Beware the coming wave of censorship

With a new Administration in Washington, D.C., and the oligarchs of Big Tech now dominating US politics, we as writers have to expect a new wave of pressure – initially “voluntary”, but very likely regulated or even legislated in due course – to conform what we write to the policies of the powers that be.

Impossible, you say?  “First Amendment!”, you scream?  Too bad.  Why not use those arguments to Simon & Schuster?

[Senator Josh] Hawley objected to Pennsylvania’s Electoral College votes for President-elect Joe Biden when Congress met to certify his victory over President Donald Trump on Wednesday [January 6, 2021] … Publisher Simon & Schuster canceled Hawley’s book deal the next day.

Simon & Schuster will doubtless argue that they’re not violating the First Amendment, because Sen. Hawley can still publish his book with anyone else he pleases.  The fact that others may not want to deal with him, and that S&S reneged on a signed contract with him, is clearly neither here nor there.  How many of us may experience similar pressure in future?

I think that as independent authors, we can expect even more of the same treatment.  Amazon.com has emerged as solidly behind the Biden administration.  It’s already taking steps to limit publicity for anti-Biden views;  for example, my own blog posts, which have been featured on my author page there for many years, suddenly stopped updating on January 20th – presumably because I noted the electoral fraud so visible during last November’s polls.  My views don’t agree with what’s currently politically correct.  I’ve heard similar reports from other independent authors about their social media links there.  Will Amazon take it so far as to deny its platform to authors who won’t toe the party line?  I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

Larry Correia is successful enough as an author that he can afford to express his own opinions, even if Big Tech dislikes them.  He’s just stepped away from Facebook because he’s tired of their political correctness.  However, most of us don’t have the luxury of his success and enormous public visibility.  His fans are enthusiastic and faithful enough to follow him no matter where he goes on social media.  Are ours?  I suspect . . . not so much.

I can only suggest that we need to start thinking – and very urgently! – about what alternatives are available to us.  Our blogs may be deplatformed, our books may no longer be accepted by major vendors, our views may come under public attack for their lack of political correctness.  How prepared are we to deal with that?  Is it even possible to do so?

I’d be interested to hear from our readers about those questions in Comments.  We’re all in the same boat on this issue.  Let’s help each other to bail it out, and keep rowing.

EDITED AT 5.40 PM CENTRAL TO ADD:  No sooner had I written this article than readers sent me two news headlines, confirming every fear I’d voiced.  I give you as evidence:

One has to laugh, if only not to cry…

25 comments

  1. Good points. I wasn’t on social media much before the election, and am even less so now. Are there any platforms that aren’t controlled by the left?

  2. — Will Amazon take it so far as to deny its platform to authors who won’t toe the party line? —

    It’s a real possibility for all writers whose books embed conservative convictions. If it were to happen, it would be disastrous for us. Our commercial prospects would be perilously slim. The other online ebook retailers possess a small fraction of Amazon’s reach, so if it were to happen, it should get the attention of the antitrust agencies. However, that seems unlikely, so let’s hope that Amazon “doing a purge” remains just a nightmare.

    Time was, a writer who dared to express some unorthodox idea, or to have his characters behave in a socially disapproved way, feared that his books would be “banned in Boston.” But that was almost always about sex — so much so that later writers would hope their books would be banned in Boston! Books that express a disapproved political opinion are unlikely to profit in that fashion.

    1. The Streisand Effect is not dead yet. Andy Ngo’s Unmasked hit number 1 in Books on Amazon for over a day because of the bookstore mob.

      However, that is Antifa. As the Twitter ban on several of their accounts proved, they may have outlived their usefulness to the Swamp.

  3. Well, solutions.
    I think we start by stepping back and away from social media platforms that are controlled by BigTech. BITD, it was blogs, forums, and RSS. Those technologies still exist, and can be self-hosted. And there are digital storefront solutions out there that would allow someone to sell books directly from their own website. There are other issues that would have to be overcome – publicity, sales tax, etc., but the puzzle pieces are out there and available to be put together in interesting ways.

    1. The whole issue boils down to one: ISPs being pressured to deny us access to certain sites. We’ve got to figure out an alternative way to access the net.

      1. Those pieces are around, too. VPNs and alternate DNS servers. The problem is that it is not easy. It doesn’t really matter how difficult it is to put the server-side together; one only does it once. The problem is that the front-end is hard, too, which is a problem every potential customer will need to overcome. On the bright side, it wasn’t that long ago that you could browse the entire English “world wide” web in a day.

        1. VPNs are getting less useful, simply because of “data residency” requirements. Apparently the VPN server IP ranges are well known, and most any commercial sites (Amazon, banks, etc.) simply refuse to allow you access unless you cut the VPN.

  4. Look at European based web providers. Hostinger, Simplenet, Justweb, Ionos, to name a few. They are interested in growing more than social justice, and the laws are more apt to protect us.
    Band together and you may be surprised at how many supporters you guys have.

  5. It might be interesting to take another look at WalMart.com. It’s no competitor to amazon yet, and I don’t know if they’re selectively discriminating based on political viewpoint. the problem is discoverability. I think political undesirables will always be able to find a publisher and distributor and a way to sell to the public, but marketing will be a problem.

    1. Like Silver Empire Publishing’s Storefront. I need to look into alternative spots to host my superhero space opera serial. Maybe make a backup for it on Minds. They have a blog system there as well.

    2. I did something similar for Isaac Arthur: I joined Nebula for just him to avoid YouTube. The Nebula user interface is AWFUL. These things do take some time.

  6. Another way to meet potential readers is to go where they are. Events and shows (watch Covid-19 hysteria miraculously vanish until needed again by the elite) let you talk to people in person.
    It’s time-consuming, you’ll probably only break even, and it’s hard challenging work if you don’t enjoy chatting up total strangers.

    If you write cat mysteries, see about buying a spot at the local cat show. If you write military thrillers check into the local car show or gun show. See what local events would be a good match for your books. You’ll be the only writer/book seller. You will have to have print copies as you can’t sell eBooks. Hand out catalogs (which you print yourself to show off your line) for those who prefer eBooks to paper.

    You’ll very rarely meet anyone who’s heard of you. You have the chance to make true fans who like your books and will tell their friends.

    Think of it as marketing where you break through the immense cloud of chaff. The potential is there.

    1. “Events and shows (watch Covid-19 hysteria miraculously vanish until needed again by the elite) let you talk to people in person.”

      Other than LibertyCon, exactly which conventions do you think will allow us to attend?

      1. You have to see what is going on within the range you are willing to drive. Draw a 100 mile radius circle on a map, centered on your house. Further away than that and you start running into time management issues like either getting up at 4am to be on time to set up or paying for a hotel room which will ensure you lose money.

        Get out your local newspapers including those annoying shopper throwaways. Search the ads for events and shows. Would those fit your schedule? Do you have a local radio station that lists all the events for your area? Check the list and see what is available. Visit a potential event and see what kind of crowd it draws. Ask at places you normally go, such as your local gun club or your lodge or grange. Ask everyone you know about local events. There are dozens in most areas. There’s also local flea markets and farmer’s markets.

        Find out how much a table costs. $25 for all day? It might be worth spending the day. $150? No. We did Market on Chocolate (our local summer Saturday farmer’s market) and earned enough to pay for our booth ($55) and cost of books and a bit more. Not very much more, but I consider this marketing since we rarely meet anyone who’s ever heard of us.

        It’s very important to get to know the local organizers since they make the important decision of whether or not to waiver the demand for $1,000,000 of insurance. This happened to us at Market on Chocolate. Those are the only people who asked if we had insurance. Since they were a farmer’s market, they had to follow the state’s regulations WRT food and other things that could poison the customers. We got waivered since books aren’t toxic and the local organizer knew me since I attend my local municipality meetings.

        Keep your receipts for vendor fees, gas, tolls, meals, lodging, etc. for your tax guy. A surprising amount of your costs are tax deductible.

        Most groups, like the Kiwanis Club spring fling and St Joan of Arc’s annual Christmas Bazaar organizers, will ask to see covers of your books when you apply. They want to know you are an indie writer (exciting!) and not selling used books (we’re not a flea market). Unless you write Werewolf Bondage Porn and have the lurid covers to prove it, I doubt they’ll be concerned about your prose.

        You write military science-fiction? How interesting. That’s about as far as the questioning goes. Craft show vendors, particularly small ones, are looking to fill tables so they can grow.

        I strongly recommend you start very small. Ask plenty of questions. Visit a potential venue first.
        This all takes time as most of these events are on an annual basis. Thus, you visit the Kiwanis Club Spring Fling in 2018, then buy a table for 2019 and see how you do.

        Keep copies of your applications and after awhile, you’ll see that most shows ask the same questions.

        Juried shows are pickier because they want to exclude flea market fodder. They’ll want to see book covers and get an explanation that yes, you are a local indie author and while you don’t print your books in your basement, you do write every single word yourself.

        Some shows will never accept you because they’re “art”. Others? You have to ask.

        Which I did at the last Forty Elephants show and it looks like we’ll apply for one of their events in 2021.

        Will I sell books at Forty Elephants? Darned if I know but I do know that I will be the only author/book vendor there.

    2. you can’t sell eBooks
      Are you sure? Small USB sticks are often given away as shwag; they cannot be _that_ expensive in bulk. A quick check of Alibaba shows some (2 to 32 GB) for $1.89 at 1000 to 9999 (only $0.89 if you want 10,000 or more). Some do custom logos, too, although that pretty much nixes any “let’s go in on it” deal.
      An ebook – or several – could be put on one; loaded as sold. Granted that it would need to be side-loaded to a reader, which some people may have trouble with, but it should just work on a PC.

      1. I never thought of that option! Thank you! I’ll mention it to Bill and to Younger Son (our technical genius).

  7. I read Larry Corriea’s comments regarding Farcebook. Pretty much encapsulates my opinion of that company. As a conservative, you don’t lose much by ignoring their service.

    I think that Big Tech and Big publishing are bowing to Biden… this week. We’ve all been suspecting, for a variety of reasons over the last 4 years, that Biden’s support in the general population is only about an inch deep. An army of sock-puppets. First strong breeze that comes along, he goes down.

    What does that mean for retail? It means they are pissing off all their customers to keep a few wingnuts happy. And the wingnuts keep getting crazier and more demanding by the day, so keeping them happy is pretty much impossible.

    Retail is -fleeing- New York City. Between rent, ‘Rona and rioters, they can’t stay open. So they are -abandoning- the most expensive and formerly desirable retail locations in the world. Moving to the suburbs, to Texas, to other cities. They’ll keep leaving until the Powers that Be in NYC turn things around.

    Amazon is much the same thing. If conservatives stop making any money selling on Amazon because of corruption, coercion, censorship, what have you, then they’ll all leave. Amazon makes so much money on everything else they do that ebooks are a drop in the bucket for them. They probably don’t care. This week.

    But in absolute terms, selling ebooks is a pretty good business. No inventory, no shipping, not much infrastructure needed, cash payments… I wouldn’t mind a 1% stake in that business. That would be sweet.

    So -somebody- will be doing it. As soon as it becomes impossible to get your book up on Amazon, somebody else will be happy to do it. If the whole rest of the publishing industry bans conservative works, the Streisand Effect will make that conservative replacement grow quickly. Imagine being the -only- outlet for anything that isn’t an SJW checklist. Money to be made there, for sure.

    Therefore, until such time as Amazon boots my poor little ignored book off their service, I’m not going to worry about it. If a better deal comes along, I’ll take it.

  8. Speaking of censorship….

    “I’d be interested to hear from our readers about those questions in Comments. ”

    Love to. Of course, I’m in comment moderation for no other reason than saying this about BezosBorg persistently for the last few years. Might want to think about that beam in your own eye.

    And this seems appropriate since we lost Mira Furlan.

  9. I dread the day when censorship forces all nonconformists and scapegoats onto the Dark Web. Tor is currently full of truly awful, degenerate people. They got there first. To be fair, decent people chased them there. But sometimes political prisoners get thrown in with actual criminals.

    The very best will get lumped in with the very worst because the ones in charge see anyone divergent from their opinion as simply Bad. We may end up forced to sit next to perverts and lunatics. We will need to hold our noses.

    Pardon my tone, but I’ve recently been browsing onion sites and… ick. I once looked at Freenet and left in disgust for the same reason. I’m guessing I2P is just the same. But what choice will we have?

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