Friday, May 06, 2005

YOU CAN'T HAVE IT UP THE ARSE AT STARBUCKS

With their role as tastemakers for a nation getting ever more serious, it;s disturbing that Starbucks in the US is moving into providing censorship with your frappucinos. The chain has decided to withdraw its support for the new Bruce Spingsteen album because it mentions anal sex and using prostitutes. Starbucks' Ken Lombard tries to play down the censorship angle:

"There were a number of factors involved. It (the lyrics) was one of the factors, but not the only reason," Lombard told Reuters.

He said Starbucks' two Hear Music stores in Santa Monica and Berkeley, California were selling "Devils & Dust," even though the CD would not be stocked in coffee shops.

"While we agreed the lyrics to 'Reno' did warrant an advisory, our decision to choose another title to showcase was ultimately an issue of scheduling."


Yes, apparently the coffee shop decided that it couldn't let down, um, Antigone Rising (nope, us neither) and so there simply wasn't room for Bruce - it wasn't the buttfucking, oh no. Starbucks have nothing against that. They weren't censoring. Is that clear? They simply went to all the trouble of cutting a deal with Sony to push the CD, and then suddenly remember - whoops - that they'd already made this deal with Antigone Rising. Who don't sing about anal sex, but that's not the point.


5 comments:

Anonymous said...

A private company can decide to not sell anything it wishes. It is, by definition, not censorship. Your continued use of that word only distracts from actual cases of censorship that need attention.

simon h b said...

You're wrong, annonymous.

Firstly: someone banning anything on moral grounds is censorship; it doesn't have to come from a State.

Secondly: Everyone relies on private companies for access to books, music, films and ideas. If we just shrug when the companies selling these things decide they are going to choose what we can and can't buy, we could be in serious trouble before too long - it might be Bruce and a song about butt-fucking here, but the principle is exactly the same as, say, a supermarket chain electing not to offer a newspaper which takes a different view of things to the chain's owner, or a bookshop canning its socialist section entirely.

Trevor said...

First: think about all the things that any given private company decides to sell/decides not to sell.

Second: in order to call this type action "censorship" one must establish a line of demarcation; i.e. the State must establish a line of demarcation, in other words a law

Third: this type of law (whatever it allows or prohibits) - working across all businesses - would seriously impinge on the freedoms of businesses and buyers to behave as they wish.

Fourth: A consumer has the ability to choose to either give patronage to a business or not. A business (as consumers) can choose to give patronage to suppliers (i.e. Mr. Springsteen and his label). Infringe on one aspect of this freedom of choice via a law - either make someone buy something or make someone sell something - and you have committed true, damaging censorship.

Censorship occrus when obeisance is obligatory.

If a bookstore does away with the Socialist section, don't shop there. Making a law that says it must offer a socialist section is censorship.

Trevor Burrus

Symbolic Order: Politics and Culture for Smart People.

Trevor Burrus said...

First: think about all the things that any given private company decides to sell/decides not to sell.

Second: in order to call this type action "censorship" one must establish a line of demarcation; i.e. the State must establish a line of demarcation, in other words a law

Third: this type of law (whatever it allows or prohibits) - working across all businesses - would seriously impinge on the freedoms of businesses and buyers to behave as they wish.

Fourth: A consumer has the ability to choose to either give patronage to a business or not. A business (as consumers) can choose to give patronage to suppliers (i.e. Mr. Springsteen and his label). Infringe on one aspect of this freedom of choice via a law - either make someone buy something or make someone sell something - and you have committed true, damaging censorship.

Censorship occurs when obeisance is obligatory.

If a bookstore does away with the Socialist section, don't shop there. Making a law that says it must offer a socialist section is censorship itself. If a law mandates an action that results in an economic tradeoff it is censorship.

Censorship is, ultimately, enforced by guns.

Trevor Burrus

Symbolic Order: Politics and Culture for Smart People.

simon h b said...

Trevor,

Control is enforced by guns, but if you have to use guns to enforce your censorship, it's probably a sign that you've lost control.

But let's see:

===
First: think about all the things that any given private company decides to sell/decides not to sell.
===

There are choices, and there are choices which are made that impinge on artistic freedom. Sure, Starbucks are free to say to Bruce 'we won't stock your anal sex song' - that sends a message to other artists that, if they want to get their CDs into the hugely important starbucks selling racks, they better not sing about anal sex.

===
Second: in order to call this type action "censorship" one must establish a line of demarcation; i.e. the State must establish a line of demarcation, in other words a law
===

Erm... sorry, but you're wrong here. Suppose I chose to delete your post - it wouldn't be because there was a state law, but it would still be me censoring you. I'm not sure why you believe that only the state can censor - anyone who seeks to inhibit your right to expression is censoring you; even if its disguised behind a commercial decision

===
Third: this type of law (whatever it allows or prohibits) - working across all businesses - would seriously impinge on the freedoms of businesses and buyers to behave as they wish.
===

Starbucks is a growing, significant factor in music sales in the US. Telling Bruce he can't have access to that market because they don't like his subject matter does impinge on the freedom he has as an artist to sing what he wants, and on consumers to decide what they want to listen to. It might not be the most serious case of censorship, but unless you've been asleep for a few years, you'll see how this fits in to a long, low-level war of attrition between the new puritans and the music world - the PRMC, Spin being thrown off shelves, "parental guidance" stickers and so on. One of the thousand cuts.

===
Fourth: A consumer has the ability to choose to either give patronage to a business or not. A business (as consumers) can choose to give patronage to suppliers (i.e. Mr. Springsteen and his label). Infringe on one aspect of this freedom of choice via a law - either make someone buy something or make someone sell something - and you have committed true, damaging censorship.
===

I don't think anyone is suggesting that Starbucks should be forced to sell the Springsteen CD - just that everyone should be aware that they have chosen not to because they don't agree with his words. I'm not sure I agree with your broader point, either, that by enshrining the right of the artist to have access to the marketplace you're censoring anybody - I would see that as guaranteeing a multiplicity of voices. What you're saying would appear to imply that by making ITV show half an hour of national news in peaktime, ITV is somehow being censored. Which is clearly absurd.

===
Censorship occrus when obeisance is obligatory.
===

No it doesn't; censorship occurs when someone is denied a platform to say something because the person who controls the platform disagrees with what they are saying.

===
If a bookstore does away with the Socialist section, don't shop there.
===

If a chain buys all the bookstores in town, closes all but one and removes the socialist section, what then? Sure you also have the choice of Amazon, but clearly the bookshop company are choosing to remove books for political reasons.

===
Making a law that says it must offer a socialist section is censorship.
===

Don't be silly. What definition of censorship are you using?

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