Monday, April 03, 2006

Borders' Cowardice

The corporation that owns Borders and Waldenbooks has decided not to carry the upcoming issue of the Council for Secular Humanism's magazine "Free Inquiry" because it will contain 4 of the Danish cartoons about Mohammed. Their mealy mouthed statement about it reads "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"

Originally I was going to try and write something nuanced and at least a little respectful of Border's parent corporation for siding strictly on the side of its employees' safety. The heck with that.

Seems they have a series of ads claiming they've never met a banned author they didn't like. I guess that only matters when it offends the non-violent majority. The minute some group offer violence as the solution to material it finds offensive they crumble. You can't use fighting censorship as a marketing ploy and then not expect at least some of your customers not call you to task for skimping on it over an issue that's incredibly important. Imagine the indignant laughter if Catholics asked Borders not to carry "The Da Vinci Code" or liberals didn't want anything by Anne Coulter stocked?

This isn't a question of anti-Islamic sentiments but of moral cowardice in the face of threatened violence. This isn't a question of blaspemy as there's no hard and fast Islamic law about depictions of Mohammed, but about a refusal to brook any sort of criticism. They were even carried in an Egyptian paper without any problems. This inability to face criticism (and for the record, many of the cartoons were actually attacks on the soliciting editor for staging what was seen as simply a stunt) when it's being heaped on me and my values all the time is disheartening.

This is a manufactured crisis that demands to be able to be examined objectively. Cowering in fear is not the way. If respect for different traditions is demanded I expect it to be accorded to my traditions as well. I don't see that happening any time soon so I guess I'll just go about my way which includes free speech, a free press and the ability to display satire without fear for my life. I also expect firms that make their money off those values to actually abide by them and stand up for them.

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