March 17, 2017
Amazon and Breitbart, sittin’ in a tree
by Ian Dreiblatt
We’ve had a lot of bad things to say about Amazon over the years—consummately, they’re fuckers—but we have not, until now, had much cause to bemoan their connection to white supremacy.
Welcome to 2017. Please make yourself comfortable.
Amazon entered the year in a haze of opprobrium (and some legal issues) over their refusal to stop selling Holocaust denial books that pander to antisemites. (A word to the wise: if you ever find yourself in a conversation defending uncertainty over the proposition that “the Holocaust both occurred and was regrettable,” you’ve made some poor choices.)
Now they’re under fire again, this time from Sleeping Giants, an anonymous group whose mission is to deprive Breitbart.com of much-needed revenue by using facts, encouragements, and pressure to nudge their advertisers into leaving. (If you’re lucky enough not to know, Breitbart is a heinous website, a gurgling protein stew that in recent years has coughed up the DNA of white nationalism’s most prevalent current iteration — a fun, low-cal variety that brands itself “the alt-right,” since, pace Amazon, “actual Nazism” has taken on a bad connotation.)
In what a spokesperson, with admirable directness, last week called Sleeping Giants’ “anti-bigotry campaign,” it has shone a particularly bright light on Amazon, whose ads run on Breitbart all the damn time. (Seriously, take a look.) The group is circulating a petition directed to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, which is nearing its 300,000th signature. They’re also leading protests on social media, which go a little like this: Get a screenshot of something odious on Breitbart aligned with an Amazon ad — this is disconcertingly easy (which is sort of the whole point). Then tweet the image at Amazon, tagging any other relevant person (say, the decidedly awesome Jill Soloway, who created the series Transparent for Amazon Studios, is currently adapting Chris Kraus’s epochal I Love Dick for the studio, and cannot possibly be cool with the stuff Breitbart publishes). A sampling (if you’re upset by misogyny, transphobia, or bad fashion, maybe skip past the jump, because trust me this is vile):
Not to mention
Amazon does not seem to have addressed the questions about its connections to white supremacists. Some Sleeping Giants organizers claim the company has gone so far as to summarily disconnect customers who ask about Breitbart over live chat.
Steve Bannon, a former executive chair at Breitbart, currently serves as the US’s first-ever White House Chief Strategist, having hopped aboard the SS Trump for the thrill of skirting icebergs, and stayed for the joy of watching humanity drown. Recently, Amazon has been working to turn a heretofore troubled relationship with Trump into a more productive one with his administration. When the impossible happened last November, Bezos was among the first of America’s corporate leaders to congratulate the president-elect, and he received his reward when, a couple weeks later, he was briefly invited within puckering range of the Executive Cheeks. As the excellent April Glaser has pointed out, the company’s plans moving forward involve a lot of deliveries by drone aircraft, which means that their future success may to some degree depend on successful cooperation with Trump’s Federal Aviation Administration. It all adds up to a funky situation.
How this ends is anybody’s guess, but Sleeping Giants reports it has already convinced more than 1,500 companies to stop advertising with Breitbart, which, as the mathematicians say, ain’t half bad. In the meantime, here’s something to rinse your eyes with:
Ian Dreiblatt is the director of digital media at Melville House.