I previously posted this review of Ryan Anderson’s When Harry Became Sally three years ago, not long after it was first published. I am republishing it again now, because three days ago it appeared that Amazon had delisted it on all its sites around the world. At first I wondered whether there had been a problem with the publisher, or the book had gone out of stock—but in those cases the book page remains with a note ‘Currently unavailable’. In fact, the Amazon page that carried it has been deleted, along with all other links. The book’s publisher comments:
Encounter Books is committed to publishing authors with differing views on a wide range of issues of public concern. We do this because a free society requires robust debate and spaces where dissenting opinions can be expressed unimpeded.
If Amazon, which controls most of the book sales in America, has decided to delist a book with which some of its functionaries disagree, that is an unconscionable assault on free speech. It will have a chilling effect on the publishing industry and the free circulation of ideas. It must not be left to stand unchallenged.
And in a reflection on this, Anderson himself comments:
Amazon never informed me or my publisher that it was removing my book. And Amazon’s representatives haven’t responded to our inquiries about it. Perhaps they’re citing a religious objection to selling my book? Or maybe they only sell books with which they agree? (If so, they have a lot of explaining to do about why they carry Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.) If there’s a religious or speech objection, let’s hear it. But if it’s just an attempt to skew the conversation in the public square with an attempt to discredit one of the Equality Act’s most prominent critics, that’s a different matter.
We all believe in censorship; there are things we agree with, things we disagree with—find offensive even—but believe people should be allowed to say; and there are things that we believe should not be allowed the oxygen of publicity. But the key question is where the line is drawn between these last two categories. Amazon’s guidelines say: