Hypocrisy surrounds retail ban
September 20, 1996
It looks as if Wal Mart has done it again. In yet another attempt to preserve
their family-friendly image, the discount chain has decided to display a
retaliation of wounded pride by refusing to sell Sheryl Crow's new self-titled
CD because of a lyric indicating that Wal Mart sells guns to children.
Although this ban on Crow's CD is perfectly within legal bounds, this is
the third time in four years that Wal Mart has decided to wield censorship
by banning CDs they felt were not up to par with their criteria. In 1992,
the standard was set when Nirvana's "In Utero" was banned from
Wal Mart because one of the songs on the album was entitled "Rape Me."
In order to salvage the ample sales that Wal Mart may have brought to the
group, Nirvana opted to change the title of the song to something less racy.
For Wal Mart, an ego was born.
In July, the store banned a CD by the Goo Goo Dolls, "A Boy Named Goo,"
because they felt the album cover, which shows a baby with jam smeared on
his mouth sitting in a berry patch beneath two reaching adult hands, had
subliminal child abuse connotations.
When was Wal Mart given the crown on artistic interpretation, and who gave
them this esteemed honor? No one -- they gave it to themselves, and not
very deservingly. It seems ironic that Wal Mart is so concerned with child
abuse, considering there have been allegations of Wal Mart using child labor
to manufacture clothing in third world countries. Perhaps this need by Wal
Mart to censor what it does not agree with or understand stems from denial
more than anything else.
Crow has refused to change the lyrics in her song "Love is a Good Thing,"
which read, "Watch our children as they kill each other/With a gun
they bought at Wal Mart discount stores."
As far as Wal Mart is concerned, Crow crossed the line, a step that may
well cost her half a million dollars in sales. Wal Mart defended this cocky
rejection of Crow's album with the simple statement that they "do not
sell guns to kids," and that guns are only available through Wal Mart's
mail order catalog, hardly a fool-proof system.
Maybe Wal Mart has not thought about it, but could their hasty ban on Crow's
CD really be counter-effective, giving her more free publicity and boosting
record sales? Granted, she probably needed it, but obviously Wal Mart did,
too. Now, when we think of good Samaritans, we will think of that friendly
multi-million dollar franchise just down the street in every town sucking
up all the value of small town businesses across the country, selling the
public their versions of adequate listening material. With these censorship
issues, Wal Mart is not the poster child for "commitment to children"
as they say; it is not even an adequate place to buy a CD.
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