Sunday, April 12, 2009

Amazon nitwittery

Amazon, in a burst of truly monumental nitwittery , has decided to protect you from exposure to 'deh gay'.

Now, when you go searching for books about gays on Amazon, you will not find them. Their Amazon rank has been removed. They are invisible.

Amazon will decide what you should and shouldn't read.
Don't you feel safe and protected? Discussion here .

Edited to add ...

Erotic books on Amazon continue to be deranked ....


  1. Un-freaking-believable. Now I have to stop shopping at amazon.

  2. I am hoping this was a decision at middle-management level by some fool. I'm hoping this doesn't reflect the policy of the company.

    I'll give 'em a week.

  3. I am seething and yet not entirely surprised. What I want to know if “adult material” is the criteria why are they not deranking all novels with sex scenes? Will they do as done before and remove Lady Chatterly’s Lover? Shall a committee be formed to Inform the public what we are permitted to read and not read? Will corporations now determine what is morally acceptable i.e. sex between a man and a woman, or two women and a man, but not between two men or two women?

    Idiocy does seem alive and well. So sad that supposedly in this era of so called en-lightenment so many are still so willing to embrace double standards, bigotry and discrimination.

    Sigh. I do hope you're right and that they will realize their collossal stupidity.

  4. Hi, Jo,

    This is deeply disturbing and stupid, and I appreciate your blogging about it. According to Steve Benen, who blogs at The Washington Monthly, Amazon is moving to correct the "glitch." I don't know what your policy is about linking, so I won't add the link. Here's the text of Steve's post:

    "AMAZON'S GLITCH.... Over the weekend, several authors began noticing an odd problem at LGBT books were not only stripped of their sales rank, but they were also no longer available in on-site searches. The online retailer told some writers that "adult" materials are excluded from "some searches and best seller lists."

    The problem, of course, is that there's nothing necessarily "adult" about gay-themed books, and to assume otherwise is absurd. Amanda Terkel noted, "[T]he LGBT books excluded include Nathan Frank's 'well-reviewed empirical analysis of military policy,' 'Unfriendly Fire,' and a biography of Ellen DeGeneres. Books remaining include the biography of straight porn star Ron Jeremy and 'A Parent's Guide To Preventing Homosexuality.'"

    Amazon has never had a reputation for being a conservative retailer or having an anti-gay agenda, so all of this came as quite a surprise. To the company's credit, Amazon seems to be addressing the matter quickly, and chalking it up to a "glitch."

    A "glitch" on has caused the sales rank to be removed from gay- and/or lesbian-themed books by James Baldwin, Gore Vidal and others.

    "There was a glitch in our systems and it's being fixed," Amazon's director of corporate communications, Patty Smith, said in an e-mail Sunday.

    I'm inclined to think this wasn't a deliberate move on the company's part, since Amazon has nothing to gain from doing this.

    Still, an explanation as to how this happened in the first place would be helpful."

    Annie again: I agree Amazon not only needs to fix this but offer an explanation for how it happened. That is, unless they want to be remembered for the on-line equivalent of book burning.

  5. P.S. Just to clarify, I don't think Amazon's damage control lets them off the hook. They need to come clean about how this happened, issue an apology, and explain what steps have been implemented to ensure this (or some similar outrage) doesn't happen again.

  6. @ Annie --

    Why the devil Amazon can't just put a safesearch feature on their site ...

    Let folks choose opt in or choose to opt out. Adults don't need a nanny telling them what they can and cannot see.

  7. Well, this is where the more sinister explanation kicks in. If some mid-level functionary approved this in an access of ideological zeal, Amazon needs to come clean. I'm not holding my breath.

  8. @ Annie

    Like you, I'm fairly certain this 'glitch' represents a conscious decision on somebody's part.

    And I agree with you that it's unlikely to be policy making at a senior level. I'd lay this at the door of a dirt-stupid middle manager.

    I actually sympathize with Amazon not giving up this theoretical crapulous mid-level employee for world-wide scorn. I wouldn't either.

    But I'd fire his ass. And I'd take corporate responsibility for what happened. Something along the lines of ... "A mid-level employee made the unilateral decision to expand this policy from its original scope and intention. We have instituted policies to prevent this happening agian and ..."

  9. NicoleZ12:14 PM

    I just looked at the Browse by Genre page, and "Gay & Lesbian" is right there under G.

  10. Anonymous9:30 PM

    Ok, so according to the Huffington Post Amazon claims it was a ham-fisted error and has fixed it, and some hacker claiming responsibility is just jumping into the limelight...
    Of course, Amazon never actually denied the hacker claim-- maybe Amazon would rather claim an error than admit they can be hacked? But in any case, this is supposed to have applied to lots of books not just gay books, and to be in the process of being fixed. DLS

  11. Hi DLS --

    A good summation. I am especially charmed by Amazon claiming this is a glitch created by a French admin person.

    So delightful to blame it all on the French.

    I subscribe wholly to the 'Never attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity' maxim ...
    there being more stupidity in the world than malice.
    Just barely.

    But two signs and portents make me think this is deliberate action rather than random chance. First -- this was done on the eve of the major holiday of France. Second -- the 'tag' that was 'entered in error' is G&L, instead of, for instance, twelveth century Japanese haiku.

    And I would like to see Amazon's explanation of why they were messing with their 'ranking system' at all.

    In 1999, Amit Patel, Google employee number 6, coined what eventually became the company motto -- “Do Not Be Evil”. The original company engineers did not want the business side of Google to influence the organic search results listings.

    Amazon should take a page out of that book.