Earlier this week, billionaire entrepreneur and Twitter addict Elon Musk said (on Twitter) that he’s going to be “off Twitter for a while.” It took him only three days to come back in full force and dominate news headlines with his latest posts calling to break up Jeff Bezos’ Amazon, because “monopolies are wrong!” he proclaimed.
Or, rather, because monopolies sometimes get in the way of letting his right-wing friends sell books. Musk’s tweets apparently came in response to a series of posts by former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson, in which the writer complained that Amazon’s self-publishing platform, Kindle Direct Publishing, had rejected his submission for a book titled “Unreported Truths about COVID-19 and Lockdowns.”
The two rivalries mirror causes that President Donald Trump has taken up over the last few years, with a long-running feud with Jeff Bezos and distaste for facts about COVID-19.
Time to break up Amazon. Monopolies are wrong!
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 4, 2020
The first part of the book, which raises questions whether COVID-19 is as deadly as experts say, was supposed to hit Amazon “shelves” on Thursday. But Berenson woke up that morning only to see a rejection letter.
“They said, ‘we’re rejecting this,’” Berenson told Fox News. “It didn’t say, ‘you can appeal,’ it didn’t say, “here is who you should email if you have a question.’ It just said, ‘This is rejected.'”
According to a screengrab of Amazon’s rejection letter posted Berenson, the company said his book did not comply with Amazon guidelines and that “due to the rapidly changing nature of information around the COVID-19 virus, we are referring customers to official sources for health information about the virus.”
Berenson then took it to Twitter to protest Amazon’s decision, calling it “outrageous censorship from a company that gained hugely from lockdown.” He argued that the book is “based entirely on published government data and scientific paper” and that even his contrarian had sided with him on the publishing issue.
“There are a number of journalists who got involved, including Glenn Greenwald, there were people on the left who explicitly said, ‘We think this guy is an idiot and we don’t like him but it’s important that this isn’t censored,'” Berenson said in the Fox News interview.
Up to that point, Musk hadn’t crossed paths with Bezos much. But he certainly shares with Berenson a passion for shouting out unpopular opinions on COVID-19. Early in the pandemic, Musk publicly said “the coronavirus panic is dumb” and predicted that infection cases would not exceed 0.1 percent of the U.S. population, or 300,000 people. As of this week, more than 1.9 million Americans have tested positive for the virus.
In April, in an urge to resume operation at Tesla’s California plant, Musk vehemently opposed local shelter-in-place orders, calling them “fascist” on an investor call and yelled “FREE AMERICA NOW” on Twitter the same day.
During this time, Berenson, too, was actively tweeting thoughts and theories about the pandemic to his 120,000 followers. In May, he, along with several other conservative commentators, shared a controversial Stanford University study suggesting that COVID-19 has a much lower death rate than public health experts indicated.
Shortly after Musk’s tweet on Thursday, Amazon reversed the decision and made Berenson’s book available. The company told reporters that the earlier rejection was a “system error” with the Kindle Direct Publishing.
— Alex Berenson (@AlexBerenson) June 4, 2020