In the 25 August 2002 newsletter, there was a paid ad for an anti-Bush bumper sticker. The ad’s headline: There’s Dirt Under Every Bu$h. That led to (ahem) several reader letters:
I do not want to see your communist propaganda any more. Please stop my subscription immediately. I want no association with you. You are extremely stupid and should I do not want you coming into my house. I hope you have a great time selling your propaganda to little children and fools who would believe your lies. –Mac
Um, huh? That was followed shortly by another:
I was surprised and disappointed to find your remarks about Bu$h. I think he’s doing a good job — but even if I agreed with you I do not think your website need to be used for political statements.” And then a different Ed: “Your Bu$h bumper sticker is so typical of the name-calling and baseless slander that plays like a bass-continuo in the mainstream media today. If you have actual facts to allege about George W. Bush, you should state them. –Ed
I just unsubscribed and wanted you to know that it was because of your comments about ‘BU$H’. I did not expect biased political editorializing in your newsletter. Make fun of what he says or does — but what is this ‘crap’ about dirt? —DeVaux in California
OK, So I See the Pattern
I’m sorry to be so blunt, but I think that anyone who thinks that I agree with everything my advertisers say is stupid.
“My communist propaganda”? Communists don’t allow harsh criticism of their leaders. In America, we’re free to disagree, complain, even slander our leaders — and I didn’t even do that.
“My remarks about ‘Bu$h'”? No, not mine: someone who paid for the space made those remarks, and I put borders around ads so it’s very clear that they are ads.
“My bumper sticker”? Not mine: I didn’t think it up, I didn’t print it, I don’t sell it. Someone else does.
“My editorial comments”? I made no comment about the ad; it stood on its own; there was no editorializing, just advertising — and if you don’t know the big difference between the two, shame on you!
Long-Time Ad Policy
If you want to criticize me for accepting the ad, that’s different. But first consider two things:
- I already restrict my space from any ads for tobacco products, alcohol, illegal substances, and so-called “adult entertainment” (read: porn, which brings in big money — just ask any newspaper that takes “adult” ads).
I consciously chose not to try to protect the tender sensibilities of the few readers who can’t think for themselves in favor of those who prefer the American Way: open debate of important issues. Taking extreme positions is a cheap but effective way to stimulate debate.
- If you think it’s necessary to unsubscribe from a publication you like because it carried one ad that you don’t like, I won’t respect you one bit unless you also refuse to watch any TV network, listen to any radio station, or read any newspaper, magazine, newsletter, or other publication that carries one ad that you don’t like or don’t agree with.
Of Anyone Who Should Know Better
I was especially surprised at the comment from DeVaux, since he’s a former True advertiser! I replied to him: You, of all people ought to understand that I don’t censor ads! I didn’t censor yours. You honestly expect me to leave yours alone and then not offer that to others? Or is someone in the communications business that hypocritical?!
He replied: “I am not being hypocritical. Take out the name ‘Bush’ and insert the name ‘Gore’ and I’d still feel that comment does NOT belong in your writings.”
I told him he missed my point entirely. They are not “in my writings.” The advertisement is just that: an ad. I didn’t write it.
DeVaux: “How would YOU feel if your favorite newsletter suddenly started inserting political barbs that had nothing to do with the reason you subscribed?”
Me: That happens every day. I watch TV to be entertained, but I’m bombarded with ads that have nothing to do with my interests, let alone shows that have politically charged satire. I could whine about that and boycott the station — and within two hours, there would be no channels left to watch. No doubt you would be amused, not angry, if people looked at your ad and said “I’m sick and tired of long distance companies trying to get me to switch! I therefore refuse to EVER read this newsletter again!”
You’d think that person is an idiot — and you’d be right!
But now you stamp your feet and demand I treat others differently than I treated you instead of saying “gee, I’m not interested” or “what an idiot advertiser.” Instead, you shoot the messenger and accuse him of saying the words you don’t agree with when you know full well that’s not the case. And run angrily away from your “favorite newsletter”? So you think I shouldn’t laugh at you for this …why?
DeVaux had no response. How could he?
It does amuse me that when anything “conservative” appears in True, I’m suddenly a “right-wing Rush-Limbaughite”; when there’s a “liberal” item I’m suddenly a “left-wing Republic of Boulder Communist.”
Be Objective — It’s Not Hard
If you look at my work as a whole with an open mind, I think you have to admit I don’t take sides politically. Well, I am staunchly for American freedom — with the personal responsibility that goes with it (the part too many forget).
To those who wrote thoughtful letters complaining about the ad, I say this: I’m sorry if you were offended by the ad — you might want to complain to the advertiser about it, or write him to see if he’s interested in debate. (Some of you did, I know, since he told me about a few.)
I don’t particularly want to police the advertising, but I have set some limits, much to my financial detriment; I need to run advertising so that readers can get free subscriptions! If you don’t like an ad, do the worst thing you can to the advertiser: refuse to buy from him. No customers, and he goes out of business. If you do like the ad and the product/service offered, then do buy from them. See how easy that is?
But to boycott all the media you love because you don’t like one ad out of hundreds that are run is just plain stupid. If a 7-line ad tossed into your free entertainment is the worst of your problems in life, you are indeed a very lucky person.
Related: When a later advertiser talked about Bill Clinton, there were complaints again — from the other side. See It’s an Ad, Stupid (continued).
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