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Immediate disqualification from public discourse

It seems that we’ve gone far enough down the road to Bentonville that it’s no longer possible to engage in a debate over just how American it is to shop in giant mega-stores; to the contrary, the very idea that members of a community might decide to set restrictions on the anti-competetive activities of corporations is now equated with burning books.

The full-page advertisement included a 1933 photo of people throwing books on a pyre at Berlin’s Opernplatz. It was run as part of a campaign against a Flagstaff ballot proposal that would restrict Wal-Mart from expanding a local store to include a grocery.

The accompanying text read “Should we let government tell us what we can read? Of course not . . . So why should we allow local government to limit where we shop?” The bottom of the advertisement announced that the ad was “Paid for by Protect Flagstaff’s Future-Major Funding by Wal-Mart (Bentonville, AR).”

I hear that the producer of the ad, Phoenix-based High Ground, Inc., has resorted to writing “no, seriously,” next to its name on the letterhead. They also, of course, claim ignorance of the Nazi symbolism in the ad:

The photo is found on the National Holocaust Museum Web site, but Coughlin had said he was unaware the photo in the ad was from a Nazi book burning and pointed the finger of blame at “our graphics guy.”

“We believed it was a Southern book burning,” he said. The company, though, still intends to write a letter of apology to the ADL, he said.

I know these things occasionally pop up in the culture wars, but is there really a long history of Southern book burning that would create some nice archival photos to use for occasions like this? Something that would make it actually an excuse to suggest that, hey, the graphics guy didn’t realize that misleading comparisons to Nazi book burnings are inappropriate, but misleading comparisons to Southern book burnings are a-okay? Wal-Mart should get called on the sheer disingenuousness of equating Prop 100 to the frenzied extremes of fascists and censors. Think Progress has a few more comments on Wal-Mart and censorship.

Level playing field

While the book-burning ad is particularly disgusting, the level of discourse around here hasn’t been generally high.
A TV spot decries “out-of-town special interests” like unionized warehouse workers for having given money to the pro Prop 100 campaign. The TV spot shows a big ”$500” dramatically stamped over an image of a piggy bank while the voiceover urges voters to keep Flagstaff under local control. Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, that’s in Arkansas, has given about $300,000 to its “no on 100” campaign.