Why Amazon Should Not Remove Anti-Gay Books
Reports are saying that Amazon has taken down a book by a well known religious conservative on the topic of how parents should not accept a gay child. Even if it were true, it’s probably not desirable.
The Internet is abuzz with reports that Linda Harvey, well known anti-gay pundit of Mission America, saw her latest book pulled by online retail giant Amazon.
The book, titled “Maybe He’s Not Gay: Another View on Homosexuality,” suggests a tome on how to attempt to turn your gay child straight, or at the very least that gay acceptance is overrated.
Full disclosure: I’ve not read the book so it’s possible I’ve missed some nuance, but Harvey’s credentials advocating ex-gay therapy are well established and the description does nothing to dissuade from the notion that, at its heart, this is a book attempting to peddle that people can choose their sexuality:
“I’m gay.” As more and more young people announce this is their identity, it’s time to take a closer look. It’s a profound declaration, a new civil right (they are told) and it’s “who you are.” But there’s a problem. Are we sure this is the truth?
Does this identity bring the promised liberation and the key to a whole new life? Does it lift the burden of secrecy – or begin a different kind of struggle?
Maybe He’s Not Gay: Another View on Homosexuality is a new book by Linda Harvey that addresses these critical questions. Specifically for America’s youth, this book focuses on the bright future they can all have, regardless of the turmoil of adolescence, which for some may include same sex attractions or gender confusion. What do those feelings mean? Is there another possibility that transcends the seeming finality of a homosexual identity?
The blogosphere heaped praise on Amazon for this move, chalking it up as a victory, but is this actually what happened? Amazon has not yet issued a comment. Harvey, meanwhile, is contending that because of a sustained campaign of “vile, vicious postings” her publisher Penrhyn Press pulled the title. It remains up for sale from other outlets.
Now those who backed pulling the book contend Harvey is simply trying to save face. Even if the book wasn’t pulled by Amazon, for them this is still a win. However, the “victories” are not the same at all.
Amazon has always been very reluctant to enter the book banning fray and for good reason: such a policy would be entirely unsustainable.
To be sure, there may be legitimate reasons to be concerned by Harvey’s book and to protest it vociferously. If it’s advocating ex-gay therapy, forced conversion attempts and, as Harvey herself has implied, ignoring a gay child as a tough-love means to make them conform, these are all scientifically unproven and what’s more potentially dangerous practices.
Yet Amazon still has up for sale the history revisionist tome “The Pink Swastika” by Scott Lively which alleges that gay people were really behind the Holocaust.
The book, which has no historical merit and a lot of anti-gay prejudice, comes from the man who is largely credited as helping to inspire Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill. It remains on sale. One could argue that given the animus Lively is known to have spread to various quarters of the globe, and the way in which the book puts one of the world’s worst human rights atrocities square on the shoulders of gay people, Amazon should apply the same principles and ban this book.
The problem quickly presents itself: where to stop? There are certain books that as a matter of reasonable restriction we could argue should be removed from sale. For instance, those that instruct on how to commit explicitly illegal behavior (obviously, out of a fictional fantasy context). Yet beyond that, the matter becomes problematic and quickly devolve into a retailer like Amazon using its platform to vet what it deems “acceptable” content, where the potential for abuse is vast.
A better way is to exercise the powers that Harvey contends led to her publisher pulling her book. Amazon gives people a way to rate books. This can be used to make a book’s lack of credibility known to all potential readers. In this way, we ensure that material like Harvey’s book does not go unchallenged while not giving her cause or course to play the victim card and pretend she is a victim of censorship and discrimination.
Photo credit: Thinkstock.