Remember last year when everyone wrung their hands over Amazon selling Holocaust denial books and completely ignored the fact that you could find those same books in just about every other bookseller?
It’s time for round two, where everyone finally notices you can find those books at other booksellers.
The group Hope not Hate is now campaigning against UK bookstore chains, accusing them of listing far-right books for sale.
From The Bookseller:
Among the controversial titles the anti-racism campaign group alleges the retailers list for sale are Holocaust denial work Did Six Million Really Die? by Richard Verrall, The Leuchter Reports by Fred Leuchter, and several works by leading Holocaust denier and convicted criminal, Germar Rudolf. Others include notorious antisemitic forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and neo-nazi terror novel The Turner Diaries, an inspiration for Oklahoma bomber Tim McVeigh and London nailbomber David Copeland. The Anarchist Cookbook, which has chapters on home preparation of weapons, electronics, drugs, and explosives, is also advertised for sale on several websites, the campaign organisers said.
A check of accused websites by The Bookseller found that The Turner Diaries, for example, was available to purchase from Foyles, Waterstones and Amazon, and The Anarchist Cookbook was available to buy through Amazon and Waterstones. But Did Six Million Really Die? was not listed as available to buy by either Watestones or Foyles, as the campaign alleged, and while The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion was listed for sale at Waterstones, it was not listed for sale at Foyles or Amazon.
There are a number of nuances to this story that both the group and The Bookseller missed.
For starters, no one looked very closely at the actual listings to confirm how they are being used or what the listings actually say.
Take the Protocols, for example. This book actually is listed on Amazon.co.uk (The Bookseller got that detail wrong), only it is being used to debunk the book’s original purpose.
Here’s the description from the book listing:
REPRINT. Originally published in 1920 by Eyre & Spottiswoode. Paperback.95 p. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a tract alleging a Jewish and Masonic plot to achieve world domination. Purportedly written by a secret group of Jews known as the Elders of Zion, the document underlies 24 protocols that are supposedly followed by the Jewish people. The Protocols has been proven to be a forgery.The forgery contains numerous elements typical of what is known in literature as a “False Document” a document that is deliberately written to fool the reader into believing that what is written is truthful and accurate even though, in actuality, it is not. It is also one of the best-known and most-discussed examples of literary forgery, with analysis and proof of its fraudulent origin going as far back as 1921. The forgery is also an early example of “Conspiracy Theory” literature. Written in the first person singular, the text embodies generalizations, truisms and platitudes on how to take over the world: take control of the media and the financial institutions, change the traditional social order, etc. It does not contain specifics.
What’s even more interesting is that there’s a disclaimer from Amazon is the review section of that listing where Amazon explains why they sell this book. “Does Amazon sell this book? We do, along with millions of other titles,” the note reads, before going on to say “As a bookseller, Amazon strongly believes that providing open access to written speech, no matter how hateful or ugly, is one of the most important things we do. And because we think the best remedy for offensive speech is more speech, we also make available to readers the ability to make their own voices heard and express their views about this and all our titles in reviews and ratings.”
So rather than this being a case of Amazon “legitimising books which have helped inspire extreme violence and terror plots”, the retailer is aware of the book and is countering the propaganda.
It’s a pity that other retailers have refused to make similar efforts. They say that they can’t control the listing on their websites because it’s out of their control.
n a letter responding directly to Mulhall, Foyles’ Currie said: “Every few years the issue of undesirable titles appearing on booksellers’ websites has raised its head, and I hope that by sharing some insight into how bibliographic records are maintained and shared we can help shed some light on the situation. Like all book retailers, we take our feed of available titles directly from Nielsen, [which maintains] the database of millions of records created by publishers and self-publishers. Any book in print will therefore appear on our site automatically and, owing to the volume of records involved, any attempt to filter titles manually would be unmanageable. After researching the examples given in your paper, we’ve found that the overwhelming majority of authors and titles listed are not available to order.”
When a similar incident involving Holocaust denial books happened last year, Amazon, B&N, and Kobo all removed the offending books from their site.
It can be done, and anyone who says otherwise doesn’t know what they are talking about.
image by Fin Fahe