Something interesting happened this weekend, but you’ll be forgiven if you didn’t notice.
Sometime this weekend, Amazon began pulling the sales rankings from hundreds of gay and lesbian books on the grounds that the books are “adult” and should be excluded from some searches and lists. We’re not talking about pornography, or even erotica, but mainstream homosexual literature including books like Rubyfruit Jungle, Brokeback Mountain, and even Alex Sanchez’s Rainbow Boys, a YA novel and Ellen DeGeneres’ biography. Soon, it was more than just homosexual literature, with feminist books and even books for and about rape and incest survivors.
When authors complained to Amazon, they received a wholly unsatisfying response simply stating that Amazon was removing “adult” materials from the sales rankings.
The Internet reacted almost instantly. Specialty blogs and websites like Jezebel and Feministing jumped on the story, and so did mainstream media blogs and websites like the LA Times. Then things really exploded on Twitter.
Internet justice is swift and terrible. You think I’m kidding? After less than two days of angry commentary, boycott threats and bad publicity Amazon first issued a statement that the problem was the result of a “computer glitch”—which only seemed to enrage the masses more—and on Monday finally released a statement admitting that it was “an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error for a company that prides itself on offering complete selection.”
But the most important aspect of the whole debacle is the way it happened: an entirely online storefront insulted a large, vocal segment of the population—which then reacted almost entirely online by making their voices heard. The whole thing is almost over now, so people who spent the weekend with family celebrating various holidays missed the whole thing. But that’s life on the Internet for you. Everything happens in real time, and at the speed of the digital revolution.