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July 26, 2005

Rolled-back rights

Something needs to be done about the Independent Republic of Wal-Mart, which for too long has behaved like a theocratic government in waiting.

In the past, you’ll recall, the company has banned magazines like Maxim and hid the covers of Cosmopolitan; refused to carry a Sheryl Crow album that contained lyrics about children killing each other with guns bought at the store; and banned a Prodigy album because it decided the lyrics were offensive. Now the retailer has decided that Willie Nelson (age 72) is also a little too risqué [August 2005: link dead, no substitute available]:

[T]he cover of Willie Nelson’s new reggae album comes in two separate versions: regular and Wal-Mart. The cover art of Countryman, released Tuesday, features green marijuana leaves over a red and yellow background and looks similar to a large pack of rolling papers.
However, for those looking to snap up the CD at Wal-Mart’s famously rolled back prices, the cover features a palm tree in place of the offending leaves, a change made by Universal Music Group Nashville out of deference to the retailing giant’s strict guidelines with regards to lyrics and packaging.

And God help anyone who dares criticize the company, as the Pensacola News Journal recently discovered:

Columnist Mark O’Brien wrote in June 19 editions that Pensacola should “be more than the Wal-Mart kind of town we’re becoming – cheap and comfy on the surface, lots of unhappiness and hidden costs underneath.”
O’Brien then cited a New York Times report that Georgia’s health care program included more than 10,000 children of Wal-Mart workers, costing taxpayers nearly $10 million a year. He noted the Times report was cited in “The World is Flat,” a new book by Thomas Friedman about the global economy.

Wal-Mart’s response was predictable: it decided once again to censor free speech. The company banned sales of the newspaper from area stores, and also tried to get the columnist fired. On Tuesday it relented, lifting the ban and saying it had made “an error in judgment.”

No kidding. But this is the line Wal-Mart always spins (remember this, for example?), and somehow it gets away with it. Why any Democrat would shop there is beyond me.

More on the Independent Republic at Walmartwatch.

Posted by Stephen at 9:40 PM in Business | Religion + cults | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

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