Monday, December 13, 2004

Red Herrings On Aisle 5 

Is internal, institutional-scale consistency of knowledge a reasonable expectation in the modern over-departmentalized megacorporate model? A suit against Wal-Mart says yes:
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which promotes itself as a seller of clean music, deceived customers by stocking compact discs by the rock group Evanescence that contain the f-word, a lawsuit claims. The hit group's latest CD and DVD, "Anywhere But Home," don't carry parental advisory labels alerting potential buyers to the obscenity. If they did, Wal-Mart wouldn't carry them, according to the retailer's policy.

But the lawsuit claims Wal-Mart knew about the explicit lyrics in the song, "Thoughtless," because it censored the word in a free sample available on its Web site and in its stores. The complaint, filed Thursday in Washington County Circuit Court, seeks an order requiring Wal-Mart to either censor or remove the music from its Maryland stores. It also seeks damages of up to $74,500 for each of the thousands of people who bought the music at Wal-Marts in Maryland.
It seems reasonable to assume that all departments of any corporation should be aware of, and adhere to, corporate policy. But companies like Wal-Mart are huge and fragmented. Without a warning label, I can't imagine it realistic to expect the sales-floor arm to be aware of how the promotional arm of a large corporation made a call on the relative appropriateness of one individual product among millions.

The law, of course, doesn't need to worry about realism in the face of a status quo. If Wal-Mart insists on making content-level promises its corporate mechanism cannot ensure, a judge could, theoretically, choose instead to mandate change in the corporate infrastructure. This should be an interesting one to follow for those of us interested in the study of sociology.

Easier to dismiss: In pointing readers to the story, BoingBoing pal John Parres swears this is a free speech issue. But even if this suit were about free speech (it isn't), the left-handed expectation for corporate "freedoms" is hardly a war cry. As long as there are copious places to access non-censored versions of this or any media, and as long as Wal-Mart policy is clear for consumers, it is enough to note that the suit in question doesn't address the speech issue, and assume from there.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:45 AM |

The question is - Just how long WILL there be places to buy uncensored media (books/music/video/etc)? Walmart is the biggest and is only getting bigger. All the mom and pop chains are dying out. Will there come a time where we are given the version of things that big corporations WANT us to have, and not the originals? For that matter, how long will individual artists be able to make the product they want, without censure of some kind?
Frankly, I'm scared. Fuck.
I'm so glad someone else seems to see the other side of this issue.
I agree with the above comment, and yes, this is one of the reasons I don't like Wal-Mart or the culture it pushes.

But this suit is not about someone suing because they don't want free speech. This suit is about holding Wal-Mart accountable for their claims!
After all, they are HUGELY hypocritcal!How can you accuse Wal-Mart of censorship when they allow some items through and others not? They're guilty of something, all right, but I don't think it's necessarily censorship we're talking about.

I'm totally against any banning of books or games or whatnot from any store. I certainly don't want these things cencored. I think it's ridiculous to expect adults not to play games just because the games are not suitable for children. Or because some grandparents will buy it for kids, even unwittingly. But I think Wal-Mart has it coming, what with their dubious claims and inconsistent practices.
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