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.