Terry H. Schwadron
Dec 3, 2019
Yesterday started with news across the breakfast table that Amazon had acted quickly to remove from sale Christmas tree ornaments reflecting Holocaust victims.
Thanks, Amazon, for doing the right thing — once you were alerted through social media comments from your customer base.
But, Amazon, removing these horribly objectionable items from your online catalog seems to just raise a lot more questions, few of any of which were followed up in the news stories about the appearance of the sale items.
Where did the ornaments come from? How did they end up on your electronics shelves without some in charge saying that it was okay or asking the minor question, who among our customers wants such hate-oriented ornaments?
Or is this to be like Facebook arguing that it is perfectly fine for politicians to buy ads with demonstrable lies because Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t think private companies like his — and I would guess Amazon — have any role in censorship?
Or apparently in upholding American values.
What would have happened were there no social media complaint? Would that have made it okay to sell hate?
Is this what conservatives, including Donald Trump, argue is a War on Christmas? Is this the Culture War led by Trump to which we should turn for the rising increasing number of hats, shirts, sweatshirts and other messaged clothing that call out people to hate?
Actually an Amazon spokesperson explained that so many items are for sale from third parties using Amazon as a sales platform that the company depends on algorithms to check on such things as decency, and while a computer program might think “Auschwitz” is a valid word and “ornament” meets a test, the program lacks the morality smarts to see what happens if they both are in the same sentence.
Why stop with the Holocaust? How about ornaments with children being forcibly separated from the migrant parents, or images of homeless and hungry people, or victims of Syrian and Turkish chemical attacks, or celebrate lynchings throughout the South and the North?
What I see here are signs that the desire for iconoclasm in supporting “populist” candidates willing to overthrow tradition in government, in science-based knowledge, of perceived “cultural elites” are growing to dangerous levels, spreading hate in frustration. It’s not new in history.
I see the effects of a society that is moving so fast with technology that we are forgetting that technology is meant to help fulfill our needs, not serve itself. The neighborhood store selling Christmas ornaments would know what it has on the shelf for sale.
I’m seeing cable news reporters asked to tell us about court decisions before they even have read them, for example. Just yesterday I heard at least two different reports about a space station repair that newscasters not only could not identify, but apparently had lost the ability or professional interest to Google the name before trying to pronounce it or describe it.
Where does the hate in these ornaments come from and who believes they should be making a buck off hate.
We need to ask ourselves, our companies, our political leadership — and tell them to knock it off.