Sunday, April 19, 2009

Amazon's "glitch", a personal perspective

Clay Shirky claims that #amazonfail failed.

Fagadget claims that #amazonfail was a great success.

Both make excellent points.

Clay Shirky portrays the outrage felt by many as something like a lynch mob, carried away by emotion and feelings of self-righteousness, and what if everyone was wrong about Amazon and we rushed to judgment?

Fagadget points out that Amazon had had many complaints before the issue achieved critical mass on twitter and provoked the storm of outrage. If Amazon had paid attention to the authors' individual complaints, they might not have suffered the outrage of the mob when the rest of the world caught on.

I'd like to address this issue from my very personal point of view.

I noticed that my Amazon sales rank was gone on Friday, April 10th. I assumed it was a glitch. Yep, I did.

I figured Amazon was doing some site maintenance and that my sales ranks would soon re-appear. A few of the publishers' groups I subscribe to mentioned that sales ranks had vanished from books categorized as erotica, but as that label certainly didn't apply to my books, I gave it no more than a passing thought.

Only when I learned about sales ranks disappearing from books with lgbt content did I catch on. They were aiming at me!

Worse, the sales ranks of books that are anti-lgbt people, like A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality, still had their sales ranks.

Maybe if you're not a member of a suspect class (defined by the Supreme Court as a class of people likely to be discriminated against) you can't imagine what it feels like to be singled out. Especially to be singled out to be invisible. As in, you don't exist. It's a very small step from "you don't exist" to "you have no right to exist."

I might just be a little touchy right now, because I watched the movie Milk last night. I was in San Francisco when Harvey Milk was assassinated, and the movie really put me back there, when the idea that a gay or lesbian person might be teaching your children was enough to strip an entire class of people of their civil rights. I'm not talking the right to marry here. I'm talking about the right to keep your job or your apartment, the right not to be fired or evicted just because someone finds out you're gay.

In the movie, the people who believe gay people should be discriminated against in jobs and housing look like silly bigots. Who could possibly believe the drivel they were spewing? But in those days, people did believe them, and gay people who wanted to keep their jobs and apartments had to keep their private lives a secret.

Prop. 8? Oh, let's not go there.

Oh, OK, let's.

Allowing gay people to marry takes no rights away from heterosexuals except the right to regard their relationships as superior to ours. To keep that right, they would actively cause real harm to others. I just don't understand it. After Prop. 8 passed, I had brought home to me again that a majority of the people who live where I live hate me and actively desire my unhappiness.

So when Amazon decides that just because my books include loving relationships between women they should be hidden from, not only children, but from everybody, I get that creepy feeling again that I'm going to be excluded, that I don't belong, that there is no place in this country or in this world for me. And that creepy feeling kills queer kids every day.

On the one hand, what Amazon did scares me, but on the other hand, what the power of the crowd did encourages me. Most people don't want anyone else to control what they have access to, either for information or entertainment. And plenty of people don't want me shut out of the national conversation. So I have my voice back, and I have a vocal group of outraged people to thank for it.




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