Amazon.com continues to claim First Amendment grounds for its sale and promotion of a book advocating adult-child sex but has removed an e-mail link to a self-proclaimed pedophile amid mounting pressure organized by a non-profit legal action group in California.
Last week, WND reported that Amazon.com has been accused by the United States Justice Foundation of “contributing to the potential rape and molestation of children” through its online sale of “Understanding Loved Boys and Boylovers,” by David L. Riegel, who has responded to questions submitted by WND.
The USJF has given Amazon 30 days to remove the book from its site or face “protracted litigation.”
Meanwhile, a search by WorldNetDaily of other pedophile-related books sold by the Seattle-based Internet retailer turned up a title apparently published by the North American Man-Boy Love Association called “Loving Boys.”
In another development, the USJF has filed a criminal complaint against Amazon.com with the Seattle Police Department. Also, in one of many boycotts undertaken by groups and private citizens, a publisher has canceled its arrangement with the bookseller.
After WND broke the story last week, Philadelphia’s NBC TV affiliate took a camera to the post office box of Riegel’s locally-based publisher SafeHaven Press and informed the mail clerk of the company’s distribution of pro-pedophile books, according to USJF litigation counsel Richard Ackerman. The clerk expressed disbelief and opened the mailbox, discovering that the only item in the box was a check to SafeHaven from Amazon.com.
SafeHaven Press has an affiliated Web discussion forum operated by Riegel “about responsible intergenerational relationships between males.”
Right to choose
Amazon.com has issued a statement emphasizing that it does not endorse “Understanding Boys and Boylovers,” but insists that “people have the right to choose their own reading material.”
The bookseller says, “Our goal is to support freedom of expression and to provide customers with the broadest selection possible so they can find, discover, and buy any title they might be seeking.”
Ackerman says Amazon can be prosecuted for unethical behavior under California’s unfair business practice laws.
“I was honestly hoping, against all reason, that they would do the right thing and simply take this off their site,” Ackerman told WND. “And so I guess what’s going to have to happen from here on out is that we’ll go to every possible source. If I have to go to [Attorney General John] Ashcroft, I will.”
Seattle police Sgt. Brian Johnson, who oversees the department’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, said he has not been informed of Ackerman’s complaint.
He promised to research the issue with his legal department, but said that so far every one of his previous investigations has entailed actual images of child pornography.
“There is not much we have done with written words,” Johnson told WND. “There is so much of the other stuff out there.”
Regarding a case such as Amazon’s, “a lot of it depends on the city, whether it’s something they would want to pursue,” he said. “My personal thought is, probably not.”
In a letter faxed to Amazon CEO Jeffrey Bezos Sept. 25, Ackerman pointed out that beneath a description of the book was a customer review that linked to the e-mail address of a man who described himself as a pedophile. The reviewer said he found Riegel’s book “to be enlightening in my quest to truly come to terms with my own sexuality.”
Since then, the link to the e-mail address – which began with “minrfiend” – has been removed, though the review remains.
Ackerman said he was unaware of this development.
“I wish they would have told me that,” he said of Amazon. “I’ve gotten no response from them, none.”
“It’s very saddening,” he continued, “because they’ve hidden behind the First Amendment to justify what they are doing and yet they don’t have the moral courage to actually respond to us.”
Ackerman noted that Amazon declined an offer to join him in his appearance on the Fox News program “The O’Reilly Factor” last Friday.
WND’s call to an Amazon spokesperson yesterday was not returned.
NAMBLA on Amazon
The book, according to Amazon, published by the North American Man-Boy Love Association was written by the late Edward Brongersma, a member of the Dutch Senate who went to prison for sexual contact with an under-aged boy. Later, Brongersma returned to public office and helped repeal the Netherlands’ age of consent law.
For many years, he was on the editorial board of Paidika: The Journal of Paedophilia, the Dutch-based advocate of adult-child sex.
In his book “Loving Boys” – which, according to other sources, has been published by Global Academic Publishers – Brongersma “eschews both the common Judeo-Christian belief that man-boy contacts are morally wrong and the traditional psychiatric premise (never honestly tested) that they are unnatural, perverted and harmful for boys.”
Brongersma co-edited a book also carried by Amazon.com called “Male Intergenerational Intimacy: Historical, Socio-Psychological, and Legal Perspectives.”
That book is one of a growing body of material that purportedly makes an academic and scientific case for acceptance of sexual relationships between adults and children. Earlier this year, the University of Minnesota Press published Judith Levine’s “Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex,” which seeks to challenge “widespread anxieties” about pedophilia.
Riegel, noting the emergence of “landmark studies and papers” in the past 10 years, said that Levine’s book probably would not have been published by a university press “even as recently as two or three years ago.”
In his book, Riegel espouses “responsible boylove,” which, he maintains, has nothing to do with molestation and abuse.
In an e-mail response to questions by WND, Riegel claimed that “fear, ignorance and intolerance” are at the roots of the public’s “misunderstanding” about men involved in sexual relationships with boys.
“Understanding can only come about through dialogue,” he told WND. “And dialogue is what people like Ackerman, [Pro-Family Law Center's Scott] Lively, and a host of other self proclaimed ‘moral’ crusaders, are afraid of. They do not subscribe to Voltaire’s ‘I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’ Their motto is ‘I disagree with what you say, and I will silence you one way or another.’”
Ackerman said, “My question for Mr. Riegel is, having been a victim of this stuff myself, I’d like him to openly come out in the public and talk about whether the First Amendment protects his right to engage in this type of authorship and promotion of, in my opinion, moral filth.”
Ackerman argues that society has accepted that there are limits to free speech.
“We don’t apply that same standard to hate speech, or hate crimes,” he said. “We certainly don’t apply that standard to plotting the violent overthrow of the United States government.”
In an e-mail response to a complaint about the book by a Texas-based group called Hands Off Our Kids, or HOOK, Amazon.com employee John Cameron wrote:
“Please know that, contrary to rumors that have been circulating around the Internet, this book is not a ‘how-to’ manual for molesting children. The author simply expresses his point of view about what he feels are ‘misunderstood’ relationships between men and boys.”
But Ackerman believes Amazon has a responsibility to protect children from materials that expressly advocate what he and mainstream society – including businesses like Amazon.com – consider dangerous ideas.
“Exposing a child to the idea that they should be part of a ‘misunderstood’ relationship is as offensive as taking the boy to the back of a soccer field and explaining the exact same thing to him,” Ackerman said.
Last week, Davidson Press informed WND that it will no longer sell its books on Amazon.com. The publisher of Bibles and related materials posted its new policy “within minutes” of reading WND’s story last week, said Editor Charles Welty.
Author John Culea, a former TV anchorman who has three books on Amazon’s site, decided to sever his relationship with the online retailer after hearing about the controversy last week on the San Diego-based Roger Hedgecock talk radio program. Culea also requested that Amazon remove Riegel’s book, which he calls “a smoke screen for pedophilia.”
Ackerman’s group has posted an online petition at a website called Conservative Petitions.com. The petition has been forwarded by fax or e-mail to Amazon by over 1,200 people. Ackerman said, however, that the petition drive has not been fully launched yet and expects many more responses when Conservative Petitions alerts its list of about half a million people.
The issue also has been taken up by groups such as Focus on the Family and the Traditional Values Coalition. Ackerman says also he plans to take the issue to the American Family Association, which has the resources and network to launch a massive boycott drive.
On Friday, Kim Vandiver, founding director of Hands Off Our Kids, warned Amazon that it will promote a broad boycott through its constituency if the company does not remove “this filth, which is not only immoral, but a danger to the children we, as a society, and that includes corporations, have a duty to protect.”
After receiving Amazon’s standard reply, Vandiver wrote back, stating, “I do not appreciate receiving a form letter filled with rhetoric from Amazon.com on such an important issue. It does, however, indicate that Amazon.com does not take this boycott seriously and is not willing to work for the public good.”
A third reply to Vandiver assured her that her previous correspondence had been considered, but said, “Please understand that the information provided in our last message correctly represents our policy at this time.”
“I can’t imagine that Amazon.com wants to come into the holiday season facing this,” Ackerman said, “and I will do whatever I can to make sure this blows up in their face right in the prime of holiday shopping. I’m not going to let them get away with this.”