Can Amazon avoid being dragged into the political cancel culture fray?
Amazon.com is no stranger to politics or the ways of politicians. The retail and technology giant has frequently been the target of those on the left and the right who have criticized management for engaging in anticompetitive behavior, counterfeit merchandise, invading the privacy of its customers, labor relations issues and various other issues.
The site recently came under scrutiny by Republican members of the U.S. Senate when it decided to remove a book, When Harry Became Sally by Ryan Anderson, from its website and Audible and Kindle platforms.
Amazon sold the book on its site for three years before making the decision to delist it. The senators — Marco Rubio of Florida, Mike Braun of Indiana, Josh Hawley of Missouri and Mike Lee of Utah — questioned whether Amazon had become part of the so-called cancel culture by removing a title that appealed to culturally conservative consumers.
The letter, dated Feb. 24, contended that Mr. Anderson’s book about transgender issues “prompted important discussions in the national media and among policymakers in 2018, and remains one of the most rigorously researched and compassionately argued books on this subject. By removing this book from its marketplaces and services, Amazon has unabashedly wielded its outsized market share to silence an important voice merely for the crime of violating woke groupthink.”
A response letter to the senators from Amazon, obtained and published by The Wall Street Journal, denied the assertion that the company was looking to limit debate or censure Mr. Anderson. It’s decision to no longer sell the title was part of the normal course of how it conducts its business.
“As a bookseller, we provide our customers with access to a variety of viewpoints, including books that some customers may find objectionable. Amazon works hard to ensure customers have a great shopping experience, and access to the widest and most diverse cross-section of written and spoken word in retail today.”
The letter later added, “We reserve the right not to sell certain content. All retailers make decisions about what selection they choose to offer, as do we. As to your specific question about When Harry Became Sally, we have chosen not to sell books that frame LGBTQ+ identity as a mental illness.”
- Read the Letter Amazon Sent to Republican Senators Over Its Book Policy – The Wall Street Journal
- Amazon Letter to Republican Senators – Amazon.com, Inc./The Wall Street Journal
- Rubio, Colleagues to Amazon: Censorship of Conservative Books an Assault on Free Speech – Marco Rubio, U.S. Senate
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How do you think Amazon should handle the fallout from delisting When Harry Became Sally? How should retailers such as Amazon navigate today’s divisive political market where elements of both the left and right are being accused of trying to cancel those with opposing views?