Over the last 2 days, one of the largest online retailers has fallen under some heavy gunfire for allowing a certain book to be offered for sale on their website.
The retailers stance on allowing the book to remain for sale yesterday, has raised questions regarding our Constitutional right to freedom of speech, book banning, censorship, and one's own morals and beliefs on those topics. The public outcry, and threats of boycotting said company, has led to it's being pulled from the website.
I don't think anyone would disagree, except maybe the author and the perpertrators themselves, that the content of said book is highly offensive. What was contained in this book is the stuff parents nightmares are made of.
But how far is too far to go when it comes to the content of books and what people will accept before standing up and saying NO. How far will 1 victory, even though it may only be a temporary victory, take us down the path towards book bannings and burnings? Whose rights are more important in this issue? The Constitutional rights of the author to freedom of speech to be heard on a subject the rest of us find offensive. Or the rights of the people to take a stand against objectionable material?
Does the Constitution cover, under freedom of speech, a company's right to censor what they allow to be sold? Or does the Constitution only protect people from the Governments infringement on their rights to freedom of speech? What constitutes censorship? Does a private business have the right to dictate what they will and will not sell? Leaving it up to the consumer to decide whether they will purchase it or not? Censorship is a part of our daily lives already. You can see it in effect if you dare to post something on any public forum, comment on a news article, message board, etc. and the powers that be of that venue find it to be objectionable. It is simply removed. Does freedom of speech allow people to say whatever it is they want, or are there invisible guidelines to what we are or are not allowed to say? Who makes the decision on what should or should not be censored?
What about our moral obligation to society? Do we have a moral obligation to protect the innocent from potential harm? Are we duty bound to speak up against what we feel could bring harm to another and protest against it?
It is very hard to answer these questions when the book in question is about such an emotionally charged and irreprehensible subject. But in the larger picture, who decides these things? Who decides what is objectionable to read? Let's face it, what is objectionable to 1 person, or a 1,000 people, may not be objectionable to others. So where is the line drawn? Who defines and draws that line?
I support Amazon's choice to sell the book. I also support Amazon's customers in their choice to complain about it. My choice would be to let them offer it for sale -- and NOT complain. With the current uproar, more people now know about this book than the author ever dreamed of.