Obscenity In Eye Of Beholder



Remember a while back when Wal-Mart was in the news for refusing to carry certain rock and rap CDs they judged to be of questionable taste?

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, who supports Wal-Mart's actions, thinks that kind of corporate censorship is just fine:

"Some of the rap music and other music is just the most violent, anti-woman, pro-drug stuff that I've ever heard. So three cheers for Wal-Mart. There is freedom of speech in this country -- we've always said that in our appeals to the record companies to try and clean up their act -- and just as there's free speech, in a free market Wal-Mart doesn't have to carry anything it doesn't want to carry, and of course that has an effect because they're such a big retailer."

Espousing an opposite view, a recent article in the Sonoma Independent, featured an interview with rock critic Dave Marsh:

"(Marsh) believes retailers have a civic obligation to make available a wide range of material, even -- perhaps, especially -- material that makes people uncomfortable.

"‘The point of the First Amendment is not to protect things everyone agrees on. It's to protect things people don't agree on,' Marsh argues. ‘If they're eliminating what is controversial, they're not being good citizens.

"‘This is not about protecting people. Wal-Mart sells guns, they sell junk food -- how many carcinogens do you think they sell at Wal-Mart?' asks Marsh. ‘It's about forcing people to think like Christians from Arkansas.'"

As a general rule, it is not prudent to step into the middle of moral debates like this, but prudence has never been one of our strong suits. And while it didn't matter too much to us when the censorship was applied to rap music, which we consider something less than real music, now Wal-Mart is extending its censorship tentacles into areas that matter to us.

Their latest foray into America's morals is the company's banning of the book "America (The Book)," currently No. 1 on the New York Times bestsellers list. Co-authored by Jon Stewart "the bitingly brilliant host of Comedy Central's ‘The Daily Show'" (according to Bill Goodykoontz of The Arizona Republic), it was banned in Payson and Wal-Mart podunks everywhere because it contains "(doctored) nude pictures of the Supreme Court justices."

I don't know about you, but a quick perusal of the Supreme Court justices in full regalia makes me quite thankful that Stewart and his cohorts were kind enough to doctor their nude images. Wouldn't you much rather see Angelina Jolie's body superimposed over Sandra Day O'Conner as opposed to the real McCoy? And the thought of a naked Clarence Thomas is scarier than a pubic hair on a Coke can.

Be that as it may, we certainly can appreciate how much fun it must be to play God, and we would like a piece of the action. Since Wal-Mart is compiling a list of things it won't allow because it considers them bad for us, we demand the opportunity to add some items of our own to their list.

For starters, Wal-Mart should censor:

  • All Screaming Kids

Any kid that starts screaming in a Wal-Mart is whisked away by security guards to a special room where he or she is given, as my father used to say, "something to cry about."

  • Those Infernal Public Address Announcements

"Attention Wal-Mart shoppers, we are now featuring whole dead chickens in our deli..." For God's sake (if we can say that in a Wal-Mart), let us shop in peace.

  • Those Butt-Ugly Associate Vests

Wal-Mart finds use of the "f" word offensive. We find those vests offensive. Especially with "How may I help you?" written on the back -- yet another attempt to stifle free expression. Fair is fair. If they can ban what they don't like, then they should also be willing to ban what we don't like.

  • Car Alarms

There's nothing more irritating than an errant car alarm bellowing away for an hour or so, and how many cars get stolen in Payson anyway? Associates should be armed with bazookas and simply "remove" any car whose alarm is creating a nuisance.

  • Town Council Badges

Some stores in Arizona ask you to check your firearms at the door. We think it would be prudent in Payson to do the same with council badges.

  • Lobster Cruelty

Restraining their claws until they're plucked up and eaten is a fate we wouldn't wish on ... well, a lobster. At least take the restraints off and give them a fighting chance.

  • Dead Goldfish

Every time a goldfish dies in the Wal-Mart pet department, an alarm sounds and associates are dispensed throughout the store to give each and every shopper a crisp $100 bill.

  • Long Pharmacy Lines

Those old people just can't be allowed to stand there telling the pharmacy associate all about their grandkids or their shuffleboard prowess while the rest of us busy people cool our heels. When that happens a crack team of Wal-Mart goons roughs up the offender and hustles him off to the back room where he is punished by being force-fed dead goldfish while listening to screaming children being given "something to cry about."

Obscenity is truly in the eye of the beholder.

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