retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Hi, Kevin Coupe here, and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.

Go figure.  Amazon seems to have a Nazi problem.  

Here's the deal, as described in a New York Times story…

Amazon has decided to stop selling certain kinds of books.  Like some by David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, and by George Lincoln Rockwell, founder of the American Nazi party.  Titles like “The Ruling Elite: The Zionist Seizure of World Power” and “A History of Central Banking and the Enslavement of Mankind" are decidedly not prime material.

Nobody is defending the opinions of white nationalists or racists or Nazis or people who are anti semitic.  But there are questions being raised about the criteria that Amazon is using the identify offending books and its broader transparency about which books it has delisted.  It doesn't really provide specifics about either.  This can get a little problematic when it comes to the Amazon Marketplace, where third-party sellers also are prohibited from selling such material, and yet apparently have trouble sometimes figuring out what is acceptable and what is not.

I find this to be mildly amusing - it shouldn't be that hard to figure out what kinds of materials reflect the views of white nationalists or racists or Nazis or anti semites.  

I have no problem with Amazon not selling such materials, with making specific decisions about places in which it does not need to be the "everything store."  After all, Amazon doesn't sell porn.Most retailers curate their product selections to some degree, making a decision about which colors and sizes and styles to carry, whether they sell shoes or cars or refrigerators.  Amazon actually is unusual because it essentially was anti-curation, but the degree to which hate mongering has become prevalent online means that it has had to change its approach to some degree.  Frankly, I wish some of the social media sites would do the same thing.

And this isn't about politics.  It is about what is - or at least should - be offensive to any decent, tolerant, compassionate and intelligent person.

There is one thing that Amazon does with which I disagree.  The Times writes that "when Amazon drops a book from its store, it is as if it never existed. A recent Google search for David Duke’s 'My Awakening: A Path to Racial Understanding' on Amazon yielded a link to a picture of an Amazon employee’s dog. Amazon sellers call these dead ends 'dog pages'."

First of all, I think I'd resent it if my puppy's picture showed up when someone was looking for a book by a former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard.  (I'd be okay, however, if they wanted to post a picture of what my puppy leaves in the yard for us a couple of times a day.)

But I actually think that Amazon ought to be transparent about the books it will not sell, and even have essays devoted to why.

These essays may not change anybody's mind.  But it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.

That's what is on my mind this morning.  As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.