You may have already heard about The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure. The self-published e-book came out of left field and existed on Amazon’s Kindle Store in complete obscurity for two weeks. Then, propelled by the viral nature of the Internet—a beast that gets especially testy when inspired by hatred and disgust—The Pedophile’s Guide stole international media attention.
It also pissed a few people off, including my colleague, Ryan O’Hanlon.
Despite the public outrage, the book, written by Phillip R. Greaves II, hit number 65 in Amazon’s top 100 best-selling paid e-books, a 101,000 percent increase in sales. Then—one day Amazon after defended its right to sell the controversial material—the company pulled a 180 and removed it from the Kindle Store. The book’s URL now reads 404 Document Not Found.
Before I go any further, I need to repeat a caveat I made on PC World:
I refuse to take a moral stance on this subject but defend the right to do so. I will say that pedophilia is illegal and is defined by the DSM-IV as a psychiatric disturbance. I’ll also say that I feel it’s the inclination of the cautious to vehemently object to controversial subjects such as these lest they appear sympathetic.
Onward and upward. Here are the five reasons why I have the right to buy The Pedophile’s Guide on Amazon.com.
Reason #1 – Amazon is Not Condoning Pedophilia
Ryan’s headline—Amazon Can Teach You How to Be a Pedophile—is misleading. Amazon is a for-profit company that is selling a book. It is not teaching anyone how to become a pedophile, just as it is not instructing children who purchase Harry Potter how to practice witchcraft. Rather, the online retailer is making materials available that may or may not edify certain actions, legal or otherwise.
In the now-redacted statement defending its right to sell The Pedophile’s Guide, Amazon stated:
Amazon does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts, however, we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions.
Whether said purchasing decisions motivate people who have never before engaged in sexual acts with minors to do so is not Amazon’s call, nor could the retailer take any modicum of responsibility should such behavior occur.
Reason #2 – It’s Not Necessarily a “Guide”
Ryan makes another misleading statement when reading the book’s summary. “Based on [the book’s] summary, [Greaves] aims to teach the reader how to engage in pedophilia,” he wrote.
Not so. The summary, written by Greaves himself, reads:
This is my attempt to make pedophile situations safer for those juveniles that find themselves involved in them, by establishing certian [sic] rules for these adults to follow. I hope to achieve this by appealing to the better nature of pedosexuals, with hope that their doing so will result in less hatred and perhaps liter [sic] sentences should they ever be caught.
Nowhere in that summary is it stated or implied that the book is instructional. Inflammatory title aside, The Pedophile’s Guide does not necessarily give step-by-step directions on how to physically molest children.
It sounds to me that The Pedophile’s Guide is—if it teaches anything at all—a lesson in safety, precaution, and understanding, should one find themselves in such a situation. Pedophilia and child molestation, of course, are illegal, but so is injecting heroin. That hasn’t stopped government-sponsored needle exchange programs, which are built on the understanding that people are breaking the law and will continue to do so, but that there are still chances to promote safety and provide (voluntarily received) opportunities.
That analogy might be a stretch, but since The Pedophile’s Guide is no longer available, we can only take the media on its word about the book’s contents. And, especially in this instance, and especially in the blogosphere, I wouldn’t trust a slice of their pie: most “reporting” I’ve read relies heavily, almost desperately, on a judgmental tone.
Reason #3 – Amazon’s Policies on Controversial Materials is Inconsistent
Amazon became embroiled in a similar case about the sale and promotion of a book regarding adult-child sex in 2002. At the time, Amazon evoked the First Amendment in defending its rights to market Understanding Loved Boys and Boylovers, by David L. Riegel.
After being accused by the United States Justice Foundation of “contributing to the potential rape and molestation of children,” Amazon removed the link to the book. However, as of this writing, Understanding Loved Boys and Boylovers is available for purchase.
There is even an official Amazon review of the contentious book that reads: “Defensive in tone and amateurishly produced, this monograph uses both pseudo-scholarship and anecdotes in its attempt to justify its target audience’s actions and feelings.”
Still, Ryan posited that The Pedophile’s Guide was somehow different. In another section of Amazon’s printed justification for publishing controversial materials, the company wrote:
Amazon.com believes it is censorship not to sell certain titles because we believe their message is objectionable. Therefore, we’ll continue to make controversial works available in the United States and everywhere else, except where they’re prohibited by law.
Then Ryan asked Amazon to “make an exception” in regards to The Pedophile’s Guide, as though it were somehow different than Understanding Loved Boys and Boylovers, or, for that matter, any other “objectionable” title.
No exception can be made. If every challenging book sparked similar public fury, the idea of making exceptions—and inadvertently segregating one “type” of book from another without clear and consistent regulations—the practice will become the norm.
That means anyone with a bone to pick—and possibly an underlying political agenda, radical or otherwise—can lobby to remove a book from Amazon’s listings and their arguments will be historically justified based on the successful elimination of The Pedophile’s Guide. If that becomes the standard, say goodbye to And Tango Makes Three, the children’s title that met with fervent religious admonition due to its “glorification” of homosexuality.
If Amazon wants to eradicate controversial materials from its website, it needs to clarify its content removal policies. They are currently inconsistent, even hypocritical, for if one book on pedophilia can be sold, others in a similar vein should also have that freedom.
It’s also inconsistent behavior that Amazon would swing the First Amendment around for one book about pedophilia but not another (even though the First Amendment only applies to the government and not companies).
Reason #4 – Other Incendiary Books are Still Available for Purchase
Not only are other books regarding the practice of pedophilia available for sale on Amazon.com, there are dozens—if not hundreds—of titles that also spit in the face of Amazon’s current-standing guidelines. And these titles have the potential to be even more dangerous.
The Pedophile’s Guide does, admittedly, violate two of Amazon’s own e-book content guidelines, which prohibit the publication of “offensive material,” as well as content that “may lead to the production of an illegal item or illegal activity.” But Amazon’s hypocrisy persists, as I previously wrote:
The Anarchist Cookbook, a how-to guide to making homemade bombs, among other dangerous and illegal material, is still for sale on Amazon.com. You can also purchase The Turner Diaries, a thinly-veiled novel written by a former member of the National Alliance that advocated a violent upheaval of the United States government. What exactly is the difference between The Pedophile’s Guide and these books that blatantly and proudly ‘may lead to the production of an illegal item or illegal activity’?
To decide what is deemed “objectionable,” our government would have to engage in another hard-fought debate over semantics, just like the one currently ping-ponging in the Supreme Court about defining what is considered “deviant violence” in video games. For if we’re prepared to call The Pedophile’s Guide objectionable, we’ll have to revisit other books that have been branded that way, such as Lolita (child sex), Ulysses (bowel movements), The Catcher in the Rye (obscenity, Lennon assassination), Mein Kampf (duh), and many, many others.
Reason #5 – Banning One Book Won’t Stop Pedophilia
If (and that’s a pretty big “if”) the purpose of barring sales of The Pedophile’s Guide on Amazon is to eradicate pedophilia from our culture, or, even worse and more impossible, to sublimate it to the point where its existence is disbelieved, one book isn’t going to do squat. Hundreds won’t either. This is a cause that some people vehemently believe, legal or not, is natural and righteous.
Don’t forget the other subcultures and organizations fueled by hatred and supposed perversion. There’s the North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA), which was supported by Alan Ginsberg. Though NAMBLA has predominantly faded into obscurity, that doesn’t mean it’s going away. Nor will the Ku Klux Klan, or the National Alliance, or the Earth Liberation Front, or Al Qaeda, or, for that matter, GLAD—which is classified as perverted by millions.
Subcultures such as these aren’t easy to stomp out, just as they’re difficult to moralistically, characteristically, or behaviorally define. One man’s pride parade is another man’s jihad.
Their scriptures, too, will persist. It is well within Amazon’s rights to stop selling the book, whether it be censorship or not, but The Pedophile’s Guide has, in its own way, already made its point.
And if it isn’t already, it will be widely available for download, free of charge. It’ll be printed on loose-leaf and distributed, wherever, and whether people are like-minded or not. It’ll be a topic of conversation until it’s temporarily forgotten, yet will be referenced the next time something like this arises—and it will.
So, while I wholeheartedly support the freedom of expression in the blogosphere’s collective disgust, and respect the oppositional public’s demands for justice—whatever that means—and, of course, love Ryan O’Hanlon, there are too many logical errors, complications, uncertainties, and flat-out hypocrisies for me to agree with anyone who believes that I should not have the right to buy The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure from Amazon, downloaded via Whispernet, readable on my Kindle.
Disagree? Check out Ryan O’Hanlon’s take.