[star]The American Mind[star]

March 30, 2006

Borders Bans Magazine Issue

Borders has decided not to carry the April-May issue of Free Inquiry because it will contain Muhammad cartoons that sparked violent outrage among some Muslims:

"For us, the safety and security of our customers and employees is a top priority, and we believe that carrying this issue could challenge that priority," Borders Group Inc. spokeswoman Beth Bingham said Wednesday.

Robert Bidinotto isn't happy:

By its public declaration of pre-emptive surrender, Borders has given the bullies of our age a clear message: Your intimidation works. Your bullying works. Your coercion works. Your terrorist threats work.

Borders has set a morally irresponsible and frighteningly dangerous precedent. It has told fanatics everywhere that all they need to do in order to obliterate First Amendment rights is to growl menacingly -- at which point a leading bookstore chain in America will clear its shelves of anything that could possibly offend the thug of the moment.

I work for Barnes & Noble, Borders' chief competitor, and have heard nothing that the same will be done in their stores. I'd be shocked if they did. The company is pretty absolute in making available materials their customers want to buy. You can buy The Anarchist Cookbook for pete's sake.

It's one thing to write a letter to the company expressing your complaint. It's another going into your nearest Borders and asking for the banned issue of Free Inquiry then complaining. This was a company decision. Your average Borders bookseller has no control over this. They're working stiffs like anyone else. Don't give them a hard time.

"An Open Letter to Borders Books"

"Fear of a Jihadi Planet"

"The Heckler's Veto"

UPDATE: Andrew Cory, another Barnes & Noble employee, writes:

See, a bookstore’s only stocking priority ought to be “will it sell”. Once the commercial judgment is replaced with editorial one, a company sets itself up as a censor. It begins to limit access to knowledge, and democracy itself is tarnished.

Making available what people want to buy is a way a free market supports other freedoms. Milton Friedman would be pleased.

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Media at 10:27 PM | Comments (2)