“What hits you affects you and wakes you up more than what pleases you.”
--Michel de Montaigne, On the Art of Conversation
I generally do not write about private matters such as this in public forums but I’m obligated to do so in this case because literally thousands of Blogger, WordPress, Google Reader and Ning users, plus education and cultural arts websites, have been impacted by the swift and total removal of more than 100 of my reviews from Amazon. Because they had found the reviews beneficial and plugged into them with RSS feeds and other links, they now need to revisit pages likely to come up blank or possibly display a message stating that the page cannot be found.
Until week before last, anyone visiting my customer profile on Amazon would have seen the following:
Reviews written: 102
Reviewer rank: 20,646
Helpful votes: 261 of 303
I once got within the top 5,000 range of reviewers but that’s a blog, maybe, for another day. The above description changed when the reviews were deleted because a representative of the “Amazon Community” decided that the one or two titles, of my eight published books, included with my signature block violated a policy which I ––and apparently everyone else for that matter–– had somehow overlooked for the past five years.
Titles of my work have generally been employed as part of my signature block for reviews because such inclusion often helps readers better understand the perspective exercised in a given assessment. It also was and is one important way readers identified me when the reviews were re-posted at will on non-Amazon pages that did not link to my profile. Moreover, it seemed a fair and modest enough exchange for the time, labor, and text content donated to enhance product pages and help provide some context for potential customers deciding whether or not to purchase a particular item.
My reviews on books like Toni Morrison’s What Moves at the Margin, Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind, and Andre Gide’s The Immoralist were also useful, I discovered, to students in the process of developing their own literary voices. Reviews of films such as Wonders are Many , or those of music recordings in the vein of jazz great Arthur Prysock’s spoken-word classic based on the book This Is My Beloved were sometimes the first or only ones available, and often offered information not easily found elsewhere.
In all fairness to the Amazonians that chose to obliterate my reviews, they apparently did send me an email to let me know what was about to happen if I did not remove the titles from my signature block. However, for a week or so I had problems accessing the account so knew nothing about the email until after the cybernetic deed had been done. Moreover, my relationship with the company itself for the most part has been quite good. And yet:
Oddly enough, the annihilation of my reviews––half a decade of articulated literary passion freely shared–– did not freak me out or prompt me to plan some form of retaliation. Instead, I have found myself inspired to consider other ways to showcase the material. After all, five years of writing is a lot of work and can be utilized in a variety of advantageous venues in our modern world of techno wonders.
My one primary regret is that the action was so much like the kind of thing which online opponents of SOPA railed against, at about the same time, in defense of a free Internet, freedom of speech, and open commerce. I’m forced to wonder now if the protest is more about which powerbroker—whether online or off–– gets to control or manipulate whom rather than about freedom of anything at all. The forced deprivation of an individual choice that causes harm to no one is no less tyrannical or despicable when committed by a technocrat than when done by a government agency, a murderer, a rapist, or a terrorist. One of the best policies anyone can adopt under any circumstances is that of exercising simple respect for other human beings who are not made of awe-inspiring gigabytes or terabytes, but actual flesh, blood, and spirit.
co-author of Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance
and author of The River of Winged Dreams
Causes Aberjhani * Supports
I make contributions to a number of charities through my lenses on Squidoo but the following are a few that interest me the most: