Amazon now allows authors to self-publish which is an amazing service.  But like any good deed it has not gone unpunished.   In this case someone has self-published a book called “The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure” (and no I will not be linking to it).  Amazon has refused to take it down because they believe it would be denying the author freedom of speech.  So controversy has ensued…

Michael Arrington of Techcrunch weighs in with this

We are very much in favor of free speech. But like Facebook’s obsession with Holocaust denial, that doesn’t mean Amazon has to condone something so clearly disgusting, and profit from it.

GigaOm’s Mathew Ingram chimes in with a similar thought

If you want to test someone’s belief in freedom of speech, the easiest way is to bring up something morally abhorrent — topics such as the defence of pedophilia, incest, the denial of the Holocaust, and so on.

First Amazon is clearly in the wrong here.  The free speech argument is, at best, debatable.  The most on-point decision is Robert A. Viktora vs. The City of St. Paul.  In that case Mr. Viktora, a Nazi, had taken to burning crosses in front of the homes of African-American families.  This was in violation of a city ordinance that said…

Whoever places on public or private property, a symbol, object, appellation, characterization or graffiti, including, but not limited to, a burning cross or Nazi swastika, which one knows or has reasonable grounds to know arouses anger, alarm or resentment in others on the basis of race, color, creed, religion or gender commits disorderly conduct and shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

The Supreme Court did rule against the city in this case but of the 5 justices that made up the majority 4 of them did so only because they felt the ordinance was “overbroad”.  Since they specified that it must mean it is legal to ban some objectionable speech. 

Which leads to the question “Is there anything more objectionable than pedophilia?” 

But once you get to Holocaust denial I have to object.  Holocaust denial is dumb.  I mean…there are pictures for God’s sakes.  There are still Concentration Camps you can visit.  Not to mention the millions of missing people unaccounted for.  So really…kind of stupid. 

But once you start banning speech solely on the fact that it’s stupid or ignorant you establish a very dangerous precedent.  Who will be the judge of that?  Who decides what makes an idea too stupid to be legal?  Most partisan people feel those who belong to the other political party are stupid.  Does that mean they can legally ban that speech?  Can San Francisco make being a Conservative illegal?  Can Austin do the same for Liberals? 

Where exactly would it stop?