We care about freedom of speech here at Yujean. Our line has always been a mix of themes and genres, some of which risk offending some folks. We hope that most of our customers find the mix exhilarating and thought provoking. We have one bottom line–we don’t do hate. You will not find a Confederate flag or a swastika in our line, nor will you ever–and it’s not because we haven’t been asked to produce them. There is a lot of money to be made in hate. We don’t want it. Controversial–yes, bring it on. Hate and bigotry? No thanks. Not in our business.
The expression “freedom of speech” gets bandied about a lot these days–most noticeably this month by radio personality Laura Schlessinger, who wanted her radio rant of what-just-about-anyone-would-call hate speech to be, well, FREE. Free of consequences. Free of criticism. Free of responsibility.
I used to listen to Dr Laura on the radio. Years ago she was just interesting in sort of an obnoxious way. I liked her insistence on personal responsibility, that people step up rather than behave like victims. Her advice was tough but fair. Then she got into rightwing politics, and orthodox religion, and suddenly her humane views towards gays, for one, turned judgmental and kind of ugly. My Dr Laura fixes became less and less frequent, and my tolerance for her shorter and shorter. So this story was, while shocking, not entirely surprising. And the ironies abound. Dr Laura is the victim. She wants her First Amendment rights back.
She lost a couple of sponsors, I heard, after she spewed, almost gleefully, the WORST racial epithet 11 times to an African American caller. (I actually found the content of the rest of the call more racist and disturbing than the pejoratives. It was the badgering, the “if you don’t have a sense of humor don’t marry outside your race”, her bullying assumption that a black woman who is experiencing disrespect from her white husband’s white friends and family is hypersensitive and bringing it on herself. It was all quite appalling and just plain mean.)
“Congress shall make no law…….abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…” It’s profound, and something we’d lay down our lives for. But the text of the First Amendment sure doesn’t seem to extend support to an out of control radio talk show host, who went just too far this time, and is paying a few free market, power-of-the-pocketbook consequences for it.
If Laura was a caller to her own show, I am sure she would be interrupted, hectored, told to take personal responsibility and stop acting like a victim. That there are consequences to her actions. That this is how you learn and become a better person. And if she complained that her rights were being violated, Dr Laura would tell her to quit whining, and “don’t ACLU me”. And for once, Dr Laura would be right.
When we produce an especially provocative sticker, we run the risk that some might take offense, that we might even lose a customer here or there. We HOPE not, certainly, and when we get a complaint about content we listen, we debate, we are concerned and we respond. But pushing the envelope is what we are about, and you take the consequences of that business choice with the knowledge that you row your own boat. It’s the nature of business and the marketplace. Dr Laura would do well to recognize that, in her own business, she indeed rows her own boat, and the maelstrom she endures was of her own creation.