In case you can't make out the title from this less than optimum quality cover image, it's "The Pedophiles Guide to Love and Pleasure." Subtitle: "A Child-Lover's Code of Conduct."
Ew. Icky book. I won't be reading that one. Moving on.
Except that I can't move on, because my Twitter stream is full of public outrage decrying Amazon's foul and demanding a boycott of the the online selling giant until the offending title is removed. The horror and disgust has gone viral. A few brave dissenters have stepped forward in the name of free speech, but they've been all but burned at the stake by the angry mob.
Yes. I just called you an angry mob. There is a difference between rationally opposing something and getting swept away in a tidal wave of moral righteousness simply because Twitter told you to do so.
If you're someone who saw a tweet, took the time to check the Amazon link, read more than the title of the book in question, and maybe even did a simple Google search to verify the legitimacy of the whole thing, and then decided to retweet your own moral outrage, fine. I have no beef with you.
But if you're someone who saw the bandwagon rushing by and couldn't help but jump aboard head-first without knowing anything more about the book than its title? You who literally judge a book by its cover? I do have a beef with you. Aside from adding to a collective panic that maybe needs to chill out just a little, your kind of reflexive retweeting before research can kill people. KILL PEOPLE! No, I'm not exaggerating. Remember that time we killed Jeff Goldblum?
That said, if you did do your research, it does appear that this book is just as icky on the inside as it is on the outside. The product description reads as follows:
"This is my attempt to make pedophile situations safer for those juveniles that find themselves involved in them, by establishing certian rules for these adults to follow. I hope to achieve this by appealing to the better nature of pedosexuals, with hope that their doing so will result in less hatred and perhaps liter [sic] sentences should they ever be caught."And I could find nothing elsewhere online proving that this was a hoax, or a satirical poke at priests*, or anything else to suggest that Phillip R. Greaves didn't really write a handbook for pedophiles. So you snap judgment folks lucked out and were right after all. (But seriously. Don't do that again. It's not a good idea.)
So now the issue is whether or not Amazon should sell the book. Or, more radically, whether or not the book should be banned altogether. Plenty are calling for a boycott of Amazon until they remove the book from the site; plenty are demanding that the FBI arrest the author and get rid of the book altogether.
And here's where I find myself solidly in the "freedom of speech" camp.
Some have argued that this particular book crosses a moral line, and so freedom of speech shouldn't apply. But I maintain that there are no gradations of freedom of speech; it's either free or it isn't. In order to protect the right, we must be prepared to extend it to all speech, not just that which we agree with or are comfortable with.
"There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. Books are either well written or badly written. That is all." - Oscar Wilde
Who is to decide for all of us what's moral and what isn't? Who is to decide for all of us what crosses the line and what doesn't? Who decides that this book is wrong, but Lolita is right? (Not that I'm comparing Mr. Greaves to Nabokov, but the subject matter makes this the obvious example.) If it were up to me, Fox News would be first on the list to lose its freedom of speech rights. But it's NOT up to me, for precisely that reason. We can't have individuals (or the government) attempting to control what other people hear/see/read/watch, no matter how despicable it may be.
But this is an old argument, and one that's been expressed far better than I'm able, distracted as I am with a sleeping baby spread precariously across my lap. So, boo on censorship; yay on freedom of speech. Moving on.
That said, Amazon refusing to sell the book does not amount to censorship. It amounts to a business decision. Amazon not selling it does not affect the man's right to write it or the public's right to read it. (Though, some would argue, it does affect the public's access to and ability to read it, which is, in effect, censorship. But I don't have time for that debate today.) So I fully support any individual who sees Amazon's decision to sell the book, disagrees with that decision, and decides to boycott Amazon. Lord knows I've boycotted business for much less.
I, for one, will not be boycotting Amazon. In fact, I applaud them for standing their ground on this issue, if that is, in fact what they're doing. I'm actually not so sure that they won't pull it eventually. Despite reported responses from Amazon on discussion threads stating that they "...believe it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable," their own guidelines ban material that is "offensive" (though they don't define what "offensive" is). But, assuming they leave the book to sell, I think it's the right move.
Please don't mistake my support of Amazon as an endorsement of pedophilia. I am a mother. The mere idea of child predators makes me nauseous. But it is my opinion that freedom of speech comes with an implied right to disseminate that speech; otherwise, all we've really been granted is the right to whisper quietly to ourselves in the privacy of our own darkened bedrooms.
*And speaking of satirical pokes at priests, instead of boycotting a retailer selling words you don't like, I wonder how many of you are prepared to boycott an organized religion with a history of engaging in the act, like, for real and shit. Any Amazon-boycotting Catholics out there care to comment?