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Postrel on the Borders bruhaha
Posted by: McQ on Sunday, April 02, 2006

I think Virginia Postrel has it about right concerning Borders Books refusal to carry a magazine which included the Danish cartoons:
I'm as outraged as anyone about Borders bookstores' spineless decision not to stock the current issue of Free Inquiry, because it includes the controversial Danish cartoons. But I also spent long enough as the editor of a magazine with pitifully small newsstand sales to a) be impressed with FI's publicity stunt and b) figure that Borders is doing Free Inquiry a favor any month it stocks the dinky title. Tiny magazines aren't exactly a profit center. (I'm skeptical of FI's claim to sell 7,000 issues on the newsstand, especially if Borders only stocks 1,000.)

So the test case I'd like to see is this: What would Borders do if Vanity Fair, or some equally big title, published the cartoons? Christopher Hitchens, call your editor.
Postrel was previously the editor ofReason magazine. I agree with her. This was an easy decision for Borders to make. I'd love to see this tested on a larger circulation magazine.

However, don't hold your breath. You'll most likely turn very blue and pass out before it would ever come to pass.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

I’d love to see this tested on a larger circulation magazine.
I mentally went through the list trying to think of a magazine with a large circulation that would try it. Couldn’t come up with any. I wouldn’t be shocked if National Review or Reason or American Spectator tried it, but they’re all pretty small.

Atlantic comes closest. I’ve never been able to predict what they will or won’t do. They seem mediocre most of the time, and then they’ll come through with a really great article.
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
I LOVE the Western MSM ability to "speak truth to power" and to stand for the ability to speak freely. Yes they can speak truth and stand for free speech, as long as they are speaking the Jerry Falwell, the Boy Scouts, or Christian Consrvatives... you know the folks who are gonna get mad and boycott you.
But you don’t see a lot of speaking up or standing for speech when they’re facing Muslims, you know the people that riot and threaten folks with DEATH! And sometimes, kidnap and behead folks...yepper, it’s a whole ’nother thing dealing with them.

And we see how that’s working out aren’t we? Speaking truth to power and standing for speech is NTY easy. Ask Martin Luther King or Rosa Parks. Doing the right thing can be hard to do, as they say if being right was easy, we’d ALL do it.
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
I’m somewhat sympathetic to the notion that Borders should resist the evil coercion of Islamist jihadists, etc, etc. But on the other hand, the people who make the decisions about whether to carry the magazine are not the people whose lives might theoretically be on the line if retribution was sought.

I mean, Borders Exec Joe Blow isn’t gonna be in the store if/when a jihadist gets angry. Essentially, the call for Borders to grow a spine and stock the magazine is given by people with no dog in the fight. Well, sure, it’s easy to be callous with other people’s safety.

What would that memo look like anyway:
"The Management of Borders feels strongly about freedom of speech — so strongly that we’re willing to put your lives at risk, while we’re ensconced in corporate headquarters, watching the news. So, good luck with that!"

At the end of the day, the Borders execs probably decided that, however they felt about the cost/benefit of stocking the magazine, they had a greater responsibility to their employees safety. That’s not really an unreasonable decision.

(note: I freely acknowledge that it we would be less likely to see reaction in the US similar to that in other areas)
Written By: Jon Henke
Jon you make a good point, then I just don’t want Borders to EVER talk about upholding the right to speech. As martin Luther King said, if one man is not free none of us are free. Yes hyperbole but it encapsulates a truth... Borders can not stand up to Jerry Falwell or anyone else, and try to take any creit, because they were willing to knuckle under here. PLUS, really IS Borders or its employees under any REAL threat? Exactly how many Borders are in Saudi Arabia? This isn’t about REAL fear it’s about being intimidated, "oh someone MIGHT do something." Yeah they might.
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Jon you make a good point, then I just don’t want Borders to EVER talk about upholding the right to speech.
Why not? Freedom of speech is wholly different than business decisions regarding the sale of speech. We block commenters from using the F*word on this site lest some workplaces block our site or punish people for accessing it, yet I have no problem talking about upholding the right to speech.

The point is, whether one agrees with Borders risk calculation, it’s not at all unreasonable for Borders CEOs to decide that they’re unwilling to expose other people to risk so that Borders CEOs can take a stand. Agree or disagree with that calculation, it’s not an unreasonable one. Similarly, while I might be willing to stand against a public KKK rally wearing an MLK Jr shirt, I would not be willing to put my 4 year old son in that position.
Written By: Jon Henke
You aren’t too far off, Jon. Barnes and Noble, which is carrying Free Inquiry, has told store managers that there is a 24 hour corporate hotline in the event of trouble. Store managers are encouraged to be more vigilant and proactive than usual, and to hire on-site security if necessary. Such memos do not accompany the delivery of most magazines, of course.

I am curious to know how much of the decision at Borders HQ was based on the concern of actual violence in the stores. It seems like a pretty boneheaded PR move, over a very small circulation rag. Now they’ve opened themselves up to the rantings of people like Joe here. I would guess it is at least as likely that Borders employees would be subject to being harangued over their exercise of ownership of their magazine racks, as to being harangued over the presence of Free Inquiry.

Ah, the dangers of the book business.
Written By: Wulf
And Jon from your example of the Klan and the child... then what you have said is Jon Henke doesn’t BELIEVE in Freedom. Threaten his offspring and he quits. The Klan wins, Freedom loses. You have to risk your life and others, sometimes, to beat back the Klan or the Jihadis. It’s what we tell the Iraqi’s, "Stand up for your nation." And yet Americans, facing an almost non-existent threat, won’t... why should anyone else? Talling the talk ain’t walking the walk.

Sorry about putting your child at risk, I figure that’ll strike a nerve, sorry again... but in reading your post again it just struck. Now I wouldn’t expect it of the folks next door, they’re nice, but they’re not political, either. But a Libertarian/libertarian really ought to see that Freedom IS important, and we all have some part in its preservation.

I feel that Bertlessmann (sp.) bore some guilt in its publication of Mein Kampf, a wise business decision in Germany post-1933, but was it the RIGHT one? Or Jordan Eason taking the opposite tack at CNN, kow-towing to Saddams regime in order to maintain access. It made good ratings sense, kept their stringers out of harm’s way, but it furthered the propaganda ends of a very nasty regime. And again, Borders faces NONE of this and they capitulated.
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
I screwed up my fist posting, I also meant to say Borders makes itself MORE open to intimidation now. They’ve already said, threaten us and we cave. So out with the DaVinci Code, out with the Bible, out with 12-Step Study Guides! i don’t like’em and I’m calling Borders up with some bomb threats!
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
And Jon from your example of the Klan and the child... then what you have said is Jon Henke doesn’t BELIEVE in Freedom.
What?!?!?! If I don’t send my child out to a KKK Rally with an MLK Jr shirt on, I don’t believe in freedom?

What kind of twisted logic is that? And if I send you the address of a hate group, will you offer to incite them with your children?
Written By: Jon Henke
What?!?!?! If I don’t send my child out to a KKK Rally with an MLK Jr shirt on, I don’t believe in freedom?
You believe expressing your support for it isn’t worth putting your child in danger.

You may wish to (and probably will) argue that is a sane and prudent position to take. I may (and probably would) agree with you.
Written By: Mark A. Flacy
URL: http://
All the same, it’d be nice to see someone stand up for civilization.

I’m not a corporate exec, mind you, but if I ran a bookstore and someone threatened my stores unless I pulled that rag, I’ll tell you what I’d say:
We would like to warn our customers that Borders and Waldenbooks bookstores have been threatened with violence by people who are offended by one of the publications we carry, Free Inquiry. Managers at Borders locations have been advised to hire on extra security if they feel the need to do so. Any customers who still feel that this risk is too great but who appreciate our store should know that the offending copy of Free Inquiry will only be on our shelves for one month, ending April XX 2006. You can still order Borders books through our partnership with [link]. We will understand if you choose not to do your shopping at actual Borders locations in the interim, but our policy here at Borders does not include removing materials that may offend some parties from our shelves. The simple fact is that we sell media, and there are very few publications that don’t offend someone. If we bow to one intolerant group, we set an ugly precedent.

The difference between those who have threatened us and the vast majority of our customers is: the former have not learned like all adults to tolerate the free speech and expression of those with whom they disagree. Everyone else buys what they want, and doesn’t buy what they don’t like. In order to cater to a large customer base, Borders carries a very wide variety of media, which naturally means we will carry many items that a given person does not like.

If you share our commitment to free expression and defiance of intolerant extremists, and would like to show your solidarity, we will be more than happy to continue to serve our customers. Borders and Waldenbooks have decided to hold an extra sale on all items of 5% off until April XX, and we’d love to have the business of those who know how to live in an open and free society.
Ta-da. Stays on a capitalist message, nakedly tries to attract *more* business, and doesn’t give in to people who need to grow up already.
Written By: OrneryWP
URL: http://
How many Borders Stores in Saudi Arabia? None that I know of. But the real reason Borders won’t carry the magazine?

ANN ARBOR, Mich., Feb. 6, 2006—Borders Inc., a subsidiary of global book, music and movie retailer Borders Group, Inc. (NYSE:BGP), announced today that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with Al Maya Group, a diversified corporation headquartered in the United Arab Emirates, to establish a franchise arrangement under which Al Maya will operate Borders stores in the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.

The first of what is expected to be multiple Borders stores in the United Arab Emirates will be located in Dubai at Deira City Centre, the premier shopping center in the GCC. The Borders stores will offer a vast array of book titles in English and Arabic. Borders will provide training and marketing support to Al Maya. The store will be operated by Al Maya consistent with the Borders brand experience. Terms and conditions of the anticipated agreement will not be disclosed.

"We look forward to expansion into United Arab Emirates as an extension of the successful franchise experience we have with Berjaya Group in Malaysia,” said Rick Vanzura, president of Borders Group international and Paperchase worldwide. "Borders Group’s international expansion is a key part of our company’s overall growth strategy and franchising will accelerate this process," he continued. "We’re pleased to be working with Al Maya, a company that is respected for its retail expertise, wholesale operations, and excellent in-store execution of American and European brands such as Steve Madden, British Home Stores, and Mothercare (Warsaw). Based on its successful track record, we believe Al Maya is an excellent choice to operate Borders superstores in select GCC countries."

"We are privileged to be a Borders franchisee and we look forward to a mutually rewarding relationship with Borders in the coming years," said Deepak Pagarani, chief executive officer of Al Maya. "The marketplace is ready for expanded choice in book retailers. With the vast assortment Borders stores offer within a welcoming shopping environment, we are confident customers will embrace the Borders brand in the United Arab Emirates."
Written By: Borders Employee
URL: http://
What did they do about the Satanic Verses?
Written By: Harun
URL: http://

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