Monday, January 23, 2006

On Being Amazoned for Being a Conservative Author

Dear Amazon and Mr. Jeff Bezos:

We both know you’re a Big Deal and we both like that. Success is wonderful. Among other good features, your ability to move merchandise is remarkable and your pages are very user friendly. As you have expanded into other areas, I have followed you there and made purchases other than books. Way back when, who’d have thought one could purchase underwear on Amazon? Or chef’s knives?

I think enough of your service to have ordered your credit card and use the coupons which it generates in order to buy books from However, unless you remedy the current problem that conservative writers experience on your site, I’m going to cancel my credit card and move on.

I just looked at Fred Barnes’ book here. The cover of the book is intact this time, though the last view showed some hacker’s version of President Bush in handcuffs with the title “Felon in Chief,” which you can view here, at Michelle Malkin’s site. Ms. Malkin calls what has happened “The Review Cesspool.” This is an accurate assessment of the phenomenon which conservative writers and readers experience.

Of course you know this is an on-going problem. Kate O’Beirne is another conservative author who is being amazoned. The National Review Online editor, Kathryn Jean Lopez, calls it “The Sacking of Kate O’Beirne.”

The insulting comments amount to nothing more than ad hominem attacks on these books, their subjects, and on the authors. Mr. Barnes is a respected writer; I have read his work on political subjects for decades now and speak from the direct experience. Unfortunately, I suspect that most of your over-the-top commenters on conservative books neither buy nor read these works. They are simply on the site to trash the messenger and his message.

As for Ms. O’Beirne, I have read her columns for some time and had planned to buy the book from you. However, I hesitate to give my money to a business which does not protect its authors from illegitimate hazing.

Here is a suggestion: either have your commenters on a particular book be able to show proof of having purchased this item on Amazon or block their comments. You have the capability to do this. Whether or not you are willing to risk the ire of Leftists who are bent on spoiling things is another matter. If commenters neither purchase the book from you nor read it in any other way, why grant them the privilege of commenting on what you have on offer? Their behavior lacks integrity. If you fail to address this issue, your organization will suffer the same character defect.

On principle I do not believe in boycotts. They are a legacy from the '60's Left, and are little more than a form of bullying. Besides, they're not effective. However, I also believe in the power of choice. Unless you are willing to deal with massive, and massively unfair, attacks in a timely manner, I will -- with regret -- make my purchases elsewhere.

Will you miss our business? Not much. Will we feel better not having to go through garbage in order to look at a book and purchase it? You bet.

I would be loath to stop doing business with Amazon, Mr. Bezos, but like the rest of us, you are not indispensable. I do hope you can see your way to reason, fairness, and — above all — integrity in this matter.

I wait with interest to see what you decide.

With utmost sincerity,

Gates of Vienna