Over 600 critiques pulled by mega-retailer for unexplained ‘bias’
Weeks after posting a 5-star rave of a new Bible book, Amazon.com banned this week one of its top 500 reviewers for “bias,” without further explanation and pulling more than 600 of his previous postings dating back to 2013.
The last book William Struse reviewed for Amazon was Joseph Farah’s highly acclaimed “The Gospel in Every Book of the Old Testament,” which has been called a “breakthrough Bible book,” released in a preview e-book version exclusively on Amazon Kindle and the WND Superstore before a scheduled hardcover debut in September.
Following an attempt to repost his glowing review, Struse received only this message from Amazon: “Sorry, we are unable to accept your review of this product. Your previous review of this product did not comply with our Customer Reviews Guidelines. Amazon does not permit reviews from customers whose relationship to the product or seller may be perceived as biased.”
Farah, meanwhile, sees the pulling of the review – along with all of Struse’s previous posts on Amazon – as evidence of anti-Christian religious bias on the part of the giant retailer, an accusation others have lodged recently.
“There’s something very strange happening at Amazon,” said Farah. “I do not believe this is some innocent misunderstanding or glitch. There’s a pattern developing here, and I believe it is associated with Amazon’s partnership with the Southern Poverty Law Center, a stridently anti-Christian, anti-conservative, anti-Farah, leftist extremist organization that not only provides content guidance to Amazon, but also to Google, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter – in other words, the entire Internet Cartel that is imposing its own cultural, spiritual and political worldview on online communications. This is just the latest example of many.”
Farah cites, as such an example, the Amazon Smile program that allows customers to donate a tiny fraction of their purchases to charities of their choice.
Recently, the Alliance Defending Freedom, which has won seven cases at the U.S. Supreme Court in the last seven years in defense of religious and civil rights, said it has been dropped from the Smile program because it has been labeled by the SPLC as a “hate group” for defending traditional marriage. ADF charged SPLC “exploits the terms ‘hate’ and ‘hate group’ against any organization it disagrees with.” SPLC’s hate list also was used by the charity-information site GuideStar, prompting lawsuits. The SPLC famously labeled Christian brain surgeon Dr. Ben Carson, a former presidential candidate and currently serving as secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, as an “extremist.” The SPLC was also tied to domestic terrorism through Floyd Corkins, who admitted to the FBI that he used the SPLC’s “hate map” to target the Family Research Council with a mass-murder attempt at the Christian organization’s Washington, D.C., headquarters. SPLC also was reprimanded by the administration of former President Barack Obama, and the Department of Defense and FBI have severed ties to the group.
The Internet Cartel of Amazon, Google, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook is at war with the independent media – especially the tip of the spear, WND, the first of the independent online newsgathering media. If you would like to support our battle to survive in the face of overwhelming opposition from these monopolistic mega-corporations, you can do so through your direct contributions.
In a letter of protest to Amazon, the ADF wrote: “If you are going to rely on a discredited partisan organization like the SPLC to determine who is eligible to participate in Amazon Smile, you should disclose that in your policy and to your customers,” ADF said. “Millions of Americans share our beliefs and thousands of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim religious organizations subscribe to them as well. … We want to secure the rights guaranteed in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution for every American. That’s why we defend people from many backgrounds and from many different walks of life, including artists, healthcare professionals, and university students.”
By contrast, the ADF told Amazon, the SPLC “would prefer to silence all opposing views, ridding the public square of civil discourse.”
“SPLC is not a neutral watchdog organization,” said Michael Farris, chief executive officer and chief counsel for ADF. “Instead, it raises money by slandering people and organizations who disagree with its views. ADF is one of the nation’s most respected and successful Supreme Court advocates, working to preserve our fundamental freedoms of speech, religion, and conscience for people from all walks of life. We would welcome the opportunity to meet with Amazon representatives to explain why they shouldn’t exclude us from the Amazon Smile program.”
Amazon did not respond to a WND request for comment about its association with the SPLC and accusations of anti-Christian bias.
Farah also points out that Amazon recently has been slow to request restocking of its Christian movies and books, preferring to place “out of stock” messages on sell pages for weeks at a time, negatively affecting sales of such books. Amazon currently controls about 50 percent of the book market in North America and a growing percentage globally. It is now in a position, Farah says, to “kill books and movies it doesn’t like. You might say this would be contrary to Amazon’s own financial interests, but Amazon, which is rapidly approaching monopoly status in e-commerce sales across the board, these revenues would amount to small potatoes. For a small, independent Christian-oriented company like WND, however, it is financially devastating.”
As for Struse, whose voluminous Christian book reviews have all been dumped by Amazon, he is devastated.
“I would just like to know why my reviews were taken down,” he told WND. “If I got crossways of their guidelines, I’d like the opportunity to correct my error.”
His only motivations for submitting reviews to Amazon since 2013 has been to keep current on biblical subjects of special interest to him, to sharpen his writing skills by taking on the complicated subject matter and distilling it in a concise fashion.
In 2014, he achieved a top 1,000 reviewer ranking at Amazon and last year reached the top 500 reviewer ranking on Amazon.
But, last month, on June 10, he posted his 5-star review of “The Gospel in Every Book of the Old Testament.” Last week, however, not only was that review pulled by Amazon, but so were all 622 others posted over the last five years.
“Just to see what would happen I tried writing a new test review of the Gospel book and I got the message about non-compliance with Amazon’s customer review guidelines,” he told WND. “To be clear, I have not written any book reviews or product reviews for compensation of any kind. A year or two ago, when Amazon still allowed it, I did write some reviews of free products, but I clearly stated that in the reviews as required by Amazon. Maybe it’s time to move on, but I’d just like to know, after all these years and over 600 reviews, what I did that provoked such drastic action on their part.”
As for the matter of bias, Struse and Farah both agree, it’s in the eye of the beholder.
“The idea that book reviews are non-biased is ridiculous, absurd, patently irrational,” says Farah. “Book reviews are totally 100 percent subjective, not objective. That’s the very nature of reviews. They represent someone’s personal opinion – just like a commentary. And when Amazon makes a decision to remove five years of book reviews in a sweeping action of this kind, that decision is clearly based on personal or corporate opinion that is a reflection of someone’s bias that cannot be measured or quantified. That Amazon thinks the SPLC is an unbiased resource to turn to on matters of content, that pretty much tells you all you need to know about the company’s corporate culture.”
Struse puts it this way: “In any case, it looks like I won’t be writing any more book reviews for Amazon. Kind of stinks. I purposely tried to be fair, even to those I disagree with. As far as bias goes. I guess since I’m a Christian author my reviews are considered biased.”
“There’s a quiet war being waged by Amazon, Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube against the independent media, voices of political incorrectness, plainspoken Christian orthodoxy and conservative views,” says Farah. “It’s a scorched-earth, take-no-prisoners conflict. It’s not going to stop without challenge, without oversight, without major pressure or action from the government. These institutions have become so powerful it threatens our heritage of free speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion. There needs to be accountability for this emerging cartel or the First Amendment will have no meaning in a future of digital communications controlled by a handful of mega-corporations that all employ patently extremist, narrow-minded content cops like the SPLC.”
If you would like to support WND’s “breakthrough Bible book,” you can make tax-deductible donations to support “The Gospel in Every Book of the Old Testament,” through the non-profit missions organization Gospel for All Nations. The book has received enthusiastic endorsements from Christian leaders and luminaries including Franklin Graham, Mike Huckabee, Greg Laurie, Eric Metaxas, Ben Kinchlow, Jack Van Impe, Ray Comfort, Chuck Norris, Pat Boone and dozens of others.
As a Christian reviewer specializing in books on the Bible, Struse had no connection with this book or Farah. While his review was, overall, were highly favorable, much of the substance dealt with what Struse perceived to be a technical error in his area of specialization in Second Temple-era history. Farah reached out to Struse after publication of the review for clarification of his point of contention, resulting in what will be a minor correction in the final hardcover and ebook version of the manuscript to be released in September. At WND’s request, Struse provided a copy of his review of “The Gospel in Every Book of the Old Testament,” which follows:
The Good News of the Kingdom
By William Struse
When the Bible talks about the kingdom of God what does it bring to mind? Is the kingdom as seen through the contextual lens of the Old Testament different than the kingdom Yeshua (Jesus) and the apostles talked about in New Testament?
These are questions that I’ve been thinking a lot about the past week as I’ve been reading Joseph Farah’s latest book, The Gospel in Every Book of the Old Testament.
In this book Mr. Farah takes the reader on a guided tour of all 39 books of the Old Testament with the goal of discovering what the Torah, Prophets, and Psalms have to say about the kingdom of God. Even for those well versed in the Old Testament I think you’ll be surprised at the depth and richness of the kingdom message that was preached centuries before Yeshua and the apostles walked this earth.
I was thrilled to see Mr. Farah highlight again and again how the Old Testament speaks of the promised “seed” who was to someday bless all nations of the earth, of a redemptive plan that didn’t end at the cross, of a sworn oath with Abraham that doesn’t result in unfulfilled promises to the children of Israel, and of a fallen creation that isn’t forgotten by its Creator.
If you are someone who doesn’t believe this passing vapor we call a life is all there is to our existence that I’d encourage you to explore with Mr. Farah what the Bible has to says about the kingdom of God.
Each chapter of this book was filled with excellent insights but several stood out to me:
In the book Mr. Farah quotes a lot of scripture and I found that satisfying. Mr. Farah’s thoughts are never the central focus of the book but rather the threads which connect and amplify the gospel message as he takes you on a unique guided tour of the Old Testament. This is a layman’s book, not because it doesn’t have intellectual muscle but because Mr. Farah lets the Biblical authors do the heavy lifting. From the outset you get a sense of humility and purpose bolstered by an unmistakable sense of wonder and awe.
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For the sake of accuracy there is one part of the book where I must offer a bit of respectful criticism. To most I know it will seem unworthy of mention but it’s an aspect of Biblical history that’s important to me and that has an overweight influence on how we see some of the most important prophesies in the Bible. I quote Mr. Farah from Chapter 15 – The Gospel in Ezra:
“What possessed Cyrus and, later, Darius and Artaxerxes – three Persian kings – to instigate and support another unlikely plan not only to resettle the children of Israel in their homeland but to finance the rebuilding of the temple?”
Here is what is wrong with the statement above. Based upon Ezra 6:14-15 Mr. Farah (like most of his peers) mistakenly assumes there were three Persian kings who helped “resettle” and “finance the rebuilding of the temple.” Taken in context of Ezra chapters 4-6 there were in fact only two kings and the living God of the Bible who were instrumental in the rebuilding of the temple. Here is the passage in question:
“And the elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they builded, and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia.
“And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king. Ezra 6:14-15.”
The text here clearly states that the temple was “builded” and “finished” by the commandment of Yahweh, Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes and that these activities where completed by the 6th year of Darius. A careful reading of the context of Ezra 1-6 clearly shows that only two Persian kings gave “commandments” related to the building and finishing of the temple by the 6th year of Darius. Remember we can’t just arbitrarily separated Ezra 6:14-15 from its larger Biblical context.
Who then is this “Artaxerxes”? If we take the Scripture at face value in context then this “Artaxerxes” just doesn’t fit. It doesn’t fit unless you understand a little known fact about Hebrew grammar. You see the Hebrew letter “waw” precedes the title “Artaxerxes” in Ezra 6:14. In most cases it is properly used as a conjunction denoting another person, place, or thing. But as most Hebrew lexicons acknowledge this Hebrew letter can also be used as a subordination or Hendiadys, i.e. the expression of a single idea by two words connected with “and”.
So instead of denoting three separate Persian kings Ezra 6:14 would more accurately be translated “…Cyrus, and Darius – even- Artaxerxes king of Persia.” Without taking liberties with the text and context of the passage there were only two Persian kings who gave commandments which “builded and finished” the temple of Yahweh by the 6th year of Darius.
This is important because as Ezra 6 describes, the temple was completed in the 6th year of Darius “even” Artaxerxes. Ezra 7 opens with Ezra on his way to Jerusalem to teach the people the Torah in the 7th year of “Artaxerxes”. Today most scholars insert nearly 60 years in-between Ezra 6 & 7 when the context simply does not support such a gap. According to the Bible, Darius was also known as Artaxerxes.
What most people don’t know is that this chronological gap between Ezra 6 & 7 and the misidentification of “Artaxerxes” in Ezra 7 is used as the foundation upon which nearly every modern day scholar calculates the “commandment to restore and build” found in the 70 “weeks” of Daniel 9, the Bible’s most important messianic prophecy. This error then requires us to believe Ezra was nearly a quarter century older than Moses, that many of the priests and Levites who came up under the decree of Cyrus where still alive and active nearly 100 years later during the reign of the Persian king Longimanus, and many similar assumptions which make a convoluted mess of the 2nd temple era chronology.
Now you might still think this is a minor mistake but frankly it is not. Today Daniel 9 and the 70 Weeks prophecy is the framework upon which nearly every one of the Bible’s future eschatological events are organized. But more importantly if Ezra has been misplaced in Biblical history then it creates a huge credibility issue for those who claim that Yeshua (Jesus) fulfilled this most important prophecy based upon that flawed chronology. I personally have no doubt that Yeshua is the focus and fulfillment of the prophecy of Daniel 9 but truth and accuracy of Yahweh’s word should never be sacrificed on the altar of assumption, regardless of the stakes involved. Daniel 9 and the prophecy of 70 “weeks” needs to be based upon rock solid Biblical facts not well-meaning Artaxerxes assumptions.
* * * * *
In closing, my 2nd temple chronology ramblings aside, Joseph Farah’s exploration of the Gospel in Every Book of the Old Testament is a tour de force in Yahweh’s “good news”, His redemptive plan for mankind. A plan which didn’t end at Calvary, but promises a glorious future for mankind when our redeemer returns to reign from the throne of David in Jerusalem.
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