Wednesday, May 21, 2014

KC Johnson on William D. Cohan's Whining against Free Speech on Amazon

A sample:

Having departed Bloomberg View for the Huffington Post, Cohan used his inaugural HuffPost column to again ostensibly comment on a policy issue but mostly to discuss The Price of Silence. The column’s arresting title: “How Much Freedom of Speech Is Too Much?”
Cohan offered three examples of an allegedly disturbing trend of excessive free speech. One was a lawsuit from Virginia, involving allegedly defamatory statements made about the work of a contractor. The second was a lawsuit from Oregon, involving allegedly defamatory statements made about the work of a contractor. The third was the fate of “authors whose books appear for sale on Amazon and then quickly get reviewed by an increasingly large army of people who seem to have nothing better to do with their time.” It appears as if Cohan’s chief interest is the fate of one author in particular: William D. Cohan. He mentions no other Amazon author in his column.

It’s hard to imagine any neutral readers will come away from Cohan’s column jumping on the anti-free speech bandwagon. The author, in any event, comes across as obsessed with Amazon—the column is at least the third time he’s complained about the site’s reviews, even as many of the negative reviews are quite detailed and clearly come from people who are engaging with his book’s claims. In a surprising tactical move, he even confesses to having contacted Amazon, to inquire about an unspecified number of negative reviews (or what he deems “clearly biased reviews”) being taken down. He gives no indication of having demanded that Amazon remove positive reviews from people who admitted not having read the book. Amazon unsurprisingly rebuffed Cohan’s complaint. . . .
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In the end, though, Cohan perhaps unintentionally reveals his chief concern. The reviews, he laments, show that “the market’s verdict has been rendered: this is a two-star book, not worthy of a moment’s consideration.”

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