Friday, March 31, 2006

Taking The Chilling Low Road

Borders and Waldenbooks have decided they won't sell a magazine issue containing Prophet Muhammad cartoons.

Barnes & Noble apparently hasn't decided whether to carry the April-May issue of Free Inquiry.

A Borders spokeswoman said the company declined to sell the Amherst-based publication this month out of concern for the safety of employees and customers.

So, is this how it's going be now? Even though we didn't have rioting in this country, are we going to keep giving into our fears, roll over and voluntarily, by increments, surrender one of the most precious values in this country's arsenal: the free exchange of ideas and information?


I know that companies have the right to decide what they will and will not sell. But this strikes me as cowardly to the core and incredibly ironic on the part of a business that generates its profits specifically by selling the fruits of creativity, thought, and free expression.

From a Washington Times editorial:

Borders has carried this highbrow Albany, N.Y.-based title since the mid-1980s. Published by the Council for Secular Humanism, Free Inquiry runs the likes of Christopher Hitchens and Peter Singer; it reads like its title suggests. It's only sensible that a magazine which publishes "C.S. Lewis's Hideous Weakness" or "Morality without Religion" would also want to comment, with illustration, on the Danish cartoon affair.

When Borders announced its decision this week, the chain cited security. "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 spokeswoman Beth Bingham told the Associated Press. "We absolutely respect our customers' right to choose what they wish to read and buy and we support the First Amendment, 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."

If this type of deference to radical Islam becomes a pattern, it will have a profound chilling effect on the publishing industry. It will be harder and harder to publish material which discomfits radical Islamists. ...

I'm not a regular reader or fan of the Washington Times, but I think it's absolutely right about this. We need to hold the line, not move it.

Just a few years ago Americans were asking what sacrifices they could make to help defeat radical Islam. Here's an instance where a corporation could sacrifice a little of its sense of comfort for that goal.


We don't own Borders stock anymore, but if we did, I'd be sorely tempted to sell it--and those types of gestures are rare for me.

What's not unusual for me is to buy exactly that which people don't think I should read or at least make it harder for me to get my hands on.

So after I publish this post, I'm going to go to Free Inquiry's website and see if it's possible to order that particular issue.

Heck, I might even buy a year's subscription--you know, on principle. Is that too radical for you?