We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Bookstores duck for cover

Boycott these bookstores the next time you go looking for a book. They have just invited more intimidation against critics of violent islamists. Yes, I can understand the desire to protect staff, but this is a bad message to send out from a major firm. It says: we will give in if you act violent enough.

I have used Borders in the past, but will not do so again.

(hat tip: Glenn Reynolds).

45 comments to Bookstores duck for cover

  • John Steele

    I have a diary at RedState.com on this subject; simply indefensible.

    After the abject failure of the western press and governments, mine included, to stand firm for free speech, and the recent law suit against the Canadian magazine Western Standard and the capitualation at New York University (here and here) this is simply the latest example of the downhill slide of western civilization. The barbarians are at the gate and not only are we are giving up without a shot, we are helping them.

    Welcome to the Caliphate.

  • Nick M

    Well that’s the first time I’ve ever heard of a bookstore rating customer saftey as a priority. Clearly the large number of serious injuries caused by the collapse of piles of “Harry Potter and the Crock of Shite” have caused a re-think in priorities.

    Borders is so PC that it doesn’t open in the morning, it boots.

    More to the point, as this is C21 and most stuff is available down the wire, who cares?

    I read very little that doesn’t turn up on my Trinnis.

  • Take a look at the Borders web site.

    They still carry “The Satanic Verses.”

  • Nick M

    Well let’s burn them down! The infidels.

  • Verity

    Nick M – It wasn’t “customer safety”, it was “staff safety” that was quoted in the article.

    Borders also, according to LGF, has agreed to place the Koran only on the top shelves in its stores because no book can be higher than the Koran. What a load of shit. Our commercial establishments are taking direction from Islam’s daft religious strictures? Why didn’t they tell the RoPers that this isn’t how we do things in the West, so eat shit?

    Instead, they choose to turn of hundreds of thousands of normal citizens of advanced societies off their stores in order to abide by the strictures of a barbaric, primitive and alien religion. La Dhimmitude Nouveau est arrivé!

    [I know that’s not grammatically correct. I wrote it for the resonance, before anyone races in to correct me.]

  • Nick M

    As ever, I highly regard your prose Verity. That isn’t sarcastic. I honestly doubt that I have ever met a sharper or nastier critic of the worst idea anyone has had since the bronze age.

    On the other hand, Placing the Korans that high (and I know the weird Islamic thing of having to treat it like it’s the Ark of The Covenant itself) will result in fewer people buying it and fewer people falling for it’s lies.

    I know you’ve said this frequently, so I’d like to add that the muslim (F) is, in my experience, as aggresive as you say. Will ID cards be declared haram for them? It’s their culture to look at my 5’1″ girlfriend in jeans and T-shirt with absolute hatred and bump her off the bus or walk three abreast and force her onto the road. They don’t do it with me. I suspect because aggressive tactics might invole contact with a kufr male.

  • Verity

    Thanks for the information about your girlfriend, Nick M. Tented Muslim women are very aggressive – who can wonder why? – and as touching males outside their families is haram (yawn), they take their anger out on Western women. I am not surprised that they would ‘accidentally’ knock your girlfriend off the pavement. They do this all the time. Push in front of Western women in queues, because the natural place of the Muslim is in front of infidels. Accidentally knock into one with their elbows. These are nasty, vicious individuals.

    I don’t know how they take out their fury in Saudi Arabia, where the only way children know their own mother picking them up from school is by her shoes. but in the West, unidentifiable, they slyly physically attack the native women. (Of course, the men aren’t that subtle. They physically attack the native women with rape. It’s out of control in Sweden.)

  • Dale Amon

    Hmmm. Next time you take a look at a copy, remember to replace it on the bottom shelf… 😉

  • John McVey

    It was also Borders Union members who openly discussed how to hide books they disagreed with on their website. The particular victim at the time was Unfit For Command. I had already decided not to buy at Borders, ever, so this just cements the position as it suggests management complicity rather than the employees acting entirely of their own accord.


  • cowtipper

    Borders really can’t afford to be irrational. Having just finished financial analysis between Borders and B&N for our fund, the bottom line is that Borders is in trouble and can’t afford to insult its customers right now. 2006 is a critical year and the market has been asked to give management “one more chance” on top of probably too many chances, hoping for some magic to occur in the fourth quarter of this year.

    I’ve been a Borders fan for some time – probably due to convenience. In our central US city, the nearby Borders is easy to access while B&N is in an old mall and difficult to park at. Borders also had a deeper tech book section and was where I’d normally spend $300+ a month in purchases. If you’re on a hard core IT certification track, Borders is your first choice for “must have it now” book shopping.

    No longer. If Borders supports Islamofascism through appeasment and refusal to support free speech, I’ll deal with the lousy parking at B&N. Amazon’s one-day away, and doesn’t seem to have a problem with areopagetica. Curiously, Borders B2C site (operated by Amazon in one of their few smart moves) has no problem selling books by the “piss Christ” author, offending countless Christians, as well as Mein Kampf to the offense of Jews, etc. I really don’t see their motivation as fear so much as nihlism and a secret fascination with death-centered religions that would terminate gays and leftists at the first opportunity.

    Back to the financial analysis and disregarding philosophical rants… Borders would not handle a boycott well. Look at their most recent 10K – they’re promising lousy performance through the year and praying (if we can use the word) that the market ignores their terrible financial state until quarter four, 2006, where a miracle will happen and outstanding sales will occur. Things do not look good and only irrational optimism and hope in management’s ability can sustain the market to the fourth quarter. This management team is truly lost – listen to their conference call and the real status of their mini-Borders “Waldenbooks” makeover that the call admitted has been a complete miscalculation. I’d trust a magic eight ball more than these misplaced executives.

    If an organized boycott evolved in the next few weeks, Borders is probably 30-60 days from corporate reorg or collapse, a new CEO and appeasement of the boycotters. Given their money appears to come from red-state people and not leftist anti-establishment small bookstore types, their actions are further proof that management is completely lost.

  • Dr. Deanon

    Devil’s advocate: It is reasonable to assume that Borders staff and/or customers could be put at risk by Islamist reaction to their stocking certain merchandise. I think we can all agree on that. All about Border’s motives or suspected motives aside, should we ask or expect bookstore employees and patrons to be a canary in the coal mine when it puts then inarguably in harms way to some increased degree?

    It is not the CEO who will be at greatest risk, but the front line people stocking books and running the registers.

    There is no doubt that Border’s action here is anti-free speech. But is there a rational argument that can be made for their action being justified given the reatl potential of violence?

    End devil’s advocate.

    Also, their statement is a not-so-backhanded admission that they believe Islamists are prone to, and fully capable of, violence. That to me is interesting in and of itself.

  • Dr. Deanon

    Uh, yes “reatl” is a word. It’s just never been used before… Yeh, that’s it.

    First “Preview”.. then “Post”. Sure. Sounds simple now.

  • I think the Koran should be on the top shelf with all the other male fantasy S&M filth. Right height, wrong section.

  • Tuscan Tony

    What cowtipper said. Appealing to the vote-heavy but cash-light masses is a mistake that takes time to show its colours, as Britain’s idiotarian left-of-centre 1970s governments discovered. Time to short on both Borders and the UK Labour Party methinks.

    p.s. was fascinated by Verity’s Morecasbe Bay experience comment elsewhere, up til I read it was fiding it hard to visualise the fear those Chinese cockler guys must have gone through, not any more though…

  • I’ve used Borders in the past and can’t promise I won’t in the future. I like bookstores, what can I say?

    However I always find it amusing to engage in a little book re-arranging whenever I’m in one of these ‘right-on’ stores (Waterstone’s is just as bad). Usually this involves taking copies of Natan Sharansky’s excellent ‘the case for democracy’ or the US Constitution and scattering them around the ‘America is Evil’ table display that seems a permanent feature of most bookstores.

    Now I think I’ll add to my normal routine by wandering over to the political theory section, taking a copy of Mein Kampf, then strolling over to the religious nutter section and re-shelving it amongst the copies of the Koran.

    I know its a little petty but it’s a fun game we can all play.

  • Dale Amon

    Cowtipper: Your comment has such good information in it I’d like to make an article of it. I presume you would prefer a better byline than that, so please let me know.

    The goal is to fight for freedom of speech, not to bring down the company, so I suggest any one who feels like it ring Borders and not only say they are not going to buy there, but tell them there is a boycott brewing amongst influential blog sites… which they could head off by verifiably stocking Free Inquiry and issuing a press release to fan fare enough to be noticed.

    Perhaps that will help them stiffen up their backbones and act like Americans.

  • Current issue of a magazine publishes artwork over which some Muslims have staged deadly riots. Bookstore that normally carries the magazine has three options:

    1. Decline to carry the magazine, as insurance against Islamofascist violence.
    2. Carry the current issue, and hope that would-be rioters don’t notice.
    3. Carry the current issue, and hire armed bouncers.

  • Nick M

    If bookstores don’t hold the line, they will demand more. There are whole industries that muzzie objects to. They’ll demand halal food is universally available (I can really see them blowing a gasket about “Jewish” stores like Tesco, M&S Sainsburys discrimintaing by “only” having a small halal section. There’s already been a lot of dark mutterings about bars, nightclubs and video shops being “legitimate targets”. Of course I’m refering to the UK here, in Israel this is already a regular reality.

    If bookstores, symbolic as they once were of free-speech, don’t hold the line, we’ll see a progressive erosion of the whole service sector.

  • Borders is a disgrace…how about standing up for free-speech you bloody cowards? I wonder if they would do this if it were Christians or Jews protesting? I won’t go to Borders either…

  • Alan Peakall

    Does anyone find it ominous that the issue of staff safety is the same argument that is driving through the UK smoking ban? Just as UK pubs must ban smoking to protect their staff from second hand smoke, should not bookshops have to ban controversial texts to protect their staff from violent protestors?

    To adapt an exchange from Tom Wolfe’s “Bonfire of the Vanities”:

    I was just thinking out loud.

    Well, do me a favour and don’t think that way in front of Jack Straw, he may just take you seriously.

  • Nick M

    Cause they wouldn’t Andrew, Christians and Jews don’t tend to go in for orgies of violence, slaughter and destruction when they’re upset about something. Only muzzie has the talent for it. And it’s nothing but cowardly bullying. Why do you think they take ageing peace-activists, aid workers and journalists hostage and not Royal Marines?

    A couple of years ago I remonstrated with muzzie/socialist worker guys who had a go at me for buying a sandwich from M&S (a Jewish founded company). They were incredibly aggressive but didn’t actually kick-off because it was crowded and they were in the minority. The next weekend, same time, same place a smallish group of people with Israeli, UK, US, Russian flags (and a jolly demenour) counter-protested. Nothing was ever heard of the muzzie commies again. And people could enter of exit M&S without being hassled.

  • ian

    I don’t agree with the Borders decision either, but this is a decision by a business on what they are going to buy and sell – their right surely? As for politically motivated boycotts – Samizdata really is changing…

  • Johnathan Pearce

    ian, not so sir. A lot of people make the error of assuming that because libertarians favour free markets, we favour the businesses in them, regardless of how they behave. What we favour is consumer choice, and if that means consumers avoid stores that take cowardly decisions like this, we do so.

    Repeat again: supporting capitalism is not the same as supporting all capitalists.

  • The Dude

    Re: Women in Saudi…

    The only time you send to see them out and about is when they are with men. In the streets they usually walk about 6 paces behind with the kids, and are segregated in restaurants, etc. When I was there (which was the 80’s) as long as Western Expats adapted moderately to the culture (i.e. covered legs and shoulders) you had no problems and often the men were quite friendly. The biggest problems came from the unemployed youth of the middle class which had too much money to burn and not enough to do, they could be quite agressive.

  • Nick M

    Re: women in Saudi,
    verity, Saudi BMOs take it out on their non-arab maids. who are treated abysmally, almost as badly as Ms N Campbell’s…

  • ian


    …so do you think that Borders have the right to sell what they want or not? I acknowledge that you also have the right to go elsewhere.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    ian, of course Borders does not have to stock stuff it dislikes. I dunno where you might get the idea that I would think otherwise. If Borders wants to restrict certain types of book or magazine, then of course it can do so, for whatever reason.

  • ian

    Because no one to date has actually siad that. We have what is to my mind the rather odd spectacle of people on Samizdata attacking a private business for taking a decision on economic and moral grounds (safety of staff is a moral issue) and calling for a boycott of the business because of that decision.

    With one exception this is no difference in principle from those who called for bookshops to stop selling Satanic Verses for moral grounds. The difference of course is the ‘direction’ of that moral decision.

    As someone has pointed out, the decision is a recognition that those objecting to the cartoons are willing to resort to violence. That however is the context within which decisions must be taken. It is up to a given business or individual to decide where to draw the line in that context. Borders have placed it in a place you don’t like, but a decision to sell or not to sell is nothing to do with free speech. I seem to recall that commenters on this site applauded when Linda Rondstadt was ejected from a Las Vegas casino when she criticised the Iraq war during one of her performances. Private property – their right, but not an infringement of free speech.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    We have what is to my mind the rather odd spectacle of people on Samizdata attacking a private business for taking a decision on economic and moral grounds (safety of staff is a moral issue) and calling for a boycott of the business because of that decision.

    There is nothing odd about it. We have also, BTW, had a pop at Google for making its search-engines compliant with the attentions of the Chinese Communist Party, for instance.

    Read slowly and repeat: support for capitalism does not mean blanket approval of what a business does. I think that Borders is entitled to stock whatever books or mags it wants, and it may be that that organisation is doing so out of genuine fear that it will be attacked. If so, then that is a pretty miserable admission and bound to embolden others to also try to intimidate other book retailers, media outlets and the like.

    And Borders is a major business. What these businesses do have consequences.

    Borders have placed it in a place you don’t like, but a decision to sell or not to sell is nothing to do with free speech

    That is close to sophistry. Borders has acted because it is frightened. That is a pretty lamentable state of affairs, since this is not a small corner shop, but a major entity.

  • cowtipper

    Dale Amon – please go ahead with your article. My sources were the most recent 10Ks for both B&N and Borders, plus their conference calls following the reports. Some additional observations is that Borders comparatively appears to be struggling with both moving inventory, is really having difficulty with the performance of Waldenbook stores (the conference call disclosed that the Borders Express model, which converts a Waldenbooks to a new junior Borders format, has seen zero positive change in sales, on top of significant capital costs to remodel).

    I’m not intimately familiar with their issues, own zero equity in either B&N or Borders, and am certainly not the most exceptional individual securities analyst, but it was pretty clear in our analysis that Borders really needed everything to go well this year. Management was pleading with the real analysts out there to be patient and wait until Q4 2006 for results, since everything will be negative until then (given the holiday season sales boost plus all the capital expenses Borders is incurring, this isn’t terribly unusual).

    Also, a real oddity compared to Borders alienation of a good portion of their customer base is that Borders is committing significant financial resources to a customer loyalty program (ala B&N’s discount card). Can you imagine rolling out a significant new program like this, and then proceed to side with the anti-free speech demands of Islamic terrorists while abandoning critical thinking Americans? Who buys your books?

    Good luck on your article and please send me a link to it at scoove at yahoo dot com – I’d love to see how you make out with it.


  • Johnathan Pearce

    Oh Ian, I did not say that this is a free speech issue as such, although it is well to remember that Borders, like other book chains, benefits from the freedoms that have been dearly bought in the USA, which is all the more reason to be galled at its very public admission that it is acting in the face of fears over violence.

    Be assured that this sort of thing will embolden other groups to put pressure on bookstores, and I am not just thinking of islamists, but other groups as well.

  • Euan Gray

    Be assured that this sort of thing will embolden other groups to put pressure on bookstores, and I am not just thinking of islamists, but other groups as well.

    True enough, and it is symptomatic of an unpleasant trend.

    However, unless you’re going to compel bookshops to carry specific books or issues of periodicals, or alternatively compel them not to carry them, it really has to be accepted that the decision is one for the bookshop to make, and them alone. If you don’t agree with their policy, use another bookshop. If none of them operate in the way you want, start your own or accept the situation – isn’t this the libertarian way?


  • Verity

    Ian – Borders has made a decision to capitulate to terrorists and smotherers of the right to freedom of expression. As a direct consequence of this decision, former customers are making a decision to withhold their custom from pusillanimous company.

    The market at work.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    However, unless you’re going to compel bookshops to carry specific books or issues of periodicals, or alternatively compel them not to carry them, it really has to be accepted that the decision is one for the bookshop to make, and them alone

    Absolutely, and I do accept that Borders can do what it likes, just as they must accept that people like me, Dale Amon and others will take their custom elsewhere in dismay and disgust. It would of course be idiotic to force Borders to carry such books or magazines.

    That firm will have to live the consequences of its actions.

  • Midwesterner


    Cowtipping is a long established midwest dairyland tradition. My dad told me of it as a child. To avoid spoiling any plots (in both senses of the word) let me just say, if ever invited to go cowtipping, approach it with an open mind, watch were you step, and if you want to see sparks, pee on an electric fence.

  • ian

    Johnathon – you may not have explicitly called it a free speech issue but several others in this comment thread have.

    Verity – stop preaching and let the straw men sleep.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Johnathon – you may not have explicitly called it a free speech issue but several others in this comment thread have.

    It is certainly an intimidation issue, the intimidation of one of America’s most well-known brands by religious nutjobs. If that is not worth making a fuss about, I don’t know what is.

    I don’t know where people get this idea that libertarians must never criticise the actions of a business. It is possible to respect the right of a business to do X, but still also make harsh criticisms of X. A vital, but all-too-often ignored distinction.

  • Verity

    Ian – I don’t even take orders from people I know.

  • Verity

    Ian – I don’t even take orders from people I know.

  • Verity

    Sorry about the double post. I didn’t click twice.

  • Just out of curiousity, do you lot also boycott bookstores that don’t carry Mein Kampf, the Turner Diaries, and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion?

  • Richard

    Just for interest, Amazon’s review note for The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion:

    “Should Amazon.co.uk sell The Protocols and other controversial works? As a bookseller, Amazon.co.uk strongly believes that people have the right to choose their own reading material. Our goal is to support freedom of expression and to provide customers with the broadest selection possible so they can find, discover, and buy any title they might be seeking. That selection includes some titles which many people, including many employees of Amazon.co.uk, may find distasteful or otherwise objectionable. However, Amazon.co.uk believes it is censorship to make a book unavailable to our customers because we believe its message to be repugnant.

    Furthermore, because we strongly believe that the appropriate response to repugnant speech is not censorship, but more speech, we will continue to allow readers, authors, and publishers to express their views about the books and other products we offer on our Web site.”

    Couldn’t have put it better myself.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Ken, I would only boycott a bookstore – such as Borders – for banning a book on the grounds that the store’s owners were frightened of violence, since I believe that bookshops are small, but rather important, symbols of civilisation. Sentimental maybe, but that’s my view.

  • T.J.

    < strong>I cant believe that Borders and waldenbooks are giving into these muslims, what a bunch of cowards. So much for Freedom Of Speech they claim they promote that’s B.S.

  • T.J.

    I cant believe that Borders and waldenbooks are giving into these muslims, what a bunch of cowards. So much for Freedom Of Speech they claim they promote that’s B.S.