This Is Excatly the Sort of Crap I Was Criticizing Re: “Free Speech”

October 11, 2013 § 4 Comments

Yesterday, On the Media’s PJ Vogt published a piece forwarding precisely the sort of infuriating “free speech” stance I criticized in my Daily Dot piece. According to Vogt, Amazon should continue selling rape and incest porn fiction, because a) no one is actually raped and b) free speech, which was apparently violated when Amazon quietly began removing the offending titles (not how that works, but ok). Here is his argument, which by the way isn’t an argument, but rather a universalized statement of preference:

We outlaw snuff films, child porn and, increasingly, revenge porn, because actual people are harmed during their production. Erotic fiction concerns fake characters who don’t exist in real life.

Since Kernel started writing about Amazon’s back room, Amazon has deleted many of the offending titles without public comment. Which is too bad. I wish Amazon would say, aggressively, that they’re for free speech, and that they won’t ban a book just because it’s a stomach-turning obscenity with no redeeming literary or cultural value.

In the pre-Amazon Dark Ages, there were small towns where the only place to buy a book was Walmart. If you wanted a book that was too risque for America’s most squeaky-clean retailer, you were in trouble. If Amazon is going to be, essentially, the world’s last bookstore, I’d like to know that Bezos isn’t Steve Jobs, who defined freedom for his customers as freedom from objectionable content. I wish Bezos would say that while he despises these books, Amazon’s role is to publish everything, even our culture’s most irredeemable garbage.

And why should Amazon publish everything, even literature that glorifies the worst sorts of crimes against the most vulnerable populations? Well, free speech, of course! Because god forbid we infringe on the sacred right of rape fetishists and pedophiles to spread the good news of sexual violation, and the Constitutionally-protected right for other rape fetishists and pedophiles to search for and purchase self-published e-books detailing sex crimes against women and minors. Oh wait, there is no clause in the First Amendment guaranteeing sex criminals a wide selection of bathroom reading? Then shut up about free speech, because that’s not what this is about.

What this is about is the default assumption that it’s more important to protect a monster’s speech than it is to protect those who find themselves on the receiving end of whatever monsterousness, however indirectly (to that: the idea that “no one is harmed” by rape fantasy porn is flatly erroneous — I am harmed just knowing that it exists, a feeling born of and exacerbated by the statistical reality that at least a quarter of women will report experiencing sexual violence, a number that does not take into account the sexual violence that goes unreported). And that sucks; those priorities suck. But try explaining that to a free speech proponent.

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§ 4 Responses to This Is Excatly the Sort of Crap I Was Criticizing Re: “Free Speech”

  • nightwork says:

    Vogt writes, “Since Kernel started writing about Amazon’s back room, Amazon has deleted many of the offending titles without public comment. Which is too bad. I wish Amazon would say, aggressively, that they’re for free speech, and that they won’t ban a book just because it’s a stomach-turning obscenity with no redeeming literary or cultural value.”

    He’s obviously not thinking about how amazon’s business model works and is wallowing in shallow idealism. Amazon removed these books not exactly or just because of offensive content they are taking some moral stand against, but because they don’t sell enough to justify what the backlash might cost. The tens of people who will buy this garbage isn’t worth the potential for boycotts from angry people who don’t likethem carrying it. Since most “free speech” people tend to also be “free market” proponents, this move should be right in line with their ideologies and totally understandable, so not sure why the lack of understanding from Vogt. Same reason Target doesn’t sell pron.

    • Lack of understanding because the only argument here is BUT FREE SPEECH, which as I said, isn’t really an argument. It actually seems to be preemptive, solipsistic defensiveness against some slippery-slope world in which any act of censorship threatens the speaker’s speech (which itself assumes that all speech is morally equivalent, regardless of content)(and is doubly ironic/stupid because the very same people most concerned about “free speech” i.e. “MY speech” are exactly the people whose speech has historically been the most free).

      But free speech, totally.

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