Anti-conservative censorship spreads
Amazon, Target, and two members of Congress attack conservative voices
As conservatives call for greater accountability for tech companies that silence their views, some congressional Democrats are jumping on the censorship bandwagon.
Last week, Democratic U.S. Reps. Anna Eshoo and Jerry McNerney of California sent letters to CEOs of 12 cable, satellite, and streaming companies expressing concern about the “right-wing media ecosystem.” The letter accused news channels such as Fox News, Newsmax, and One America News Network of being “misinformation rumor mills and conspiracy theory hotbeds.” Then it pointedly asked the companies whether they planned to keep carrying those channels.
In a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing last week, Eshoo said she asked “strong, important questions” but had no plans to try to legislate the end of conservative news. Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr blasted Democrats for trying to sneak censorship in the backdoor: “Right now, the greatest threat to free speech in the country is not any law passed by the government—the First Amendment stands as a bulwark. The threat comes in the form of legislating by letterhead.” Carr went on to accuse politicians of trying to silence those with differing views by public bullying.
Conservative authors and public figures—especially those with traditional sexual ethics—face increased bullying from outside Washington, too. In early February, Amazon removed Created Equal, the highly rated 2020 documentary about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, from its Prime video platform. Thomas is the only African American justice on the Supreme Court—he’s also conservative and has spoken out against same-sex marriage. Users anywhere in the country who try to watch the documentary about him on Amazon Prime now get a message saying, “This video is currently unavailable to watch in your location.” But a 2014 documentary on Anita Hill, the woman who accused Thomas of sexual harassment in 1991, is still available to watch for free.
Amazon also yanked all formats of Ryan T. Anderson’s book When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment last week after selling it for three years. Yet the online retailer continues to carry a Kindle book of another title: Let Harry Become Sally: Responding to the Anti-transgender Moment, and it’s free, too. Also last week, Target once again pulled Abigail Shrier’s Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing our Daughters. But the site still sells the book Beyond the Gender Binary. The spate of book banning happened just prior to Friday’s U.S. House vote to pass the Equality Act, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to existing federal civil rights laws, undermining religious liberty. It moves next to the Senate for a vote.
Amazon has not responded to media requests, including mine, to explain why it chose last week to remove Anderson’s book, and Black History Month to pull the Thomas documentary. Target, too, remains mum. Four Republican U.S. senators sent a letter to Amazon on Wednesday asking for its policy guidelines, documentation, and explanation for the removal of Anderson’s book, requesting a response by March 9.
Amazon’s purging of Anderson’s book may turn out to be a boost for it. The title has sold well since its publishing in 2018, and the attention from Amazon’s actions is driving renewed interest. A spokesperson for Encounter, the publisher of When Harry Became Sally, told me the book, still in print, is on back-order everywhere else it’s sold, and the company is scrambling to expedite the wave of new orders that hit last week.
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