In the past month, a wave of articles has been published around the world criticising Amazon for selling Holocaust denial books. To my knowledge, Amazon offered no public response, seemingly ignoring the growing chorus asking why denial literature was on sale through the world's largest online bookseller. So imagine my surprise when last night I tried searching for Kindle updates to the 'Holocaust Handbooks' series on amazon.co.uk and found... nothing.
Not only were the Kindle editions of every book by Carlo Mattogno, Germar Rudolf and every other 'Revisionist' author published in the 'Holocaust Handbooks' series gone, it also became apparent that Amazon no longer offered the print editions, either. Moreover, amazon.com had yanked the same clutch of titles as well. Nor was the cull restricted to titles published by Germar Rudolf's firm Castle Hill: independently-published 'Revisionist' books by Peter Winter, Richard Harwood, and others had also been pulled from sale. By my count, at least 45 English-language and 27 German-language 'Revisionist' books and Kindle ebooks have been removed, tallying only those titles I was reasonably sure had been on offer, from seeing them in Amazon's 'Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought' recommendations
The purge hasn't removed all antisemitica from Amazon's catalogue, nor have all Castle Hill titles been pulled. A good way of illustrating the inconsistency is clicking on the titles recommended alongside Benton Bradberry's The Myth of German Villainy, one of the titles that remains on sale. Henry Ford's The International Jew as well as Carlos Porter's Not Guilty at Nuremberg can still be bought on Kindle (as can David Duke's Jewish Supremacism), while Thomas Dalton, Nicholas Kollerstrom, Arthur Butz, Peter Winter, Carlo Mattogno's The Myth of the Extermination of the Jews, Gerard Menuhin and others have been 404'ed.
Exactly why Amazon decided to do this, and what criteria they used to withdraw these titles from sale, remains unclear, as the company made no announcement about its decision. This isn't the first time Amazon has withdrawn controversial or offensive books from sale. In November 2015, Amazon pulled 'Nobody Died At Sandy Hook', by veteran conspiracy theorist James Fetzer, evidently after complaints from customers, to Fetzer's great annoyance. Back then, too, it pulled the offensive title without fanfare, and simply notified Fetzer that he would no longer be able to sell copies of his book through Amazon. The first 'Revisionist' author to cry foul, M.S. King, likewise received a short email notifying him that "during our review process, we found that this content is in violation of our content guidelines. As a result, we cannot offer this book for sale."
Other than King's post on his website and my tweets last night, nobody else seemed to even notice the denial books had gone until late on Wednesday afternoon, when the Jewish Chronicle ran a story reporting that three books had been removed, not realising the number was more than twenty times greater; the Times of Israel then ran a shortened summary version of the same story. Kevin Barrett at Veterans Today weighed in to complain that his friends' books had been "banned", as has the blogger Kev Boyle. Germar Rudolf broke CODOH's silence around 9pm GMT this evening, revealing that another publisher had no fewer than 727 titles removed from Kindle, while Castle Hill had seen 68 print and 72 Kindle editions removed.
The Jewish Chronicle failed to elicit a comment from Amazon for their article, and at least one news website I alerted regarding this story had also not received a reply from Amazon as of late Wednesday afternoon. As today was budget day in Britain, most journalists have been busy covering that, so it will be interesting to see how long it takes for the Daily Mail, which ran no less than three stories in a month castigating Amazon for selling Holocaust denial literature, to cover this surprise move.
It will also be interesting to see whether the media can get Amazon to go on record explaining their decision, and why they removed the 70-plus titles but left many dozens of virulently antisemitic books on sale. There's no doubt that Amazon customers were leaving more and more negative comments on the review pages for a number of Holocaust denial books, and one can imagine that Amazon were receiving at least some direct complaints as well. Feedback options include 'Would you like to report this content as inappropriate?', although the choices offered are simply to note that a work is pornographic, violates terms of service, or that there are 'other' reasons for a complaint. Jeff Bezos had received a number of letters personally, including from Robert Rozett of Yad Vashem, while other Jewish organisations had chimed in publicly with criticisms of Amazon for continuing to sell Holocaust denial titles.
However much deniers may complain about being 'banned', Amazon's ban isn't censorship - they have the commercial freedom to decide not to sell products if they so choose. As we've seen recently with the cancellation of Milo Yiannopoulos's book with Simon and Schuster after he was found to have praised underage sex, businesses might eventually decide that whatever money they might make selling controversial or offensive material won't compensate for the loss of other business as customers vote with their wallets, and other content producers distance themselves from the publisher or retail outlet. The First Amendment simply doesn't apply here, as no government interference has taken place, and these books continue to be available for sale or for free perusal through other outlets.
Holocaust Controversies opposes government legislation against Holocaust denial as contrary to freedom of speech, and I would personally endorse the arguments made by Nick Cohen in his polemic You Can't Read This Book: Censorship in an Age of Freedom regarding the increasing censoriousness of governments around the world. But Amazon's ban is a commercial decision. It may well inconvenience me personally, as I have bought 'Holocaust Handbooks' not available for free download from Amazon for research purposes, and Amazon delivers faster than Castle Hill does - indeed, in a matter of seconds when using Kindle One-Click. But many other commercial decisions to discontinue stocking far nicer and tastier things than the 'Holocaust Handbooks' have also inconvenienced me in my lifetime.
What impact will this have? Most readers of this blog will know that nearly all of the titles are widely available as free downloads on many different websites, including the 'flagship' Holocaust Handbooks site, so this will hardly take denier literature out of circulation altogether. It's an entirely open question how many sales of the 'Holocaust Handbooks' and other denier books were being racked up via Amazon. From memory, many bumped along in the top 1 to 2 million, with only a few surging up the rankings from time to time. A number of the more popular titles, including the introductions to 'Revisionism' written by Thomas Dalton and Nicholas Kollerstrom, have not been offered as free downloads, so would have to be purchased either from Amazon or direct from the publisher.
By banning more than 70 titles, almost all of which are published by Germar Rudolf via his imprint Castle Hill, Amazon may well have put a significant squeeze on the 'Revisionist' movement's cash flow. M.S. King estimated that he will lose 80% of the sales of his book thanks to Amazon's decision. Castle Hill's pattern of sales through different outlets must surely be very similar. Germar Rudolf wrote rather candidly of the economics of selling 'Revisionist' books back in 2004, in an era when Borders and other bricks-and-mortar booksellers were still in business. Since then, he has embraced print-on-demand, and despite essentially giving away most of his merchandise as free downloads, the income stream from so many different titles must have been critical to the continued operation of the publishing company and presumably also to Rudolf's own livelihood, even if the dividends amounted to mere pin money.
Following hot on the heels of video-maker Eric Hunt's apostasy from the 'Revisionist' cause in February, Amazon's surprise move officially makes the first part of 2017 a total disaster for Holocaust denial. Sad!