I received this email from Amazon a few days ago:
Note that I have been accused of something, but it is not specified. Note also that I have been warned not to do this something again that I did and which offends Amazon. Because I wanted to understand this astounding threat, I read the Customer Guidelines; I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that I learned nothing. It was as vacuous as this warning memo. Thus in the final analysis, the Community’s request for my “understanding” is obviously intended to strike fear into our hearts but since we don’t know our crime, it is so utterly Franz-Kafka-The-Trialian that I had to laugh.
I infrequently write reviews on Amazon. Those I write are usually book reviews, and a very occasional product review. Most, I would say, are positive reviews, but not always because I am fair and forthright in my opinions (remember the definition what opinions are compared to).
But this. This! I refuse to succumb to Amazon’s belligerent, unfounded accusation by racking my brain or searching my reviews to see what heresy I purportedly committed. This Big Brother messaging drives the already-existing wedge between me and Amazon very, very deep. In January, I blogged that I was going to take every measure possible to avoid buying books from Amazon because it is a monopoly, preying on the publishing industry at large and authors by default. We authors have no rights and no power to control the manner in which Amazon sells, or chooses not to sell, our books. I believe we can expect our author-Amazon relationship to worsen as Amazon puts its jackboot on our necks in its continuing campaign to put profits before principled, ethical business behavior.
Consider this. Just days ago I finished Matthew Carr’s The Devils of Cardona, set in Spain in the 1500s, depicting the Catholic Church’s Inquisition. (Oh, dear me, the evil men do. It’s never stopped.) Carr has explored, literarily, terrorism from the Inquisition to the Russian Revolution to Al-Qaeda. It would come as no surprise to me if his next book on the topic examined one, or perhaps all, the tech giants of Amerika, starting with Amazon.
The sad truth about a business or a government is that they tend to assume the most rapacious characteristics of a living creature, and will do whatever it takes to live and to thrive. Both institutions tend to take advantage of employees and the people they purport to serve, and that means the you-know-what rolls downhill. That’s a big reason why we have racial injustice, not to mention all the ravages of COVID-19. Why does one [upper] class treat other [lower] classes of humans like chattel? In Amerika, whites prey without mercy or compassion on Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, . . . the lot. Why do we allow walls, both real and regulatory, to be built to keep immigrants out of our country? Why do we tolerate a president who embodies every despicable trait of a human being? La Libertas, standing on Ellis Island in New York Harbor, must be either weeping or seething.
But I digress. I usually do. It’s not me, it’s the interconnectedness of everything.
And so I, too, was seething when I first read this threat from Amazon. Whatever it is, or was, that provoked the Web crawlers about me, Amazon has demanded an obeisance that I flatly, wholeheartedly, reject and refuse to submit to. To do otherwise would be to abandon my First Amendment rights. Patrick Henry once said, “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.” Right on. Any form of demagoguery or totalitarianism, whether it comes from an individual, a group, a business or even a government, has no place in the true America.
Amazon writes to me, “Failure to comply with our policies may result in your account being banned from taking part in Community features.” To which I ask, again, what policies have I failed to comply with? This is the question people asked in 15th-century Spain when the Inquisitor told them they were going to be burned at the stake. And like Amazon, the Inquisitor was under no obligation to give a reason. Heresy, violating canon law, was as broadly and weakly defined as Amazon’s purported accusations of violating its “guidelines or Conditions of Use” with the same type of punishment: banishment from the “community.” At least they can’t chop off my head or burn me at the stake for my unsupported offenses.
The difference for me is that I really don’t care what “community policies” I didn’t comply with. I hate policy, because it means the human factors have been excised from decision-making. Moreover, I refuse to kiss Amazon’s feet and beg its forgiveness so that I may be allowed to lend my cheery voice to encouraging people to buy their stuff. (I think that’s called marketing.) I do enjoy sharing my perceptions and opinions about things I buy, but I categorically refuse to be told I must conform to Amazon’s rules for doing so. I really don’t care if I’m banned from writing reviews, for there are several other places – and subjects – I blog about which aren’t sales advocacy and are much more suitable to my intellectual, emotional and moral purposes.
So Amazon, for my part, you can stuff your threats. I choose not to live in fear of offending you. And take me very seriously when I say I really don’t give a rat’s ass about your “community policies.” Watch as my middle finger rises to you and your policies in my own personal Sieg Heil, Amazon salute.