Amazon Gay Book Screwup An Honest Mistake?

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We weren’t quite fast enough here on the Riff to get on this story when it first broke, but it was all over the Twitter. Shoppers (and authors) had started noticing that gay- and lesbian-themed books were getting stuck on the virtual bottom shelf at Amazon.com recently, with titles from Giovanni’s Room to Brokeback Mountain getting slapped with an “adult” label. This apparently made them harder to find in searches and stripped them of their all-important Amazon sales rankings. Well, as queers are well aware, having any mention of our existence deemed Not Safe For Kids is one of the most troubling aspects of homophobia, so this understandably ticked a lot of people off. But Amazon’s explanation is calming things down a bit, and proves the maxim, “When in doubt, blame France”:

Amazon managers found that an employee who happened to work in France had filled out a field incorrectly and more than 50,000 items got flipped over to be flagged as “adult,” the source said. (Technically, the flag for adult content was flipped from ‘false’ to ‘true.’)

Mais pourquoi?!! Now, one of course wishes to give the online retailer and its clearly drunk French employees the benefit of the doubt, and it turns out many other not-exactly-adult titles were stuck in the back room, including, as Amazon put it, titles in “Mind & Body, Reproductive & Sexual Medicine, and Erotica.” But, uh, Erotica seems like it might actually deserve to be called “adult,” doesn’t it? And it still doesn’t answer why so many queer-themed titles got called naughty, and not, say, American Psycho (which, as the New York Times pointed out, had no problem keeping its sales rank). All I know is, Amazon better get this figured out quick, because they do not want to lose my Christmas present business. I have seven nieces and nephews!


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WHO DOESN’T LOVE A POSITIVE STORY—OR TWO?

“Great journalism really does make a difference in this world: it can even save kids.”

That’s what a civil rights lawyer wrote to Julia Lurie, the day after her major investigation into a psychiatric hospital chain that uses foster children as “cash cows” published, letting her know he was using her findings that same day in a hearing to keep a child out of one of the facilities we investigated.

That’s awesome. As is the fact that Julia, who spent a full year reporting this challenging story, promptly heard from a Senate committee that will use her work in their own investigation of Universal Health Services. There’s no doubt her revelations will continue to have a big impact in the months and years to come.

Like another story about Mother Jones’ real-world impact.

This one, a multiyear investigation, published in 2021, exposed conditions in sugar work camps in the Dominican Republic owned by Central Romana—the conglomerate behind brands like C&H and Domino, whose product ends up in our Hershey bars and other sweets. A year ago, the Biden administration banned sugar imports from Central Romana. And just recently, we learned of a previously undisclosed investigation from the Department of Homeland Security, looking into working conditions at Central Romana. How big of a deal is this?

“This could be the first time a corporation would be held criminally liable for forced labor in their own supply chains,” according to a retired special agent we talked to.

Wow.

And it is only because Mother Jones is funded primarily by donations from readers that we can mount ambitious, yearlong—or more—investigations like these two stories that are making waves.

About that: It’s unfathomably hard in the news business right now, and we came up about $28,000 short during our recent fall fundraising campaign. We simply have to make that up soon to avoid falling further behind than can be made up for, or needing to somehow trim $1 million from our budget, like happened last year.

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