As Jason L. Riley opined in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week:
If this episode sounds familiar, it’s because Amazon pulled a similar stunt last fall. Eli Steele’s “What Killed Michael Brown?”—a critique of liberal social policies that was written and narrated by his father, the race scholar Shelby Steele—was slated to stream on Amazon in October, then held up for reasons the company never fully explained. Amazon eventually relented and made the film available, but only after these pages weighed in and made a fuss.
The movie certainly wasn't removed for lack of demand. Riley continued:
Mr. Pack said that “Created Equal” was doing well on Amazon, so it wasn’t pulled because no one wanted to see it. “For a while our film was, briefly, No. 1 in documentaries. And I think it’s still No. 25 or 30, so it’s been selling,” he said. Notably, he added, less-popular documentaries about Anita Hill and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg continue to be available for streaming on Amazon. “So why don’t they offer ‘Created Equal’? There’s obviously customer demand.”
There seems to be plenty of demand these days for positive assessments of black conservatives, even while one of the country’s most popular streaming services is ambivalent about showcasing them. In addition to Messrs. Pack’s and Steele’s documentaries, the past year has brought Larry Elder’s “Uncle Tom,” which is about the treatment of blacks who challenge liberal orthodoxy, as well as “Thomas Sowell: Common Sense in a Senseless World,” a profile of the Hoover Institution economist narrated by yours truly.
"Created Equal" has even skyrocketed to the top of the iTunes charts since it was removed.
"Created Equal," the documentary about Justice Thomas, has risen to #2 on iTunes after being inexplicably removed from Amazon's streaming service. 👏 pic.twitter.com/FzbGQBMiwW— Carrie Severino (@JCNSeverino) March 5, 2021
Perhaps the worst part about Amazon's decision to remove the documentary is that it did so during Black History Month. Justice Thomas is the most prominent black conservative in the United States, and his inspiring rise from poverty in the Jim Crow era South to the Supreme Court should be celebrated:
“The spectrum of thought amongst African-Americans is and has always been much broader and multifarious than commonly perceived,” the black legal scholar Randall Kennedy wrote in a recent essay for Heterodox Academy. “Fervent debates about scores of subjects—indeed every imaginable subject—have roiled African-Americans ideologically: accommodation versus protest; interracial socialism versus black nationalism; Gandhian non-violence versus ‘by any means necessary,’ support for affirmative action versus detestation of ‘lowered standards,’ ‘integration’ versus ‘black power.’ ”
One reason for this misperception is Black History Month, whose emphasis is on celebrating the achievements of blacks who fit a liberal narrative while ignoring or minimizing the achievements of those who don’t. If you are a prominent black figure who has been more focused on black development than on black victimhood (Clarence Thomas, Shelby Steele, Robert Woodson), or someone who is more interested in the results of a policy than in its intentions (Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams), there is an attempt to write you out of black history. Wittingly or not, Amazon has used its power to abet this effort.
It remains to be seen whether Amazon will add "Created Equal" back to the platform like "What Killed Michael Brown?" eventually was. But for now, the documentary is the latest example of Amazon's willingness to suppress ideas it doesn't agree with.