I hacked Amazon and delisted books about gays and lesbians, mainly because statistically speaking, I figured gays and lesbians would be the most irate about being targeted for being "obscene," and Americans would rally to the defense of gays and lesbians faster than to the aid of S&M enthusiasts, pedophiles, straight pervs, or puppet-fetishists. There are many gays who are also powerful white males and who are unashamed of their sexual preference. I rolled the dice.
I also rerouted all queries from publishers with Amazon Advance accounts about the hack to my private email address (I started doing this back in February in my spare time). I've had a grudge against Amazon for years. Finding the motivation was easy.
What you want to know, now that Amazon's stock has taken a nice little jab, now that they've lost massive amounts of consumer confidence, and now that everyone is questioning Amazon's politics and allegiances, is WHY?
Why would I do this?
Simple. I wanted to teach you all a lesson about power.
Power is a quality that you are born into and that you give away over the course of your life until you have none left. The wise give their power to love or to freedom. The more power you give away to a company or government (even a benevolent company or government), the greater the possibility for abuse if things ever change inside that company, because a company or government does not inherently possess power, and must acquire it through serpentine methods. Additionally, crass, spineless submissiveness to an entity like Amazon doesn't just make a powerful agent ABLE to hurt you, it actually creates the desire. They do not respect you; they decide you actually need to be manipulated and controlled.
As everyone knows, Amazon would never willingly target gays and lesbians as filthy, obscene individuals. But that's beside the point: the point is, what do we do when Amazon decides to target ANYONE? We have given Amazon too much power over America's publishing apparatus, and -- as they seek to acquire more by creating and controlling an ebook market that depends solely on an incredibly expensive proprietary device -- we need to start asking ourselves: is Amazon a neutral agent when it comes to publishing? Even if they are, what then?
A publicly-traded, profit-motivated company should not run the publishing world and grow from the artistic creations of others while risking nothing, helping no one, and only standing up for causes when financially convenient. They receive the penumbra effect of standing up for literature while simultaneously doing no work to cultivate talent or take risks on controversial ideas. A publishing company (which Amazon has become) must work for its writers. Publishers and writers must be chained together to provide risky products for booksellers if we want to continue to have new ideas.
For this reason, it is time to move past the convenience of Amazon (all ebook providers provide equally instantaneous products) -- and try to find companies who make it a company PROMISE -- a keystone of their business model -- to never censor or sort content based on any racial, sexual, political, or criminal reasons. A company that can't be hacked like I hacked Amazon, because the idea that they would censor content would be as absurd as an independent bookstore hosting bonfires of its stock in the parking lot. It didn't take you very long to believe that Amazon could be capable of such a massive, evil, Orwellian censorship campaign, did it?
And yet you will keep trusting them now?
I feel pretty safe about confessing my crime, because I know Amazon is going to tell you that this was an "internal glitch that they are working to fix." Their stockholders would sell, sell, sell, fucking sell, if they knew how easy it was for a third party to hack Amazon to rearrange sales data in order to influence a particular agenda. I deleted ranks and delisted books, but it's much easier to keep the sales data on books low or hack the reviews to bury a controversial novel or political text.
Amazon's sudden success has made it trivially easy for them to influence the reading habits of the entire world, which is a power that tyrants have been clamoring for since the dawn of civilization. To assume things will be different now is desperately naive. You could choke the Tigris and Euphrates dry with the bodies of all the people who have been killed by powerful organizations (governments, companies, religions, mafias) for speaking their mind.
I also hacked Amazon to show you how easy it is to build a virtual ghetto based upon arbitrary political opinions.
First, you make sure that the only way people can publish (and make money) is through your apparatus. You become both publisher and bookstore, perhaps the most insidious monopoly cobbled together since oil company and car manufacturer. Then you TAG, IDENTIFY, AND INDEX -- delisting and "burning" the authors with whom you disagree, or with whom you have been paid to disagree by private interest. You will see outrage from some sources, but you will also find those who defend your practice.
Next, you mark those who stand up in opposition to you. You TAG, IDENTIFY, INDEX, and DELIST them next. You also mark those who stand up in support of your practice. Using the same power to control sales and attention, you raise them in stature and make sure their voices are heard more loudly.
So easy. The lazy work of an afternoon.
Do you wish to keep giving Amazon your power? Or are you convinced that it is time to start busting up these publisher-seller monopolies (Amazon, Google, Sony, Apple) before things become a nightmare incommensurate with our ability to unplug and restart? At least we must recognize them for what they are: monstrosities that must be challenged with all the wit and guile that writers can muster.
The only thing that saved the world's literature from being burned up forever by barbarians and bigots during the fall of Rome and the ensuing dark ages was the physical difficulty of locating each and every book and consigning them each to the INDEX and the FLAME. That physical difficulty has been eliminated by companies like Amazon and Google who seek to centralize power and authority over the maintenance and dissemination of your right to information. The potential for abuse is worse than any government has ever dreamed, and even if these companies stay sane and good, what is to stop anyone from taking these companies over and paring down their available books to only a few select titles?
We have given Amazon and Google enormous power over literature without saddling them with the enormous responsibility that ought to follow. We need to make laws that establish powerful checks and balances that limit those who both sell books and publish them (unidirectional powerhouses like Amazon) from abusing their hideous strength. More than anything, we individually need to think about the possibilities for abuse before we do deals with companies that have no interest in protecting our intellectual property and make no promises to do so.
I am sorry I hacked Amazon to delist your books and mark them as obscene. But don't you see that it is the possibility that is the problem and not the crime itself?
Posted by miracle on Mon, 13 Apr 2009 14:09:17 -0400 -- permanent link