Historically Dumb Censorship: Wal-Mart's Refusal To Sell Jill Sobule's Album Due To Prozac Pill

from the promoting-drug-usage dept

Singer Jill Sobule recently discussed a story from back in 1997, when Wal-Mart refused to carry the album she released that year — because of the cover art. I’ll let Jill tell the story:

When I was about to release my 2nd Atlantic record, “Happy Town”, I was alerted that Wal-Mart was refusing to carry the CD. They told the label that the broken capsule depicted on the cover was somehow celebrating illegal drug use. Never mind that the drug in question was Prozac (with the familiar mint green and Mercedes cream/yellow colors) but that Wal-Mart itself is one of the big dealers. What made it even more silly, was they thought the granules pouring out looked like cocaine. That never crossed my mind. It made me wonder what kind of hopped-up druggies Wal-Mart was employing.

I decided, rather than dismiss a whole segment of society that would probably not buy my record anyway, I would…wimp out. I replaced the capsule with a test tube -big deal. Somehow, this made them happy and the “cocaine” stayed.

The reason she brought this up now, is because the photo above is an exhibit at the Newseum in Washington DC, showing examples of “dumb censorship.”

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Companies: wal-mart

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Comments on “Historically Dumb Censorship: Wal-Mart's Refusal To Sell Jill Sobule's Album Due To Prozac Pill”

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25 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

The Wiktionary definition of Censorship: The use of state or group power to control freedom of expression, such as passing laws to prevent media from being published or propagated.

Walmart is a private company that is free to decide what it wants to sell in the stores that it owns. It did nothing to prevent Jill Sobule from using that image at other stores or stifle her speech in anyway. All it did was choose not to sell something that it felt could potentially offend some of it’s customers. Whether they was right or wrong about that is a debate (and I say not) but this is not censorship.

abc gum says:

Re: Re: Re: Walmart of all companies...

“I think Walmart has a better understanding of what their customers want to see”

“Appeal to authority, you gotta love those!”

“Um… no, it isn’t.”

So you are saying that Walmart is not in any position of authority here. It’s just that walmart better understands what the customers want, even if that means the customers want to shop elsewhere.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: They both got want they wanted

…and we, the consumers of this particular art, lose. Instead of the piece of art we were supposed to have available to us, we have a hacked-up version that the artist deemed ‘good enough’ and met the approval of the store that sells it.

Personally, I would rather see artists not get pressured into changing their art because some store executive thinks it may offend someone. Is it possible that the artist may have sold less albums because there was a pill on the cover? Sure. Is money the only driving force for an artist to produce something? Nope.

JC says:

Re: Re: They both got want they wanted

Walmart doesn’t care if they carry it or not. No one forces the artist to change anything. If the artist can’t handle the pressure, well too bad for them.

You’re not deprived of the artist’s work because it is available in many other places.

I may be mistaken, but Walmart has a set of standards which they seem to enforce universally amongst the brands they carry. Everyone knows this going in. I may not agree with their standards, but they are certainly within their rights to only carry things they want their customers to see.

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