I used the post down below as a means to write a review of the book, Unsettled, by Steven E. Koonin, severely editing it. I had little hope of seeing my review published by Amazon, as over the past couple of years overt censorship has taken over so much of our lives.
“Overt,” mind you. Not new,. It has always been like this. Technically speaking, we have, as expressed in the Bill of Rights, an inalienable right to freedom of speech. It is not given us by our Constitution. We own it, have it, have always had it. But during my years after schooling I slowly realized that this inherent right to speak our minds is severely limited, that is, if I have an opinion about who should be the quarterback of the Denver Broncos, that opinion easily flows through the censors. It is painless, stupid, offends no one, not even the current quarterback, whatever his name. (Russell Wilson.)
However, if my opinions are of a more serious nature, and especially if they rub up against anyone who has power, say the editor of a small local newspaper, they will be censored. Back in pre-Internet days the outlets for personal opinions were limited to newspapers and radio talk shows, and the gnomes guarding the caves were newspaper editors and talk show hosts.
Talk show hosts I never cared about, as they were hired for color, not content. None were hired for anything but flare, and none had any intellectual chops, though doing what they did for a living required talent. I do respect that.
But newspaper editors bothered me, as I knew something about them, expressed so well by the late Alex Cockburn: Newspaper editors were in their place not due to any intellectual achievements, but rather because they were known to the real people in power, the newspaper owners and publishers, to have within them no time bombs that were not already defused. They were horses long ago broken, no threat, and so allowed to lord over younger journalists, making sure that everyone knew that where boundaries to “free speech” actually existed. Especially in newspapers, the best outlet for expression in those days, everything would be contained by a weak and submissive mind possessed by an overpaid occupant, who served as overlord.
Thus we had a system of freedom of speech, well contained. No one ever really got away with anything, and we were ruled by the mediocre. I remember especially one editor of the Billings Gazette, Dick Wesley, who at once quintessentially defined mediocre and at the same time presented as a man of letters, degrees, achievements. What was his real role in the newspaper business? To contain, keep everyone in line. That is all that editors are hired to do. Journalists move up in the ranks not due to true merit, as truth-seeking is not their forté. Rather it is subservience to power coupled with an oblivious nature of reality. When old Dick retired, having done so well at his job, he was handed the title of “Editor Emeritus.” That small phrase embeds the word “merit,” unearned. It should instead read “Editor Emediocrus”.
I just did a True People Search on old Dick. He’s still alive, and while not “kicking” (he never did anything like that) will no doubt never read this. I changed his name, as I’ve no desire to personally offend him. His strength in reporting was to avoid anything unconventionally controversial. At age 83, he’s still living in Billings, still relishing in his emeritus status. God bless you, sir.
Anyway, to make a short post longer, I took the post below about the book Unsettled, and removed some of what I knew to be more offensive paragraphs, for instance, no reference to Covid. I know that hoax to be sacrosanct among the learned. I cleaned it up, Yet still I received, as pretty much expected, the following:
Thank you for submitting a customer review on Amazon. After carefully reviewing your submission, your review could not be posted to the website. It appears your content did not comply with our guidelines.
Amazon guidelines are inoffensive, except for the last one, which is the one I surely violated. See for yourself how they mind our manners:
Your review should focus on specific features of the product and your experience with it. Feedback on the seller or your shipment experience should be provided at https://www.amazon.com/hz/feedback.
We do not allow profane or obscene content. This applies to adult products too.
Advertisements, promotional material or repeated posts that make the same point excessively are considered spam.
Please do not include URLs external to Amazon or personally identifiable content in your review.
Any attempt to manipulate Community content or features, including contributing false, misleading, or inauthentic content, is strictly prohibited
I surely did nothing to violate the first four guidelines, no obscenity, profanity, advertising, external URLs. So it can only be that I violated the fifth, by submitting false, misleading, or inauthentic content.
Except that I did none of that. I simply submitted a point of view that ran contrary to the censor, the old Dick Wesley still hard at work, monitoring correct ideas, censoring those inappropriate. What has changed from the old days? Nothing. I responded to their rejection as follows:
I submitted a review, harmless, but nonetheless censored by you at Amazon, gnomes guarding the cave. I have always known that “freedom of speech” is an illusion, that anything I say that might rub powerful people the wrong way will be suppressed. That is not new. But now we have you know-nothings who are guarding the cave entrance with your silly guidelines, making sure that nothing, even on a book review, makes it through. This even as I know that (1) most people do not read, and (2) that if a book receives a large number of reviews, as does this one, that no one will manage to read them all, or even part of them.
“Resubmit?” What you mean by that is that I must make my opinions conform to yours, even as yours are worthless and non-thought out. It is tyranny, not like in the old days of Nazis and Communists versus capitalists, but small-minded twigs like yourselves hovering above people like me, who can think better and form actual sentences. You disgust me, you who sit at your desks with your monitors in front of you, imagining you have functioning brains. You make me want to puke.
What on earth makes you think that you should have power over what other people express? You certainly are not bright enough. But I’ll bet you do love your power, you stupid twit who now sits and reads this and decides that my words will not be published, even as you are not capable of producing your own.
I suppose it has always been like this, stupid people having power over brighter ones. You are right to fear people like me. You do not possess the resources to combat me, only to censor me. Go home, watch football.
OK, I let go, I got haughty and offensive.
But heck, I thought, even if the mild-mannered me who softly suggests that Climate Change is a hoax, as I did, cannot get through, neither will the unchained maniac who lets loose on some dweeb in front of a screen who will not even bother to read the whole thing. As with the first submission. Freedom of speech is important. It would be nice to have it. It would be realistic to expect that all opinions are allowed through the filters, even those regarded as offensive to some. Especially those. What is the point of freedom of speech if not to offend the mighty?
That is something old Dick never understood, that was far removed from his own ego, that opinions that run counter to his own, even those that veer far off his course, still need to be aired. Dick is now 83, retired, but maybe still intellectually active. Maybe he finally gets it, that “Freedom of Speech” means freedom of all speech, even those opinions that fall outside his sensibilities.
Freedom of speech is a nice sounding idea. It would be nice to have such a thing outside of sports, where fans usually and often let go with criticism of those in power. There our inalienable rights are still respected. Somewhat. Nowhere else save an obscure blog here and there.