It reads: “From time to time, certain publications contain material that may be offensive to you, while being acceptable to others. It has been our longstanding policy that you determine what is acceptable, and what is not, by what you purchase or refuse to purchase. Your opinions and views on personally offensive products are welcome. Your refusal to buy any product for personal or religious reasons is always respected and honored.”
This reminds me a car salesman who keeps saying during our purchase negotiations, “I’m going to give you a really great deal on this car.” So why don’t you stop talking about your wonderful intentions and simply give me the great deal? Me thinketh that thou protesteth too much.
I’m pleased to see that Fred Meyer has stopped putting plastic shields over the cover of “Cosmopolitan.” This had the effect of drawing my attention to the magazine, as I’m sure was true of many others. Attempts at censorship in this country almost always backfire because the effort to repress creates a buzz of publicity that draws curious buyers to the product.
Not knowing at first whether this notice was purposely placed next to a certain paperback book, I rushed to thumb through the pages and look for offensive content. I couldn’t find any. Then I went down the next aisle and saw another notice similarly located at the end of the shelving. “Heck!,” I thought. For a moment it seemed that Fred Meyer was going to make it easy to locate books with explicit sex and gratuitous violence, just as they had put a spotlight on “Cosmopolitan” with those ridiculous plastic shields.
Laurel and I may be overly paranoid about the increasing influence of the religious right, but I see this notice as a harbinger of attempts by fundamentalists to control what the general citizenry reads and views. Fred Meyer feels the need to both (1) assure customers that they will let people purchase whatever products they want, and (2) invite the same customers to share their views on what products they find personally offensive.
Something doesn’t compute between (1) and (2). If I determine what is acceptable by what I purchase or refuse to purchase, then where is the need for me to tell Fred Meyer management what I find offensive? Haven’t I just conveyed this by my non-purchase of “Cosmopolitian” or whatever? And why is it necessary to assure me that my “refusal to buy any product for personal or religious reasons is always respected and honored”?
The First Amendment refers to freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Sure, we Americans also have the freedom not to speak and not to write, but so do people in totalitarian regimes. Thus it is disturbing that Fred Meyer chose to focus on the respect and honor they have for those who don’t buy books or magazines that they find offensive, instead of the respect and honor they have for the exercise of the First Amendment.
Hopefully neither Fred Meyer in particular nor the United States in general will be going further down the path of putting the right to be silent and blind above the right to speak out and see.