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Amazon Should Stop Selling Holocaust Denial Books

27 February 2017

From The Jerusalem Post:

Yad Vashem has called on Amazon to remove Holocaust denial books from its online store, accusing the Internet retail giant of facilitating the spread of hate speech.

The appeal came in the form of a letter penned by Yad Vashem’s director of the libraries, Dr. Robert Rozett, to the CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos.

. . . .

“It has been clear for many years now that Holocaust denial literature is freely available for purchase over Amazon. Many of the items appear with glowing readers’ reviews and recommendations for further reading in the same vein,” Rozett wrote, attaching to his message several examples of rave reviews of books titled True History of the Holocaust. Did six million really die? and The Hoax of the Twentieth Century: The Case against the Presumed Extermination of European Jewry.

Mentioning that Yad Vashem had – in vain – broached the issue with Amazon soon after the latter’s founding, Rozett told The Jerusalem Post that in light of an unfortunate change in climate with more visible antisemitism, “maybe the time is a little more ripe for them to take up the idea that they need to be more careful in what they sell.”

Link to the rest at The Jerusalem Post and thanks to Terrence for the tip.

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44 Comments to “Amazon Should Stop Selling Holocaust Denial Books”

  1. No, they shouldn’t.
    Not as long as everybody else sells them.
    And probably not even then.

    Do we need to go through the whole slippery slope debate again?

    • As heartbreaking and repulsive as that historical reality was, and as frustrating as it is that there are still deniers, I don’t want Amazon deciding who is okay and who is not. Put it out there and let the people read or not read.

      I want Amazon to be the place to go get books, as long as they aren’t plagiarism or breaking some other law, let it be available.

      • I agree, Mirtika.

        When does it become hate speech? When are free speech rights in danger? When do our opinions become illegal?

        I think we all need to ask ourselves how far we’re willing to let people go, how much liberty we’re willing to give up, before we say, enough?

        I don’t like it anymore than anyone else does, but people have a right to believe. They have the right to their own opinion, but not their own facts. We don’t have to ignore it, and should speak out against bigotry and hatred.

      • Agreed. Well said.

    • I don’t think they should ban them because it reminds us that these people are out there. If we don’t know they are there, we can get complacent.

      What Amazon should do is just bury them deep beneath layers of keywords and tweak the algorithms so they don’t show up in casual searches. For instance, someone trying to find a book about the Holocaust such as The Diary of Anne Frank, isn’t going to find these bogus books unless they click through over a hundred pages of results.

    • yes exactly. very slippery slope.
      we really don’t want some company telling us what’s allowed to be sold or said, etc.

      (It’s all this PC stuff that gets more and more out of hand. If you don’t like it, don’t buy it. Use your own words to get out the truth; don’t control other people’s speech)

  2. All he did was give those books FREE publicity.

    I didn’t even know such books existed.

    Anyway- the best thing one can do is vote with their dollars. Don’t buy that which offends you. And certainly don’t give them free publicity!!!

    • Agree on them not needing free publicity. That said, if anyone lists Alison Weir as an anti-Semite: there are two Alison Weirs. One is a perfectly normal (as far as I know) British historian who writes about QEI and Henry VIII, etc.

      The other one is an American who writes that Jews secretly control the country. I found out she existed when I was shopping for the first Alison Weir. I’d hate for them to be confused (as I was for the length of time it took me to Google confirmation they were two separate people).

  3. There are limits. Amazon is a store. Would a bookstore carry that kind of book? A specialized hate store might – but Amazon already denies space in its pages to people who scam the customers.

    Freedom of speech does not allow you to yell ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater.

    Merchants can decide who to serve – to some extent. Amazon can decide what it will carry and what it will not. It IS a slippery slope – so? So is most of life.

    • Yelling “Fire” in a crowd is illegal.
      Political books aren’t illegal.

      Do you really want Amazon substituting its judgement on political speech for the government’s?

      It’s bad enough when mobs and the media do it.

      • The US government is restrained from exercising any judgement on what politicalspeech may be published by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

        Amazon is not. They are not obligated to sell a book merely because it exists.

    • Barnes and Noble sells “Mein Kampf.” It sells political and ethnic-supremacist books. Should they be encouraged to stop making those titles available?

      While it is, indeed, wrong “to falsely cry fire in a crowded theater,” I believe that it is also worthwhile to expose bad ideas to sunlight so they can be rebutted. I have no problem with Amazon selling books that include bad ideas, so long as they also sell books that refute those ideas.

      • Precisely.
        When the BLACK ATHENA thesis surfaced in the 90’s, I went out and got both the original book and the Lefkowitz debunking. Made up my own mind.

    • Freedom of speech does not allow you to yell ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater.

      We should remember that was part of a US Supreme Court decision saying citizens could not speak out against the draft in World War I. (And Holmes said they could not falsely yell about fire.)

  4. Once upon a time when I worked in a bookstore, I rang up a young man who was buying Mein Kampf. It was a pretty slow day, so there was only him, me and one other customer in the store.

    The other customer decided to yell at me about selling that particular book to someone so young because it would turn him into a neo-Nazi. I finally told her that I’d rather have all the kids in Houston read it and realize how batcrap crazy Hitler was, than hide it.

    But therein lies the problem. There was always a subject matter the store carried that offended someone.

    • OMG, I read Harry Potter and I didn’t become a wizard. What am I doing wrong?????

      The University I went to had several copies of Mein Kampf in their collection. It’s very useful to have those kinds of books when studying Nazi Germany.

      • LOL My husband’s favorite comeback to someone complaining about HP is “If Harry Potter is anti-Christian, why do they celebrate Christmas and Easter?”

        Ironically, my male customer bought his copy of Mein Kampf because someone kept stealing the copy at the tiny library where he attended college, and the librarians gave up trying to keep one in stock.

        Poor kid felt he had to defend himself to me after the crazy lady left. He was writing a paper for marketing class on how modern ad firms use many of the same techniques Hitler and his crew did. But we did have a nice chat about advertising and censorship.

        • There was a section in my film class textbook that discussed the techniques Leni Riefenstahl pioneered, and how they’re still in use now. Examples included Olympic swimming and the opening sequence to a James Bond movie.

          It’s a good idea to study books such as MK because it helps you to expose ideas arising from that mentality. I pointed out to someone that he was spouting stuff straight out of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion — he never read it, never heard of it, but he was under the influence all the same.

          Schools should teach how to identify (and refute) these ideas, rather than leave their students vulnerable. I don’t see the virtue of ignorance here.

        • Good for him! There’s one that will be less likely to buy into the words of the radicals (either side).

          I studied those myself, and taught all of my kids about the techniques used (schools definitely weren’t doing it, they were using those techniques themselves).

          Such that I, and they, knew what one writer was doing when he started out his article by describing his target as “gay, Catholic, half-Jew, Brit.” Talk about slamming the hand down on as many bigot buttons as you can reach…

  5. Once an entity starts there, where does it stop? I’ve heard people say that writers should not write Christian romance because romance novels must include descriptions of sex. I’ve heard Christian readers diss my historical novels because the characters drink ale or wine.

    “I may disagree with every word you say, but I will defend your right to say it.” I’m probably misquoting, I do that before my second coffee.

  6. With all the other false news/info out there, why do they think they can demand Amazon or anyone else ban just ‘one’ false bit?

    Now if they were trying to bring all false ‘facts’ to light it might be different (and some of the newspapers and news channels might be reduced to just running ads …)

  7. It’s OK for me to read anything because I am morally and intellectually superior to the rest of you. Then I will tell you what’s OK for you to read. It’s a heavy burden, but I gladly bear it.

  8. While it contains deplorable, anti-semitic and anti-social ideas, Mein Ksmpf has an undeniable value as a historic document simply because of the identity of its author.

    Books denying the existence of the Holocaust cannot be said to have the same case for being on the shelf. They do nothing more than promulgate demonstrably false revisionist history. By selling these books alongside reputable works on WWII, Naziism, and the history of the Third Reich, Amazon is sending the implicit message that denialist literature is equally as valid and deserving of a hearing.

    It would be refreshing for Amazon to decide not to contribute to the ongoing pollution of our culture by pernicious literature promoting all manner of nonsensical conspiracy theories, of which Holocaust denial is just one subset.

    • The problem is “who decides” what’s reasonable and what’s not.

      once you start banning things for being ‘false’ or ‘misleading’, it opens the doors to banning anything that people disagree with.

    • It is refreshing that Amazon refuses to hide the fact that people actually believe those things and think that way. Hiding stuff under the rugs doesn’t make it go away; it just drives it out of open view and into the shadows where it can spread unchallenged.

      Pretending there is no ready-made market for such ideas doesn’t stop people thinking them. Or seeking confirmation wherever they can find it. On Amazon, at least they’ll see the negative comments.

      As for suppressing controversial books, look to the ANARCHIST’S COOKBOOK to see how well that works.

    • It would be refreshing for Amazon to decide not to contribute to the ongoing pollution of our culture by pernicious literature promoting all manner of nonsensical conspiracy theories, of which Holocaust denial is just one subset.

      It would be refreshing for Amazon to reject the self-appointed cultural referees, except for me. I am special because of my intellectual and moral superiority. I should decide for everyone else.

  9. Al the Great and Powerful

    I just don’t get anti-alcohol ‘Christians’, when the miracle of the wedding at Cana was Jesus turning water to wine… if the big guy can make wine himself, why do these modern Christians disrespect booze? It’s dogmatic propaganda from those apostles, I tell you, makin’ S^^^tuff up…

    Al who has read the bible

    • I am confused about that, too. The sheer number of times God offers to bless your vineyard, bless your wine presses and bless you with new wine for your wine skins seems proof, as Ben Franklin would say, that He loves us and wants us to be happy 😉

      I never see any passages offering to bless a casino or a brothel …

      • The wishful thinking that is employed is that Biblical wine was actually non-alcoholic grape juice. (Yes, in a hot climate with lots of microorganisms.)

        The actual reason was the Temperance Movement using such strong language about the evils of drink, that people decided that all drink was evil and all drinkers were evil. This necessitated the deployment of wishful thinking.

      • Yes, Jesus drank wine. He also lived in a time when wine was mostly grown and fermented at home, and was significantly less potent than the commercial mass produced stuff today. Also, contamination of the water supply meant that mixing alcohol with water was necessary for public health reasons.

        When Jesus gave the Jews the new testament, He told them that the law was fulfilled and old things were done away in Him. Can’t speak for everyone, but that’s my personal take on it: that He commands us not to drink alcohol today because He’s given us a new covenant, customized for our day. Times change.

        No idea what this has to do with Holocaust denial, but whatever.

        • Tangents, people do ’em.

          Anyway, wine in ancient times was potent enough for people to get drunk; the idea that it wasn’t is an urban legend. Ancient writers referenced drunks; drunks are even depicted in art. In the Bible, many verses command not getting into a drunken stupor but none in the OT or NT say you can’t drink at all.

          Nothing I’ve read of wine in Phoenician / Greco-Roman times accounts for the notion that wine was weaker then than now. Just as moderns go for 20-year-old wine, so did Romans. Various sources indicate the Falernian wine the Romans liked had about 16% alcohol, which I gather is as high as wine can go without human intervention. It also seems they watered it down so they can drink more of it, the way people eat more “low fat” cookies rather than one “full-fat” cookie.

          I had to do research on Roman wine making for my book, and I was surprised by how little difference there was between what Columella advised and what modern vineyards are doing. He used wooden barrels and amphorae to store, age, and transport wine for sale. We don’t use amphorae and we have the option of steel barrels. Oh, and our vineyards don’t use slaves. That’s probably the biggest difference, actually 🙂

          If people don’t want to drink, they shouldn’t, of course. There just isn’t a moral difference between them and someone who does.

  10. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

  11. Al, IMO you’re spot-on, and you may not believe this, but I’ve had fellow Christians try to argue that He really turned the water into grape juice.

  12. Substitute for “Holocaust Denial” ust about anything you don’ agree with. Amazon should not be the judge of this. Should we also ban the flat earth society? Various religous texts?

    Holocaust denial so far as I am concerned is ridiculous and abhorent. But that doesn’t mean books about it should be boycotted or banned. It seems the harm that it does is limited to the offence and distress it causes, and those people have my sympathy. But offence and distress should not lead to boycotts and bans.

  13. I’ve signed pledges and petitions affirming the duty of libraries to present all materials that our patrons want to read regardless of who agrees or disagrees with the content. I meant it when I signed and I still mean it.

    But I also have misgivings.

    I am afraid that some, maybe many, of our patrons think that when a book is on a library shelf, the library has approved the book and in some way agrees with the contents.

    In many cases that is actually true. Our acquisitions librarians would never acquire a cookbook known to contain poisonous recipes or a woodworking book known to advocate hazardous practices. But our argument is not that the book is dangerous– rather, killer how-to books tend not to be popular, or only have a short period of popularity, and are therefore not a good choice for our shelves.

    But some subjects get an automatic pass. It does not matter how crazed or deluded a political writer may seem to be, if they have an audience among our patrons, they go on our shelves. But I worry that the folk who rely on us to avoid dangerous how-to books may not realize that political books are different.

    My misgivings do not negate my affirmation of an open policy, but they are misgivings nonetheless. Amazon is a commercial enterprise and is free to be as open or closed as it cares to be, but I wonder if they are subject to the same moral frets as I indulge in.

  14. “Our acquisitions librarians would never acquire a cookbook known to contain poisonous recipes…”

    On the other hand, there is a recent addition to Project Gutenberg, How To Make Candy: A Complete Hand Book (http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/54173), which begins with this Transcriber’s Note:

    “I have never seen a health warning on a book before but I have been asked to provide one here. Some of the ingredients used in these procedures are toxic to say the least. For instance, the recipe for Ching’s Brown Worm Lozenges on p40 contains the line: ‘Each lozenge should contain half a grain of mercury.’ Now, times and attitudes may change but mercury does not. As a record of how things were done the volume is fine but as a recipe book danger lurks in these pages. Unless you are very, very sure of what you are doing please treat this as a reference book, not a practical guide.”

  15. Amazon just banned hundreds of “denial” books, plus many more hundreds of books not in line with the prevailing narrative of World War II in general, and also books critical of Jewish influence and power. What’s next? You give the censors your little finger, they’ll take the entire hand and more. I wonder how many of you writing these lines have ever read any of the kind of books you judge on this page. There is a world of difference between an anti-Semitic pamphlet ranting about the “HoloHoax” — which is probably what most of you think about when talking “denial” — and university-style text books documenting thorough archival and forensic research done on subtopics of the Holocaust coming to conclusions which, to some degree or other, are not in line with the mainstream narrative. All of these books got the same treatment: banned. The baby gets thrown out with the bath. Any of you agreeing with this kind of action, don’t complain if ever you become the victim of censorship, because by having agreed to it or condoned it, you have forfeited your moral right to remain uncensored.

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