A new report, released last week by two progressive nonprofits, faults Amazon for not doing enough to stop hate groups from using its platform to sell offensive goods, including a swastika pendant and a onesie with an image of a burning cross. “Amazon,” reads the report, “enables the celebration of ideologies that promote hate and violence by allowing the sale of hate symbols and imagery on its site, including Confederate and anti-black imagery, Nazi and fascist imagery, and the newly adopted imagery of the modern white-nationalist movement.”
I’m a Jew whose family, for the most part, didn’t quite make it out of Europe. So you know what I really hate? Nazis. And like everyone who really hates Nazis, I have but one urgent question, which is what’s the best way to stop them. It’s a tough question with a simple answer, tried and true in America for decades: Let them do their thing. They want to march through Skokie? Geh gesund. They want to start book clubs devoted to the work of George Lincoln Rockwell? By all means. They want to go on Howard Stern and explain their twisted, pathetic ideology to a Jewish man and a black woman? By all means. The principle behind this approach is an an oldy but goody: It’s the idea of free speech, which, in turn, is predicated on the belief—also tried, also true—that the best defense against lunatics is to let them ramble on and to let folks judge for themselves. This idea has worked wonders for decades, and you don’t have to be a constitutional scholar to understand why some of its most ardent defenders had always been Jews.
Enter the regressive left.
What, according to the report, must Amazon do to be deemed sufficiently woke? Censor the goods it sells. And how would the company know which goods promote hate and prejudice? Why, by consulting with the arbiters of such lofty matters. “Amazon,” the report concludes, “must develop more robust policies for all of its platforms in consultation with experts who study hate movements and symbols, such as the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). These new policies must be consistent and transparent, and evolve appropriately as hate movements and their symbols evolve.”
The SPLC, you may recall, is the multimillion-dollar smear machine that just last month was forced to apologize to Maajid Nawaz and pay him $3.375 million after placing the activist on a shameful and preposterous list of alleged anti-Muslim extremists. Still owed an apology and a fat check is Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a victim of female genital mutilation in her native Somalia and an outspoken campaigner against the barbaric practice who remains on the SPLC’s list. Speaking of lists, the SPLC has others, like the one of individuals and organizations promoting “male supremacy.” That last one includes the writer and philosopher Christina Hoff Sommers, whose ideological sin is to believe that women are equal to men rather than the maligned victims of a perpetual power struggle fueled by identity politics.
The new report, then, covered widely by The New York Times, presents us with a useful test. Would you rather live in a society in which everyone is free to sell and buy every shirt, pendant, or book they want? Or would you rather trust shady interest groups that squirrel away their fortune in offshore accounts to determine who gets to speak and how?
For American Jews, it’s an easy one to answer: Let Amazon sell whatever Nazi tchotchkes it pleases, and Lord save us from the noxious attempts of political hit squads to speak on our behalf.