The big gay boycott that almost was

A friend of mine and I were instant messaging each other the other night when he informed me that amazon.com had stripped non-pornographic gay- and lesbian-themed books of their sales rankings and thus removed them from the website’s best-seller lists. Apparently, he informed me, amazon.com had reclassified gay- and lesbian-themed books as being “adult,” as in pornographic or at least not for minors.

I hopped on to amazon.com and checked the book that I’m in the middle of now — The Mayor of Castro Street, the late gay journalist Randy Shilts’ famous, definitely non-pornographic biography of gay-rights icon Harvey Milk.

My friend was correct; gone was the book’s sales ranking. However, I did not see on the webpage any indication that the book had been reclassified as being an “adult” book (not that I necessarily would have seen any indication of that, but I looked for it anyway).

The Mayor of Castro Street was just one of many gay-themed non-fiction and fiction titles that amazon.com apparently had blacklisted (pinklisted?), such as Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain, James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room and E.M. Forster’s Maurice .

These apparently pinklisted books not only lost their sales rankings and spots on amazon.com’s best-seller lists, but apparently were blocked from appearing in any search results on the website as well, according to the New York Times’ website.   

Talk of boycotting the suddenly homophobic amazon.com flooded the Internets. The news that amazon.com apparently had gone homophobic overnight, apparently thinking that no one would notice (at least not to the point that it would become a problem for the corporation), spread like wildfire.

After my friend informed me of the new controversy during our IM session the other night, I was willing to hold off for another day or two to see what amazon.com’s answer to the tide of complaints would be before I would join a boycott against amazon.com and encourage others to boycott amazon.com, too.

I held off on signing the online petition against amazon.com’s apparent new homophobic policy, and I also didn’t really want to blog on the topic until we’d fully heard what amazon.com’s side of the story was.

I don’t know if that was so much out of wise restraint or if it was more out of the fact that I really, really didn’t (and still don’t) want to have to boycott amazon.com (as I give amazon.com considerable business, including buying gifts for others), but that I will do so if necessary.

Amazon.com’s official story is that it all was just a “glitch.”

Maybe it was.

Maybe it wasn’t.

(The Mayor of Castro Street has its sales rank back, I see, but its rank is rather dismal…) 

What I have taken away from the amazon.com boycott that almost was, however, is the impressive rapidity with which the gay community can respond to a perceived threat against it, the rapidity with which information can travel within the gay community (OK, if you feel that there is no real gay community, there certainly is a very real gay “e-community”) and with which a real or perceived threat can be dealt with.

I don’t think that it was more than within 24 hours (48 hours, tops) that the news then spread that amazon.com had claimed a “glitch” and that the sales rankings (and also the searchability, apparently) had been restored.

Why am I not so certain that it was a “glitch” on amazon.com’s part?

Well, I very recently wrote about the plethora of wingnut titles on amazon.com’s top 100 best-selling books list.

Apparently the wingnuts, in desperation now that a “socialist” black man — gasp! — is president, are consoling themselves and each other through such wingnut manifestos as, well, Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto, which rather disconcertingly has been at No. 1 on amazon.com for some time now (and which I suppose we liberals might want to read in order to know what “arguments” the enemy is making, as nauseating to read such a book would be; maybe they can have a special Liberty and Tyranny edition for us liberals that includes a wire brush with which we can scrub ourselves after each time we open the book and read any of its words). 

Hey, I guess it’s good that the wingnuts are actually reading, even if they are reading books that are the modern-day equivalent of Mein Kampf. (Hey, wingnuts, let us egghead liberals know if you need any help with the big words!)

Anyway, my point is that with this apparent increase in wingnut dollars to amazon.com, I wouldn’t be at all surprised that amazon.com’s apparent short-lived e-jihad against gay men and lesbians in fact was no “glitch” at all, but came from anti-gay pressure from their wingnut customers. (You know, to “protect the children” and the like.)

The gay community (OK, e-community…) really came together on this one, even if it actually truly was “just a glitch” and thus even if it was just a drill.

The example of amazon.com will, I think, make other corporations think twice before going homophobic.

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