Last night while I was working on the debate research I complete every summer for my small business, my attention turned to the connection between economic decline and white nationalism. Within a few minutes, one of the search results led me to a book on Amazon called Vikings Rising: How Intolerant Leftists, Violent Commies, Liars, Psychopaths, Fake Newsers, and other Darlings of the Main Stream Media Unleashed a Movement, a white supremacist manifesto that combines the neo-Pagan white supremacist movement with lurid claims about the dangers of those who are not of Northern European descent.
This passage from the Foreword of the text echoes the language used by El Paso shooter, the President, and Tucker Carlson:
No “it’s an invasion.” No “why should we invite in millions of foreigners to care for when our own citizens are homeless and jobless?” No “our country is nearly bankrupt, how can we afford to do this?” No “why are we letting in people who don’t value our traditions and don’t even believe in equal rights for women?”
Each of its chapters tackles one of the familiar themes of white grievance or xenophobic fearmongering that characterize white supremacy.
It’s tempting to dismiss this book as little more than the incoherent racist ramblings of people who dream of Viking cosplay without possessing any understanding of who the Vikings really were. Hell, the book is even written under the pseudonym Col. Walter T. Richmond, even though the text was actually written by a group of authors who met online to air their racist grievances.
But this book is hardly an isolated case. Amazon publishes all sorts of texts that have been fed by and feed the white supremacist movement.
Amazon offers The Day of the Rope in Kindle, Audiobook, and Paperback formats. Its title comes from the militia novel The Turner Diaries and tells the story of patriots Ethan and Wayne as they uncover “a country that has rejected its heritage and descended into degeneracy and decadence.” Just a brief look at its reviews gives a clear sense of its intended audience and purpose.
For those who want their white nationalism served with anti-Semitism, Amazon offers Jewish Privilege, which purports expose how Jews destroyed our nation’s moral code and exploit the term “hate speech.” The same author also sells The Jews and Moral Subversion, which promises a look at how Jewish people use “sexual imagery and propaganda as a means of psychological warfare and social control” in both paperback and Kindle versions.
The perfect Yule gift for the budding white nationalist in a family, Blut and Boden: A Fairy Tale for Children of European Descent, offers its readers “Blood. Soil. Memory. Tradition” and deliberately evokes the Nazi call for a racially defined nation.
For a look into international white supremacy, Amazon offers Into the Cannibal’s Pot, which decries the post-apartheid era in South Africa, claiming that whites are being ethnically cleansed in the “once-great nation of South Africa.”
Interestingly, Amazon prohibits its Associates—people who monetize their blogs with Amazon content—from selling “materials or activity that is hateful, harassing, harmful, invasive of another’s privacy, abusive, or discriminatory (including on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation, or age,” but that prohibition clearly does not seem to extend to the products the behemoth sells itself.
Look, the “authors” of these books have every right to express their horrific views. The First Amendment gives people the right to make fools of themselves by pretending to be Vikings and writing racist screeds that only expose them for the truly awful people they are. For the most part, with some reasonable limits, even abhorrent views should be protected in the marketplace of ideas.
But Amazon doesn’t need to give them space in its marketplace. While the First Amendment protects the right to speak, it doesn’t demand that anyone listen or provide a megaphone for those views.
Rather than providing a platform for these books, Amazon should exercise judgment and pull the texts from their virtual and real shelves.
Judd Legum, writing at Popular Information, has done incredible work exposing how Amazon profits from the racist incubator web site 8chan, noting that the site’s “selection of Amazon as his financial lifeline to the outside world is not an accident. The company does not run away from websites that others deem toxic.”
Big Tech is going to have to confront its big problem with content. In the era when bookstore shelf space was allocated by human beings, books like The Day of the Rope would only have been passed around in badly copied versions by mail and at militia gatherings, not made readily available to an audience that seems hungry for radicalization. The influence of books like these would have been limited by distribution challenges and the elementary school reading level of most of their audience.
Today, anyone who has begun to sink into the rabbit hole of Internet searches into today’s rebranded white supremacy will be directed to books like The Day of the Rope by Amazon’s marketing power and control of algorithms.
With the most distribution power in publishing, Amazon has a unique responsibility to exercise judgment about the materials it makes available. While it might argue that its store is only a manifestation of the marketplace and that its algorithm and reader preferences suggest books, placement on the site lends these books credence and increases the ease of their distribution.
It’s simply indefensible for Amazon to profit from white supremacy. If you think the world’s largest bookseller shouldn’t sell white supremacist texts, perhaps you’ll take a moment to contact Amazon today and ask them to remove them.
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