Why is a Touch of Equal Time a Problem?
As I put this week's issue to bed, I thought I had done a terrific job of handling what could have been a very controversial story. But let's go to the start -- here's the story from the 3 June 2007 issue:
Weekly Weird News
Note I didn't say she was stupid, nor did I say she was wrong. But indeed I did imply she overreacted a bit. And she did. That's all -- end of story. Unless, of course, you're an overly sensitive reactionary type like, say, Ms. Incanno.
Indeed she's not alone in her overreaction. Here's the very first comment from a Premium subscriber on the story:
Randy, I really think you showed your anti-God bias in the story about Michelle Incanno who read that anti-God screed on her Starbucks coffee cup and decided not to patronize them anymore. As a Christian, I would have been offended too and am not going to buy Starbucks again. This is what the free marketplace allows for, right?
One thing I do like about Vivian's note: she didn't scream that I'm going to hell, etc. In fact, she defended my right "to make fun of her". But really, "anti-God"? A "screed"? Hardly. "Making fun of her beliefs, not her actions"? Exactly the opposite -- I said nothing about her beliefs. Vivian doth protest too much.
But even before I bothered to reply to Vivian, several other Premium subscribers had comments of their own that helps puts the story into perspective:
Why is it okay for Christians to literally litter the streets with Jesus paraphernalia and not okay for Starbucks to put a discussion question on a cup? Obviously, because it dared to imply that God does not exist, although the question, without that little implication, was very Jewish in nature. And even I, a wishy-washy Unitarian Universalist, think that Starbucks is better out of the religion game at all. I don't much like the idea of corporations making religious comments be they Christian OR atheist. --Mary, Kansas
What do you think the response would have been to a Starbucks cup that said, "Go to Church" instead of the opposite? I'm certain the answer would have made a True issue also. --David, California
Indeed a possibility, David!
Certainly Starbucks knew the cup would bring reaction -- and that was exactly the idea. Their "The Way I See It" cup quote program was designed from the start to "collect different viewpoints and spur discussion," as the story itself noted. Ms. Incanno chose to go to the media with her point of view, and that's ok, but I'm "anti-God" to give her more publicity, or to help that discussion along? Please.
The a-religious (please don't read "anti-" there; "a-" simply means without) are told by society they must sit still and shut up when someone wants to force religion on them. But that's not reasonable; why is it that there has to be wailing and gnashing of teeth when someone dares to talk back? Why do so many in-your-face, fire and brimstone finger-waggers scream "Freedom of Religion!", but then refuse to recognize the same right in those who quietly speak in reply? Sure the religious have a "Constitutional right" to practice religion the way they please; why don't the a-religious? And if one side or the other decides to step into the public spotlight to sputter and rant, why shouldn't those who aren't addicted to caffeine be free to roll their eyes in reply?
And Then What Happened?
Starbucks quietly dropped the cup quotes, and deleted the "Way I See It" page from their web site. Vivian in Florida, who wrote the complaint letter above, didn't unsubscribe in protest -- but she didn't reply, and didn't renew when her subscription ran out the next spring. She hasn't been back.
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