Every year, American libraries feature displays of “banned books” to promote freedom of speech and of the press. Of course, the books they display aren’t banned; hence their ability to display them. The books are titles like Ulysses, Catcher in the Rye, Lady Chatterly’s Lover, and so on. This reflects the fact that for close to a century, no books were actually banned in the United States.
But book banning is back. Amazon dominates U.S. book sales (42% of physical books and 89% of e-books, according to Bloomberg) and will sell pretty much anything. You can buy books by Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Mao Tse Tung and Noam Chomsky. But you can’t buy China Virus by Canadian Ezra Levant. China Virus criticizes Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s relationship with Communist China and in particular his policies regarding the Wuhan virus.
Why did Amazon ban China Virus? Because “Due to the rapidly changing nature of information around the COVID-19 virus, we are referring customers to official sources for health information about the virus. As a result we are not offering your book for sale.” This despite the fact that China Virus, according to its author, reached #1 in Canadian Kindle sales.
Amazon’s position makes no sense, obviously. China Virus is not a medical tract, it is a critique of the policies of Canada’s Prime Minister. But Amazon’s response is chilling nonetheless. Only “official sources” can be heard, apparently. It is the execrable Dr. Fauci or nothing.
This is one more reminder of why big government loves big business. If the U.S. government tried to ban China Virus legally, it would have a problem with that pesky First Amendment. (I assume something similar would be true in Canada.) But Amazon, as a private company, like Facebook and Twitter, can ban to its heart’s content in service of “official sources.” Anyone who doesn’t find this frightening fails to understand how the modern world works, and where it is trending.