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The Amazon Files

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) yesterday dropped the Amazon Files, internal documents showing that Amazon “demoted” books on government orders.

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While Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Texas) was stirring up excitement on the border with his pledge of expanded blocking measures, and the Senate was publicly disgracing itself with a bill that at least one commentator called “dead before it was hauled out for inspection,” the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee was making a little drama of his own. As regular readers know, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Chairman of that Committee, is on a crusade against censorship by proxy. Yesterday he dropped a thread naming one other censorship proxy: Amazon. And once again, the allegations raise the question: how much coercion did the government really need to apply?

What is censorship by proxy?

Censorship by proxy happens when one party, legally barred from doing censorship directly, threatens, coerces, or otherwise induces another party to “do the dirty work.” The usual “barred” party is the government. That applies to any government of and within the United States. The U.S. Constitution, and without exception all State constitutions, explicitly guarantee freedom of speech. (See also this University of Puget Sound Law Review article on the subject.) Even if one of them didn’t, the Privileges and Immunities Clauses of the U.S. Constitution would so guarantee. These clauses are Article IV Section 2 and Amendment XIV Section 1.

But it has become fashionable in this century for the government to “lean on” certain news organs, publishers, and distributors to remove or otherwise fail to distribute content the government does not like. Those organs, publishers, or distributors who have “cornered the market” (or something close to that) typically feel this pressure. After all, why bother with some rinky-dink medium no one ever reads, or a bookseller no one seems to visit? Perhaps that’s why government allows the Big Boys to outsell, undersell, and otherwise crowd out the Little Boys. Such behavior was supposed to be illegal under the Sherman Antitrust Act, as amended. But clearly, it isn’t.

Now we know why. Big Tech, Big Publishing, Big Literary Agency, and Big Media make excellent proxies for indirect censorship. And the government wants to keep it that way.

The Amazon Files thread

Rep. Jordan dropped his thread yesterday afternoon, beginning at 5:44 p.m. EST. Cullen Linebarger at The Gateway Pundit first reported on that this morning.

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Rep. Jordan ends his thread with one more post reading “To be continued…” His last post before that, links to his earlier thread concerning similar government relationships with Facebook. In fact that was the first of four “Facebook Files” threads Chairman Jordan dropped. Follow links to Facebook Files Threads Two, Three and Four.

Rep. Jordan names a former Obama and Biden administration official named Andy Slavitt. This man figures in the Facebook and Amazon censorship-by-proxy campaigns. Andy Slavitt also figured in this interaction with Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), former member of the House January 6 Committee. Raskin, more than a year ago, said a prosecution of Donald J. Trump “would not be that satisfying.” Why not? Because:

[E]ven if he were to get his comeuppance in court finally in his late 70s or 80s, what would it really mean? What we need to do is to figure out how to stop all of the Donald Trumps in the future and these horrific movements and forces he’s unleashed against us as a democracy.

All of which to say that the Deep State remains interested in stifling any dissent from its agenda. Those “movements and forces” that so “horrify” Rep. Raskin are really the raising of the consciousness of the American people. And Andy Slavitt is evidently tasked with opposing those movements – and therefore the actual, authentic will of the American people.

Tyler O’Neil, Managing Editor of The Daily Signal, published his own thread along similar lines.

Why didn’t Amazon simply refuse to publish certain material?

Amazon didn’t simply “ban books” probably because their contracts with other entities wouldn’t allow it. The largest such entity is the Ingram Content Group. They make books directly available to booksellers everywhere, online and off-. Furthermore, they have started their own self-publishing operation, IngramSpark. With IngramSpark, an author can hire his own team of editors, cover designers, and whatnot, and “publish” a book instantly. As of this moment, that service is available free-of-charge. An author may, if he wishes, list exclusively with Amazon – or not. Marketing and promotion, of course, remain the author’s responsibility.

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Now imagine what Ingram would say if Amazon suddenly started de-listing titles on specious grounds. Ingram would very likely have a cause of action against Amazon for breach of contract. Ingram does have content standards, to be sure. But they relate to activities that would never be lawful in any sound society.

Amazon is not even the only online bookseller. Barnes and Noble famously sells books, online and off-. (Perhaps Chairman Jordan needs to investigate them as well.) But Amazon is certainly the largest. And gimmicking of its search engine is a high art – one that Google, subsidiary of Alphabet, has perfected. So now any author knows: if you have a controversial message, don’t rely on Amazon for marketing or promotion.

Reaction

Many X users reacted in understandable outrage. The Vigilant Fox observed:

User KimDotcom offered this pithy reminder:

He’s right, of course – and in fact, Germany under National Socialism began with burning books, and ended with burning people.

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Sandra Loftis reminded people of the hypocrisy of the government:

Another user reminded people that Amazon is scarcely the only censorship proxy:

Still another user offered this timely reminder:

But at least one user asked a more important question:

And then one user finally pointed out the real issue: Amazon was a willing proxy.

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Someone else posted this “meme” listing several apocalyptic science-fiction titles that spring to mind:

This is indeed the point.

Analysis

Make Room, Make Room! (the novel behind Soylent Green), Nineteen Eighty-four, That Hideous Strength, Brave New World, and Fahrenheit Four Five One were not supposed to be instruction manuals. They were, and are, cautionary tales. But a dangerous ideological movement has arisen to make those titles work in real life. And that ideology does not limit itself to the councils of government, or even the halls of academe.

Murthy v. Missouri comes to oral argument before the Supreme Court on March 18. The government will, as they have signaled, defend their position by saying the social-media platforms at issue are private entities and made their own decisions. But why has the government allowed these entities – and Amazon, and Barnes and Noble – to form monopolies and oligopolies? (Or monopsonies and oligopsonies, which are the expressions for “the only buyer” or “the few buyers”?)

Having said that: Jeff Bezos, as User “Stop Woke Culture” points out, is not a victim, but instead an accomplice. So is Mark Zuckerburg, and the Three Monkeys at Alphabet. So were Jack Dorsey and Parag Agrawal at the old Twitter, before Elon Musk bought and renamed it. And so is the aptly-named Larry Fink at BlackRock.

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The “nationalist populist right” must form its own group of platforms, retail sellers, and the like. This is what the “parallel economy” is all about. Rep. Jordan has merely demonstrated that an incestuous relationship exists between the present administration and these Big Boys. For everyone else, the cue is: Divorce.

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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

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