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Ad Hominem Attacks At Amazon

Now, normally I don't have much disagreement with Professor Bainbridge. But in his latest piece, he suggests that Amazon.com's decision to suspend their rule against ad hominem attacks is politically motivated:

Although the announcement implies that the policy shouldn[']t apply to any books about presidential politics, Unfit for Command appears to be the only political book as to which the policy has been lifted. Bias? If this annoys you too, why not buy a copy? You'll let Amazon know that you're not dissuaded by their bias (and support this website at the same time!).

(I'll let you go to his website to buy your copy, if you want.)

Let me suggest here that Amazon's motivations might not be bias, but simple mercy. I can't imagine that any book currently on the market is as likely to provide a source for ad hominem attacks--from both sides--as this one. As of today, there's 1,465 customer reviews, and I can only see it increasing.

To put that in perspective, Ann Coulter's Treason, out for much longer, has 1,934. Maureen Dowd and Hugh Hewitt's latest have only about sixty or so. Bill Clinton's My Life only clocks in at the mid-500s.

I wonder if at least one motivation for Amazon's shift in policy is the worry that whoever had to edit all the reviews for ad hominems would simply up and quit in revolt. Of course, were this the case, some honesty would be in order. Amazon's policy statement should have read:

Important note from Amazon.com: We've decided to suspend our normal customer review policies and rules for this title. For example, we usually prohibit ad hominem attacks. Frankly, we can neither afford to manually edit this bile, nor write software smart enough to separate the merit from the mudslinging. Besides, as of this morning, there were 732 reviews of this book, and we've only sold four dozen copies. We don't know where you guys are buying this tome, but either it's not from us or most of you have never actually read it.

Therefore, short of obscenities, reviews on this book are now a free-for-all. We take no responsibility for the following discussion. It's not clear that anyone else has. Have fun! We're going out for beer.

Looking at it, this strategy might have worked much better for Amazon. As of this writing, three of the top four reviews are not about the book at all, but complaining about Amazon's "biased" policies.


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» Maybe Not a Double Standard from Parableman
Here's the first attempt I've seen to defend Amazon against the double standard charge, and it looks to me to be a plausible explanation. Anthony Rickey says the reviews on this book have skyrocketed while sales haven't (at least from... [Read More]


Wouldn't it be most sensible for Amazon to permit only customers whose purchase records showed that they had bought these particularly controversial books at Amazon to make comments on them? Surely, it may prevent many useful reviews from reaching customers, but it's a non-politically-biased way to weed through the rhetoric swamp. And no one expects Amazon to be biased against its own economic interests. If someone is absolutely dying to get her comments on the site, she can buy the demmed book.
The problem is that a lot of reviewers, especially for technical books, already had the books.
Absolutely, which is why I specified "particularly controversial books." I'm sure that the writers of technical books can sling the mud when they wish, but I doubt that the number of people who give a damn about such texts equals the number who care about this election.
I thought they'd decided to remove *all* reviews of this book. Clinton has so few reviews because nobodies managed to read the whole thing. Except me, and I've been unemployed for months, and I only just made it. Intersting and tedious at the same time, amazing...

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