Free Speech

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
censorship, jill sobule

Companies:
wal-mart



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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  • identicon
    Pablo Escobar, 5 Oct 2010 @ 9:42pm

    Pills

    LOL, Funniest story I've heard in forever :)

    That's like having a picture of a stork on the album cover, then they refuse to carry due to graphic depictions of child birth.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2010 @ 10:47pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    JC, 6 Oct 2010 @ 1:03am

    They both got want they wanted

    Walmart wins. Jill wins. Everybody's happy. I'm not convinced that it's "dumb censorship". I think Walmart has a better understanding of what their customers want to see than the performers do.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      techflaws.org (profile), 6 Oct 2010 @ 1:31am

      Walmart of all companies...

      Appeal to authority, you gotta love those!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Michael, 6 Oct 2010 @ 7:24am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        JC, 6 Oct 2010 @ 7:37am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Marcel de Jong (profile), 6 Oct 2010 @ 7:37am

      Re: They both got want they wanted

      No, Jill lost. Sure, after the change she could sell the discs in WalMart, but unaltered she could not sell her disc there. Thereby, Walmart limited her creative freedom, hence the word 'censorship'.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        JC, 6 Oct 2010 @ 7:40am

        Re: Re: They both got want they wanted

        So, she "lost" because she can sell her disc in the largest retailer in the U.S.?
        Brilliant.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Marcel de Jong (profile), 6 Oct 2010 @ 7:41am

          Re: Re: Re: They both got want they wanted

          She lost, because she had to ALTER her art. She had to concede to a higher power, in this case the corporate board of Walmart. Which by definition means that she lost.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            JC, 6 Oct 2010 @ 10:27am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: They both got want they wanted

            But she didn't HAVE to alter her art. She chose to, because she felt it was more important to have it in Walmart's stores than to not have them there. She got what she wanted and Walmart got what they wanted. I don't see the problem.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              techflaws.org (profile), 6 Oct 2010 @ 11:31pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: They both got want they wanted

              > But she didn't HAVE to alter her art. She chose to

              Because otherwise Walmart wouldn't have it. So she HAD to.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                JC, 7 Oct 2010 @ 12:54am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: They both got want they wanted

                No she didn't. She made a business decision to change it. It was her decision to compromise with Walmart. She could have chosen to change nothing and kept it out of Walmart's stores.

                What would you have done if you were in her situation?

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • icon
                  techflaws.org (profile), 8 Oct 2010 @ 6:58am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: They both got want they wanted

                  Tell Walmart to suck it and write a blog post about how they suck, of course.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                  • identicon
                    JC, 8 Oct 2010 @ 4:59pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: They both got want they wanted

                    Well then, you would have made a different business decision than she did. Same result... you're happy, Walmart's happy.

                    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    techflaws.org (profile), 6 Oct 2010 @ 1:33am

    Another dumb one

    Remember "Teenagage Dirtbag" by Wheatus? Lyrics go like this:

    Her boyfriend's a dick
    he brings a gun to school

    and guess what, some moron bleeped over "gun". So from now on I guess, noone would ever think of shooting up a high school again, right?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Marcel de Jong (profile), 6 Oct 2010 @ 7:40am

      Re: Another dumb one

      I got another one for ya:
      "Oh no no no.. don't mess with my heart"

      That's the version I heard on college radio about 5 years ago, instead of "Oh no no no.. don't phunk with my heart" (Black eyed peas)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jason, 6 Oct 2010 @ 6:14am

    "Congratulations..."

    "...you're stupid."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ross1, 23 Oct 2010 @ 9:58am

    Employment Law Advice

    i got another one for ya:
    "Oh no no no.. don't mess with my heart"

    That's the version I heard on college radio about 5 years ago, instead of "Oh no no no.. don't phunk with my heart"
    Employment Law Advice

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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