Amazon’s Censorship of Devil Daddy

“Censorship is alive and well over at Amazon Kindle. Last time it was our scholarly edition of the rare 1881 Victorian gay text Sins of the Cities of the Plain, which they banned for several years. Now they’ve banned the ebook of John Blackburn’s 1972 horror novel Devil Daddy, while refusing to explain why. At Amazon, any book can be blocked from sale at some random employee’s whim, with no right of appeal. Please remember that you have a choice of where to shop, and all our ebooks are available on our site, as well as Nook, Kobo and iTunes.

If you can’t zoom in on the screenshot below, here is the email from Amazon:

“As stated in our content guidelines, we reserve the right to determine what content we consider to be appropriate. This content includes both the cover art image and the content within the book. We’re unable to elaborate further on specific details regarding our content guidelines…”

-Valancourt Books, “September 2021 Update, part 2“.

I should have known. But, this is the first time I’ve heard of Amazon censoring books. When the largest retailer of book refuses to carry particular titles, especially ones that are controversial in some way, it cheapens the public discourse. Devil Daddy may not be to the taste of the average American, but the average American’s taste and community standards is a horrible basis for content guidelines.

Message Board Rot

“This ties into something I’m extremely interested in that I like to call “message board rot”. I like looking for signs that social networks are dying or atrophying. I’m not sure why, but I’ve always found it fascinating that one day Myspace was the biggest thing in my social life and then one day it wasn’t. And while working over the years as a community moderator and then as a reporter who covers online communities, I’ve tried to put together a criteria for how you know if a social network is on its last legs. I’m not sure I’ve finished building it out, but I’ll share with you what I have so far:

* Power users aggressively dominate discussion on the site.

* Public harassment and inter-community elitism has created a culture of indirect communication, where users no longer directly say what they’re actually trying to say.

* There is no longer any internal cultural memory.

* Users have become so obsessed with the minutiae of the community that the site now functions as a meta discussion of itself instead of whatever its intended purpose was.

* Poor or lax moderation has created a sense that nothing on the site is genuine — fake users, fake trending topics, fake threads, fake engagement.

* Users, reacting to the inauthentic behavior, public harassment, and elitism that occurs due to bad moderation, create their own self-policed communities within the larger community, which typically only exacerbates these problems and creates warring factions within the site.

-Ryan Broderick, “tfw a crustacean.” Garbage Day. December 2, 2020.

The Other in the Academy

“The theory that a political debate can only be won by silence should sound strange in the mouths of people who toil in the realm of ideas.  Alas, it isn’t strange at all.  I have a friend who compares his academic work today to ‘a mine-clearing operation’:  at any moment, you might step on a hidden sensitivity and blow up.  The once-rowdy American university has become a place of conformism and fear…In a real sense, it was a victory for intellectual openness over the dogmatic impulse and fear of taboo. The whole affair nonetheless felt more like pathology than politics: another psychotic episode in the strange ongoing breakdown of the American mind.”

—Martin Hurried, “The Other at Bard College.” thefifthwave.WordPress.com. October 31, 2017.