Military and Police

Amazon: No Friend of Conservative and Libertarian Authors

Imagine you’re an author, working hard to promote a book you wrote because you feel it’s a benefit to the community, and one morning you are greeted with this email sent by a man named Carl: “Amazon pulled down my 5-star review of your book. Too ‘direct’ (conservative). I’m now blocked from writing any reviews. Just FYI.”

I’ll broaden my usual subject matter today because, while this topic isn’t strictly police-related, it seems it may be affecting my new book, De-Policing America: A Street Cop’s View of the Anti-Police State, which is police-related (and, come to think of it, it also gives me the opportunity for a shameless plug).

More generally, it also affects conservative, libertarian, and religious-oriented (Christian) authors and readers. And, to be honest, the more I learn about this issue, the more it pisses me off! So, I write about it.

It’s hard enough to make it in the writing biz—or any business—without some of the largest and most influential information dissemination and product distribution corporations on the planet putting up roadblocks. I think what we’re seeing is a culmination of the leftist indoctrination of American students, kindergarten through graduate school. These people who’ve marinated and then baked in leftist ideology are the ones currently creating and implementing policy for these companies. Far-leftism is the only “mainstream” they know. Everything, and everyone, else is radical.

I’d heard and read grumblings from conservative and libertarian pundits about this issue, but I haven’t paid too much attention, as it hadn’t affected me—that I know of. As writers know, readers rarely post any book reviews, never mind ones with five stars! Each review is valuable to the author and to other readers and potential readers. So, when a reader enjoys a book enough to write a review, and it’s a great review, an author cannot take it for granted.

Apparently, Amazon.com is there to help authors with not taking their reviews for granted. It appears the book-selling giant may be yanking reviews, especially good reviews, of conservative authors’ books. It’s ironic that the largest bookseller on earth seems to treat some authors so poorly. You know, the authors who write the books Amazon sells and makes so much money from. This prompted me to read the Amazon product review guidelines.

(Credit: Facebook/Matt Shadden)

Sadly, Amazon’s poor treatment of some reviewers seems to lean heavily—perhaps, exclusively—against authors who write about conservative, libertarian, and Christian issues or whose books employ traditional American themes such as limited government, liberty, and constitutional rights—especially the First and Second Amendments.

Regarding Amazon’s review policies, some believe it may not be the policies as much as certain Amazon employees’ interpretations of the company’s product-review guidelines and their responsibility for the company’s reportedly flaccid and inconsistent responses to its customers.

Last March, Megan Fox of PJ Media (PJM) wrote a column titled “Amazon Deletes Reviews of Conservative Authors with No Explanation.” That last part, no explanation, is a huge component of the controversy, comprising the “flaccid and inconsistent responses” mentioned above.

Myriad conservative and libertarian authors have contacted Amazon about deleted or disallowed reviews only to be told there is nothing they, Amazon, can do. “Nothing they can do?” They’re the company. They can do anything they want to.

Carl said on his initial contact, the Amazon employee told him it was likely a system glitch. Well, the glitch ejected him from the site in a millisecond. But figuring out the reason for “the glitch” for certain has taken about a week, so far.

No resolution, Carl’s reviews are still down, and Amazon is not allowing him to review any products. I didn’t ask him, but I wonder if they’ve also banned him from buying Amazon’s stuff. I’m thinking, no!

Fox, writing about a “mass deletion of reviews” of conservative authors’ books by Amazon, says some authors reported losing nearly 100 book reviews. This is even more evidence to support those who accuse Amazon of using algorithms that search for and block reviews and content that use certain keywords.

The evidence comes from members of the Conservative Libertarian Fiction Alliance (CLFA) who spoke out when “Member after member began reporting the losses [of reviews] at the same time.”

When authors question Amazon about review removals, Amazon assures them “that appropriate action is taken.” However, Amazon will not discuss these removals, or what actions they’re taking, with authors.

Fox tells us conservative science-fiction author Del Arroz’ experience. Aside from losing reviews, Arroz spoke about being targeted by other far-left activists who’ve been successful in getting him banned from author events and writer’s groups.

Arroz told Fox he’d contacted left-wing authors he knows and not one reported losing any Amazon reviews. However, as mentioned above, Arroz reiterated “right-wing authors who are members of… CLFA all lost an incredible amount of reviews.” He believes an “alt-left troll mob…who were enabled by a rogue Amazon employee” targeted the group.

Don’t we also have to ask why there seem to be no “rogue” employees censoring left-wing content? I mean, if they’re truly rogue—employees hired from the general public—shouldn’t the bias go both ways? It seems “rogue employees” who target conservatives and libertarians for censorship are not limited to Amazon.

Although this other media mega-beast doesn’t employ the term rogue employee, according to Eric Lieberman, YouTube (owned by Google) admitted to The Daily Caller News Foundation “some of its newer content moderators ‘may misapply some of our policies resulting in mistaken removals.’” Mistakes that somehow only target conservatives.

What training is YouTube giving to these “content moderators” that has them taking down conservative content while leaving left-wing content alone or even assisting it? Doesn’t this go to the type of person YouTube hires in the first place? Rather than committed to neutrality and objectivity, it seems these new employees must lean left politically.

As with academia and the news and entertainment media, are conservative applicants screened out of the hiring process at YouTube, Google, Amazon, Twitter, etc.? After all, using algorithms are a part of these huge corporations’ game-plans online. Perhaps a political culling strategy also exists offline.

You may also have heard about what YouTube has allegedly done to conservative radio talk show host Dennis Prager and his Prager U. Prager claims YouTube has censored some 37 of his mainstream, conservative content. Prager says the content ranges from the legal creation of Israel and the history of the Korean War to diversity of thought on college campuses. Wow! How radical is that? Prager is suing YouTube/Google over the issue.

Amazon and YouTube are not the only culprits of alleged political bias. Some are now also accusing Twitter of “shadow banning.” The practice is described as when Twitter blocks users or their content from their followers without making the user aware of the block. For example, Twitter’s shadow banning allegedly affected searches for Republican U.S. Representatives Mark Meadows, Jim Jordan, and Matt Gaetz.

Noting that top Democrats were not being similarly “shadow banned,” Vice News “reported that limiting visibility in results involves the same technique used to diminish the reach of prominent racists on Twitter.” So, we come back to leftist political conflation: if you’re Republican, conservative, or libertarian, you’re automatically racist—of course. How do they know? Because they say so.

And then there’s Facebook. This mother of all social media is now infamous because of biased treatment assertions made by many conservative users, most notably by social media celebrities Diamond and Silk, two conservative black women with a large following who accuse Facebook of limiting their followers access to their content.

Now, this could also be done by “rogue” employees. Still, having witnessed Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional testimony, I believe it goes to the top. It appears, for people like him, “marinated and baked,” leftism is not a point of view; it is the only point of view.

Most authors or readers whose reviews Amazon has taken down, or has banned from reviewing at all, probably don’t have the time, inclination, tenacity, or even knowledge to fight back against such huge corporations.

Since company policies seem to lead to dead ends, what recourse do people have when a corporation simply delays responses or refuses to reply and offers no remedies? In fact, Fox noted in the final comment of her piece: “PJM reached out to Amazon for comment but got no response.”

Could Amazon’s policy be to ignore (conservative) people with complaints until they’ll go away? I don’t know, but that’s what seems to be happening in many cases. It seems to be happening to Carl, whose email initiated this snit.

So, why don’t authors boycott Amazon? For one thing, conservatives and libertarians tend to resist boycotts. Boycotts are a leftist weapon. Also, an Amazon boycott would be the modern equivalent of boycotting Bell Telephone back when the corporate colossus was a monopoly.

Can you imagine a monopoly such as Bell Telephone (AT&T), in today’s environment, engaging in political bias in providing phone service? You voted for Trump, so we’ve blocked your phone number, and you may no longer make outgoing calls, either.

While Amazon and major social media are not public utilities, and I’m not arguing they should be, nor are they honest businesses that admit their political biases. What these companies offer are immense public platforms, but they maintain, explicitly, they are not politically biased. Anecdotal and the emerging objective data are not bearing that out. These companies are highly politically biased in favor of the left. That is very clear.

As for Amazon, what other effective, competitive choices for authors to sell their books are there? Though there are other booksellers, Amazon, headed by the wealthiest man in modern history, Jeff Bezos, is the best and most lucrative outlet for authors who’d like to make a living doing what they love, which includes conservative and libertarian writers.

Now, here I am left to wonder how many other readers’ reviews has Amazon prevented from leaving a positive book review of De-Policing America? I have to ask: Are Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube also restricting my content to other users? Maybe? I don’t know.

Not being as tech-savvy as maybe I should be, I have to trust these companies to treat their customers, me, equitably. Now, it seems I might be foolish to do so. What a sad state this concern is in modern America. Our fellow Americans restricting conservative and libertarian ideas from the public arena.

Here’s my understanding of how Amazon tries to maintain its “integrity” regarding reviews: Amazon lets readers know if a reviewer purchased (on Amazon.com) the book/product they are reviewing with this note: “Verified Purchase.” However, during my, as well as what I learned from Carl’s, research, there are several instances where people who weren’t verified purchasers of conservative writer/filmmaker (and former Obama political prisoner) Dinesh D’Souza’s book at Amazon.com were allowed to post bad reviews.

Think about that. Is Amazon just assuming those people bought the book elsewhere and ran back to Amazon to give a negative review? Who would buy D’Souza’s, or anyone else’s, book at a bookstore or other bookseller’s website and then go to Amazon.com to post a 1-star review? Apparently, you don’t have to purchase a conservative- or libertarian-written book, but Amazon will still allow you to post a bad review.

Amazon’s 1-star review by a “Verified Purchase” is verified as “Meh”? (Credit: Facebook/Jessica Trexler)

To the contrary, Amazon also apparently allowed reviewers to post 5-star reviews of left-wing books (such as Hillary Clinton’s What Happened) with no evidence the reviewer bought the book from Amazon.com, likely not having read it. However, reportedly, negative reviews were not allowed without being a verified purchaser.

But, as mentioned previously, someone who is a verified purchaser posts a 5-star review (of my book), only to have it taken down and then have Amazon ban him from reviewing any products at all.

To date, Carl has informed me he continues slogging through the trickle of responses from Amazon. His reviews are still down, and Amazon continues to prohibit him from posting reviews for any product.

Apparently, the company makes it easy for unethical leftists to block conservative content. All a leftist activist who doesn’t like a conservative product has to do is click on the “report abuse” button, and it appears Amazon will take the review down and possibly ban the reviewer from reviewing other products, as apparently happened in Carl’s case.

There are myriad conservative complaints but few from leftists about being booted from Amazon’s review system. It seems Amazon’s policies, generally, may need some overhauling, and its policy regulators provided additional training. Why? Read on.

During my research, I found a blog by a book reviewer about how Amazon had taken down her e-book review because they said the relationship between the reviewer and author violated Amazon’s product review policy. Amazon.com does not allow “family and close friends” of authors to write reviews of the author’s books on Amazon.

In this case, the reviewer wrote that she and seller weren’t family. So, does Amazon believe they are close friends. Well, what passes for “close friends” at Amazon? The reviewer said she’s only had limited email contact with the writer, similar to how many fans write to authors whose books they like. According to the reviewer, she and the author have never met, and their limited email correspondences were limited to subjects concerning the book.

The problem here is you can see how unscrupulous people could abuse Amazon’s review policy to target conservative authors and reviewers. In fact, while Carl believes Amazon took down his review due to the company’s bias against conservatives, I can’t help but wonder if Amazon has extrapolated a “close friend” relationship between Carl and me, since we also have an email correspondence like the reviewer above.

Now, if Carl is right, which he probably is, Amazon is guilty of conservative bias. You can add him to the growing list of these corporations’ political victims. If I’m right, which I’m probably not, but you never know, and I give Amazon the benefit of the doubt and believe that Amazon’s motive is not political bias, but they believe Carl and I are “close friends” because we’ve communicated by email, then I’m put in the paranoid position where I have to wonder about how Amazon knows this.

Bottomline, I don’t know if Amazon took down Carl’s review of my book due to bias. He doesn’t know either. No one seems to know. But there lies the essential, underlying problem: Amazon, as well as the social media giants, won’t tell us!

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Steve Pomper

Steve Pomper is an OpsLens contributor, a retired Seattle police officer, and the author of four non-fiction books, including De-Policing America: A Street Cop’s View of the Anti-Police State. You can read a review of this new book in Front Page Magazine and listen to an interview with Steve on the Joe Pags Show. Steve was a field-training officer, on the East Precinct Community Police Team, and served his entire career on the streets. He has a BA in English Language and Literature. He enjoys spending time with his kids and grand-kids. He loves to ride his Harley, hike, and cycle with his wife, Jody, a retired firefighter. You can find out more about Steve and send him comments and questions at www.stevepomper.com.

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