Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Amazon Fail Madness

What's most amazing about the Amazon dust-up is how quickly it occurred, was protested, and was answered by the company. I chatted on gmail with my co-blogger here, Christopher, and we decided to perhaps just post our chat below, awkward formatting and all, as it was an interesting (I hope!) discussion of what happened. I think we both come out as thoughtful enough to avoid offending anyone...

me: I've thought about doing something on this amazon thing but it already seems played out - no?

Christopher: It is over. I think it was just a mistake anyway.

me: things happen so quickly online

Christopher: Seriously. Unfortunate and inconvenient but a mistake.

me: did you see nash's comments on it?

Christopher: no, what did he say?

me: you might wanna school yourself, not be too flip...

Christopher: school myself? sometimes a cigar is a cigar.

me: “The onus is on us, as Tim Wise has taught so well on the topic of white privilege. We cannot be given the benefit of the doubt, because it is always us who get the benefit of the doubt in our society, and if we are to take the pink and lavender dollars, and if we are to say, you don’t need A Different Light, or Oscar Wilde Bookstore, we’ll hook you up just fine, then we can never let this happen.

The vigilance and outrage demonstrated on Twitter are necessary, not because the folks at Amazon are bad people, but because the books that were de-ranked were de-ranked because it is always the outsider whose books get de-ranked and “mainstream” society and the capitalist institutions that operate within it, whether my old company or Amazon, must self-police ruthlessly in order to guard against this kind of thing happening.”

if I was going to post anything on this, I would probably just quote him anyhow, and he has 22 comments on his post

Christopher: I agree with what he is saying but mistakes do happen no?

me: but if the mistake hurts a minority group then shrugging it off doesn't take away the damage

Christopher: If we never allow for mistakes-especially in the realm of computers-well then the world is really just a shitty place and one that I don't want to be part of.

Was there damage?

The outrage was fast and loud and everything was restored.

Plus is there any evidence that amazon.com has any problems with gay men or lesbian women?

me: so you're saying b/c of the outrage, everything's fine, now everyone needs to stop the outrage, but if people hadn't been outraged it would have just happened

Christopher: I am as conspiracy minded as anyone I just can't see the angle here. I think you are right in some ways but...

me: it's like east boston

Christopher: you all hate mcdonalds?

me: something like this happening just reminds you of the ghettoized status of lgbt books

Christopher: I agree with that.

me: just like the talk about raising tolls or cutting the T service reminds you of the distance of east boston from the actual city. I'm sure the woman at the credit union didn't have a conspiracy against me when she assumed my co-applicant Aaron was an Erin, but it still is worth pointing out, and she should feel awkward and I shouldn't

Christopher: So it might be more of a symptom than an actual sickness. Like if all gay/lesbian fiction were simply part of FICTION then this kind of crap wouldn't happen? Kinda like Border's "Black Voices" section.

me: it's always hard though, b/c we need those spaces too

the question is whether there was any impact - its not like the records were deleted

did any fewer people buy any of these books b/c of this?
did they disappear from searches?
was it just a matter of the ranking disappearing, and if so, how does that impact sales?

I haven't read all the material on it b/c it was all generated so fast but maybe an interesting post would be on how fast it all happened, how amazon's far reach makes it susceptible to speedy online protests en masse

Christopher: I didn't either b/c I figured once it was fixed it was fixed. Amazon only caring about the almighty dollar, couldn't afford to sabotage one entire demographic but obviously that is my inherent bias. I am just a wee bit uncomfortable with Nash's response so quickly. What if it was an error? (and I am not saying that it was, but what if it turns out to be simply a programming error-is all the anger justified b/c of past behavior. I guess it must be but I am just curious b/c they never seemed like that kind of company to me...hell they gave the Big O almost 100K last year and 0 to McCain.)

me: plenty of "Big O" supporters are still homophobic so I wouldn't clear anyone based on that, and Nash's point is privilege, which is always more visible to those who don’t have it than those who do

Christopher: Right, but kind of an impossible point to argue in any way right? Not that he isn't right, but where is the dialog there?

me: I think he's only arguing that amazon shouldn't ignore this even if it was just a mistake, they have to recognize the message that the lgbt community felt

Christopher: That I absolutely agree with.

me: I don't think he's calling for the overthrow of amazon or labeling them as homophobic, though others are

Christopher: Maybe he isn't but that is what happened REALLY quickly.

me: yeah, and that's the post topic

And so it is!


Anonymous said...

Altho I'm familiar with the story but not the intimate details, I must let you know that the link to Nash's comments isn't working. I enjoyed your interview. (First time visitior - I'll be back.)

Brian said...

Thanks for mentioning - I've fixed the link.