Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: Amazons Are Not the Only Fruit

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  • Emma Hart,

    Two minutes after posting this, I had a 'reply' to my email to Amazon. It was a duplicate of the last one linked to in the column, and ignores every one of my specific questions. They're really not helping themselves as far as the PR disaster goes.

    So here, have this instead.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4285 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Ward,

    the love that dare not speak its name is unaffected in the Kindle version.

    It's much easier to toss a Kindle on to a burning pyre of righteousness than, say, an iMac.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1712 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    Jeanette Winterson got deranked too, I assume?

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3582 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    Jeanette Winterson got deranked too, I assume?

    Why, yes. That was the first name on the list that made me go 'oh for...'. Not the last.

    Otherwise this column would have been Brokeback Amazon, or Amazon is my Washpot, or something.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4285 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    I read the LiveJournal of Dave White, a Los Angeles-based movie reviewer who just happens to be gay. A few years ago he published his hilarious memoir, Exile In Guyville. It's just a funny book. It's not porn.

    Yet he's now on Amazon's list, and he writes about it here.

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1821 posts Report Reply

  • John Fouhy,

    From the Guardian:

    The ranking removal seemed to depend on how Amazon filed each book. The 2003 paperback edition of Fry's autobiography Moab Is My Washpot, which Amazon tags as "gay", is unranked, whereas the original hardback , filed under "memoir", has a ranking.

    Huh.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 87 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Yet he's now on Amazon's list, and he writes about it here.

    Oh I like the cut of this man's jib:

    Well the good new for you is that my outrage is currently being upgraded by special victim-specialist technicians and will soon be felt for a several thousand mile radius and may, in fact, be able to reach you.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7315 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    Oh I like the cut of this man's jib:

    I've seen some pretty inspiring things over this. I read the blog of EE Knight, a pulp-fantasy author, who had this to say:

    Amazon is ass-covering for the weekend, and they'll come to their senses Monday or Tuesday and it'll be fixed by end of week at the latest. If not, well, I'm writing Amazon and demand that they remove my rankings, metadata, etc and treat me as "adult content" for the VE titles. This is a good place to sew a yellow Star of David or pink triangle to your clothing, folks.

    You can also buy the Amazonfail tshirt.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4285 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Fuck me, Emma, I'm going to have to play the "get over it" guy here. Because really

    This is a good place to sew a yellow Star of David or pink triangle to your clothing, folks.

    This is bad but not quite the same as Nazism, okay? And also

    You can also buy the Amazonfail tshirt.

    I am sometimes disturbed by how quickly somebody will figure out how to turn a buck from such things. Business at the speed of thought indeed.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7315 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    This is bad but not quite the same as Nazism, okay?

    Indeed, absolutely it isn't, not even close. And I was dubious about using the quote because of that particular way of phrasing things. And if you asked him, he'd say that too, that of course it's not as bad. I'm after the underlying sentiment, which is of the symbollic stand. I do wish he'd put it differently.

    The speed of this has been astonishing, I think because now these things move at Twitter Speed, which is significantly faster than Blog Speed. #amazonfail knocked #teabag off top tags over the weekend. As soon as I heard the first mutterings I thought, how long til the tshirt. As with the hysterical 'gathering storm' video, which was so obviously ripe for parody. It had been spliced with the video for It's Raining Men after two days. I'm finding this all really sociologically fascinating to watch.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4285 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Adding to the list of books that apparently don't have adult content according to Amazon: Ulysses, Lady Chatterley's Lover and, ahem, De Sade's Philosophy in the Bedroom and Justine (which are just about the only two books that I'd ever consider placing on a high shelf myself).

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7315 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    Apparently, it was all a database error, at least according to this out of Seattle.

    Rant: this is basically why national biometric and such databases are such a shocking idea.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1251 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    Amazon managers found that an employee who happened to work in France had filled out a field incorrectly and more than 50,000 items got flipped over to be flagged as "adult," the source said. (Technically, the flag for adult content was flipped from 'false' to 'true.')

    "It's no big policy change, just some field that's been around forever filled out incorrectly," the source said.

    And I'd believe it, except that, as I said, I looked at dozens of derated items and they weren't tagged 'Adult'. Can they be flagged in the DB and not have it show round the front?

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4285 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams,

    Brilliant piece Emma. I saw references to #amazonfail but am such a nOOb, I didn't get it until now.

    Rant: this is basically why national biometric and such databases are such a shocking idea.

    Yeah, I'm sympathetic to this view though there's an ellipsis in here I think needs elaboration.

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2185 posts Report Reply

  • Joanna,

    So here, have this instead

    One of these days I'm really going to have to start watching Torchwood . Also, is James Masters ever going to have a lover who doesn't beat him to a bloody pulp on a regular basis?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 718 posts Report Reply

  • Hadyn Green,

    Cynically if I was a writer whose book had been deranked, now would be the best time for me to write the wittiest blog post I could with plenty of links to places readers could buy my book as a "protest" against Amazon or at least get larger audiences to read my stuff.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2079 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    Cynically if I was a writer whose book had been deranked, now would be the best time for me to write the wittiest blog post I could with plenty of links to places readers could buy my book as a "protest" against Amazon or at least get larger audiences to read my stuff.

    Indeedy. Here's a valuable lesson: screw with the pro-LGBT powerbase at your peril. Hopefully the next time the AFA threatens to boycott a company, 'what happened to Amazon' will spring to mind.

    Rednecks Are Not the Only Pressure Group

    Moving ethics to one side for a moment, of course.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4285 posts Report Reply

  • Mrs Skin,

    Rednecks Are Not the Only Pressure Group

    Indeed, and I rather like this suggested method of applying pressure:

    @GoodVibesSF: Wants you to tweet 140 character [uncensored] erotica/LGBTQQI tweets in honor of #amazonfail #erotica


    Any takers? Emma?

    the warmest room in the h… • Since Feb 2009 • 168 posts Report Reply

  • Eddie Clark,

    Emma, like you the thing that's staggered me most about this is the PR response. No press release? No elaborately concocted explanation about screwy perl scripts or hackers? No scapegoat rogue employee? I mean come on, they're a big company, surely their PR staff are more competent than that.

    Meanwhile, Fishpond (and Unity) will be getting a lot more of my business now.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 270 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    And I'd believe it, except that, as I said, I looked at dozens of derated items and they weren't tagged 'Adult'. Can they be flagged in the DB and not have it show round the front?

    Probably; I can't think of a technical reason why not.

    Database stuff up seems most plausible to me, because this is just so inept and random that I can't imagine Amazon trying to do it. (Imagine if they delivered books as effectively as they censored them.) I certainly can't imagine this is some plot against queer works, except in the sense there's a societal plot agaisnt queer work.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1251 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    And I'd believe it, except that, as I said, I looked at dozens of derated items and they weren't tagged 'Adult'.

    Well, yes. I mean, Felice Picano is MIA, and yes, he's a gay author, but one of his books is about his cat, fer pete's sake.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3112 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    @GoodVibesSF: Wants you to tweet 140 character [uncensored] erotica/LGBTQQI tweets in honor of #amazonfail #erotica


    Any takers? Emma?

    Heh, 140 character slash-fic parody? If I'm going to take it seriously I might have to drag out something I've already written.

    Emma, like you the thing that's staggered me most about this is the PR response.

    Indeed. The amusing French incompetance story is still a leak. Okay, maybe they don't want to tell people in detail what happened for security reasons, but this is a PR disaster.

    And underneath it, things remain that I dislike. Users appear to be able to tag things as adult and get them de-rated on a commercial site . This isn't a freaking chat-board.

    And given the pre-existing cases of delisting from before this weekend, they DO appear to de-rate LGBT material as adult when equivalent straight material goes untouched.

    This really gets on my wick, and I know why. I used to work for a woman who felt this way. She felt, genuinely and sincerely, that material involving a straight kiss should be rated PG, and material that involved a gay kiss should be rated R. She banned gay characters from taking part in a ball, IF they danced with same-sex partners, because to her that was unimaginably disgusting. But they could still turn up, so she wasn't being discriminatory.

    I read a comment today saying that it was as if everything you did as an LGBT person was just that much more obscene to these people. Loving, raising kids, going to work... he described as 'like walking around with an enormous technicolour penis attached to you all the time'.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4285 posts Report Reply

  • Eddie Clark,

    I read a comment today saying that it was as if everything you did as an LGBT person was just that much more obscene to these people. Loving, raising kids, going to work... he described as 'like walking around with an enormous technicolour penis attached to you all the time'.

    Ha. I wrote my honours thesis on this in the context of New Zealand legal judgments. With my erstwhile BA in English past, I essentially did a critical analysis of how judges talked about the gay subjects of the law. Not the results, but the language used. There was this combination of redundantly insisting on the sexuality of all activities involving gay people, and refusing to accurately describe the content of any ACTUAL sexual activity. Sexual by definition, but indescribable.

    It was really quite sobering research to do, and some of the nastiest things I found were in quite recent judgments.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 270 posts Report Reply

  • Mrs Skin,

    Heh, 140 character slash-fic parody? If I'm going to take it seriously I might have to drag out something I've already written.

    Oh do!

    I read a comment today saying that it was as if everything you did as an LGBT person was just that much more obscene to these people. Loving, raising kids, going to work... he described as 'like walking around with an enormous technicolour penis attached to you all the time'.

    Yep. That's about it. It gets boring having every bloody thing one does defined by a (relatively) minor activity. It's quite odd to watch people categorising me in this way and then slowly forgetting to as they get to know me as a person. Yes I shag women. No that doesn't mean deciding to wear jeans today is a lesbian activity.

    My (dyke) friend is so creeped out by it that she can hardly stand to be in a group of lesbians - she can't stand to be defined as lesbian precisely because of the oil-slick effect of who she has sex with. Somehow for her, being in a group intensifies it.

    the warmest room in the h… • Since Feb 2009 • 168 posts Report Reply

  • Mrs Skin,

    Eddie, is that available somewhere?

    the warmest room in the h… • Since Feb 2009 • 168 posts Report Reply

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