Tag Archives: Waldenbooks

Borders didn’t ban conservative magazine that also published Danish cartoons

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On March 29th it was reported that the Borders bookstore chain had decided not to stock the April/May issue of the “Free Inquiry” magazine. (see: How ironic: Bookstore bans “Free Inquiry”)

The chain claimed it was concerned about the safety of their customers because the issue of the magazine would include a selection of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that had been published in a Danish newspaper back in September. The cartoons were the focal point of many protests by Muslims around the world and in some cases the protests became violent with the burning of the Danish Embassy in Syria.

I sent an e-mail to the company to complain and they responded with their same line:

“Borders is committed to our customers’ right to choose what to read and what to buy and to the First Amendment right of Free Inquiry to publish the cartoons. In this particular case, we decided not to stock this issue in our stores because we place a priority on the safety and security of our customers and our employees. We believe that carrying this issue presented a challenge to that priority.”

We can agree to disagree. They can choose what they sell and I can choose not to patronize a store that censors a magazine before reading it.

I would like to leave it at that but then while surfing the net this weekend I came across a blog that reported that back in February, the conservative magazine “The Weekly Standard” published an article on the cartoons AND published the cartoons. (I didn’t save the link to the blog – sorry)

I decided to see for myself if The Weekly Standard did publish and article and the cartoons in February. I donned my HazMat suit and swam into the lake of conservatism and sure enough there it was:

Oh, the Anguish!
The cartoon jihad is phony.
by William Kristol
02/20/2006, Volume 011, Issue 22

“U.N., E.U. and Muslims link in call to curb protests,” read the Financial Times headline last week. A “U.N.-brokered statement,” the paper reported, was issued “in an effort to curb days of protests, some violent some peaceful, at the publication and republication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. ‘The anguish in the Muslim world at the publication of the offensive caricatures is shared by all individuals and communities who recognise the sensitivity of deeply held religious belief,'” the statement said.

Oh, the anguish! And why not? You remember–don’t you?–the wave of bloody pogroms against Muslims living in Denmark following the Jyllands-Posten’s publication, on September 30, 2005, of 12 cartoons depicting (in most cases) the prophet Muhammad. (The newspaper was testing freedom of speech in Denmark, and challenging “the self-censorship which rules large parts of the Western world.”)

Oh, the Anguish! (02/20/2006)

And that article had a huge picture of the Danish newspaper’s cartoon page that was used to cause so much rioting.

The question then becomes – Does Borders stock “The Weekly Standard” and if so then their claim to be protecting the safety and security of customers and employees is a PR stunt. Appearing to ban a magazine that holds “offensive” material makes Borders look good while not looking bad on the balance sheet. I’m sure “The Weekly Standard” sells a lot more than “Free Inquiry” not to mention the less chance of a major political cock up had they banned a major conservative magazine.

How does one gain proof? I decided to call my local stores and find out.

In just a few minutes the stores reported they carried “The Weekly Standard”.

Now my point has been proven. If Borders applied their “security concern” consistently then I would not have a problem, but as I found out they don’t since we can assume they didn’t ban the February 20th issue of “The Weekly Standard” (I didn’t hear that they did)

If you would like to share your thoughts with Borders, call your local store and complain or send a letter or e-mail to their corporate headquarters with info found on their contact page

How ironic: Bookstore bans “Free Inquiry”

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The Associated Press reported today (03/29/06) that the company that operates Borders and Waldenbooks stores will not stock the April-May issue of Free Inquiry magazine because it contains cartoons of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad that provoked deadly protests among Muslims in several countries a couple months ago.

Free Inquiry is the official magazine of the Council for Secular Humanism (CSH) based in Amherst, NY. It announced that it would publish some of the cartoons that sparked violence from Denmark to Syria by offended Muslims. In their press release they said they would publish them because the major magazines in the US (Time, Newsweek, etc…) refuses to publish them.

Borders said:

“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 spokeswoman Beth Bingham said Wednesday.

Bingham said the decision was made before the magazine arrived at the chain’s stores. The company operates more than 475 Borders and 650 Waldenbooks stores in the United States, though not all regularly carry the magazine.

Borders won’t carry magazine containing prophet cartoons

So the chain decided BEFORE seeing the magazine… interesting.

According to the AP report the cartoons are accompanied by three articles: one by editor Tom Flynn tracing the controversy and explaining the decision; a commentary by R. Joseph Hoffmann, director of the Council for Secular Humanism’s Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion; and a historic look at representations of the prophet.

Paul Kurtz, editor-in-chief said:

“What is at stake is the precious right of freedom of expression. Cartoons often provide an important form of political satire … To refuse to distribute a publication because of fear of vigilante violence is to undermine freedom of press _ so vital for our democracy.”

To be honest, Borders goofed. Free Inquiry is a small publication compared to others like Maxim, Stuff, and People. In fact I have gone to the two stores in my area and have yet to find an issue of Free Inquiry when I wanted to buy it.

But I get it. They can pander to those customers who might not have appreciated the cartoons in context and it doesn’t hurt them in the balance sheet. However, censoring the magazine is going to create more of a scene than just letting it sit silently on the shelf collecting dust before being shipped back to the distributor. The move also brings fresh free publicity for CSH.

Now if they decided not to stock Dr. Phil’s latest fake psychology book then all hell would break loose – or better what if they ban the Holy Bible – with its tales of incest, sex, violence, and tribulation.

So Borders will stick to its pandering while I cross them off my future shopping list for books.

Their loss.

*Side Note*

While I am against Borders censoring Free Inquiry, I was not pleased that CSH planned to publish the cartoons. I felt it was a self-serving publicity stunt. However, after learning about the 3 articles that will put the controversy in context and from a secular humanist POV, I feel better about them doing it.