One would think that with all the B.S. going on in the world today that an industry giant like Amazon.com would elect to bother exercising the arbitrary power of authoritarianism over the issue of censorship. Granted, anybody operating under their rules are required to a binding agreement that allows them to pull the plug on any vendor at any time. Still, when this power is exerted in a blatantly inequitable fashion, it only makes them look like the lumbering, mad corporate machine that everybody detests -- or worse -- like the government these days.
Thomas Weisser of Asian Cult Cinema, after thinking long and hard decided to recount his unpleasant and exhasperating experience with Amazon.com in a recent Asian Cult newsletter. Before I comment further, let me share the content of said newsletter so that you will understand the context of my later statements.
"Maybe, I shouldn't tell you this.
Last year - right around this time - I posted some DVD titles on Amazon. It seemed like a good way to introduce this company to other video enthusiasts. We applied for an Amazon Retail Account and received it. No problem. Everything was fine for about a week.
Then I got THE e-mail.
"Your listings have been canceled and you may no longer sell on our site," Amazon wrote. "We took this action because you have listed items that are prohibited."
Prohibited? Hmmm. I responded: Which items are prohibited?
They would not tell me specifically which titles were objectionable, but - instead - the Amazon Seller Performance Team simply generated an (obviously automated) answer: "As stated in our policies, pornography may not be sold on Amazon.com."
Well. Okay. Perhaps I could better understand this message if, in fact, I had posted pornography. But I hadn't. I immediately wrote back (yes, knowing full well that no real person would ever likely read my e-mail) saying that I never attempted to sell items which were forbidden, but rather I only listed product which already had existing Amazon links.
Their answer was curt [and of course again automated]: "We appreciate your interest in Amazon.com, please understand that the closure of an account is permanent."
Okay. Let me cut through the crap. I hadn't posted anything that would qualify as pornography (i.e., XXX hardcore). And to be honest with you, I'm not certain which title or titles had initiated Amazon's sweeping reaction. I'd guess it was probably MARK OF THE WHIP 2. While not hardcore porn, it is nasty. And probably not PC enough for the Amazon Seller Performance Team.
But that's not the important thing here. Why does this - or any other type of censorship - continue to exist in the USA? Why do we as genre fans allow it by supporting the people with the big scissors?
It's unacceptable. And that's the reason ACC/WCC is here today.
Let me give you an example. Last week we posted the fully uncut version of A SERBIAN FILM. Now, while I admit this is an absurdly strong movie (and certainly not for everyone), if you want to see it you most likely don't want to see it censored. Right? I guess Amazon wouldn't agree.
Or how about TAINT? Of course, it's outrageous. That's kinda the point. Yet it's not only outrageous, TAINT has also won some impressive awards at various underground Film Festivals. Simply, it should be readily available to the fans.
But just try to find that one at Best Buy, Netflix or Amazon. The Amazon Seller Performance Team doesn't even want you to know it exits."
Pretty amazing, eh? I think the creepiest thing about this situation is that they were unable to interact with Amazon, or more properly, Amazon was unwilling to interact with them. It would seem that the industry giant is a robot, programmed only for automated responses. At the least, it is evident that the human element behind this company has chosen -- in this case, anyway -- to hide behind the artifice of technology.
Now, I'm not going to tell you to boycott Amazon or anything like that. I'm not even suggesting that you send them a Nasty-Gram. Personally, I intend to keep buying from them as I always have. But lest we forget, let's remember this as a cautionary tale and hope against hope that these types of Big Brother-like actions remain an exception rather than the rule.
I'm also going to keep supporting one of the best sources of asian and world exploitation, horror, fantasy, and Category III films in existence. Why don't you do the same? Check out their huge inventory by clicking on the widget on the sidebar to the right of this blogroll. Tell them MONSTER MAGAZINE WORLD sent you.