Amazon Was Caught Selling Holocaust Denial Books, And Other Lies of Omission

There's a story going around this weekend that Amazon is selling Holocaust denial books on its website, but that is not the entire story.

The story was originally reported in the Sunday Times, but their story is behind a paywall. You can find a version of this story from the Daily Mail, and here's what the Independent had to say:

Several books with titles such as The Myth of Extermination of the Jews and Holocaust: The Greatest Lie Ever Told are available to buy on the online retailer, with some receiving four star reviews.

Several editions are available, in paperback and on Kindle, of the notorious 1974 pamphlet Did Six Million Really Die? by a member of the British National Front.

And another book, The Six Million: Fact or Fiction? by Peter Winter, was available for sale via Amazon Germany, where Holocaust denial is a crime.

The titles were also available for sale in Italy and France, where penalties are imposed for denying the genocide that killed more than six million Jewish people during the Second World War.

Other anti-Semitic texts, such as a book claiming the German Weimar Republic, which preceded the rise of the Nazis, was controlled by Jewish people and another comparing them to devil worshippers, are also available on the site.

The problem isn't that the story got its facts wrong so much as what was left out of the story.

Yes, you can find Holocaust denial books on Amazon, but what the Independent and the Daily Mail didn't tell you was that you can find those same stories in other bookstores as well.

It took me about 20 minutes to find similar titles on Barnes & Noble and on the Books-a-Million website, and I even found a Holocaust denial book on Kobo.

Did Amazon have a greater selection? I think so, but that is not the point.

When the press reports on Amazon selling Holocaust denial books, and then leaves out the detail that similar books can be found in other bookstores, they are not telling the complete story.

By leaving out important context, the media is lying by omission, and is creating the impression that Amazon is uniquely terrible when in fact the retailer is one of several guilty parties.

And that is the real story here.

image by Mike Roberts NYC

About Nate Hoffelder (11791 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

8 Comments on Amazon Was Caught Selling Holocaust Denial Books, And Other Lies of Omission

  1. I take your point, and it’s a good one. A different point that I am not hearing is: A vendor (in this case, a book vendor) can and should to sell ideas across the spectrum. “Caught Selling …” implies a duty to restrict.

    In the US, we have the famous First Amendment to the Constitution that guarantees the right to free speech. This weekend I heard the American Civil Liberties Union remind an indignant Public Radio that free speech is not just for speech we agree with. That’s where we are.

    • This is true.

      I tried to make this point, but it kept sounding like I meant that the denials didn’t matter or were okay. So I went for a simpler conclusion.

    • Can? Perhaps. Should? Murkier. Amazon is a business and can choose both its terms and what it allows to be sold on its site. With regard to these specific books, in certain locations, Amazon would, in fact, have a duty to restrict, because in certain locations, books like these are illegal. Amazon’s KDP terms prohibit pornography, offensive content, and illegal or infringing content, for example.

      The First Amendement ensures Congress will make no law abridging freedom of speech — not private companies. Amazon’s refusal to sell those books wouldn’t violate the first amendment, because Amazon can’t really violate the first amendment, given it’s not a government agency. Further, even if it were, freedom of expression has some exceptions, including obscenity and spreading false and misleading information.

    • Amazon is a private business that is not in violation of the First Amendment if it refuses to sell certain books. It has no obligation to sell them. The The First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech is only intended to protect speech from government restraints.

  2. Does a real person, employed by Amazon, read the books that Amazon sells? Or read the comments left by clients? I guess not.
    Doesn’t the Streisand Effect also work in these cases? Have you ever tried to convince a fanatic (of whatever) that he/she is wrong in his/her facts? Many decades ago I stopped.

  3. Even though I know the Holocaust really happened (I have been to a camp), I think it is acceptable to sell denial books.

  4. Do we want to leave it to private entities to do our filtering for us? If we take that as legitimate we can expect Amazon and other booksellers to come under pressure to ban pro-choice titles, or LGBTQ books. Even though I don’t read any of them, I’m not comfortable with Amazon or anyone else limiting my information sources.

    Now I would agree that Holocaust-denial is a symptom of a very real and virulent evil, and I would have no objection to a society-wide decision to ban it, like Germany’s and Austria’s. But I observe that in reality, neo-Nazism is alive and sick in both of those counties, their laws not to the contrary, and I would bet that it would not take me long to find someplace in either nation where I could buy some truly disgusting Nazi filth. At best, outlawing gross symptoms of illness does limited good in curing it and stopping its spread.

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