Code Girls Review: Politically Correct Thinking

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I had an all-time first, Gentle Reader.

I make it a point never to review a book I do not like. For one thing, if I don’t like a book, I almost certainly won’t finish it, so how can I possibly critique it?

Beyond that, serious writing, like any creative endeavor, is extremely difficult, while critiquing is all too often a purely destructive act that is far too easy. There are probably many more moronic reviews than there are moronic books, and that’s saying something.

So, if I review a book on this website, it’s because I thought it worthy of your attention. And for the same reason, I routinely post my reviews on Goodreads and on Amazon.

The review in the post immediately preceding this one, a somewhat personal review of Liza Mundy’s Code Girls (the exceptional historical and feminist look at the unsung heroes—or heroines, if you want to get all John Wayne about it—of World War Two) was as positive as I can get. Nor did I consider it offensive in any way: no full-frontal nudity, no explicit threats of violence or mayhem, no advocating wholesale lynching on Capitol Hill (which might just qualify as common sense these days). So picture my confusion when almost instantaneously, literally within probably less than two minutes, I received an email from Amazon telling me my review had violated their guidelines and would not be posted.

Mystified, I reviewed the guidelines and reviewed my review. Nothing. Nor were there any hints in Amazon’s email that might suggest which guideline(s) I had violated. The company apparently adheres to the old adage, “Never apologize, never explain.” (An adage variously attributed to a nineteenth-century Oxford professor, who supposedly added, “Get it over with and let them howl,” and at the other end of the continuum to the authors of the John Wayne movie, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, where the Duke adds, “It’s a sign of weakness.”)

I asked my bride to read the post and give me a lead. Darleen suggested that perhaps, because I discuss encryption and cryptanalysis and the teams that did that work during World War Two, I had somehow tripped some algorithm set up by Amazon and, oh, I don’t know, the NSA or something. After all, the notice came far too quickly for a human to have read the review.

This struck me as extremely unlikely. For one thing, if the NSA hasn’t anything better to do than monitoring scruffy little websites like mine, I would suggest we could make a serious reduction in the national budget deficit by getting rid of that agency entirely and firing everyone there for wasting their time and our money. For another, I doubt very much if the NSA and Amazon are in bed together.

But Darleen’s suggestion led me in the wrong direction, and it wasn’t until last night, in the shower, that the truth came to me.

In the review, I quote the title of the John Lennon song, Woman is the Nigger of the World. And I will give you eight-to-five, Gentle Reader, that is why the review was rejected.

If I am correct, it is proof of the idiocy of politically correct group-think algorithms and politically correct thinking of any kind. For one thing, the lyrics of the song are extremely apposite to the theme of Ms. Mundy’s book. Read both. For another, the title phrase of the song, which is also the hook, was coined by Yoko Ono, who gave credit for it to black author Zora Neale Hurston. (It is actually, if I have my facts right, a distillation of two sentences in Hurston’s novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God.) And finally, if I am right about why Amazon felt my review violated their guidelines, it—Amazon—is supremely hypocritical, given that they sell Lennon’s album, Some Time in New York City, and list Woman Is the Nigger of the World, as the first track, clearly and unapologetically, right there on their own website. They also offer the song for sale as a single. No hypocrisy there, by golly, but I’ll bet that’s the reason.

Eight-to-five? Hell, make it seven-to-one.

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28 thoughts on “Code Girls Review: Politically Correct Thinking”

  1. Oh blimey!
    I’ve been reviewing books for at least a decade and I’d never had a review rejected by amazon until today. Like you, I was soundly rejected very quickly and without any real reason. I re-read the terms and nothing violated them.
    But I showed amazon. I did. I plastered that review all over Goodreads, Twitter, and Facebook.
    Maybe you angered the beast? Hahahahahaha

    Oh the book I reviewed? You might have heard of it, An Accidental Cowboy.

  2. I think it was really stupid for Amazon not to show your review. The most frustrating thing is on both Amazon and Facebook you can’t talk to a real person. They don’t even go into any detail about why a review can’t be showed. The same thing happens on Facebook. They just close your account no explanation. Most recent thing to happen on Facebook, is they just banned video of Dimond&Silk two black women claiming they are unsafe for the community. This is all silly. Melissa SD
    http://www.theamericanmirror.com/facebook-penalizes-pro-trump-diamond-silk-deems-duo-unsafe-to-the-community/

  3. Oh, Mr. Parker,
    You’ve set off the political correctness sensors and said a word from the list! I’m sure you are right that the song title is what did it, and how ridiculous, given that as you say, they sell the song, and you even used quotes! You would think the quotation marks might trigger some kind of recognition that it might be a reference or quote rather than a slur. Think if you tried to write a review of the song, or describe it as part of an album review. How would you refer to it? Looking at the lyrics, I see why you mentioned that particular song and I bet John Lennon would have found their censorship ridiculous. It’s too bad because you included a moving and truly remarkable bit of memoir in a positive review. A world without context!
    -Jennifer Mayberry

  4. That’s crazy man. Who knew your review would cause such a ruckus. Unfortunately you are probably right about Amazon not ‘apporving’ the song title. Double standard. shameful.
    Cheers,
    MH

  5. Herr Parker… man könnte nur verständnislos mit dem Kopf schütteln, wenn sich Ihre Vermutung bestätigen würde, dass die Veröffentlichung Ihrer eingesendeten Buch-Rezension durch Amazon an einem Zitat mit dem in der heutigen Zeit bösen “N…..-Wort” verweigert wurde …. (meine Meinung: oft wird ungerechterweise mit dem sogenannten “Zweierlei Maß” gerechnet, das heißt, was in einem Moment für den Einen erlaubt ist, ist es für den Anderen noch lange nicht, in diesem Fall…die einen dürfen eben die CD`s mit dem bestimmten bösen enthaltenen “N…-Wort” verkaufen/anbieten, aber Ihre Rezension wird nicht veröffentlicht)…. Mein Vorschlag, um Gewissheit zu bekommen: …Amazon kontaktieren und nach dem Grund fragen (wenn noch nicht geschehen) oder die Buch-Rezension so gekonnt und diplomatisch wie möglich umschreiben (auch, wenn es dann leider kein Zitat mehr wäre, aber den Zweck würde es erfüllen)….dann könnten Sie sehen, ob Ihre Vermutung stimmen würde….einen Versuch wäre es auf jeden Fall Wert…..Viele Grüße Manuela

  6. Next thing you know the PC Police will be tearing down historical monuments and abolishing history that they don’t like… …. oh wait, that’s already happened.

    TD Bauer
    Wisconsin

  7. So I was reading this last night. While reading it I actually bit the bullet and purchased Dancing with the Dead since the only thing I seem to read every day is this blog.

    There are many examples of items on Amazon that utilize the ‘n’ word in content or title that drive revenue. But the reviews are posted as a service and in much greater volume so I would think it makes sense that they might have broad rules that differ in reviews vs content. They also have content for sale that you might consider objectionable such as things that contain full-frontal nudity, explicit threats of violence and mayhem, and lynching along with the “c”, “f”, “b” and other words people find objectionable.

    Don’t you screen out replies that contain content you find objectionable?

    I say this with love and respect. Fan for life.
    Ken from Dallas
    PS. You might try reposting the review without the ‘n’ word and see.

    1. Ken,
      Thank you for the kind words; they are much appreciated.
      I hope you will enjoy “Dancing with the Dead.” For the record, I fell in love with both my protagonists, a not uncommon event with writers. I also had great difficulty getting the book published. I was told no one reads novellas these days (the man who told me that apparently forgot about Denis Johnson’s “Train Dreams,” which was nominated for a Pulitzer), that it was too literate, that it would offend black readers because I wrote half the book from the point of view of a pre-Civil Rights era black man from Mississippi (no one seemed offended that I wrote the other half from the point of view of an elderly British lady from Argentina), and finally that what really sells these days is celebrity cook books and self-help books. (Stay tuned for mine: the title will be, “How to Find Nirvana by Baking Marijuana Brownies. That should sell.)
      I actually only screen out content that is: 1) an unintelligent re-circulating of lies told by anti-gun organizations, lies already refuted so many times as to no longer be amusing for their ignorance; 2) gratuitous obscenity so mundane it does not inspire me to amuse myself by ridiculing the writer; 3) ad hominem attacks equally mundane; 4) America-bashing attacks, which I will not tolerate. But other than those, if someone wishes to disagree with me in an intelligent and coherent manner, I post it.
      Unfortunately, Amazon’s automated AI (I assume) message to me included a notice informing me I would be banned from publishing any other reviews of “that product,” a phrase whose use tells me it is primarily used for reviews of things other than books. Why they do it that way is almost as mystifying as their use of an algorithm that is incapable of recognizing the difference between a crude insult and the title of a song, or the title of a book (hint: think Joseph Conrad) or possibly even the use of a Scandinavian word for a cheapskate. Better we should all live and die in ignorance than risk offending anyone.
      JP

      1. Dear JP, Ken from Dallas here again.
        I can’t argue with your logic.
        Your case is well articulated and your logic is sturdy and sound.
        But I do ask that maybe you give Amazon a little slack.
        The idea that the AI might discern the difference between a good, intelligent quote and that of a low brow racial epithet is a bit difficult at this point. Yes, they can be better and maybe in the future they will. But as long as they publish your books I’m happy.

        In an ADHD world a novella might just be what we need.
        Ken from Dallas
        PS
        Had you never done anything on television or this blog in the past and had just written the line “gratuitous obscenity so mundane it does not inspire me to amuse myself by ridiculing the writer” you would be my hero.

        Love your words and how you use them.

        1. JP,
          Finished the book and absolutely adored it. Amazon graciously accepted my review of it. You are the best.
          As I have mentioned on your blog before of all the great actors on Simon & Simon you are in my top 5.
          Best wishes. Ken from Dallas.

          1. Thank you for the kind words here, and thank you especially for the kind review on Amazon. How to successfully market books is one of those mysteries no one seems to have solved. Publishing conglomerates spend small fortunes on certain books they think will canter easily to the top of the NY Times Bestseller list, only to have those books fade away, while other books seem to take the country by storm with no PR at all. The only thing everyone agrees on is that word of mouth is the ultimate sales tool; how to get word of mouth is another matter, but every review helps, and I appreciate very much your taking the time to write and post one.
            JP

      2. Herr Parker, ich möchte echt mal wissen, wer Ihnen denn Obszönitäten zusendet ? Die Leute kennen Sie doch gar nicht persönlich , um sich derart daneben zu benehmen ! Was hat der oder die jenigen denn davon ??? Ich hoffe es sind nicht zu viele derer, die keinen Anstand beigebracht bekommen haben…Ich wünsche Ihnen alles Glück der Welt und Gott schütze Sie . …Würden die Menschen alle etwas netter miteinander umgehen, dann wäre es in der Welt doch alles viel schöner und viel freundlicher…. Manuela …. JP, hören Sie bitte niemals auf zu schreiben !!!!!!

  8. (Please don’t publish this one! I rewrote my review of your book An Accidental Cowboy. Then I posted it on amazon.com and it was accepted. There was too much me in the review and it was really more a review of my reaction to the book (can we say over the top fan-girl???) than a real review. So the new review is up and linked on the old review.)

    Virginia

      1. That’s a great book review. Nicely done, Virginia! if you ever run into any of those celebrities share the stories.

        I’ve bumped into a few over the years accidentally, Sam Shephard is the one that I always recall with fond memories…. and Jessica Lange when she almost ran me over in Stillwater MN near the old Freight House Pub 20+ years ago.

        Getting a review for a book is like pulling teeth. Not just any teeth, teeth from a hungry lion when all you have is a tweezers.

        TD Bauer
        Wisconsin

        1. JP and TD,
          You both BLESS me so much!!

          Since I live in a wild and still so-frozen plains state (NE) I highly doubt I’ll ever get the chance to meet anyone on my very short list of “celebrities”.
          This isn’t to say I’ve not met some. I’ve schlepped former Miss America Theresa Scanlon around town, former World Champion Steer Wrestler, Dean Gorsuch is a member of my church (haha! That’s funny, My church..). I literally bounced off the chest of former Nebraska governor Bob Kerrey. It was in the grocery store, I rounded an aisle as he rounded the next one, he down at me with disdain, “Short little girls (I was 20 something) should learn to watch where they’re going!” I never did vote for him. 🙂

          TD, if you’re an author looking for reviewers, hit me up. (Well not literally!) I work with several authors/publishers as a reviewer.

          1. Great review! Once at a walking into a restaurant in CA on Ventura Blvd, I saw Kevin
            Costner. When I worked at Six Flag ‘s one time Rod Stewart on Roaring Rapid’s went by me and waved. I also strapped in Steve Garvey, the baseball player from the Dodgers on the ride, “ Freefall.”
            My best friend’s dad is wrote, “ Incense of Peppermint” and is in the band the band Strawberry Alarm Clock. Very nice guy runs a tropical fish store. Doesn’t make money from song now lawyers get it. Today in my area, and many parts of South Dakota are going to have a blizzard. We are expecting 8 to 12 inches of snow. Hopefully the cows across the state won’t have a problem. MelissaSD

          2. Melissa,
            My uncle lived in Long Beach for a number of years and he saw Delta Burke once. Knowing how much my mother liked her, Steve determined to get an autograph. My uncle is an introvert’s introvert and incredibly shy, add to that mix a speech impediment and you have a near disaster waiting to happen. Steve approached Delta and made his request, but his shyness made him ask in a hoarse whisper which was not heard. So he leaned in closer and still barely whispered. This happened several times with him leaning in closer with each request. Just before he worked up the nerve to ask in an audible voice, he glanced to the side and saw a man we all affectionately refer to as “Mackie”. Well Mackie was, in Steve’s eyes, giving him the stink eye to end all stink eyes. Steve was sure he was about to be pummeled to death, so he hastily made his request again, and with the autograph in hand he left.
            Ginny

          3. Ginny und Melissa…wisst ihr, wen ich mir einmal wünschte im Leben begegnen zu können…. ratet mal …. na …. ja genau …. ihr kennt ihn alle… …Herrn Jameson Parker … er war einer der begabtesten Schauspieler und ist ein großartiger Autor …. euch allen einen schönen sonnigen Tag …. Manuela

          4. Wow, thanks for the offer – I used to dabble in writing, but I didn’t have a knack for it, just a desire to mess around. I self published a couple serial shorts and a novella to test the waters on Amazon and Smashwords. It was fun but more of a passing fancy. I have some pretty good reviews over on Amazon.

            TD Bauer
            Wisconsin

          5. Scanlon, Gorsuch, the Midwest down on main street, the Mixing Bowl, Legacy of the Plains,Laramie Peak on a clear day and wind,wind,wind pinpoints your home base to this fellow Nebraskan.

            Fancy meeting you on this California country road of conservative politics and fabulous wordsmithing.

            As for celebrities…
            As close as I’ve ever gotten was visiting with the horse and wagon wranglers working for the Coen Bros on their project north of town.

          6. Ack! I hate that we’re all anonymous here…someone else is from my area of Nebraska.

            This infernal wind and bitter cold has this 4-season loving woman longing to fulfill a childhood dream and move to San Diego.

            Hahahaha, I’m so sorry, JP, we seem to have gotten a bit off the topic of your blog post.

            I am muddling my way through A Passage to India, can we still be friends if I don’t like Forester? It might be an easier to read if I possessed even a rudimentary knowledge/understanding of India in the 1920s or someone who has read it and understands the book to read it with me and explain what the heck is going on.
            The characters are so one-dimensional. I know that’s rather indicative of all novels written in that time period but good heavens! Do they all need the same voice? (I’m currently on chapter 14.)
            My favorite scene so far is the conversation between Aziz and Fielding when Aziz shows him the photo of his wife and Aziz says, “All men are my brothers, and as soon as one behaves as such he may see my wife.”

    1. ….einfach stark die Bewertung (…dank Google -Übersetzer konnte ich es lesen)…jetzt bin ich erst recht unendlich traurig, dass es Ihre Bücher, Herr Parker, nicht in deutscher Übersetzung gibt und total sauer auf mich selbst, dass mein Englisch dafür einfach zu schlecht ist, ich könnte echt heulen …. Manuela

      1. Ginny, Your story made smile. I am sure that your mom cherished the autograph. Haven’t seen any actors in SD. Kevin Costner owned a casino in Deadwood he just sold it. I went there few times. Didn’t win anything. Nice casino. Good view. Melissa SD

  9. So, JP, do you think you will ever get an explanation and/or apology from anyone at Amazon? I think they owe you one, big-time!

    JK
    WI

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