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By: Sunanna Bhasin
Very recently, media outlets exploded with the news that Canadian serial killer and rapist, Paul Bernardo, had released a fictional violence-filled thriller and that Amazon Canada had categorized it as a #1 Best Seller. Bernardo was convicted of murder and sexual assault in 1993. He was sentenced to life in prison with a possibility of parole after 25 years. As the 25-year mark approaches, Bernardo has not only published his e-book A MAD World Order, he has also applied for day parole in Toronto three years early. The publishing of this novel — said to be filled with gory descriptions and violent crimes — is a double-edged sword: it will decrease his already near-zero chances at parole, but it has also reminded victims of his horrific crimes.
Bernardo is classified as a dangerous offender, meaning that he can be detained for an indefinite amount of time. This label was given to him after being convicted mainly for two first-degree murders and two aggravated sexual assaults of teenage girls, Kristen French, 15, and Leslie Mahaffy, 14. Ironically, Bernardo’s trial was subject to a publication ban in Canada to protect witnesses and victims, yet here Bernardo is today, more than 20 years later, able to freely publish work on the internet.
While Amazon Canada pulled the novel from the site a few days ago, it is astonishing that the book was published in the first place. It only took 80,000 signatures on a petition by NEWSTALK1010 calling for the removal of the book and Amazon customers threatening to take their services elsewhere for Amazon to act and stop selling the book. Someone like Bernardo, who has committed the most despicable, disgusting crimes, including raping young women outside their parents’ homes and murdering schoolgirls, does not deserve any sort of online presence. Yet, Amazon did not seem to care about the immorality attached to the book until their business was being threatened.
It is one thing for Bernardo to have needed a creative outlet to help him cope with his isolation, but it is another thing to give someone who has orchestrated unforgivable crimes publicity, without any sort of care for victims. Bernardo’s living victims who are witness to the publication of his book have every right to question Amazon’s much too flexible policy. Before being removed, A MAD World Order was selling for $7.77 according to the Globe and Mail, meaning that it earned 70 percent in royalties. If Amazon truly doesn’t “accept books that provide a poor customer experience” which the company states in its content guidelines, then where was the foresight when they decided it was okay to provide a platform for a convicted murderer and rapist to profit? The fact that Bernardo was given even a minute to profit off descriptions of killings, which he knows all too well, is horrifying. Amazon’s quick decision to pull Bernardo’s e-book from the site does not seem to be out of concern for his negative influence and the repercussions his online presence has already caused, but rather out of fear for losing the bulk of its dedicated customers.
The reality is that Paul Bernardo has hurt more than his chances of parole by publishing this book, but ultimately it is Amazon’s responsibility to screen what is being submitted. The book should never have been allowed on the site. Despite Amazon’s intentions being questionable, it was a smart move on their part to remove Bernardo’s book from their platform. At the end of the day, all that Bernardo’s online presence does is cause his horrific actions to be remembered, and because the nature of the publication does not represent any form of apology or regret, he should not be granted the right to sell his work.
Photo Credit: David Paul Morris