am
I am totally against any forms of censorship, but for me this has crossed the line. This isn’t a book about exploring the issues surrounding paedophillia or even a fictional account. Its a book promoting and justifying sexual abuse and paedophillia, despite all the arguments and views about freedom of expression and changing notions of sexuality over the ages, children should never ever ever be the focus or a target for sexual desire.
The author has a right to write what he likes but amazon as a publisher as well as a seller in this case – is offering a book that is deemed illegal in some countries. That book is about grooming children for sex and they have totally dropped the ball in not screening this. And another thing that really got to me about this- this author has stated he is gay and wrote a pro gay rights book. This guide plus the fact that this author who claims is gay is just ammo for homophobic nuts :S
AkinNovember 11, 2010 at 3:50 am
Ok, let me get this straight. You lot don’t agree with the contents of a book and want it banned from Amazon, but you don’t want the other books you love, which other people don’t agree with their contents, banned as well? Huh.
Pedophilia is wrong. Pedophiles are sick fucks. Everyone agrees with that. Whatever lies within the pages of this book will only appeal to those who are pedophiles, whether in actions or thoughts (thoughts, as in, they haven’t done it yet but they’re seriously thinking of doing it). Even IF this book wasn’t published, these people will still go ahead and do their sick shit, so saying that banning this book will save children from future pedophiles makes no sense.
Now, you cannot expect amazon to remove this book simply because you don’t agree with its contents. In short, MOST of you haven’t a clue what the book’s true content is. I read a review of the book by a mother (here) and it’s pretty clear to me that the book isn’t telling anyone to go ahead and rape children. I suggest you all read the review.
All I know is this: if you argue that this book should be removed on the basis of protecting your kids and it is, don’t complain when some other mother/father argues the same point about a book you like and they get their way. Cos me, I will join in your “save these awesome banned books” campaigns.
KMontNovember 11, 2010 at 3:56 am
Casey, where have I used overly emotional language? Just because I don’t agree that children shouldn’t be brought up at all in this discussion doesn’t mean I’m being overly emotional. Good grief, give it a rest already, you’re not going to be able to make me look like an emotional wreck. And I never said anyone here who only sees this as a freedom of speech issue thinks kids should be raped. Your quotes are great, but they and the fact that freedom of speech is important doesn’t negate that others are also trying to make points that may also be important. So they’re not as important to you or others who feel the same. That’s fine, but please stop trying to discredit others who may try to enter the convo with other points by making them look like overly emotional people who can’t add anything. Bringing up the fact that the book in question is crossing a line and condones and encourages harming children is not being overly emotional.
EdieNovember 11, 2010 at 4:42 am
I must admit to finding this discussion very fascinating, we rarely get books banned here in Oz, (though lots of computer games refused classification *shrug*) to my knowledge anyways, the only one I recall in recent times is a how to on making bombs. And I think this one would come under the same umbrella, so I am not quite feeling the conflict of ideologies. Maybe I am used to a line being drawn? And am therefor more comfortable with it? And am happy to continue on my boycott of Amazon, which has been going pretty much for three years, and they haven’t missed me. *sniff*
But I find the discussion very interesting.
Though I also think without this kerfuffle, the book would probably have stayed in obscurity.
CelineNovember 11, 2010 at 5:58 am
I’m finding this discussion fascinating and informative and thought provoking. Thanks to BookSmugs for hosting it. Personally, I just can’t help but imagine my reaction should I walk into my local book shop and find this book on the shelf. It’s kind of a comfortably remote philosophical discussion when the book is on Amazon – but if it were physically in my presence, say on the – um – where? the self help section? The sex ed section? The philosophy section? – of my local bookshop, I’m pretty sure that my reaction would be to walk out and not return.
debpNovember 11, 2010 at 6:19 am
There are limits set on our freedoms. You can’t go in a crowded theatre and yell fire. That is a limit on free speech because it puts peoples lives in danger.You can’t write how to commit a violent and terrible crime against children, and how to evade the law while doing it.That is illegal crime (not even to mention horrendous). This to me is not about censorship. It puts children in danger, and has effects for generations to come. I personally do not see this as censorship. I see it as promoting a crime. The best thing to do is to tell amazon how you feel, and let them suffer the finanicial consequences.
katiebabsNovember 11, 2010 at 6:21 am
Amazon has taken down the book. When you click on the link to the page to get to the guide, an error page comes up.
bibliophile brouhahaNovember 11, 2010 at 7:25 am
I don’t think any of us has actually read the book, but the author is pretty clear about what’s in it and its purpose. So long as they did not post pictures of printed description about children in that manner, I don’t believe the book is illegal. It’s sort like being able to go into a smoke shop and by a pipe or bong, but that’s not illegal unless you use it with an illegal substance.
I think most of us are probably 1st Amendment supporters. I still think this is inexcusable and filthy. We’re not talking about,Mein Kampf here; we are talking about a how to guide for sexually abusing children. Fine, Amazon – you might have the right to post this book for sale, but I absolutely have the right to take my money elsewhere. . I encourage anyone with an Amazon wish list, affiliate program, account, etc., to remove that connection.
I posted about this in my Weekly News Roundup , with links to other news stories about this. Kudos to you, Book Smugglers, for getting a mention in Shelf Awareness for this post.
-Linds, bibliophile brouhaha
DoretNovember 11, 2010 at 8:54 am
What this person is talking about is illegal. He knows this because the description ends with – “liter sentences should they be caught.”
What’s his second book going to be – “How to be a nice and considerate rapist”
When an act is illegal/crime that hurts someone else, then how to guide for such acts are illegal/criminal as well.
Jen - Devourer of BooksNovember 11, 2010 at 10:09 am
I don’t really get the argument that people are making that it isn’t banning books when we demand something be taken down from Amazon’s site. By that measure, it is similarly not banning books to demand that something not be available in schools or libraries. If that’s the case, we should give up on Banned Books Week altogether, since that is really the way that books are banned in the US today.
It is all very well and good to say that guides to illegal acts should be illegal (guess we’ll be banning “The Anarchist’s Cookbook” and “Hit Man,” too, then), but they are NOT currently, and any law making them so would likely be unconstitutional in the United States.
Robert CarterNovember 11, 2010 at 11:12 am
I would have no probably banning this book. To me, this is the equivalent to yelling “Fire” in a crowded theater. The First Amendment doesn’t cover that, nor would it cover this. Any analogies to books on teenage homosexuality are completely false. No matter how anyone feels about it, being gay doesn’t hurt any one else. There is no victim involved. Clearly, there is here.
debpNovember 11, 2010 at 11:42 am
Jen-devourer of books, I disagree. It is illegal to write a book that tells how to commit a criminal act and evade the law. That is what this book is doing.
CaseyNovember 11, 2010 at 11:53 am
It’s almost impossible for anyone not to sound emotional when all they can do is write down words. There is not enough context by way of body language and tone of voice to know and so we assume.
I wasn’t trying to pick on you and I can see that it came across that way.I actually thought I deleted that part of the post for that exact reason. So I’m sorry about that.
I’m not trying to make anyone look like “an emotional wreck.” I’m not trying to oversimplify or make others look bad or negate arguments against pedophilia. I happen to be a very strong Constitutionalist – and I stand to defend it whenever/whenever. That is what I was trying to do. It didn’t come across because (as my brother reminded me) I sound too much like my father.8O
The thing I think most of us are overlooking is that we have notread this book, and therefore don’t know what it’s really about.
Akin posted this review earlier by someone who actually read the book and according to that review this book IS NOT a how to manual for the abuse of children. The author of the review closes by saying:
“Are some of the depictions in the book illegal? Yes. Does the author suggest it’s a duty to commit a crime? Not at all. Does he advocate the duty, necessity, or propriety of acting on his beliefs? No.”
Assuming her review is accurate this book is not what we thought based on the title. And that is EXACTLY why we need to protect 1st Amendment Rights. Because we couldn’t accurately judge what that book was based on the information provided. The author doesn’t deserve to be burned at the stake if his only crime is poor writing skills. He does deserve however, the same rights and privileges afforded to everyone else. Freedom of Expression – nothing more or less.
Moonsanity (Brenda)November 11, 2010 at 12:25 pm
The man needs help- look at this interview with him: http://www.thesmokinggun.com/buster/amazon/author-pedophile-book-says-he-has-sold-one-copy-creepy-title
Justify your argument any way you want, but Amazon is not a government institution. They have refused to publish other books, and state in their policies that they have the right to refuse publications if they wish. No one is stopping the man from WRITING his book, just like you can’t stop MY freedom to boycott Amazon or speak out against pedophiles.
Jen - Devourer of BooksNovember 11, 2010 at 12:46 pm
Perhaps it should be (I can certainly see that point of view), but it really isn’t, at least not in the United States. The other two books I mentioned in my post also detail how to do criminal acts (bomb making,etc and hiring a hit man), as do a plethora of pot growing books and what is evidently a hardcover book for which Amazon is currently taking preorders which details how to smuggle cocaine. Do I like these books? No. Do I wish they weren’t around? Yes. Are they legal? Also yes.
SuzanneNovember 11, 2010 at 2:01 pm
I’m against book banning, because no matter what the book contains, you’re taking the ability of a person to decide whether to read it away from them. By banning books, you’re making a statement that there are only certain books that people are allowed to read. :/
However, i do think that we have a right to not necessarily ban books, but choose not to read them. We can choose not to spend our money on these books and we can have an opinion about it and tell that opinion to others.
Thank you for being honest and thoughtful about your own opinions on this issue and sharing it with us nonetheless.
Kyle L.November 11, 2010 at 2:30 pm
How can anybody honestly think for a second that this book being readily availiable will make the likelihood of people being pedophiles any greater? Pedophiles are pedophiles. I don’t think one day I’m going to pickup a book about raping goats(Excuxe the harsh example)and think, “Oh wow this book shows me how fun and easy it can be. I won’t even get in trouble. Maybe I should try it!” The terrible people that will do disgusting things to children, will do disgusting things to children unless physical prevented.
I think this book could actually be looked at as a tool to understanding the mentallity of a pedophile. It could be used as a means to grow from knowledge of seeing an outisde perspective. While the notion of pedophilia is repulsive, I’d personally rather try to learn about the problem then pull out and my torch and pitchfork and storm Amazon.
AkinNovember 12, 2010 at 1:29 am
Kyle, I was thinking the same thing. Anyways, as for me, I’m never involving myself in book banning days or whatever it’s called, because I see no point in it. There are books that I personally don’t want in libraries. There are some I don’t care if they are left in libraries or not. But I’ve always argued FOR these books, because I believe in freedom of expression and that if you don’t like the book then don’t read it. But now I understand that all this is just another form of political correctness gone wrong.
So, next time, when a bunch of Christian mothers who are concerned about their 12 year old kids picking up books about homosexuals in their school libraries begin a fight to ban these books, you know where my vote will lie.
After all, it’s not like they’re evil. They are “concerned” about their children’s christian welfare.
CelineNovember 12, 2010 at 2:44 am
Just to put a small note about protest. Protest and public expression of outrage doesn’t belong solely to the extreme right and is not always an expression of ‘pearl clutching’ which seems to be a phrase that’s being bandied about quite a bit on this issue. Protest and, in fact, boycotting have been integral to attaining many a radical social and political change, from the ending of slavery to the overthrowing of repressive governments. And while this is an extreme grey area as it balances a book which pro-ports to aid in the perpetration of an activity that all here abhor (the rape of children) against another activity all here abhor (the banning of books)It’s important to remember that if you have a strong moral bias against something, you have the right, and some would say the duty, to express that bias. The right to protest loudly and vocally is just as important – in fact is tantamount to – the right to free speech.
JaneNovember 12, 2010 at 11:56 pm
Aiding child rape/abuse/porn is reprehensible and should be BANNED. Actually, it already is banned in America.
To think for a second that we shouldn’t “ban” child rape/abuse/porn is perverted and sick.
You have been deleted from my favorites.
WendyNovember 13, 2010 at 10:40 am
Interesting post. I have several thoughts about all of this. First of all, our right to freedom of speech IS limited in certain situations (one cannot yell “Fire” in a crowded theater for example, nor can we make terrorist threats against others, whether that be verbally or in writing)…and so supporting a removal of a book from Amazon because its content includes illegal acts (and how to get around prosecution…or in the author’s words: “get a lighter sentence” for a crime)is not something I think anyone should be apologizing for.
I have one HUGE problem with this book – that it appears to make pedophile sound “normal”…that somehow, wishing to have sex (and actually having sex) with a child is somehow okay. Having worked with victims of child sexual abuse, I have a very, very low tolerance for this type of crime. And it is a crime, despite how the author twists his words to make it sound “normal.” I don’t support book banning just because someone has a moral objection to the content of a book – but this book goes beyond that…it supports criminal acts against children.
I’m glad Amazon removed it from their shelves…and I hope the authorities decide to investigate its author who apparently not only has been forcibly committed to a mental institution at one time, but who also did not deny (at first) having committed sexual acts with children as an adult.
WendyNovember 13, 2010 at 10:44 am
I also should add to my comment above – I am not a member of the “radical right”…in fact, my political affiliation is Democrat and I have always been fairly socially liberal when it comes to a person’s rights…I draw the line when someone’s behavior is criminal, especially when the criminal act involves children.
VanessaNovember 14, 2010 at 3:09 pm
99% of the time, I am adamantly against banning or restricting books but to me this is SO vile an exception can and should be made. This isn’t the same as saying a book offends me so no one can read it. And it’s not like this book is about growing your own marijuana plants. This is about committing and evading punishment for sexual crimes against children. It’s not even banning. He can still produce and sell it. But Amazon shouldn’t enable him to distribute and profit from it period.
The Book Smugglers » Blog Archive » Smugglers’ Stash and NewsNovember 15, 2010 at 7:35 am
[…] So THAT was a surprise. But not as surprising as being caught on a shit storm of my own making. On Thursday I was minding my own business on Twitter, then I got wind of this really nasty book being sold on Amazon (a manual on how to be a better paedophile) and without thinking I tweeted that Amazon should remove the book from its site and then all of a sudden BOOM, I am a Book Banner. I then wrote a post about that, examining my reaction, trying to come to terms with it. It is now one of our top posts in terms of hits and the comments are AWESOME, the discussion is fascinating and I love how people were thoughtful and respectful when discussing the limits (or not) of free speech. It is well worth a read. […]
Gerd D.November 19, 2010 at 9:43 am
So are books that tell you how to grow pot on your balcony or how to cover up your tracks on the internet.
That’s not on the same scale, given, but the same basic rules apply.
However, Amazon is age free platform and should therefore by rights not openly sell or market anything that isn’t suitable for minors. An age rating for books would certainly be needed, that and an FBI auto tracking of everybody who bought this book.
That’s not the same scale, though I hazard to say that you needn’d
CaseyNovember 19, 2010 at 12:11 pm
To everyone who wants the purchase of this book monitored by the FBI – are you saying that it’s ok for the FBI to monitor you as well? Because while the dissolution of rights always starts off sounding very reasonable, “Lets watch known criminals to be sure they don’t commit any more crimes,” it eventually becomes, “Lets watch everyone to be sure they don’t commit any crimes.”
In your broad statements about criminals and safety you have considered those people who purchased in order to determine what the book was really about, and in so doing provide some truth and context for the public? Are these people automatically criminals who should be monitored by the government?
Because if you are saying that the entire Bill of Rights is less important then your personal safety, I would ask that you take some responsibility for yourself rather then trying to get the government to take responsibility for you.
We shouldn’t forget that absolute power corrupts absolutely – and in giving the government the power to take away your rights, you provide the means of their corruption. You ultimately become less safe because now you have two enemies to worry about – the original bad guy, and the government.
You may be willing to give up your rights for the illusion of safety but I’m not. The Government CANNOT prevent crime – they can only punish those who commit crime after it’s done. The Government cannot keep you safe.
The world is inherently unsafe. People all over the world will die today in order to secure freedoms for themselves and take freedoms away from others. We speak easily here because our battles were fought long ago and we have grown accustomed to our rights and take them for granted.
It sounds like many of you would throw away your right to discuss these issues in the name of safety while others die to protect their right to choose their religion, and practice how they see fit.
Am I misunderstanding you?
satainNovember 28, 2012 at 10:29 am