What’s the difference between books and any other kind of speech? Books have an emotional quality to them.
Delete someone’s post and it can be called enforcing community guidelines, but burn a book and suddenly you’re a Nazi. Speech is still speech, but the idea of going after books in particular summons all sorts of historical references from the Muslim destruction of the Library of Alexandria to book-burning rallies in Berlin.
It’s why the Left was able to mobilize so much opposition by accusing school boards and parents of trying to “ban books” by keeping pornographic books out of schools.
Still every prior form of political censorship was defended by leftists, why not go after books on Amazon?
Tyler O’Neil at the Daily Signal reports that the Biden team saw no apparent difference between targeting books on Amazon and any other forms of social media censorship that it was pushing.
Andrew Slavitt, then a senior adviser on Biden’s COVID-19 response team, had previously asked, “Who can we talk to about the high levels of propaganda and misinformation and disinformation [on] Amazon?”
And by “talk to”, they meant get rid of.
In one email produced through a House Judiciary Committee subopena had an Amazon employee asking, “Is the [Biden] Admin asking us to remove books”?
After the March 9 meeting at the White House, Amazon staff strategized how to respond to a negative story that Buzzfeed would publish discussing “COVID-19 related books for sale on Amazon.” Staff noted that they were “feeling pressure from the White House Taskforce” on the issue of books “related to vaccine misinformation.”
The resulting compromise instead settled for shadowbanning the books.
In this discussion, a staffer noted that “we did enable Do Not Promote for anti-vax books whose primary purpose is to persuade readers vaccines are unsafe or ineffective on 3/9, and will review additional handling options for these books with you, [redacted], and [redacted] on 3/19.”
That March 9 decision to change Amazon’s algorithm to avoid promoting “anti-vax books” appears to have happened after the meeting with White House staff.
The media will predictably support this or ignore it: thus crossing another line. And at some point we’ll run out of lines. Liberals used to love Heinrich Heine’s line, “where they burn books, they will, in the end, burn human beings too.” There’s some truth to it. At least insofar as the sorts of regimes that burned people tended to have also burnt books beforehand.
The pattern here is similar to what we saw before with the #TwitterFiles. While externally Dot Coms defend censorship, internally we’ve seen a good deal of discomfort from top execs with what they’re being asked to do.
That discomfort is key. A judicial decision banning the government from pushing companies to censor materials was protested on the grounds that the government was persuading, not ordering. Liberals pretended that there was such a distinction. But the more of these cases are aired, the more that distinction collapses.
Justice Clarence Thomas had warned that government agencies pressuring social media companies to censor might not be considered “private action.” And without that, it’s just government censorship.