Hate For Sale

Hate For Sale

April 18, 2000 - The New York Times

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The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is the most bloodstained volume in modern history. First published in czarist Russia, this forgery, purporting to be a secret Jewish plan to control the world, inspired the destruction of European Jewry. It has become the staple of hate groups around the world for the past 100 years.

So why do Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble sell this pernicious volume, thus swelling the coffers of hate purveyors? We asked the giant booksellers and they responded that their policy, essentially, is to offer any book ever printed.

With that criterion, we assume they would not hesitate to sell a how-to guide by Osama bin Laden on blowing up U.S. embassies, or instructions in cannibalism by Jeffrey Dahmer, or a KKK manual on selecting rope for lynching African Americans.

By peddling the Protocols, Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble are saying, in effect, that this poison is just another book–another valid competitor in the marketplace of ideas.

That’s what hate groups want you to believe. But ethically and factually–even in their distortion of constitutional principles–they’re wrong.

For just as publishers, while defending free speech, aren’t compelled to print every manuscript, merchants aren’t obligated to stock every racist book. Reputable booksellers exercise discretion in what to place on their shelves, real or virtual.

By abandoning that discretion, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and other book marketers, such as Borders and Alibris.com, reward hate publishers and validate their contemptible product.

The main U.S. publishers of the Protocols editions offered by these booksellers are Noontide Press– once linked to the racist and anti-Semitic Liberty Lobby and now the printing arm of the so-called Institute for Historical Review, the leading organ of Holocaust denial worldwide–and Book Tree Press, supplier of an array of extremist materials. Every volume sold, on-line and in the book superstores, helps these publishers propagate hate.

Hate doesn’t need the help, and major corporations shouldn’t provide it. As AJC’s report Hate and the Inter-net points out, technology already has made it easier for racist groups to disseminate their hateful materials.

Must the giant booksellers assist them–selling anything and everything in print, no matter how incendiary, how racist, how anti-Semitic? Of course not. If bookstores’ websites include “warning labels” along with the Protocols, does that free them from responsibility for marketing hate? No.

In the free market, every retailer makes choices about what to sell and what not to sell. That’s called good judgment. Too bad that at the book superstores today, it’s out of stock.

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