Buying Books in the Age of Amazon

I’m working on a review of the book Woke Antisemitism: How Progressive Ideology Harms Jews by David L. Bernstein. It has answers to many questions I get asked about Wokeness, and I recommend that people read it. No matter what words I string together, my answers never seem to satisfy anyone.

But there’s a problem: The book is only available via Amazon. I admit that that is only a problem for a handful of Amazon resisters such as myself. But I do wonder why it isn’t more widely available. Granted, it might be aimed at a fairly narrow audience, though it deserves the attention of anyone who cares about the narrow confines of acceptable dialogue these days. 

Before I caved in and created an Amazon account just to buy this one book, I searched for it via the websites of several bookstores in my area, both indies, Barnes and Noble, and the University Bookstore. The only place I could even order it was Barnes and Noble and the price plus postage made me pause. It’s the sort of book I might buy as an ebook, though I usually buy ebooks through Apple, just to avoid dealing with Amazon. Nope. No ebook through Apple Books. Grrr.

Why do I even care where I buy a book? A question that deserves an answer: I simply don’t want Amazon to have total control of which books are made available to the world. Once I caved, created an Amazon account, and bought the Kindle version of the book, I could see that it has an actual publisher behind it: Post Hill Press. But when I went to their website, and then to the division behind this title, WickedSonBooks.com, and then to the title, I learned that it supposedly is available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, Nook, and Kobo. Funny how those other options didn’t show up when I searched (via DuckDuckGo) for information. And, again, why is Apple absent from the list?

I would have bought a hard copy if I could have obtained one locally, but it didn’t show up in searches on my favorite indie websites either as an ebook, or in paper, even to order. Nor does our public library have a copy. If I were the author and actually wanted to sell some copies of this book, I’d be talking to the publisher to find out what the heck is going on. 

Back to my concern about Amazon. If there is any industry where I don’t want to see a monopoly, it’s the publishing industry. And there’s simply no doubt that Amazon has monopoly power over book publishing. If Amazon decides that Abigail Shrier’s book Irreversible Damage is likely to garner the ire of trans activists, it can refuse to sell it (fortunately there was enough resistance that that tactic didn’t work), or it can make sure that the title won’t show up in ads (that did work). We simply need multiple ways to get ideas out there into the “marketplace of ideas” so they can be read, digested, commented upon, and subjected to fierce battles. Without being contested, ideas won’t get refined and improved so the best ones float to the top. 

Fortunately, the seemingly lost cause of free speech has a serious new advocate as of 2022. When the ACLU decided that some speech didn’t merit its support, FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, took over the vacant advocacy territory. FIRE used to focus entirely on campus free speech issues, but expanded its efforts to include many more arenas in which ideas can be censored. It has hired new staff and is learning the hard way that defending our First Amendment is a very big job. I’m confident they are up to the task – and I hope they will keep an eye on the publishing industry for me. Yes, I know that publishers are not the government. 

If you, like most Americans, already buy everything at Amazon, look for Woke Antisemitism. I’ll be writing more about it soon.  

Whose Lives Matter?

While walking past a bus stop yesterday, I saw a person with a red T-shirt and a jacket. The jacket covered some of the letters of the message on the shirt, but I could read … Lives Matter. The first word was not “Black,” so I paused and asked about the missing word. Turned out to be “Deplorable.” I smiled, because I really liked the sentiment, but I also smiled because the person was a middling aged and middling sized black man who was also wearing a MAGA hat. 

We chatted briefly, agreeing that “Deplorable” is a wretched word for a huge section of our voting population. His words: “It’s so disrespectful.” Yes, I said, and we wished each other a good day and parted company. 

If you heard Hillary refer to the small “basket of deplorables” back in 2016, you will know that she was referring to a small group of people who were engineering Trump’s campaign. She was trying to convey that millions of his supporters were being duped, that they were being seriously misled. I happen to believe that she was right about that.

But I also believe that neither the Republicans nor the Democrats have paid sufficient attention to our struggling working class. Thus when the Republicans seized the opportunity to push the narrative that Hillary considered all of Trump’s followers to be deplorable, it was too easy for millions to believe it. 

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about my fear that the word “deplorable” could bring about the end of the Enlightenment. Since then, one thing has led to another, and here we are facing an election that could actually bring about the end of the Enlightenment. What’s odd is that I would wear a T-shirt proclaiming, “Deplorable Lives Matter” today. I am that concerned about the disrespect that is heaped on people who are not on board with the furthest reaches of the progressive Democrats. 

I’m a centrist who believes in incremental reform based on what we’ve learned from past reforms. I’m not on board with the extreme left or the extreme right. Millions of people are like me, but we don’t control the media. So we struggle to be heard. To progressives, I’m deplorable. To the extreme right, I’m unprincipled, never mind the fact that the far right has no principles at all today. 

I no longer consider myself a Democrat. Yet I want the Dems to hold the House and win a couple more Senate seats, and I want moderate Dems to be in the majority of their caucuses, and I want the progressives to rethink everything. And I desperately want the Dems to find a way to win over the deplorables who think the Dems disrespect them all. 

I urge you to read any and all things written by Ruy Teixeira on his substack: The Liberal Patriot

If you can’t spend an entire weekend reading his articles, read at least this one: The Democrats’ Common Sense Problem.

A DEI Altenative

This post is just a plug for a four day online conference put together by Counterweight Support. Counterweight was created to fill a need for support for people trapped in schools or workplaces where rigid social justice jargon is enforced. It offers videos and resources (including real humans) to help people who have other points of view survive in these difficult situations.

Find the Conference information here: https://cw.heysummit.com

Lots of good speakers. For just $50 (I think) you can get a pass that enables you to access all of the speakers programs for a year after the event. Given that the schedule emanates from the UK, (i.e. 4:00 a.m. on the west coast!) I don’t expect to hear them all live!

Let’s Not Assume Guilt by Association

Recently, an article crossed my path for a second time, and this time it caught my attention. It was basically a challenge to the self-ID phenomenon that has carried the day in gender fluid circles, but it didn’t stop with that. The author, Jonathan Kay, in his article “The Search to Explain our Anxiety and Depression: Will Long Covid Become the Next Gender Identity,” went on to cast aspersion on “contested illnesses.” It took me a while to figure out how he was linking gender self-ID and his collection of contested illnesses, but the link was his assumption that people could self identify into genders and also into illnesses.

To prove his case, he led readers to the website of an organization calling itself “Body Politic.Yes, clearly Body Politic is Woke, and yes, it has become a gathering place for people with Long Covid. But Kay, a journalist I respect, has fallen from his pedestal of Rational Critic of Woke on this occasion. I believe he has engaged in the logical error of assuming guilt by association, just one of many traps we can fall into when we are determined to expose wrongthink of one variety or another. 

I consider myself a skeptic of some of the contested illnesses Kay cites in his article. Yet I have seen one friend who claims EMS (electromagnetic sensitivity) come to a book club meeting and comment to the group that the EMF signals seemed weaker than usual, only to have the leader announce that Wi-Fi was out that night. On another night, she commented that signals seemed stronger than usual, only to learn that the store had bumped up the Wi-Fi signal recently. So now I believe that she really is sensitive to things that don’t affect me at all though I claim no expertise as to her illness.

Multiple Personality Disorder is another diagnosis that many challenge today. Yet another friend from years past had this diagnosis. I accepted this claim of hers with a giant dose of skepticism until I saw her switch during a discussion when I said something that triggered a reaction in her. Her voice changed; her demeanor changed; she attacked me in a way she had never done before. It was all very spooky, and had I not seen it, I would not have lightened my skepticism several notches; yet I claim no expertise as to her mental illness. 

Likewise, I have a friend with ME/CFS (myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome). I moved into a condo next door to her one year, but found her reluctant to engage with me. After a couple of years, we were finally friends, close enough that she could disclose to me the physical limitations she lived with. This woman is a retired art teacher and librarian, a gifted artist, someone who enjoyed travel, loves to see art exhibits and go to movies. Yet she can do but a fraction of what she would love to do. Travel is out of the question. And even at home, she is limited to a few hours a day that she can enjoy any of her pleasures. Why would I doubt her? She clearly wants to do more.

My point with these stories is simply that I have been blessed to know, and count as friends, these individuals who are doubted by society. I do not claim to have any special knowledge about their conditions. I have learned from them that it is indeed a hardship to suffer in a way that you cannot disclose for fear of ridicule. It is a hardship to be doubted by medical professionals. And there is a deep need to find others with similar experiences. If you reach out online and a find a group who understand what you’re talking about, you will appreciate their acceptance even if they are Woke. You may find others who are not Woke. You will count your blessings that they are ready to include you without checking your Woke or anti-Woke credentials.

In the year since Kay’s article appeared in Quillette, we have accumulated many more cases and much more knowledge of Long Covid. Researchers  have yet to find agreement on which symptoms are most useful for diagnosis, much less find a cure. Yet doubting individuals who claim Long Covid just feels wrong because the harm of such doubt is serious; it only increases their challenges; in this case it detracted from the rest of the article which expressed concerns regarding more common campus identity issues.

I have no close friends who are trans, but friends of mine have children and grandchildren who are. I write about my concerns with gender identity, and some of what I say brings squinty eyes from these friends. Yes, I have concerns about gender-affirming care that includes hormones and surgery for kids and teens. I have serious doubts about moving men, who suddenly claim to be trans, from a mens’ prison to a women’s prison. (Do we need a trans prison? I don’t know.) I don’t want to harm trans individuals, but harm can come from more than one direction. Jumping on a bandwagon of support too soon (another way to short-circuit clear thinking) can be as harmful as shunning people for things we don’t yet understand.

Young people who are questioning their gender needn’t be turned aside. Engage with them. Sort out all the concerns they have. Good therapists who are concerned about the lack of research in this area have formed the Society for Evidence Based Gender Medicine, SEGM, to support each other as they develop positive alternatives to the gender affirming model of care. Acceptance and engagement is a viable approach that avoids the potential harms of uncritical affirmation or thoughtlessly rejecting a patient.

Because the war against Woke has been so intense, it’s been easy to fall into logical errors of one type or another while arguing against it. Kay went all-out for guilt by association. But confirmation bias plagues us all – all day every day, every one of us. It’s seriously unpleasant to read or watch things we don’t agree with. I try to read from a wide variety of sources, but I only read things that feel “honest” to me. Rants don’t merit my time. Still, I have to discipline myself to take in opinions that are seriously at odds with my current thinking. 

If avoiding logical pitfalls seems important to you, I suggest a visit to Logical Fallacies. This, and other such sites are helpful if you need a refresher course in the many ways our good intentions can pave the road to hell! Even those of us who don’t believe in hell will benefit from avoiding these pitfalls.