Book Bans and Backroom Deals: The White House, Amazon, and the Battle over Free Speech

In the labyrinth of government interventions during the infamous COVID-19 debacle, one might mistakenly believe we’ve seen every conceivable overreach. Yet, the audacity of the Biden White House to engage in a brazen tango with Amazon, pressuring the titan to sideline books disfavored by the administration, adds a fresh chapter to this saga of governmental hubris.

Revealed through documents unearthed by committees and Rep. Jim Jordan, we learn that Andy Slavitt, the administration’s censorship cheerleader, didn’t stop at haunting social media platforms with demands for silence; he extended his chilling overtures to Amazon’s vast shelves.

Deploying the same dogged, data-drenched, and liberty-loving scrutiny I adorned in “Gone Viral,” let’s dissect this circus of censorship. Andy Slavitt, armed with his White House credentials, presumed to police Amazon’s enormous trove of thoughts and theories under the guise of battling the bogeyman of “misinformation.” Concealed within this stratagem is a stark warning: Big Brother isn’t merely watching but actively suppressing voices impertinent enough to question the sanctioned storyline. Michelle Obama 2024: H... Gilbert, Joel Best Price: $11.99 Buy New $19.00 (as of 07:32 UTC - Details)

Recall our article from August 2022.

March 1, 2021 a group of MIT students and Phd candidates put together a set of visuals and deep “analysis” takes based on Twitter interactions around Covid. In one section they call out the ring leaders of the “Anti-Maskers Network” – yours truly, Alex Berenson, our own team reality collages El Gato, HOLD2, Kerpen, Gummi Bear, Kyle Lamb, Jordan Schlach…

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Here’s a quick rundown of what Representative Jordan discovered:

  • “The Amazon Files”: The tweet thread introduces “The Amazon Files,” highlighting recentlye released internal documentation that suggests Amazon felt pressured by the Biden White House to censor books – and did so in various ways
  • Of course, it was Andy! Andy Slavitt, a senior Biden White House official, is mentioned as pressuring Amazon. He queried whom he could contact regarding what he perceived as high levels of misinformation on Amazon.
  • Method of Identification: The Biden White House’s method of identifying so-called propaganda and misinformation involved running keyword searches on controversial topics such as “vaccine” and contacting Amazon with concerns about search results.
  • Amazon’s Initial Stance: Amazon initially decided against manually intervening to censor books, fearing visibility and backlash, particularly from conservative media outlets.
  • Amazon’s Perception versus White House’s Expectation: The conflict centered around Amazon viewing itself differently than social media platforms and aiming to provide customers with access to various viewpoints—an approach the Biden Administration found unacceptable.
  • Key Meeting with the White House: On March 9, 2021, Amazon met with the White House. Documents expose Amazon’s leading talking points for the meeting, focusing on whether the administration sought the removal of books or just alterations to search result priorities.
  • Outcome of White House Pressure: Ultimately, Amazon started applying a “Do Not Promote” directive for books questioning vaccine effectiveness, coinciding with the meeting date with the White House. The company also explored other means to lower the visibility of content disliked by the Biden White House.

Facts the Historians L... John S. Tilley Best Price: $5.00 Buy New $4.87 (as of 07:05 UTC - Details) Amazon’s initial foot-dragging on manual censorship wasn’t born from a noble stand for free speech but rather a pragmatic fear of backlash. Yet, when the spotlight of scrutiny turned too bright, these titans of trade displayed a disappointing flexibility in their backbone. Buckling under the weight of White House words, Amazon agreed to sidelining books critical of vaccines, essentially marking them as unfit for the public eye.

As the drums of dissent were muffled on Amazon, a dissonant chord struck at the heart of democratic discourse. This wasn’t about the truthfulness of content but the right to raise a voice, however inconvenient that voice might be to the powers that be.

Our rallying cry against the pandemic’s politicization, the revelation of Amazon’s acquiescence serves as a clarion call. Not merely to chronicle these events as passive observers but to stand in opposition to the creep of censorship, wherever it rears its authoritarian head. In this odd alliance of government and commerce against the cacophony of counter-narratives, the essence of free speech is being tested.

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