Bookstores Surrender to Cartoon, Senate Surrenders to Lobbyists

Bloggers beat up bookstores for refusing to stock a magazine that printed cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, and the Senate passes lobbying reform that doesn't please anyone.

The AP reports this morning that booksellers Borders and Waldenbooks are refusing to stock the latest issue of Free Inquiry magazine because it features the controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that led to rioting earlier this year. “For us,” Borders Group Inc. spokeswoman Beth Bingham said, “the safety and security of our customers and employees is a top priority, and we believe that carrying this issue could challenge that priority.”

Cue indignation. As the Infidel Bloggers Alliance writes (their name might give you a hint as to where they come down on this one), “I would estimate that I have purchased over 2,000 books, CD’s, and magazines, and at least 10,000 cups of coffee at Borders over the years. I will never make another purchase there again, unless they come to me in their humiliation and apologize for what they have done. Then, they can pay me the Infidel jizya, and then and only then, if they are lucky, I will deign to steal books from them.”

Kesher Talk also thinks the chains are cravenly backing down, complaining, “Don’t let anyone tell you this is about high-minded sensitivity to other cultures. It’s about fear.” Daimnation expands the critique, taking New York University to task for decreeing that a panel discussion entitled “Free Speech and the Danish Cartoons,” which plans to display the cartoons, be closed to non-NYU attendees or refrain from showing the images. “Our commitment to freedom of expression is being challenged,” Daimnation writes, “and our universities and bookstores — who you’d think would have a particular interest in making sure this precious right is protected — are falling over themselves to surrender.”

Jim at the National Review’s Web site has some sympathy for the booksellers, writing, “I would observe that if nothing else, applaud the honesty of Borders/Waldenbooks. They’re not claiming that not stocking the magazine is a matter of ‘sensitivity,’ it’s a matter of safety for their employees. I can disagree whether that’s the right decision, but I can at least understand it and appreciate it.”

But the big news this morning is that yesterday the Senate passed a bill called the “Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2006,” which will allegedly curb Abramoff-like excesses in the lobbying industry in Washington. It’s tough to find any bloggers who are very enthusiastic about the bill, but the Moderate Voice, who sees it as a mixed bag, probably comes the closest: “Don’t get me wrong, I think the bill as passed is better than nothing. But in principle I agree with those who voted against it that it simply does not go far enough. The revolving-door ban should be longer, McCain’s corporate jet amendment should have been considered, and earmark reform should be extended. This is a good beginning, but as McCain said, I think there’s more to do.”

Shining Light in Dark Corners takes a dimmer view of the bill: “Congress did little to curb the influence peddling of future Abramoff’s. It’s tougher to take the simple and inexpensive perks, but you can still be whisked off by a lobbyist to exotic locations on a ‘fact finding mission.’ The senators on both sides of the aisle don’t want to give up their lavish junkets. So business as usual on Capital Hill. Corruption abounds unimpeded by the senators rushing for a camera to say what a ‘good’ job they did.”

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Paul McLeary is senior editor of Defense Technology International magazine, and is a former CJR staffer.