November 16, 2010
I hesitated before writing this blog, remembering what Adin Steinsaltz once said, “When you touch dirt, even if it is to remove it, your hands get dirty.”
And this is dirty.
Amazon has been selling on its website a “how to” self-published book giving advice to pedophiles on how to molest children.
Amazon defends its online sale of the book by saying that: “Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable. Amazon does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts, however, we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions.”
The publication of the book provoked a public outrage. A Facebook page “Boycott Amazon.com for selling How Guide for Pedophiles” was created by Kim A. and Audrey H. and close to 16,000 people responded to it. In the introduction of the page, it is written: “As much as retailers have the right to free speech, and to protect what they view as the free speech of their authors who self-publish via e-platforms, as Americans we have a right to boycott a retailer who sells something we view as objectionable and as a means to promote the most heinous of crimes against those who are most vulnerable…our children. You don’t have to agree with what we’re doing, but please bear in mind, we have EVERY right to do it. Freedom of Speech goes both ways.”
Because of public outrage (or intolerance) and threats of boycotts, Amazon removed the book from its list of available titles online.
The issue of course is censorship. It is the opinion of many that the Government should not be the one deciding what we watch or what we read. Yet, sometimes government intervention is necessary, such as in child pornography and in issues of public safety. Not too long ago, the Government shut down a website that gave precise indications as to how to build a small dirty nuclear bomb.
We all have limits of what we will or should tolerate and when governments do not intervene, for whatever reasons, a boycott can be a useful tool.
Anyone concerned with ethics should try to create higher standards of behavior in society and decrease the level of tolerance for evil. One may argue that the concept of evil differs from individuals, cultures and time in history. However there are some universal values that supercede any personal, cultural or historical interpretation of what is evil. I believe that protecting children from harm is one of them. We have a moral obligation as individuals and as a society to protect our children.
As Kofi Annan once said:
“There is no trust more sacred than the one the world holds with children. There is no duty more important than ensuring that their rights are respected, that their welfare is protected, that their lives are free from fear and want and that they can grow up in peace.”