Monday Morning Stepback: Book Banners versus Pedo Lovers

The Weekly Links, Opinion and Personal Updates Post

Links of Interest:

Interested in joining an online book club focused on the Women of Science Fiction for 2011? Sign up here. (via @fantasycafe)

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If SFF doesn’t light yer saber, how about a Year of Feminist Classics? I’ve read 11 of the 12 books on the list. One feminist fiction classic I have always wanted to read is Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time, but it’s not on the list.

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Amy of My Friend Amy is seeking book recs for her 2011 readalongs, coming up in April and October.

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At the Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal responds to Zadie Smith’s critique of Facebook culture (Generation Why? from the NYTRB). Both are long discussions, but here are two quotations which give you the flavor:

Smith: When a human being becomes a set of data on a website like Facebook, he or she is reduced. Everything shrinks. Individual character. Friendships. Language. Sensibility. In a way it’s a transcendent experience: we lose our bodies, our messy feelings, our desires, our fears. It reminds me that those of us who turn in disgust from what we consider an overinflated liberal-bourgeois sense of self should be careful what we wish for: our denuded networked selves don’t look more free, they just look more owned.

Madrigal: Smith wants to say, “You are who you appear to be on Facebook.” But who believes that of themselves or anyone else? She makes the drastic overstatement only to serve as her grounds for outright rejection of the service. Facebook, the way I see it, is an API to your person. APIs are what programs use to pull information from Google Maps or something like that. When she faults Facebook for not caring about the “quality” of the connections that it generates, I have to ask: Isn’t there a box that allows you to enter text? Should Facebook be responsible for making humans better friends, better lovers, more magnanimous, more prone to checking in on grandma?

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There is No Such Thing as a Lesbian Book at Ask Nicola (via @colleenlindsay) (You know how I link to posts I don’t agree with? There’s a lot I don’t agree with in this one.)

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What week would be complete without at least one meditation on meanness in reviewing? Barbara Vey wrote a post at PW’s Beyond Her Book, complaining about personal attack comments left about an author featured in one of her video interviews, and Lori Foster and others took it as an opportunity to turn the discussion into one about mean reviewers (via @katiebabs).

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Author Shiloh Walker weighs in on geographical restrictions and ebooks.

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The Big Lie About Abortion and Mental Health
by Brenda Major, talking about a recent study that we can add to the sky high pile of all the other studies.

Rigorous U.S. scientific studies have not substantiated the claim that abortion, compared with its alternatives, causes an increased incidence of mental health problems. The same conclusion was reached in 2008 by an American Psychological Association task force, which I chaired, as well as by an independent team of scholars at Johns Hopkins University. As recently as September, Oregon State University researchers announced the results of a national study showing that teenagers who have an abortion are no more likely to become depressed or to have low self-esteem one year or five years later, compared with their peers who deliver.

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In preparation for the release of the 7th film installment of the Harry Potter series, a lot of websites have been doing retrospectives on Rowling. Nathan Bransford has a fun post with five writing tips from Harry Potter. I really enjoyed it.

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The steampunk backlash has begun:

I am becoming annoyed by the current glut of Steampunk that is being foisted on the SF-reading public via the likes of Tor.com and io9.

It’s not that I actively dislike steampunk … I don’t have that much to say against the aesthetic and costumery other than, gosh, that must be rather hot and hard to perambulate in. (I will confess to being a big fan of Phil and Kaja Foglio’s Girl Genius.) It’s just that there’s too damn much of it about right now, and furthermore, it’s in danger of vanishing up its own arse due to second artist effect. (The first artist sees a landscape and paints what they see; the second artist sees the first artist’s work and paints that, instead of a real landscape.)

by Charles Stross. As you might guess, 350 comments and counting.

Opinion: Pedo-Gate

As you likely know, someone found an ebook for sale at Amazon.com, The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure: A Child-Lover’s Code of Conduct, by Phillip R. Greaves II, that appears to be a guide to practicing pedophilia.

For those who are wondering if everyone is jumping to wrong conclusions about the book’s content, check out these posts at TechCrunch MSNBC and Gawker, news outlets who are reporting with first hand experience of Greaves’ books, having purchased them prior to their removal. Here is what MSNBC had to say:

Msnbc.com purchased the “Pedophile’s Guide” for purpose of review before it was removed from the site. Greaves’ self-published work contains six academically titled chapters in which the author attempts to add cultural context and express sympathy’s for his intended audience’s cultural plight.

Also included in the e-book are tips for “safe sex” with a child, as well as an emphasis on self-gratification using legal material such as teen magazines. To that end, the two sexually graphic stories “presented as an adult’s recollection of his youthful experience” could be interpreted as thinly veiled examples of pedophilic-themed erotica.

Outrage erupted on the net. At first, Amazon released a statement that it wouldn’t censor any of its books:

Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable. Amazon does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts, however, we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions.

Within 24 hours, however — exactly the amount of time it took the story to hit major news networks –  the book was gone. Amazon did not release a second statement, but it appears the book violated Amazon’s own content guidelines:

If Amazon Digital Services, Inc. determines that the content of a Title is prohibited, we may summarily remove or alter it without returning any fees. Amazon Digital Services, Inc. reserves the right to make judgments about whether or not content is appropriate. Please take a moment to familiarize yourself with some examples of prohibited content:

Pornography
Pornography and hard-core material that depicts graphic sexual acts.

Offensive Material
What we deem offensive is probably about what you would expect. Amazon Digital Services, Inc. reserves the right to determine the appropriateness of Titles sold on our site.

Illegal Items
Titles sold through the Digital Text Platform Program must adhere to all applicable laws. Some Titles that may not be sold include any Titles which may lead to the production of an illegal item or illegal activity.

The discussion quickly degenerated, with First Amendment defenders accusing those who called for Amazon to remove the book “book banners”. Their tone was often patronizing, as if the folks who wanted to remove the Pedophile’s Guide were confuzzled ignoramuses who just couldn’t get their tiny brains to grasp the importance of Free Speech. On the other hand, those who objected to the book tended to get righteous, confusing a free speech defense of Amazon’s right to sell the Pedo Guide with a defense of pedophilia itself.

What always helps me when I am thinking about a dispute like this is to focus on specific moral actors. Who can take action, and what action can s/he take? So let’s start with those who object to Amazon’s selling this book. Are they “book banners” because they are asking Amazon to remove a book? We all know the First Amendment doesn’t actually say anything about private corporations — it refers to what Congress may not do. And even if the issue was passing a law, well, many great legal minds have judged that our right to free speech can be abridged when there are other key values at stake. Clear and present danger, obscenity, etc. But since we are talking about what a private retailer may sell, it doesn’t seem to me that the author’s First Amendment rights, or the consumers’ First Amendment rights, will be violated if Amazon removes the book. Especially in the age of the internet, the author has any number of options for disseminating his book. He may have a right to publish it, but he doesn’t have the right that a third party help him do so. So, I don’t think we can claim that people who are asking that Amazon remove the book are asking that the First Amendment be violated.

Rather, they are exercising their right to use their influence as buyers to convince a company with which they do business to make a decision not to carry a product they consider harmful and offensive in the extreme.  I don’t see this as different from writing letters to Walmart or choosing not to shop at Walmart because of its business practices. Or writing a letter to the Gap or Old Navy voicing concerns about clothing manufacturing conditions, or to KFC on environmental degradation and animal abuse.

Is it hypocritical to ask Amazon to remove one pedophile book and not all the others? Maybe, but I doubt it, for a few reasons. First, some people have written letters that make it pretty clear they object to any book with similar content. Second, it isn’t a customer’s duty to go through Amazon’s catalog looking for offensive books.  Are the folks who are worried that Amazon may not carry the Pedo Guide also worried about what Walmart and Target carry or refuse to carry? No, they addressed instance of “book banning” that showed up in front of them, just like the Amazon customers addressed the book that showed up in front of them. Third, it may be that other books about pedophilia are perfectly alright, perhaps because they don’t cross the line into “how to”, or for some other principled reason. I would think this last point — dealing with one book at a time– would be one the free speech folks would be happy about.

[Another wrinkle is that Amazon is a global retailer. Restrictions on speech are tighter in different parts of the world. How should this be handled?]

The term “book banner” has gotten thrown around a little too loosely. I think everyone can agree that if I refuse to allow women-degrading porn into my house, I am not thereby a “book banner”.  If a local reading group decides that they will not read thrillers because they object to violence, they are not “book banners”.  If a used book shop chooses not to sell romance novels because it thinks they are trash, it is not a “book banner”. Rather, these are moral actors making reasoned choices within their legitimate sphere of control and influence.

Having said that, unlike an individual, a book group, or a used book shop, whose choices affect a few individuals, and don’t prevent others from obtaining or reading “banned” books, Amazon has a widespread and significant influence on book availability. So Amazon has to weigh its choices about what to carry more carefully than a local used book store, both because its size will make a book like the Pedophile’s Guide much more widely available, and because if it chooses not to carry it, it will be making the book that much harder to obtain. To the extent that Amazon’s decisions affect the availability of books, I do understand why people are using the term “book banner”. Amazon may be a private entity, but it should have — and seems to have –  a commitment to supporting free speech.

But it also has other commitments, which have a strong pull. And I think what is so infuriating to those who want Amazon to remove the book is the idea that they are somehow anti free speech ninnies for even suggesting these other values get a place in the debate. Folks who want the book gone have noticed that the opposing side seems very uncomfortable talking about any moral values other than free speech. And I don’t blame them for noticing this, when so many of the blogs and tweets I read on the subject defend the free speech claim with the idea that “morals are subjective anyway, and since we can’t be sure we are right, we’d better not ban.” Those values might include not making it easier for pedophiles to get away with molesting children, and also refusing to help promote books which express values so inconsistent with the majority of its customer base, and so wrong.

On the first argument, I am not convinced that carrying the book will encourage a culture of pedophilia. People who molest children don’t need a handbook. But I do think there is merit to the idea that Amazon should, in a sense, stand up for children — some of the most vulnerable members of our community — by refusing to be the vehicle through which this kind of book is promoted, just on principle, even if not one fewer child is victimized as a result.

[I doubt Amazon has an ethics committee that chooses which values have the stronger pull, by the way. Its decision probably had a lot to do with avoiding a costly PR problem as the holiday shopping season commences.]

How about the “slippery slope” argument? This is the fear that if Amazon removes the Pedo Guide from its virtual shelves, who knows what will be next. Look in any logic textbook, and you will find “slippery slopes” in the chapter on fallacies — errors in reasoning. Slippery slope arguments depend on a psychological claim: that moral actors will not be able to stop moving in a certain direction once they start. First of all, that’s very hard to prove — it’s a forward looking empirical argument. Second, the history of “book banning” suggests that banning one book does not necessarily lead to the banning of more books and still more books, even when governments and government agencies themselves do it.

The slippery slope issue does remind us to be aware of mistakes that could be made on this kind of issue. Amazon may get it wrong. But that’s why it is so important not to attempt to stifle the conversation with the supposed trump card of free speech. Saying, “well, Amazon has a right to sell it”, and throwing up your hands, is inadequate. The point many free speech advocates are missing is that free speech is only one of several values a good corporate citizen should promote, and only one of many values a good consumer should be worried about. It would be a very impoverished moral landscape if our only concern was deciding what, strictly, speaking, someone has a right to do.

I felt the arguments were almost equally strong (and, it must be said, equally weak) on both sides, and that neither side was really producing the kind of context-dependent detail and information I would personally want to have in hand to be able to decide finally one way or another.  What I most lamented was how the cultural image of “the pedophile” seemed to spur people to action when many of us have become practically inured to the daily first person sightings we have of neglected, abused, needy, and hungry children in our own communities.

Personal

We had a power outage this morning on campus, and the overcast skies offered little classroom light, but, being the hard ass professor that I am, I taught my classes anyway. Gives new meaning to Descartes’s phrase “lumen naturalis”.

HAPPY WEEK!

19 responses

  1. I love it when a smart lady weighs in on things. It’s a thing of beauty, I tell you.

    It would be a very impoverished moral landscape if our only concern was deciding what, strictly, speaking, someone has a right to do.

    This, sadly, is a fact. Often, many people are blind to how much children need them.

    What I most lamented was how the cultural image of “the pedophile” seemed to spur people to action when many of us have become practically inured to the daily first person sightings we have of neglected, abused, needy, and hungry children in our own communities.

    I’d probably weigh in more, but my head is muddled, I’m behind on writing and I’m cranky and tired. Not a good mix…

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  2. Oh, I have been waiting for your blog this morning! You always provide interesting tidbits that spur my brain cells (still thinking about what you wrote late week but I didn’t have time to write a clever response).

    Re Barbara Vey, her blog was prompted by a reader who left a negative comment about the author, not the book. And that’s the problem. Whether a review has “positive” or “negative” things to say about a book, the review should focus on that – the book. Or blogging in general about publishing – it should be about publishing. But I have read (and been offended by) some loudmouth commenters who do make derogatory statements about authors, readers, and anyone one else in their line of sight. Then it becomes a slug fest.

    Tim Gunn recently stated he believes in civility works as he made his own “It Gets Better” video.

    I’m with Tim on this one.

    But it is also the way at Barbara’s blog. She set the tone – stay positive. Other sites do the same. They have the same “right” to free speech as the snarky blogs. No one is right nor is no one wrong (although one commenter has told me that my opinion is wrong … hmmm, it’s my opinion so how can it be wrong?)

    Re Amazon controversy, more often than not, if ignored, it will go away. If the news media stopped covering the Westboro Church protesting outside soldiers’ funerals or the Florida preacher threatening to burn the Quran, then they wouldn’t have an audience (although it is unclear to me why every boycotted group hasn’t protested outside the Westboro Church … better yet, attended the service!)

    There was an active discussion about this subject on DA but I only left a quick response as it was Veterans’ Day and I didn’t want to get into a lengthy exchange. Indeed, two camps emerged – free speech vs. common decency.

    - No one has prevented the author from writing the book. The thought police haven’t hauled him away to jail (that is happening in other countries).

    - Let’s assume he submitted to a publisher which I’m sure the publisher turned him down. It is the publisher’s “right” to free speech and business discretion. It is not book banning.

    This is the same for every reviewer/blogger – he/she has personal parameters on what books/subjects they will review/discuss. If he/she declines a book/subject, he/she is exercising free speech and personal preference. It is not denying anyone’s free speech.

    - So the author self published. He can sell his book from his website. The moral majority haven’t hauled him away to prison (this is happening in other countries).

    - Readers who objected to Amazon’s initial offering exercised their free speech. They threatened a boycott (just as the Civil Rights Era taught us to do). By exercising their free speech, they are not banning the books or preventing others from free speech.

    - If other readers object to Amazon’s removal, then let them organize a boycott. There is enough free speech to go around.

    - Whatever decision Amazon made, it is their discretion as a business. Their decision does not prohibit the author from writing the book or selling it on his own. Thus, his free speech is not denied nor is his book banned.

    Re Rights, I agree that too many are claiming a “right to do” when every right has a responsibility. Our founding fathers wrote the Bill of Rights so we could “pursue happiness” not bully each other. And that takes us back to Barbara’ blog. Because there are commenters who are bullies. It’s their way or the highway. But “rights” go both ways to all readers.

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  3. I think I threw up a little in my mouth reading that Barbara Vey column and the comments (with the exception of SonomaLass’s wise words). The expression “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” needs to die *now* – as does any other pithy little bit of wisdom you attribute to your ‘mom’. Let’s make a deal – I won’t subject you to my loony, vicious mother’s thoughts on life, and you won’t try to make me feel that your parent’s homespun stupidity is somehow more worthy because a ‘mother’ said it. Mothers aren’t any more wise, smart or intuitive than anyone else. And reinforcing cultural expectations of female behaviour with this sickly phrase is just not on.

    I was shocked to find that book was on sale at Amazon, and from a purely business perspective, it was right that they stopped stocking it – I wouldn’t expect any bookstore to stock it because (apart from the obvious moral issue) it would bring such opprobrium upon their heads and drive away custom. But seriously – if a bookstore stocks American Psycho, which is the most disgusting and vicious ‘how to rape and murder a woman’ book you are ever likely to find outside of self-published dreck, what possible moral high ground can it have? And what possible difference in effect and intent can the objectors to the paedophile book divine between the two? Don’t give me any crap about Psycho being literature – it’s not, any more than Greaves’ book is. At least Greaves’ book is up front with what it is, so the potential customer is forewarned (and the idea that predatory paedophiles, who are often some of the smartest, best educated people in our society, need Greaves’ illiterate masturbatory fantasies to hide or justify their behaviour, is pure nonsense.) People buy American Psycho thinking they’re getting some ironic commentary on modern life and instead get this garbage…god, I still feel sick, 20 years after reading it.

    The hysteria about paedophiles is stupid. People are stupid about paedophilia, don’t understand it, don’t want to understand it, and yet without doing so, we can never hope to address the danger and the offending. I say this as someone who has close family members directly affected by predatory paedophiles too. Not all paedophiles are dangerous, and it’s the reason why some give into their urges, that we need to examine. Greaves is a nut, and probably a danger to kids around him. But he’s out in the open. It’s the predators who are our doctors and teachers and politicians and police officers, we need to stop. They’re not producing badly spelled books through Createspace.

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  4. Because there are commenters who are bullies.

    Yeah, and a lot of them are the biggest defenders of the “wouldn’t it be nice if everyone was nice” philosophy. All too often the injunction to be nice is swung like a mallet to suppress dissent. You’re right – a blog owner can set whatever tone they like for their blog. But I have the right to judge them for that, and I do. Harshly.

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  5. Thanks for that thoughtful, helpful commentary on the Amazon thing.

    I’ve read parts of a lot of those feminist classics, all of a few. There are so many things in my life that I wish I had time for more than a passing acquaintance with.

    Something about ethics and romance reading: Did you hear about the couple (living very modestly) in Nova Scotia who gave away all of their $11 million lottery winnings? One of my favorite parts of the story I read about them was that for entertainment, she reads a lot, mostly romance. (Though that probably didn’t cause their view that they already have all they need).

    Also, I love Zadie Smith, but really? My friends and I were just joking (on FB) about how all our FB photos make us look the way we did 20 years ago. We know those aren’t are real/whole selves. But that connection still means something.

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  6. @Ann Somerville: Actually, my experience has been the opposite. The bullies are those who do not allow others to express opinions. I’d be happy to provide you some examples offline.

    But that’s the way life is … we all come from different experiences.

    You bring up excellent points in your first comment. As I have said all along, it’s not about the review (good, bad, or indifferent), its the comments that follow that do engage in nastiness.

    I’m fairly new to romance and blogging. Perhaps I haven’t paid my dues yet. But I would like to think that I can contribute my thoughts and opinions in a civil manner without be subjected to personal attacks.

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  7. The whole Amazon Pedo book made me want to take a shower in bleach. I think Anderson Cooper’s response is the best one so far about the whole controversy. *bows down to the Silver Fox*

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  8. @Ann Somerville:

    It’s the predators who are our doctors and teachers and politicians and police officers, we need to stop. They’re not producing badly spelled books through Createspace.

    Oh I agree. One aspect of the whole thing is the way is skews our perception of who is really endangering our kids. It’s our soccer coaches, dads, priests, and teachers. But it makes everyone feel better to think of it as this loner in the sticks with a greasy combover, a soft belly, and a trailer full of kiddo porn.

    I also agree pedophilia is not well understood and that even in the post I did something I normally don’t do, which is mix up pedophilia (a mental illness) with molestation (an act).

    @Kim in Hawaii: I liked Barbara’s post, and I agreed with her. But I did find it interesting how the comments took it and ran with it. Negative reviews are obviously on some authors’ minds, but I don’t agree with some of them that negative reviews are the cause of the decline of civilization.
    And yes, the attention paid to the book on Amazon had the effect of making it well known. A bad side effect, but as I said in the post, I doubt the presence of knowledge of the book will increase harm to children.

    @Shiloh Walker: Well, no answers form me, as usual, but I enjoyed trying to formulate the various angles.

    @katiebabs: I missed this!

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  9. The problem is that people don’t know how to argue. I blame pop psychology :) Use statements like “I feel” and “I think”, which I suppose works when you are arguing with someone you are in a relationship with but does not work when you are arguing about ideas. Also, this whole idea about everyone’s opinion being valid is just bullhunky. I mean, really?! It is? Because it isn’t.

    People assert facts as their opinions or opinions as facts and then expect that they won’t be contradicted. Moreover, they presume that contradiction is not respectful. That somehow passionate disagreement or even violent disagreement precludes respect of the other person as a person. Just because I think you are totally and utterly wrong and that I say this, doesn’t mean that I think you are not a person. I do not have to feel that you’re ideas are valid in order to like you, respect you or treat you kindly and with civility. But I also get to attack your ideas.

    I agree with @AnnSommerville. Telling people they need to be nice does no good. It it is one thing to say that ad hominem attacks never lead anywhere good, but since people cannot seem to differentiate between attacking the idea or opinion and attacking the person, the call to “niceness” just effectively silences dissent or any disagreement at all. Niceness seems to indicate that I should respect your opinion even if your opinion is based on misinformation, misreading, and lack of factual support. No. I refuse. If your opinion is based on something that just isn’t true, like that the Magna Carta was signed 1556, then I’m not going to agree to disagree or agree to respect your opinion. When people say, “Well, that’s just my opinion” they are shutting off further discussion because either A) they are offended that anyone would disagree with them B) they do not wish to proven wrong or C) they are unwilling to be persuaded or even to postulate the possibility that they could be mistaken. None of these reactions is conducive to the exchange of ideas.

    The Ped thing on Amazon is the perfect example of this. People were unable to violently disagree with one another’s opinions because A)they dont’ differentiate between the opinion held and the identity of the person so then B)name calling starts in which the opinion held becomes the identity of the person holding it: “book banner” or “ped lover” C)and then nuance is lost.

    Again, I blame pop psychology. Opinions are not beliefs, beliefs are not facts. You cannot assert an opinion and then be upset . . . . well you can be upset, but you shouldn’t let that upsetness rule you . . . that others do not agree with you. If you are asserting a fact, prove that it is so. If you are asserting an opinion, prove that it is valid and reasonable. If you are asserting a belief, explain it. Even if you do all the above, people aren’t going to agree.

    I’m not going to be nice. I’ll be respectful. But part of the respet I give to another adult is the assumption that they can defend their opinions with reasonable support and not simply make baseless and unfactual assertions about the universe. I might disagree with your conclusions, but I can respect your ability to argue. Civility is not about being nice. It is about being able to argue and even violently oppose one another and, yet, come out the other end with your dignity intact and, perhaps, even your frienship intact.

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  10. @Angela/Lazaraspaste says:

    I think I love you…

    I’m not going to be nice. I’ll be respectful.

    This. Oh, dear… this.

    I don’t need nice. I’m often not nice myself. But I do try to be respectful…we are all entitled to our viewpoints and our opinions and we don’t have to agree with people to address them with some modicum of respect.

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  11. What I most lamented was how the cultural image of “the pedophile” seemed to spur people to action when many of us have become practically inured to the daily first person sightings we have of neglected, abused, needy, and hungry children in our own communities.

    This part of the post stuck out to me, as well. A very good point. I had some recent first-hand experience with this, witnessing a young man prey on an elementary school girl at a local park. He tried to court her quite openly, with a crowd of people around. And yet I was the only one who seemed to notice something was amiss. I was frustrated by the lack of response when I reported it. I finally went to the school and spoke to the principal (a woman) who took immediate action.

    Why did so many people seem to not care or notice what was taking place?

    This park is a few hundred feet from the school–my daughter’s school–and I witness unsupervised children there all the time. Sometimes I watch kids climb on the shade structure or do other dangerous things, but I’m very reluctant to step in. We are all reluctant to “parent” as a community. Although I don’t feel as though we’ve degenerated as a society (meanness is not running rampant IMO), I DO feel that the sense of community is getting lost somewhere. It’s so much easier to look the other way, to speak out anonymously, to make a stand from the comfort of our keyboards.

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  12. After the frustration of being told folks are either “for free speech or not”, your points and ideas surrounding last week’s pedo/Amazon debacle are quite refreshing. Thank you. Seriously.

    I was flabbergasted at the idea that so many only wanted one side discussed, when it was clear there was more than just the idea of free speech possibly being violated. I think you’ve managed to examine it all and make both sides make sense.

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  13. @Angela/Lazaraspaste: I love you too. You’ve taught college-level writing, haven’t you? Because I think you’ve just summed up one of the main reasons why that’s such a difficult, thankless job. It’s nice (um . . . respectful?) to see so many thoughtful comments on this issue when so much of the discussion has been knee-jerk and combative.

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  14. “What I most lamented was how the cultural image of “the pedophile” seemed to spur people to action when many of us have become practically inured to the daily first person sightings we have of neglected, abused, needy, and hungry children in our own communities.”
    Thank you! I love that point. I was thinking the whole “ban the book” push was a kind of impotent rage striking out against pedophilia; As if by ridding Amazon of this book we are somehow doing something to stop a terrible thing that we don’t really have any idea how to rid the world of otherwise. I don’t know that it had any impact. I hope it did, but my sense is that it really didn’t do anything except induce a few extra thousand sales of the book prior to it being banned. I have a hard time reconciling my feelings on this whole issue. Censoring books bad. Pedophilia really bad. Ultimately though as you pointed out, our day to day numbness to human misery might be the worst of all.

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  15. Re ‘there is no such thing as a lesbian book’:
    - Is that saying that all experience is universal and not particular?
    - Or an author cannot set out to describe/share/engage us with experiences that are not known to us already?
    - That because we don’t share a start point with the stories protagonists we can’t enter the story?
    - That a book is read as it appears on the page not as an interaction between the text and the reader’s life journey?

    Thanks Jessica and Angela for your thoughtful insights into the issues and tensions of our communication with each other. Though I have to say my crazy mind insisted on reading ‘book banner’ as ‘book decorative fabric panel/battle honour’.

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  16. And then there were those of us who were indifferent/ambivalent/conflicted until we started hearing the OMG WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING!!!11!!1 and if one wasn’t part of the “we,” one was therefore pro-pedophile. THEN it became about speech and one’s right NOT to participate in the lynching without being seen as part of the problem (since, you know, we weren’t part of the “solution”).

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  17. Thx Jessica for your exposition of the pedo guide issue – I enjoyed reading your thoughts about the various issues involved and what, perhaps, some others had been missing. In other words, what KMont said!

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  18. @Moriah Jovan: Yes, yes. There were ad hominen arguments on both sides. It is stupid to think someone who defends the decision of Amazon to sell the book are pro-pedophilia, and equally stupid to think Amazon that if a customer believes Amazon should exercise its right not to sell it, she does not take free speech seriously.

    @Jill Sorenson: I have a similar story, but it is of woman who chose to hang out with a bunch of guys on a bball court 250 yards away from her 18 month old who nearly killed himself trying to climb a tall jungle gym structure.

    @KMont: If possible, I try to understand where people are coming from. On this issue, there is a lot of overlap in agreement, and we have to remember that.

    @Angela/Lazaraspaste: Thanks for this Angela. the most pernicious aspect of all of the phenomena you describe is that people do, in fact, make objective moral judgments all the time. They just refuse to own them publicly. Makes it hard to get anywhere.

    I think the definition of “nice” is a conveniently moving target.

    Like this

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