Update on DOJ Prosecution of Amazon Employees Accepting Bribes, Writing Fake Negative Reviews and Targeting Products for Takedowns in a $100M Fraud Scheme

An update from Robert Stanek on the Justice Department prosecution of 10 Amazon employees accepting bribes, writing fake negative reviews and targeting products for takedowns in a $100M fraud scheme:


Something that resonated the most with Cathy, Shannon and I is in the addendum where Robert Stanek says:


For me personally, the very fact that the US DOJ proved in court that Amazon insiders were a part of these despicable activities was vindicating. Not only did the DOJ prove to be true and correct what I had been saying for years and years, the DOJ also proved in court that targeting products with fake negative reviews was only one part of a larger scheme to harm targeted companies and products. 

Again, the DOJ proved in court that in exchange for bribes, corrupted Amazon staff facilitated attacks against competitors of those paying the bribes, using their inside access to Amazon's network to suspend competitors' accounts and product listings, remove favorable reviews and commentary, write fictitious negative product reviews designed to hurt sales, post spurious comments to intimidate victims and drive away customers, and much more. All much as I experienced it on the receiving end of what was meant to, and did, destroy sales of my books for years and years.


His original post about the case with the charging documents in case Amazon tries to make all this disappear again:


Robert also has written extensively about the competitors and their friends involved directly with attacking his books and name. These include:

Melissa Foster (romance author)

Carolyn Arnold (mystery author)

David Langford (author)

Stephen Leigh (author)

Jim C. Hines (author)

Victoria Strauss (author)

David Louis Edelman (author)

Patrick Rothfuss (author)

Tim Spalding (Library Thing)

Maureen Johnson (author)

Adam Whitehead (Wertzone, Best Fantasy Books)

Patrick Dennis (Pat’s Fantasy Hot List, Best Fantasy Books)

Back when this started, authors like romance author Melissa Foster literally had hundreds of questionable reviews written by friends, family, associates and paid services. Melissa Foster and others now they have many, many thousands and thousands of questionable reviews. 

How many Robert Stanek reviews were they talking about for all those years? A few hundred.... Yep, a few hundred, across the more than 70 books Robert had published at that time. But they didn't stop there. They and their friends kept at it for TWO DECADES because they needed a scapegoat to point fingers at.

Thanks for reading,

Team Read Indies


The Courageous Only – It’s Not for the Faint of Heart

My dad, William Robert Stanek, was a real-life superhero, as least to us kids, if not to the millions who built their dreams on the books he wrote that taught them new skills and new ways of thinking. For those who keep wanting to write my dad's obituary because of the years his pen has been silent, I say regardless of whether he writes another word his millions of published words already speak volumes, and his millions of unpublished words will someday say even more.

circa 1990 when My Mom and Dad dreamt up World Galleries

On behalf of my dad, I want to thank everyone here at Go Indie who has spoken up in support of my dad. It really meant the world to him, late timing be damned. We’d all like to see him return to writing, but in the meantime there are so many of his works already in print to be shared and treasured. Just as my dad kept his William Stanek (mostly nonfiction) and Robert Stanek (mostly fiction) work separate for many years, he also kept another careful secret from the world: he and my mom’s work in the arts for World Galleries which represents thousands of what have been called "some of the most iconic photographs in landscape, architecture and travel photography over the past three decades" and hundreds of canvas paintings.

Spring 2021, 1st Media Announcement regarding World Galleries 

Humble to a fault, modest to a fault, my dad and mom kept their secret for three decades while their work was celebrated around the world and viewed billions of times. The global pandemic which forced my family to permanently close our physical galleries changed all that. My dad and mom stepped out from behind the scenes and we’ve started making their works available in the online galleries at:

360 Studios (pictorem.com/gallery/360.Studios)

1North Studios (pictorem.com/gallery/1North)

@24 Studios (pictorem.com/gallery/24)

Robert Stanek Studios (pictorem.com/gallery/Robert.Stanek)

Now after months of effort, we have hundreds of original artworks available, and are seeking help in spreading the word so that my dad and mom and the dozens of others their efforts support can continue their good work for decades to come. As it has always been since inception, 80% of the profits from any purchases go back to the artists themselves and the vast majority of anything my dad and mom make go back into the business so they can support other artists and their families.

Commission-based sales opportunities

As my dad always says, thank you for reading,



This started out as a Father's Day tribute to my dad and ended up somewhere else entirely. If I were half the writer my dad is, it'd be so much better.


Robert Stanek: One of the Most Important Voices of Our Time

Yes, we have made Go Indie into the Robert Stanek channel, especially as we're extremely sad that Robert has retired from writing for some years now and has not yet returned to the craft he dedicated his life to for three decades. Doubly so, as Mr. Stanek is not only one of the nicest, most sincere and honorable people you could ever hope to meet, but also one of the most important voices of our time, the author of some of the most important books of our time, and without a doubt one of the foremost thinkers of our time.

A tireless supporter of the disabled, veterans, libraries, books and schools, Robert has helped countless writers—hundreds really—over the many decades he himself has been a writer. He helped them get their start in the business. He provided resources to help them navigate the strange new online world. He helped provide resources to connect and educate them, more. Odd how they all turned their back on him when he needed them the most and simply because they were afraid of the online trolls and hateful people certain persons had at their disposal to trash Robert’s career with lies and fake news, and the career of anyone else who tried to tell the truth about what happened.

One of those writers Robert Stanek helped was me. After being laid off from my job as a teacher, with a newborn at home and alone after my husband abandoned us, my baby and I were a few unemployment checks away from homelessness. With no likelihood of employment as a teacher or anywhere with a newborn at home to care for alone (no one will hire a single mother with a newborn, just try it yourself and see) and with no support system, the children's books I had written over the years were my only hope. I had been sending them out to every publisher in North America and a few abroad, and receiving nothing but rejection letters in return.

I was in a few support groups. One for writers, and a fellow would-be writer had a contract with Robert’s publishing company. She too had been getting rejection letters from publishers, until she got an acceptance letter from Robert’s company. An unknown, Robert’s company had taken a chance on her, and she was talking about how the opportunity changed her life. Not only monetarily, but also because someone finally believed in her enough to publish her work professionally. Her name is Jennifer Blake and like me, she herself has said she owes her start and success entirely to Mr. Stanek.

I decided to send my work to his company too, to see if I’d be accepted. I told Robert my whole story as well, not knowing if he’d believe a word I was saying as I’m sure he’d heard sad stories like mine thousands of times before. Within a week, I was on a conference call with Jeannie, Robert himself, and Thomas from RP Books & Audio. When Robert asked if I thought I could write a book on whales for a nature series he was developing for beginners and early learning, I knew with my background as an elementary school teacher I could. Soon after, I had a contract for “Whales: The Complete Guide for Beginners and Early Learning”, and an advance check for $2500.

It was money that saved me and my baby from eviction and homelessness. It was money no one else would have, or had, offered, to help me keep it all together. Robert didn’t have to give me a check that big—or at all. I was a nobody. The series and the book ideas were entirely his. A different person, a New York publisher, would have offered $50 or maybe $250, but certainly not $2500. I was nothing but tears, tears of joy when I deposited the check.

Days later, I was working with the development and illustration team at RP Books & Audio on the first of what would become multiple books for the company. My second contract for Robert’s company was to write an animal book for preschoolers and kindergartners in the My Animal series Robert developed. This book and series were also Robert’s ideas entirely.

The book itself was a handful of words on a handful of pages. Words anyone could have placed there, but Robert offered another $2500 contract. A contract no one else would have given me. I worked with the development and illustration team at RP Books & Audio on this book for a time.

When I was done, when “My Baby Animal” book was finished, I realized something. I had received, in the course of working on these two books, an in-depth course on writing, illustration and publishing. Decisions I didn’t need to be privy to, I had been, and it had been Robert and Jeannie’s intent to teach me this.

Next, Robert asked if I wanted to write a book on dinosaurs for beginners and early learning. This book would be in the same series as the whale book and have an advance of $5000 because Robert said it was going to be wildly popular (and it would be).

Within a month of my having finished “Dinosaurs: The Complete Guide for Beginners,” Robert and Jeannie then went back to the ideas I had submitted originally and helped me develop the Tell Me series. The $25,000 advance and a 3-book series contract were more than I ever could have imagined possible.

Robert and Jeannie worked with me to develop and write “Tell Me What You See?” Then we worked together on “Tell Me What You Love?” and “Father Christmas, Tell Me What You See?”. Books that wouldn’t even have been possible without their insights, advice, and assistance.

The first of my books was published within a year of finishing “Tell Me What You See?”, so about two years into our work together. Then the others were published in rapid succession, along with two compendiums that included my books. The first was “Wonderful Discoveries: Sharks, Whales, Dolphins and Sea Turtles.” The second was “My Great Big Animal Book.”

Now, over a decade into our work together, my books have been purchased and read by hundreds of thousands, earning me twenty-fold the original advances in royalties. My success as a writer? It helped me land my dream teaching job where I’ve been happily employed for seven years. Well, that, and letters of reference from Mr. Stanek, Jeannie and Thomas from RP Books and Audio.

Yes, to say publishing changed my life is the understatement of the century. But Robert Stanek is the one who made it all possible. Read and support his books. He’s earned it. Not only because he, inside and out, is one of the most beautiful human beings alive, but because his work is some of the most important work in print today. The 20th century had Theodor Geisel and JRR Tolkien, the 21st century has Robert Stanek. Learn more about Mr. Stanek at http://www.williamrstanek.com/



Amazon Employees Caught Red-Handed Yet Again Using Fake Negative Reviews to Spam Rivals

Rivals have targeted author William Robert Stanek on Amazon.com for two decades while Amazon staff were paid to assist. Not only has William Robert been blogging about this extensive criminal operation for years, Justice Department investigations indicate these fraudulent tactics are potentially widespread, bringing indictments in Washington against six who bribed at least 10 Amazon staff. In exchange for bribes, corrupted Amazon staff facilitated attacks against competitors using their inside access to Amazon's network to suspend competitors' accounts and product listings, flood competitor product listings with fictitious negative product reviews designed to hurt sales, more. These self-styled "takedowns" against victim sellers used hateful commentary and other tactics to intimidate victims and drive away customers.

Author William Robert Stanek recognizes all of these tactics as they have been used to harm and destroy sales of his books. Regarding this, he stated, "I've been on the receiving end for 20 years..... flooded with fake reviews, getting my books delisted, flagged, etcetera so competitors who were paying off Amazon could get ahead. Two of the names in the charging document are the same people who wrote me back if I dared to complain." 

A grand jury in Washington has indicted six of those involved, more indictments expected. The trial gets underway October 15, 2020, and should result in criminal convictions against those indicted and the 10 or more corrupted Amazon employees involved, unless Amazon once again pays off the justice system to keep insider corruption out of the courts, as it did when more than 50 employees were caught setting up fake seller accounts on Ebay to lure buyers to Amazon--after years and years of doing so illegally and fraudulently.

The group of fraudsters, which includes former Amazon employees, paid current Amazon employees to obtain confidential performance data on rivals that included revenue, customer bases and ongoing ad campaigns. Revenue information allowed the fraudsters to determine the most popular items of rivals and then specifically target those items with fake negative reviews, upvote negative commentary and more to destroy sales. Advertising information allowed the fraudsters to target items of rivals that were being promoted so the rivals could use fake negative reviews, upvoting of negative commentary and more to counter the adverting and destroy any potential sales boost. Rival products were periodically delisted, had reviews removed, were removed from search results, flagged as inappropriate and more to harm sales and ensure the success of the scammers. 

Amazon itself uses these unscrupulous tactics to target popular products of independent sellers in its marketplace after making Amazon-branded versions of the same. Using insider information about the independent products from sales data to customer base to private marketing and advertising campaign data, Amazon puts the rival sellers out of business. Not only has this allowed Amazon to gain an unfair competitive advantage in its marketplace monopoly, it has done irreversible harm to the very sellers it purports to support on its websites, putting many sellers out of business as well. Just one of many ways Amazon abuses and destroys third-party sellers and creates rival products to boost operating revenues and profits no matter the cost to feed and grow its trillion-dollar monopoly. 

Six indicted in connection with multi-million dollar scheme to bribe Amazon employees and contractors - The defendants, who include former Amazon staff, paid bribes to at least ten different Amazon employees and contractors. Since at least 2017, the defendants have used bribery and fraud to their benefit, resulting in more than $100 million of competitive benefits, to harm competitors and to harm consumers. In exchange for bribes, corrupted Amazon employees and contractors facilitated attacks against competitors using their inside access to Amazon's network to suspend competitors' accounts and product listings, flood competitor product listings with fictitious negative product reviews designed to hurt sales, more. These self-styled "takedowns" against victim sellers used hateful commentary and other tactics to intimidate victims and drive away customers.

For more information, see:

Author Stanek's blog posts about the dirty tactics used to harm and destroy his book sales at Amazon go back decades. Here are some:

Speaking Out Against Ugliness in the Publishing Industry - Indie authors continue to get a bum rap from traditional publishers and authors. Read about the dirty tricks being used.

Inside Job: Amazon.com Employee Stole Credit Data of 106 Million Amazon.com is rotten to its core. This latest case of "employee gone bad" is yet another example of the widespread patterns of misbehavior, misconduct and mismanagement by Amazon.com employees that have been ongoing for the better part of two decades.

Amazon Reviews: Broken System Between 1 in 3 and 2 in 3 product reviews on Amazon.com are fake. They are bought and paid for. They are written by friends and family. They are swapped and traded on Facebook. They are incentivized from readers.

Amazon Caught in Pay-for-Praise Scheme Involving Hundreds of Employees Last August Amazon began recruiting so-called “fulfillment center ambassadors,” compensating them to generate praise for the company on twitter (and also elsewhere in social media and on Amazon’s websites). Several hundred employees have been enlisted into the highly questionable, unethical (and likely fraudulent) scheme so far.

Amazon Fraud Again: Amazon Employees Caught Creating Fake Ebay Seller Accounts In 2018, at least 50 Amazon employees were caught red handed creating fake accounts on Ebay and accused of multiple federal crimes, including criminal conspiracy, fraud and racketeering. Over a period of years, the Amazon employees had created hundreds—if not thousands—of fake seller accounts to lure sellers away from Ebay’s marketplace.

Amazon's Black Eye Deepens: A Public Sham/e Speaking out about fake reviews has made me the target of the thousands who make their living writing reviews for pay. This continues despite Amazon's public dispute with over 5000 paid reviewers at Fiverr--no few of which were writers, who unable to make a living at writing, made their living writing reviews.

Amazon Still Has a Review Problem. A Solution That Could Actually Resolve It. A visit to Amazon will take you to lots of products with oodles of reviews and the problem is that it's extremely likely most of these reviews are bogus. What percentage? Estimates vary widely, but my research says about 60% or so. Simply mentioning this fact, as I have for many years, makes me a target for those who make their living at this—whether they are merchants selling products or those who make a living by writing product reviews.

Amazon's Blackened Soul To date, there are about a billion reviews at Amazon sites that don’t meet Amazon’s own criteria for acceptability. This represents about 3 out of every 5 reviews. Is it any wonder when Amazon’s own management and executive staff are allowed to break the rules when it suits them to target an author whose book wasn’t as flattering as Amazon hoped it would be. Yes, I’m talking about....

Thanks for reading,

Team Read Indies


Goodnight Robert, Goodnight Moon, Goodnight Stars, Air & Noises Everywhere

After hearing about Robert, I broke down in tears, fits and sobs really, the kind reserved for family because Robert Stanek was like a father to some of us in the writing community, a favorite uncle, Uncle Robert, to others, and a valued mentor to a great, great many. So many writers, hundreds really, owe their start in writing and careers to this guy, and the same is true of thousands who work in Big Tech, on web-based platforms or in web-based businesses. This guy taught them all how to set up those very businesses. This guy who was larger than life. This guy who was so down to earth. This guy who was so humble. This guy who so loved life. This guy who so loved family. This guy who took care of everyone else. This guy who gave and gave and gave over so many decades to so many and never asked for anything in return.

Robert Stanek was always creating resources to help writers. Writer’s Galley, Internet Job Center, Internet Daily News, others, his earliest efforts in the mid ‘90s. Go Indie, Read Indies, Free Today, and others in the mid ‘00s. He taught us all how to use social media, to create blogs, to use Facebook, to use Twitter and beyond. He created and curated memes like #amwriting, #amblogging, #epicfantasy, #kidslit and #teenlit. He led by example.

By 2000, his professionally published books numbered over 100. Those books, published and distributed by the biggest names in publishing—IDG, Simon & Schuster, Random House, Macmillan, Pearson, Microsoft, McGraw Hill, Time Warner—blazed trails. At a time when few understood the world wide web and its technologies, Robert was not only one of the few recognized world leaders in the web and its technologies, he was the recognized world leader in explaining how those technologies worked clearly and concisely.

Robert was a King maker, unmade by the very things he helped establish. He put upstart Amazon on the map by writing about the company to his audience of millions from its earliest days. He transformed Microsoft Press from a publishing company its readers swore published books in a foreign language called Microsoftese into one praised for publishing books in plain language—that plain language approach Robert himself created and that praise itself was for Robert’s books. His words and style were so beloved they eventually became the plain language style of Microsoft itself.

Credit where credit is due one might imagine, but instead as Robert revealed through his varied writings and blogs, he got no credit for any of it. At the end of the day, his work taught tens of millions, enriched the pockets of his publishers, agents and managers, but left Robert and his family with 3 cents on the dollar. Robert’s work was used in $1B-$2B (yes, B-I-L-L-I-O-N $) worth of training courses and other Microsoft and non-Microsoft work for which he never received a single cent. Not one. None. Zero.

In 2000, Robert Stanek founded the modern indie author movement with his breakout self-published books that transformed publishing and the way we publish today. In 2001, Robert became the first indie author to serialize an e-book at Amazon and has since gone on to write more than 150 indie books. In 2002, his Keeper Martin's Tale and Kingdoms & the Elves books were the first indie e-authored books to top Amazon's bestseller lists. In 2005, the same books were the first indie e-audiobooks to top Audible bestseller lists where they dominated for the next three years (#1 fiction for 14 weeks 2005, 167 weeks Top 10 YA 2005-2008). His Kingdoms & the Elves became one of the top grossing e-audiobooks of all time and was featured on the Audible Home Page throughout the Summer of 2005.

We all know what happens to those who are so far ahead of their time that they seem to exist in a world of their own making. Robert had climbed too many mountains, and those standing at the bottoms of those mountains desperately wanted what he had, and so they did whatever it took to take what Robert had created and claim it as their own or destroy it. Read Robert’s heartbreaking posts about the things that happened to him and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. We as a society love to tear down our heroes. We tear them down with lies, with fake news. We puff ourselves up and make ourselves look big, to make those who are larger than life look small.

Sad but true, strange but true, one of Robert Stanek’s favorite sayings was dare to dream and he dared all of us to dream. Not only to dream with him as he conquered the bestseller lists, which he did time after time until he had so many number ones it seemed a thing unreachable in the sky, but to dream our own dream, forge our own paths and to make of our writing and lives whatever beautiful dream we could dream. Robert told me many times that the empty page was friend, not foe, that he never knew a day of writer’s block. He saw the empty page as a challenge, one that he was not afraid to answer, and answer it he did. In his lifetime, over 20 million of his words were published in over 250 books. I know from speaking with Robert that he has half as many words unpublished, words that we all should hope are someday published. Robert had much to say to the world, and his books indeed say much.
Robert challenged us as writers to see the blank page as a friend as well. He dreamed that his books would be his legacy, his way to ensure his family was financially secure. My silence when Robert needed me the most is something I will never forgive myself for. It was shameful. It was disgraceful. It was dishonorable. I hope that Robert can forgive me, forgive all of us, for not doing what we should have when it would have mattered most. I’m sorry, Robert. Please, please forgive me.

To those reading my words, if you want to do one decent thing today, one decent thing this week, read Robert Stanek’s books and tell the world about them. It’s never too late to right a great wrong.

You can learn all about Robert’s Bugville Critters at www.bugvillecritters.com.

You can learn all about Robert’s Magic Lands at www.magiclands.com.

You can learn all about Robert Ruin Mist at www.ruinmistmovie.com.

You can read Robert’s blog at http://robertstanek.blogspot.com/.

You can read about Robert’s Imagined Lands at www.imaginedlands.com.

You can read about Robert’s writing as William Stanek at www.williamrstanek.com.

More about Robert’s writing as Robert Stanek at www.robert-stanek.com.

Any future posts here or elsewhere on Robert’s behalf will be made by the indie writing team. Goodnight Robert, goodnight moon, goodnight stars, air & noises everywhere.

- Cathy Thompson


Memories of the Long Road Home

My accomplishments during my military service earned me 29 commendations, including the Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, the Air Force Commendation Medal, and the Humanitarian Service Medal. When I left the military, I was one of the most highly decorated in the command. 

The base commander and my supervisors loved it when I put on my dress blues and participated in the various parades and celebrations on base, especially Memorial Day and the 4th of July. I've met royalty. A crowned prince, a princess of a city state, a queen. I've met and dined with presidents, including George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and a few generals, including Colin Powell and H. Norman Schwarzkopf. They've offered their hands to shake, given toasts in my honor for my duty, for the distinguished flying cross pinned to my chest. Captains of industry have offered me the sky and moon for my ideas then robbed me blind, I've been praised for the hundreds of published works I've written over decades, and damned for the same. I've survived the worst of abject poverty, risen to the heights of high society, and fallen to the ugliest of depths. This is life, this is the life of a combat veteran.

With a somber 4th of July just behind us, yet another national-wide lockdown looming ahead of us, it’s a good time to look back and reflect. Much of my childhood is filled with pain, poverty and hunger, as I write about here. I served my country in foreign lands and during several tours of duty in combat zones, including two combat tours in Iraq. I flew on 32 combat missions from the opening days of the war to its end. In that time, there was never a day I didn’t stare death in the face and there was never a day death didn't stare back. AAA, SAMs and more came at us as we flew our missions. 

Because of that service, I will always know that when the darkest of hours arrives I will not hesitate. When asked, I answered. When called, I went. When death stared up from the void, I did not fear. I gave because it was my duty and because I felt it was the right thing to do.

I wrote about some of my experiences in my military memoir, Stormjammers: The Extraordinary Story of Electronic Warfare Operations in the Gulf War, which was featured in a full-page review in the Journal of Electronic Defense and on NPR. Originally released in 2006, the book was re-released in 2016 for the 25th anniversary of the war as Air War: The Incredible True Story of the Combat Flyers.

Though a memoir, the book is largely a tribute to the men and woman I served with. It's written to be light, not as dark as the terrors that surrounded us or the terrors that stared up at us from the void. I suppose I could have focused on the death and the dying, the terror and the mayhem, but I was more interested in telling the story of the day to day, the story of the lives the war affected.

I did this because the younger me, the young man who was, was filled with light and hope even though the traumas I endured rock me to my core. The older, more jaded me, probably would have written a much darker account, an account that delved into the many we lost due to mental break down, the many who went home broken even before the battles ended. The older me, probably would have named names of those who refused to go or to fly, would have recounted affairs, would have told you more about the little red pills--speed--they gave those of us who were left to keep going as our numbers dwindled and dwindled. That me, however, was not the me who wrote the book or recorded the memories in the journals that were the basis of the book.

If you read my memoir and I hope you do, I hope the book opens a window for you as big as the original experiences did for me. After combat, the world never seemed quite the same. The return to normalcy was a strange experience, never quite accomplished. I don’t, in fact, think I ever slowed down or ever quite touched the earth after those experiences. For it was afterward that everything in this world changed—that everything in this world became so clear. And afterward that I set my sights on the future and never looked back.

While you're reading this, I’d like to introduce you to the Distinguished Cross National Memorial Act and the related National Memorial at March Field Air Museum in Riverside, California. As a combat veteran and recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, I had never before heard of the act or the memorial until 2018 and so I thought if I hadn’t heard of it many others might not have heard of it before either. I don’t really keep up with what’s happening with such things as it’s all really painful for me in truth. But something to think about this 4th.

Here's the background on the act: The Distinguished Flying Cross National Memorial Act was introduced on January 22, 2013 by Rep. Ken Calvert (R, CA-42). It was referred to the United States House Committee on Natural Resources and the United States House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation. It was reported by the Committee alongside House Report 113-79 on May 17, 2013. On October 25, 2013, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor announced that H.R. 330 would be on the House schedule for the week of October 28, 2013. The bill was considered under the suspension of the rules. On October 29, 2013, the House voted to passed the bill by a voice vote. The United States Senate voted on July 9, 2014 to pass the bill with unanimous consent. On July 25, 2014, President Barack Obama signed the bill into law. You can learn more about the memorial at the website for the memorial.

A story that’s not in my military memoir but perhaps should be in my next is about the dangers soldiers face not in the field of combat but in the bases where they are housed and should be safe. My wife’s second miscarriage was a clue that something was terribly wrong. I thought it was the stress of being a combat flyer’s wife, constant deployments, or the subsequent ever-changing schedule when I worked inside the secretive underground facility known as the Tunnel. I never imagined that it was due to the air we breathed, the water we drank or the soil beneath our feet, but it likely was as lead from lead-based paints had leached into the soil we used for gardening and other toxic substances were throughout our base housing and the places we worked.

No one tells you when you join the military you’re risking not just your life but your health—and that of your family and even your unborn children. As Newsweek said in its July 25, 2014 cover story, the US Military is supposed to protect the country’s citizens and soldiers and not poison them.

Throughout the United States, there are 141 military bases and related Department of Defense facilities on the Environmental Protection Agency’s superfund list and the National Priorities List for cleanup—and that list of 141 isn’t all inclusive by any means. It is simply a list of the worst of the worst, bases and facilities with toxic contamination so bad that the EPA has assigned them its highest priority for cleanup due to unacceptable risks to human health.

Many of the worst facilities are closed or closing. However, it’s not like the toxins in the soil and ground water are going to stay where they are. They’re going to continue to pollute and contaminate adjacent facilities until they are cleaned up once and for all. What’s waiting beyond the 141 highly toxic bases and facilities? Well, the Department of Defense has identified 39,000 contaminated locations so far, from areas as small as a building to as large as an airfield, and those locations are spread across many of the 4,127 DOD installations located in the United States.

As a soldier who was deployed overseas for many years, I was stationed at Department of Defense facilities all over the world and I can’t help but wonder what toxic nightmare is lurking at the thousands of Department of Defense facilities that are located outside the United States. What I suspect is that there are likely as many contaminated locations and highly toxic sites at Department of Defense facilities located outside the US as there are inside the US.

All those years ago, I didn’t know about these issues or that toxins were possibly changing my life and my family, but I guessed there was something going on beyond stress. I started asking questions, and a healthcare worker who treated my wife suggested I look at environmental factors in our home and workplaces.

In our pre-World War II base housing, lead paint often was prevalent and possibly other toxic substances. We dug up the garden which was alongside the house, stopped drinking the tap water, and made other changes. With these changes, our overall health seemed to improve. Months later, my wife got pregnant again and this time, she carried the pregnancy well and my son, Will, was born.

Will arrived a few weeks early, but healthy. For us, it was a new beginning and a hope for the future of our family.

Thanks for reading,

Robert Stanek


This is Not the Time to Stand By and Not Say Anything

I've written and re-written this article about five times. Some of my black friends (and probably all of my white friends) would really like it if I would just shut up, and no they do not—absolutely do not—want to read the essays I’ve written about police brutality, injustice, racism, poverty or hard times. Besides, what the heck do I as a white male know about what it’s like to be black in America? I don’t know anything, nothing at all, as I readily admit whenever the question is asked and as I’ve stated repeatedly.

Yet I also know that as a white person in America it’s not only my responsibility to speak out against injustice and racism, it is my moral obligation. It is the moral obligation of every white person in America. The system is failing people of color. It’s not their job to fix the system. They can’t fix it without help. It’s a white system, it’s a white problem, and if us white people don’t fix it, it’ll never get fixed.

I have in fact been told to just listen—and listen I have since 2015. I also tried to be part of the movement in any way I could, which ultimately for me meant using my words. Words are more powerful and lasting than any weapon ever could be. The pen is mightier than the sword.

Recently, there’s been lots of advice printed about being a good white ally. You white people do this. You white people don’t do this. You white people are our guests, follow our lead. This is Black Lives Matter, black voices matter, not white voices. You white people just listen.

Okay, yes, I did listen. I listened for a long time. I listened until my outrage could no longer be contained and then I let my words rage out. I write to the detriment of my health, each word as if the jab of a blade. Words here mean hours of pain, hours where I can do nothing—and often days. That’s the cost for a person in such poor health.

But I kept saying this isn’t a black problem. This broken system is a white problem. White people are responsible for the broken system. And it’s my problem as a white in America—and so I spoke out again and again and again.

A really good friend of mine who is black read this article about my experiencing poverty in my childhood and said to me just because I had a tough childhood doesn't mean I know anything about being black, having a tough life has nothing to do with being black. She also said to me that having a tough childhood doesn't mean I know anything about racism. Granted, the title of the article is "Racism in America. Poverty in America. Working-Class America," but you'd have to read the article to know why it actually has nothing to do with being black or white or experiencing racism. Also, to be clear, I added the addendum to the end of the article afterward, because of what she said. We all see the world as we want to see it and we don't always see what's right in front of our eyes.


I asked a few journalist friends of mine who are black to look at this article I'd written about the history of police brutality in America, to help make sure I didn't make any mistakes or say something that might be considered insensitive or unintentionally inflammatory. These were journalists I had mentored when they were starting their careers and spent countless hours of my time helping over a period of years.


The original article as written included personal details about police brutality my family had experienced, including an incident we ultimately turned to members of the Washington state congress for assistance with and an incident involving another member of my family who was brutalized by three police officers after being pulled over for speeding, and I told them this. Yet these friends of mine told me one by one that they didn't have time to deal with it. I understand. What's been happening in America is overwhelming and the news cycles showing black people dying at the hands of the police over and over compound the horror. And so I cut down the article to what was published and later wrote this article:


After which, I was told politely yet again what the heck did I know about police brutality, racism, discrimination, etc, I was white. Yet the family member of mine who was brutalized by police and almost died is Asian American. My wife is also Asian American, my children are Asian American and I've talked with these journalists about racism they've experienced. Being in an inter-racial marriage beginning in the '80s, my wife and I experienced racism frequently. Admittedly, she got the worst of it, but it deeply affected us both. That kind of racism and discrimination has not gone away either.

Stationed in Japan in the '80's, I experienced racism and discrimination by Japanese against non-Japanese. Non-Japanese weren't allowed in certain businesses, restaurants and shops. These business owners openly displayed either Japanese-only signs or no non-Japanese signs. Either way, it was racism that meant non-Japanese weren't welcome and would not be served. Even some businesses without these signs would not serve non-Japanese. They'd just ignore you until you left their business or worse, scream at you and chase you away. Some businesses near military bases wanted our money, so they just discriminated against us by seating or serving us in different areas. Here, you'd have a Japanese area and an area for others, not just discrimination, but a form of segregation even if the areas weren't labeled Japanese / Non-Japanese.

Raising a special needs child, my family has experienced plenty of discrimination, hostility and inequity--we still do. During a recent trip to abroad, my wife and I were told by a restaurant owner where we were having dinner, that disabled were better unseen than in public and that we should go to Singapore where they could cure my daughter's Downs Syndrome. How the heck do you respond to that kind of ignorance? There are no words.

I grew up in a black neighborhood as I write about here, and on and on. Don't presume to know what anyone has experienced in their life, without having lived their life.

We all see the world as we want to see it and we don't always see what's right in front of our eyes. We may see friends as enemies because we hurt inside. We may see friends as enemies because they aren't us. We're very good at building fences, putting up walls, creating divisions. Us, Them. Them, Us. We humans aren't good at saying our, finding common ground, seeing our American future  together. But we have to, now more than ever. The solution to the problem in America, the problem in the world, has to be multiracial, all people.

As I wrote about here, I’m not speaking out ‘just now’ or because it’s convenient, I’ve been speaking out my whole life. This is a fight of a lifetime that I hope is resolved in my lifetime. The best way to end inequality, racism, discrimination, injustice and all the other things that sicken our world worse than any pandemic is to shine a light on them, to keep shining a light on them even where there seems to be no hope. And so, I have shined a light, I have continued to shine a light even though I knew I may never be heard.


So what the heck do I know about discrimination or inequality or racism or intolerance or police brutality or poverty or what hard times are like for working-class Americans? Except that these things have touched every corner of my life for the entirety of my life? Nothing.

The system is failing people of color. It’s not their job to fix the system. They can’t fix it without help. It’s a white system, white people are responsible for the problem, and if us white people don’t fix it, it’ll never get fixed.

I urge you to do what's right, not what's easy. It's easy to just be quiet, especially when people who are speaking up keep getting shut down by those who say stupid things like 'old white folk should just shut up already' or 'celebrities just be making fools of themselves by speaking up in public service announcements' and on and on. Like it or not, old white folk hold much of the power in this country and they hold the keys to changing the system. Like it or not, celebrities have clout and are followed by millions and those millions include people who need to understand how important it is to accomplish real change right now.

We want all people to help change the broken system in America into one that works for all. If we don't get as many people as possible to speak up, nothing will change. If we don't let all supportive voices be heard, nothing will change. Forty years from now, we'll be right where we are now. I don't want to be right where we are now forty years from now. I want change to happen sooner rather than later. I hope you do too.

Be the positive change you want to see. Speak up, make sure you are heard. Everything is possible.


Thanks for reading, I’m William Robert Stanek, Microsoft’s #1 author for nearly 20 years, and author of over 250 topselling books.