I was amused to see novelist John Green issue this brave statement on Twitter yesterday:
— John Green (@johngreen) August 15, 2015
Since the fact that you're reading the Washington Free Beacon means you're probably not a tween girl, you may be unfamiliar with his work. But Green is the guy behind The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns and several other immensely popular Nicholas Sparks-light romantic fiction aimed at the teen set.
I'll address the Times story momentarily; first I'd like to comment on Green's "bravery." Because it's a rather absurd sort of posturing, the sort of cost-free "statement" that allows him to set himself apart from The Bad People Who Are Not Good Like Me. (Remember: Twitter is for moral positioning.) If John Green were truly interested in making change—if he really wanted to hit Amazon in the purse strings—he'd push to have his books removed from the digital shelves of Amazon.com. He'd demand his publisher do no business with them. He'd go on the warpath.
Of course, this would cost him money. A lot of it. So he'll settle for simply canceling his Prime Membership—note: he's not boycotting Amazon altogether, he's simply not paying $100 a year for free next-day shipping and access to the site's streaming media—and pronounce his Goodness.
That's the entirety of the story: Amazon employees work hard and sometimes they quit because a lot is expected of them. The New York Times wrote thousands and thousands of words demonizing the company that funds one of their biggest competitors (the Washington Post) with the most minimal of disclosures* that this story was essentially aimed at trashing a competitor. And what's our takeaway?
That Amazon expects a lot of its employees and the employees that can't handle it quit and some of them are very unhappy because they couldn't hack it.
As someone who uses Amazon at least once a week, and usually more frequently than that, I have to say that I don't really care in the slightest. Amazon is the single most indispensable business going, as far as I'm concerned. They could power that website by sticking 4-year-old kids into the guts of their mainframes, Snowpiercer-style, and all I'd wonder is "Well, if they put a few more in there, will I get my goods cheaper and faster?"
I kid (I think?), but seriously: Who cares how white collar employees at giant firms are treated? They're not literal slaves. Do we whinge about the defense attorneys who spend 80 hours a week in their firms trying to make partner? Do we wring our hands about the investment bankers who exist on Red Bull and cocaine in order to stave off the sleep demon? At least Amazon actually, you know, produces something of value. I can get basically any book ever printed shipped to my house in two days—when I can't instantly download them, that is. I can get diapers dropped off next day. I can listen to years of music with nothing more than a click of my mouse.
But hey. Some people worked hard and it gave them the sads. Boo hoo.
You know what the most offensive part of that story was, to me? This one:
Several employment lawyers in the Seattle area said they got regular calls from Amazon workers complaining of unfair treatment, including those who said they had been pushed out for "not being sufficiently devoted to the company," said Michael Subit. But that is not a basis for a suit by itself, he said. "Unfairness is not illegal," echoed Sara Amies, another lawyer. Without clear evidence of discrimination, it is difficult to win a suit based on a negative evaluation, she said.
The idea that you should be able to sue a business because you can't hack it there makes me sick inside. This is American decline, in a nutshell. Life isn't fair. Get over it. I'd rather get my poster frames and hardcovers and Blu-rays in 48 hours or less than have Amazon concern itself with your complaining.
*Full disclosure of my own: I write a weekly blog post on pop culture and politics for the Post's website. My latest was on Donald Trump and how we can explain his rise if we understand pop culture.