Update: File under irony, some folks on Hackernews “flagged” this post as inappropriate, after hitting the top-10 and the front page. Article about Big Tech censorship, flagged as inappropriate.
Update #2: It’s been pointed out on Hackernews thread that the book is now available on Amazon!
Yesterday, author Alex Berenson reported via Twitter that Amazon had spiked his new book about COVID-19 and the lockdowns.
Oh fuck me. I can’t believe it. They censored it. pic.twitter.com/GfPEr7OiV2
— Alex Berenson (@AlexBerenson) June 4, 2020
Berenson is a former New York Times reporter, author of other books, fiction and non-fiction, and he’s even a Twitter blue check. This morning I exchanged a few emails with him and he’s slammed with emails so he sent me his statement on the matter:
The booklet was the first in a series of coronavirus pamphlets I plan to put out covering various aspects of the crisis. Readers of my Twitter feed encouraged me to compile information in a more comprehensive and easier-to-read format, and when I polled people on Twitter to ask if they would be willing to pay a nominal fee for such a pamphlet, the response was strong.
Originally I only planned to write one, but I had so much information I realized that the booklet would be an awkward length – longer than a magazine article but shorter than a book. Also, doing so would take too long, and I wanted to put it out quickly. So I decided to split the booklet into pieces. Part 1 included an introduction and a discussion of death coding, death counts, and who is really dying from COVID, as well as a worst-case estimate of deaths with no mitigation efforts. It is about 6,500 words, and I planned to sell it for $2.99 on ebook or $5.99 paperback. It is called “Unreported Truths about COVID-19 and Lockdowns: Part 1, Introduction and Death Counts and Estimates.”
I created covers for both yesterday and uploaded the book. I had published Kindle Singles (Amazon’s curated program for short Kindle pieces, which now focuses more on fiction from established writers), so I was relatively familiar with the drill. I briefly considered censorship but assumed I wouldn’t have a problem because of my background, because anyone who reads the booklet will realize it is impeccably sourced, nary a conspiracy theory to be found, and frankly because Amazon shouldn’t be censoring anything that doesn’t explicitly help people commit criminal behavior. (Books intended to help adults groom children for sexual relationships, for example, should be off-limits – though about 10 years ago Amazon did not agree and only backed down from selling a how-to guide for pedophiles in the face of public outrage.)
I didn’t hear anything until this morning, when I found the note I posted to Twitter in my inbox. I will forward it to you in its entirely. Note that it does not offer any route to appeal. I have no idea if the decision was made by a person, an automated system, or a combination (i.e. the system flags anything with COVID-19 or coronavirus in the title and then a person decides on the content). I am considering my options, including making the booklet available on my Website and asking people to pay on an honor system, but that will not solve the problem of Amazon’s censorship. Amazon dominates both the electronic and physical book markets, and if it denies its readers a chance to see my work, I will lose the chance to reach the people who most need to learn the truth – those who don’t already know it.
The text of the Amazon notice follows:
We’re contacting you regarding the following book(s):
Unreported Truths about COVID-19 and Lockdowns: Part 1: Introduction and Death Counts and Estimates by Alex Berenson (AUTHOR) (ID: PRI-GRW1ZENP2S2)
Your book does not comply with our guidelines. As a result we are not offering your book for sale.
Due to the rapidly changing nature of information around the COVID-19 virus, we are referring customers to official sources for health information about the virus. Please consider removing references to COVID-19 for this book.
Amazon reserves the right to determine what content we offer according to our content guidelines.
Berenson is considering releasing the book from his website, so check there for updates. But it looks like I’ll have to add a chapter to my book on surviving deplatform attacks for what to do when the world’s largest retailer (a.k.a The Company Store), refuses to sell what you have to say.
Is it censorship or is it free markets in action?
It’s been an ongoing theme in our #AxisOfEasy newsletter (most recently mentioned this week) that when Big Tech insists that when it comes to coronavirus only information emanating from “official sources” is permissible, it becomes increasingly problematic for two reasons:
- Official sources frequently get it wrong. We saw this when CDC flip flopped on mask use, or when the WHO waited until March to declare coronavirus a pandemic. There are numerous other examples to mention.
- Sometimes the unofficial sources get it right and when you decide to tilt the scales of discourse in favour of the former and to squelch the latter, you are no longer a mechanical distributor and you are an arbiter of truth.
It is inevitable that applying this template to coronavirus because we’re in some worldwide global emergency, will sooner than later be applied to adjacent realms, because, hey, emergency, and then over time, to all realms. In Berenson’s case, his material about the COVID-19 virus is being suppressed, as is his material about the lockdowns.
The lockdowns especially, are a contentious issue. Recall the two California doctors, Dan Erickson and Artin MAssihi, who were deplatformed from Youtube for saying that the lockdowns, while initially warranted, were now becoming destructive and would lead to rampant mental health issues such as depression, spousal and child abuse, and suicide. Not only was their video dropped by Youtube, who’s stated policy is also “official sources only”, Facebook dropped their clinics page as well.
It didn’t take long for data to emerge that, being poor statisticians aside, maybe, quite possibly, they were actually onto something.
Now that Big Tech has embraced an Only Official Sources Permitted (OOSP?) policy, what field of endeavour will be next?
My audiobook shop is due to release the Incrementum guys’ book on The Zero Interest Rate Trap this month. Should we be expecting an email someday, from Amazon, telling us they’re no longer selling the book because:
Due to the rapidly changing nature of information around low and negative interest rates, Fed and Central Bank policy, inflation and wealth inequality, we are referring customers to official sources for monetary policy. Please consider removing references to these topics from your book.
…and from then on the only book Amazon will sell that has anything to say about the matter is Ben Bernanke’s “The Courage To Act”? Is this where we’re headed?
People often argue, and libertarians are especially prone to this, that the idea of freedom of speech only applies to protection against the government, “why don’t you start your own Amazon?”. While that may be ideologically tenable, practically speaking it’s an impossible remedy. So as a libertarian, it pains me to say, I would encourage and welcome anti-trust investigations into big tech platforms such as Amazon, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Apple.
All the aforementioned companies have formed quasi-monopolies in their respective spheres. In the cases of Google and Facebook they did so with intelligence agency seed funding. While in the case of Amazon they routinely knock-off their own retailers and they all systemically squeeze out independent competitors and pad out their cash reserves with cushy government and military contracts.
When it comes to Big Tech platforms who were funded with QE-generated hot money and who are the primary beneficiaries of the Brave New World / “never going back to normal” reality we find ourselves in: they get to make their own rules, while everybody else has to play by the rules somebody else decrees.