Friday, September 12, 2008

Wal-Mart Promotes Anti-Obama Books

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Some weeks ago, my wife and I visited a Wal-Mart (itself a politically incorrect act). Playing the sociological role of typical male, I got impatient with Carol's shopping and wandered to the Wal-Mart book aisle. On top of that shelf were two books on Barack Obama: The Obama Nation by Jerome Corsi and David Fredosso's The Case Against Barack Obama. Both are predictable Right Wing shrieks, filled with fear-gas and the usual maiming of truth such pundits produce like diarrea. But that wasn't the point to Carol and I.

We went to the counter of the Wal-Mart, located in Macomb, Illinois, and asked them if Wal-Mart was backing John McCain. This provoked a startled response from a teller, who sent us to a manager, who in turn suggested we call Wal-Mart's national headquarters (1-800 Walmart for those interested). She gave us the number, and a few weeks passed before Carol called. The spokesperson told Carol that "We're not making a statement for or against John McCain or Obama." Carol remonstrated with her that indeed Wal-Mart was making a statement by nationally carrying books slanted against one political candidate and only those books. Again, Carol was told that it was not up to Wal-Mart but rather to the book company supplying Wal-Mart. "And we have the freedom to carry anything we please," she told my wife.

To review: In short, we were told what the local manager had told us to start with. Wal-Mart was "not in control" of what books they carried, as a third-party distributor[*] was responsible for supplying Wal-Mart's book shelves. When we challenged this assumption on grounds that Wal-Mart was not powerless, but of course could tell a distributor what books it wanted and did not want, they responded by not responding (going in a logical circle). Of course they are free to carry whatever they want in their store, including copies of Mein Kampf if they'd like, but dimes to dollars says they would never do so (a lot of people still remember the results of that book).

But Wal-Mart also added one other issue to the pile. And that is that both of these books are currently best-sellers. This lets them completely off the hook, doesn't it? Well... not really. You see, Wal-Mart (like Oprah) can create best-sellers. Let's not kid ourselves here. Ideological books sold by Wal-Mart and without any balancing voice from the opposition are probably going to be read by a lot of people. And so, Wal-Mart sells ideology and not just product.

Things online are a little better, if not much. As of today, Wal-Mart's online bookstore, Walmart.com/books, is featuring Obama Nation at the top center of the page. If one does try to find a "good" Obama book, using Obama as a search term, out of the books listed under Obama, even there the top three are Rightist diatribes. But at least Obama's own books are represented down the page.

I'm not sure what we should all do about this. Call Wal-Mart in swarms complaining about these books? Sit at home, bemused and wondering about just where "political neutrality" ends and a superstore's choice of shelf placement reflects its' owner's political slant? Maybe we could ask they carry Barack's two books on their store shelves to counter-balance these Rightist flame-outs. Yes, they have the freedom to sell whatever they want to... but we have the freedom to make our intense displeasure at the sale of such things known. One way or another.

We'll keep tracking this one.


* Still trying to find out who the third-party book distributor is. If it is any company owned by Rupert Murdoch of FOX and News Corps fame, I'm going to start laughing and biting my laptop simulateously.

9 comments:

@bdul muHib said...

Thank you for sharing this major alert.

But I have to ask the obvious question- what were you doing in a Wal-Mart?!?

I'm stuck in New Mexico at the moment. Here, and in Arizona, and in California, I run into the strangest experience, one you'd never experience in the Northwest. When I want an item that a particular store doesn't have, they actually recommend me to Wal-Mart! When I tell them that of course I will never in my life set foot in that den of iniquity (though in kinder terms), they are surprised, as if they'd never heard of the concept of refusing to shop at Wal-Mart because they refuse to shop with justice.

Jeff Carter said...

Well, I don't know what you would do about Wal-mart, except to boycott it en masse, unless you're proposing that they be required by law to carry opposing sides. Would you like the Fairness Doctrine to apply?

Much more interesting to me is your Christian perspective on the pro's of Obama and Democratic (Party) policies. Are there certain policies that you feel are especially reflective of the gospel of Christ?

Jeff Carter, www.sophiesladder.com

Jon Trott said...

Jeff, your question deserves a much lengthier response than I can deliver right now. (I'm preparing Project 12 classes and must keep doing so!) But here's a few points I'd suggest re certain aspects of Obama/Dem policy reflective of the gospel of Christ... well, first let me enter a caveat here. I am nervous about the phrase "gospel of Christ," as it is easily misunderstood.

Why? First, most people think of "gospel" as being about personal salvation. Salvation, regeneration, and much connected to them is simply beyond any political candidate to touch (in my opinion). Nor should they try.

Second, I am very, very nervous about making it seem as though *any* candidate can be viewed as "rubber stamped by God" as His Chosen One. As much of an Obamagelical as I am, I stop short at any such labeling. I cannot speak for God on preference in our elections, though some folks think they can do so.

Third, as someone who is fairly freaked out by Evangelicals embracing American Nationalism (in one of its more naive, and therefore more dangerous, flavors!), I don't like connecting nation with gospel, period.

So, those caveats in mind, I'll try to note a few things in Obama's/the Dems' approach which seem consistent with Christ's teachings and (to a limited degree) his example.

1. An emphasis on being together in trying to solve issues rather than being divided (the latter as Repub/Karl Rove/John McCain approach).

2. Humility. I continue to marvel that Obama is seen as "elitist" while consistently disavowing his unilateral abilities to solve problems. He's said more than once that he can and will make mistakes, and expects all Americans to help him correct those mistakes.

3. On issues (such as abortion) he cannot see the same way many of us see, he nonetheless is trying to find a third way -- noting for instance that the pro-life movement is involved with struggling with the deepest issues of human meaning. Further, he wants to work with pro-lifers to find ways to circumvent abortion and make it "unnecessary" to those who otherwise would use it as a solution.

4. The Iraq War. Our current Evangelical President has lied to us, and many, many times, about why we went to Iraq (WMDs). This is not a guess or suggestion -- but hard, documented fact. That war ended many, many human lives. Electing Barack Obama will help stop the ultra-elitist policies, rooted in atheist philosopher Leo Strauss, that Cheney and others used to justify this death and destruction. "Let your yes be yes, and your no, no." I've seen few politicians who do that, and maybe Obama won't always do it. But I am personally convinced that Bush, and now McCain / Palin, have and will continue destroying Christ with their nationalized version of Christian Faith.

5. Fear vs. Love. "Perfect love casts out fear." Obama has not fear mongered during this election. McCain, just as Bush did for two elections running, has done little else but fear monger. I'm sick of being told to be afraid, and to vote for alleged "strong man" candidates on that basis. Jesus was the strongest man who ever lived, and he was a man who held fear in contempt.

That's all badly worded and unedited. Have to run, but I hope it provides a few touch points. We can talk more when I've time. Thanks.

@bdul muHib said...

Jon- I'd add his deep and abiding concern for the poor and disenfranchised, which not only drives most of his policies, but for him, comes straight out of his commitment to the Gospel and to Jesus Christ. This guy's no Kennedy- he's the first Democrat since Carter to explicitly state that his beliefs and politics come out of his belief in Jesus.

Jon Trott said...

And of course that's where I should have started. Matthew 25 is where so many things of any worth start. I guess I really was rushing along with that answer, so much so that I left out the most important part.

As long as I'm at it, there is one other thing that strikes me as, well, "gospelesque" about Obama. And that is his resistance to turning his faith into something simple, easily digested, and thus more political than spiritual. I thought that happened at the infamous Rick Warren shindig. And I hope Barack is always that way.

Jeff Carter said...

Yes, absolutely I can see how the Holy Spirit could lead you to focus on the godly qualities that both of you mentioned. In full disclosure, I'm in the other political camp, though I'm not an activist. I vote and voice my opinion, and that's it.

But I think it's highly important that Christians with alternate viewpoints talk to one another. My allegiance is to Christ, not a party or a government, both of which are ultimately of this world. I would go so far as to say that most Christians on the right don't think, or hardly think, there are Christians on the other side. The skin feels because it is made for feeling, the tongue tastes because it was made for tasting, but they are both part of the same body. Can I say to either that they are not needed?

Oddly, I feel at peace about where you are because I believe I sense your strong commitment to Christ. I don't feel any urge to change your mind. But I do have questions. Do you ever feel threatened or denigrated by those in the liberal camp because of your faith? How do you deal with issues of abortion and homosexuality?

Your comments on the Iraq War have at least got me to thinking. I guess I never felt I was lied to, since I believed the actual motive was to overthrow each and every non-democratic Islamic regime, regardless of the excuse given. WMDs was just given to appease the Europeans. Yes, I know, that's not being transparent, and what you said about the lying does bother me, but I wonder if it's naive to think that a government can actually function in this world in a truly transparent way.

OK, don't want to ramble, but surely, humility, the regard for the oppressed, love over fear are all qualities of Christ that I want to manifest to the world. I believe that liberty, holiness and respect for life are Christ-like qualities as well.

Peace to all.

Anonymous said...

Back in March of this year, I learned that both "Dreams of My Father" and "The Audacity of Hope" were being sold at my local Wal-Mart in Sylva, NC. I eventually bought a copy of "Audacity" and read most of it. I haven't finished it because, to be quite honest, I wanted to read something that wasn't written by Barack Obama about Barack Obama. Surprise, surprise when the store started selling Barack's biography. My apologies if I can't remember the author's name, though I know he works for the "Chicago Tribune." That was a first-rate work and gave me a very solid outsider's perspective of Barack.

Anyway, back to my main story. Over the summer, Corsi's and the other author's work that you mentioned appeared. All of the Obama materials disappeared except for "Dreams of My Father." Last I saw, in September, it was still on the shelf in paperback.

So what's my point? I guess just to say that there is at least one Wally World out there that is selling some Obama-related works, even if its only one book now. It would be nice to get all three back on the shelf. Oh, and try looking for Anderson Merchandisers. They distribute the books for the Wal-Mart where I live.

Jon Trott said...

Thanks, Anon...

Yes, we (Carol and I) also figured out it was Anderson Book Distributors who deal with books for WalMart.

But then again, who owns them? Part of me wonders if WalMart itself does. Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. would be my next bet, but now I'm sounding conspiratorial.

Anonymous said...

Anderson Merchandisers is not owned by Walmart. Walmart does decide what books to carry and then orders them from Anderson.

Walmart prominently featured the Anti-Obama books because there's a good chance that an Obama administration will increase the pressure for unionization in WM. They even had meetings with their store management teams "encouraging" them to vote McCain.