By Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas.
On the floor of the U.S. Senate, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., delivered an impassioned speech Tuesday that was critical of Amazon’s censorship of a book that expresses a widely held, commonsense view of gender. A lightly edited transcript follows.
Most Americans know that there are two sexes, male and female, and that sex is rooted in science.
Most Americans also know that we ought to treat all people, including those who feel conflicted about their gender, with respect and dignity, without sacrificing the truth in the process.
These beliefs, though, are now under attack from some of the most powerful corporations in the history of the world.
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Just a few weeks ago, while House Democrats were passing their far-left Equality Act and the left-wing media [were] busy canceling Dr. Seuss, Amazon quietly erased a book from its online store.
Without notice, without warning, without explanation, that book is “When Harry Became Sally: Responding To the Transgendered Moment” by Ryan Anderson.
Now, Amazon claims it banned this book for violating its brand new policy on hate speech. Of course, that excuse is arbitrary and patently false. Right now, you can go to Amazon on your phone or on your computer and buy copies of actually hateful books.
You can get [Adolf] Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” shipped to your door with free Amazon Prime delivery. You can get the Unabomber manifesto written by a serial killer who murdered three people and maimed 23 others. You can even get “How to Blow Up a Pipeline.” I assume the title speaks for itself.
All those books are available for purchase on Amazon right now, one click away, but Amazon wants you to believe that a conservative book is somehow beyond the pale, unacceptably hateful, literally worse than Hitler, as they like to say.
My office asked Amazon to send us the exact passages from “When Harry Became Sally” that it deemed so hateful that it couldn’t even sell the book on [its] website. Shocking surprise, I know, they never got back to us. That’s because the book doesn’t say anything hateful.
To the contrary, the book makes very clear that we should treat people who feel conflicted about their gender with the same respect and compassion that are due to all people. To quote the author, “We should have abundant compassion and charity and patience with people who feel this form of alienation. But we also need to insist on telling the truth.”
That’s not hate. It’s far from it.
The author’s real offense—his only offense—was telling the truth. He said calmly and compassionately that boys are boys and girls are girls. And the richest man in the world banned his book from his company’s platform.
But, of course, you don’t have to agree with the commonsense, historic understanding of gender in order to acknowledge how dangerous it is for one of the biggest corporations in the history of the world to start banning books.
Because while Amazon’s censorship may start with conservative views, it could easily mutate to censor other views that offend [owner] Jeff Bezos and his bottom line.
Perhaps, Amazon will come after union organizers next, since they’re trying to bust up a union election in Alabama. Or maybe environmental activists, or maybe trust-busters, since so many people are talking about potential antitrust violations in the world of big tech.
And even if … Amazon goes only this far and no farther, the damage to free speech has already been done.
Books like “When Harry Became Sally” won’t get published anymore. Writers who hold unfashionable opinions that just a few days ago were considered basic mainstream views of a large majority of Americans may decide to self-censor and stay silent.
The virtual book-burning may spread to other companies. Maybe Amazon will put a book-burning app on its Kindle, so readers can drag books from its catalog into the virtual bonfire.
Political correctness will only grow more oppressive if its enforcers like Amazon don’t face some consequences for their actions. Amazon, for instance, makes billions of dollars a year, each year, hosting websites and storing data for their government.
Almost all of Amazon’s profit is made in these enterprise services, not in its consumer-facing retail business. And those are our tax dollars flowing to a company that uses its power to censor the beliefs of a large majority of Americans. Perhaps it’s time for lawmakers to reconsider whether these contracts are in the best interests of our country.
Also note that Amazon is the country’s largest bookseller, selling three out of every four e-books in America. Maybe it’s time for lawmakers to evaluate whether Amazon’s practices are consistent with our antitrust laws, or whether antitrust laws need to be updated to address this type of behavior from a monopolistic firm.
We better hurry though, because maybe they will ban all books on antitrust and monopoly behavior before we have a chance to study the question.
I’ll close by quoting from the book that Amazon banned, which predicted the very events we’re witnessing here today:
If trans activists succeed in their political agenda, our nation’s children will be indoctrinated in a harmful ideology and some will live by its own lies about their own bodies at great harm to themselves, physically, psychologically, and socially.
Lives will be ruined, but pointing out the damage will be forbidden. Dissent from the transgender worldview will be punished in schools, workplaces, and medical clinics.
Trying to live in accordance with the truth will be made harder.
This is not a fight over hate or bigotry, respect, or compassion. It’s a battle over truth itself. The truth of who we are as human beings and the fundamental freedom to speak that truth or any other truth, without fear.
Throughout our history, Americans have never surrendered to an oppressive tyranny of opinion, whether a majority, or in this case, a small but highly influential minority. And we won’t be cowed into silence today.
We will fight for what’s true. We will fight for the freedom to say it. And no matter what the cultural forces arrayed against us do, we will never back down.