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Thursday, March 30, 2006

We Support Freedom of Speech When We’re Cool w/ It

Posted by on March 30 at 8:41 AM

Borders and Waldenbooks are pulling a magazine from the shelves because it published the Muhammad cartoons.Here’s the AP story.

And here’s the ridiculous quote from the Borders spokeswoman defending the decision:

“We absolutely respect our customers’ right to choose what they wish to read and buy and we support the First Amendment,” Bingham said. “And we absolutely support the rights of Free Inquiry to publish the cartoons. We’ve just chosen not to carry this particular issue in our stores.”

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we support customers' access to books, but you can't buy books here.

If you're buying books at a mall store you're not that advanced to begin with. Besides there's always another shitty book store on the other level at the other side of the mall.

Yeah, so they they deserve to lose whatever business they lose. Screw them if they want to censor themselves and take another step into cultural irrelevance.

Bulldog News > Borders

Hmm, what makes more sense, offending your non-existent islamic clientele or offending the large percentage of readers that value freedom of expression.
It's decisions like this that will put an end to anything but virtual bookstores.
Border's used to be a decent bookseller eons ago. Now they are B&N with a different name, if that.
Since Voltaire writers have offended religious folks. That's part of the whole legacy of free speech. If we can't mock ridiculously irrational ideologies, what's the point in claiming to have any interest in free speech?
I won't be happy until the last self-sensoring bookseller is strangled with the entrails of the last television evangelist.

Please, like Borders (or B&N) really ever valued freedom of speech or freedom of the press. This whole 'freedom of speech is God' thing is really irksome. It's talked about like it exists in a vacuum. I don't think the cartoons should be reprinted, because while I support freedom of speech, I also do not condone racist depictions of Arabs. Plus, they've been reprinted in so many other places--what's the point now?

maybe i'm missing the point here but don't these stores have the right to sell what they want? if the government were telling them they couldn't sell something wouldn't that be a "freedom of speech" issue? am i denying carrot top's freedom of speech because i choose not to listen to or sell his "comedy" records?

Nate - I certainly agree, but let's keep one point in mind: Despite what they say, we all know Borders & Waldenbooks are pulling these magazines 'cause they are cowering in the face of Islamic extremists (they certainly have other items for sale that offend tons of different customers for all sorts of reasons). I am sure the reason you aren't stocking Carrot Top because is not because you're too scared to do so.

You're right, Nate.
But the point is, they've self-censored out of deference to extremist in an era when religious extremists have declared a holy war on liberal values. That's the scary part.

Holy war, schmoly war. Blah, blah, blah. This is the wrong angle. Since when are religious extremist not at war with anything they don't agree with?

Xutech, the issue isn't that Borders shoppers won't have access to the cartoons. It's that they won't have access to Free Inquiry, which is a pretty bluntly ironic magazine to censor.

And Borders is not "another mall bookstore" like B. Dalton or Waldens; they are mostly not found in traditional malls, and they are almost never found "at the other end" of a mall from another bookstore. They're a separate category of "superstore", which typically carries something like ten times as many titles as a mall bookstore.
I know you hipsters get your panties in a bunch anytime a corporation is mentioned, even as you huff away at your American Spirit (i.e., Reynolds) cigarettes, but if you actually care about access to ideas, rather than just cementing another brick into the wall around your own, you'd care about this. 99% of the country lives nowhere near Bulldog News. Which, incidentally, is a corporation, just like Borders is.

Yes, good point. However, most of the country also has access to the intarweb, where one can probably order a subscription to said magazine or even order a copy of the issue in question if one so desired. Borders, like our friendly corporate Bulldog News, is just a brick and mortar middleman.

I wonder if you can still buy Ann Coulter's books at Borders. What's more offensive, saying that the U.S. should invade Muslim countries and convert all Arabs to Christianity, or depicting Mohammed with a bomb in his turban? Hmm.

I think an underlying aspect of this discussion is this: The corporatization in this country has become -- bookstore-wise in this example -- a fight between chain stores and independent stores. Independent stores are more likely to carry options that their local clientelle are potentially interested in, while coporate chains are reluctant to touch anything that will offend anyone across their entire demographic.

Independents make these choices one by one, while chains often make them chain-wide. The effect is an erosion of the 'availability of free speech', which also in a grim way becomes a privatization of free speech as administered by the chains who exist inside the castle walls of the malls.
It's all about access.

As of December, the last time I saw the interior of a Borders bookstore (in Las Vegas), hardcover editions of Ann Coulter's books were still prominently featured on featured bookstands.

Point taken, Keshmeshi. It's latent hypocrisy.

I think The Stranger would have had a field day with the political scene here in Denmark when the shit hit the fan a few months ago. It unfolded in slo-mo and everyone ended up wearing some of it.

The right-wing coalition gov't tried to do a duck and cover behind "free speech" - even though it's in very poor taste to use a nationwide newspaper to malign a minority population. Denmark is still the only country in the EU that does not have a proper mosque, even though it has 200,000 Muslims.

The editor of the looney-tunes paper in question, Jyllands-Posten, had previously sat in on a meeting with the leaders of the far right-wing Danish People's Party, where they discussed how to further push their successful anti-immigration agenda into "a second phase." The editor published the thirteen Mohammed cartoons two weeks later. I'm all for the inherent right to free speech; but I'm less of a fan of fascists with a goal. The original cartoons were printed in the spirit of the latter. The free speech issue is, in Denmark at least, a complete red herring. Yes, free speech means you have the right to make fun of a minority group for political reasons. But that doesn't mean it's the right thing to do.

Needless to say, I'm not buying my books at Borders these days anyways...

But I thought I'd draw you a picture from Copenhagen.

Most people don't really have access to the interwebs. I mean, something like half of them have ACCESS, but they don't really know what to do. Massive success stories like Amazon and Google still only reach ten or maybe twenty percent of the population. I talk everyday to people who don't know what Google is for.

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