While small businesses have been devastated by lockdowns — Yelp estimates that 60 percent of closed local businesses will remain shuttered for good—Amazon, the world’s second-largest online retailer doubled its profits from the previous timeframe last year, raking in a record $5.2 billion over a six-month period.
That’s not too surprising, particularly following a holiday season filled with front-door deliveries rather than trips to the local mall. But what would come as a shock to most Americans is what Amazon is doing — and failing to do — with its considerable cashflow. Even though it is one of the most powerful companies in the world, profiting off every conceivable demographic and political persuasion, Amazon continues to allow itself to be bullied by online activists and fringe groups that are solely committed to the censorship and destruction of their political enemies. Amazon isn’t alone, as social media giants began their purge of conservative accounts in earnest last Friday night.
A regular target of the cancel culture mob, Amazon was maneuvered into a series of disturbing censorship decisions in 2020. Most prominently, Amazon blocked an ad promoting a book by Abigail Shrier titled Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters.
Amazon later rejected a documentary by Stanford University Hoover Institute fellow Shelby Steele called What Killed Michael Brown, which presents a unique perspective on the 2014 police-involved incident that sparked the Black Lives Matter movement. In both cases, Amazon eventually reversed course amid public backlash.
But this willingness to cave to the ideological purists that increasingly define the “woke” movement is perhaps most damaging at AmazonSmile. Designed to give Amazon customers a choice as to which charity can benefit from their own purchases, AmazonSmile has facilitated $215 million in giving since its launch in 2015. These donations are directed by Amazon’s customers, who determine what cause they want to support. Even so, Amazon limits these charitable choices by continuing to rely on the highly discredited Southern Poverty Law Center as the program’s gatekeeper.
The SPLC has thoroughly discredited itself in recent years, cashing in all its decades-old legal victories to “destroy” political opponents, even when the beliefs of these organizations are mainstream and peaceful. Even at its best, the SPLC’s role in AmazonSmile’s selection process is a glaring conflict of interest, since the SPLC is a leading recipient of funds generated by the program.
But the SPLC is not at its best. Far from it. All sides of the political spectrum have been warning for years that SPLC has become, as even Politico has acknowledged, “more of a partisan progressive hit operation than a civil rights watchdog.” The SPLC’s subjective “hate map” is based on its own biased and ideologically driven definition of “hate group” as part of a “highly profitable scam” aimed at “bilking gullible Northern liberals,” as one former SPLC employee described it.
Relying solely on the SPLC’s baseless slander, AmazonSmile booted my organization, Alliance Defending Freedom, in 2018. Among the nation’s largest and most effective legal advocacy organizations dedicated to protecting the religious freedom and free speech rights of all Americans, ADF’s record includes 11 Supreme Court victories since 2011 and over 400 victories in court protecting the free speech rights of students on college campuses.
Yet, activists are still not satisfied with Amazon’s complicity in viewpoint discrimination. In fact, they’re insatiable. As a recent hit piece by openDemocracy makes clear, the left’s next objective is to ban—among others—the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which was founded by its namesake in 1950 and “exists to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
This July, CEO Jeff Bezos acknowledged to Congress that Amazon’s use of the SPLC “hate group” list to determine which nonprofits can participate in AmazonSmile is “an imperfect system.” He also stated that he “would like a better source if [he] can get it.” Following Mr. Bezos’ testimony, members of Congress and a prominent group of Orthodox Jewish rabbis both issued public letters calling upon Amazon to stop relying on the SPLC. Any number of these letters offered Amazon these “better sources,” including the U.S. government itself; if a charity is accepted by the IRS, that should be good enough for Amazon, too.
Since then, it’s been nothing but crickets from Amazon. But Mr. Bezos’ corporation is out of excuses. Amazon has grown exponentially throughout the past year, even while so many small- and medium-range businesses have shut their doors for good.
Amazon has massive economic power and influence at its disposal. Now more than ever, Amazon has a duty to fairly protect the interests of all its customers. That starts with treating the SPLC as the year gone by — a relic of the past, consigned to the dust bin of history. And good riddance.