Banned at Borders
July 26, 2003, Fredericksburg.Free lance-Star (Virginia)
IT SEEMS INCONGRUOUS that the words "ban" and "bookstore" should
appear in the same sentence. But Borders Books & Music at Central
Park apparently banished a singer at least in part because her
commentary, including a remark about President Bush's legs,
angered some customers.
Borders suggests that Julia Rose is simply not the local
clientele's cup of tea and that it had every right to terminate
her contract. But Borders has a very scrawny leg to stand on
itself if it is wielding such a quick ax on a performer who has
been perfectly suitable at other Virginia stores in the chain. If
there is any place in this country where freedom of expression
should get the close calls, it has to be a general-interest
To recap: Julia Rose is a singer-songwriter from Baltimore.
Places like Borders are just her sort of venue, with, one would
have thought, just her sort of crowd. Indeed, she's a veteran of
the Borders circuit from Northern Virginia to Richmond and was
debuting at the Fredericksburg location on July 18, the fateful
evening. She had been scheduled to play there next month, too.
Not so now.
How bizarre. On Borders' shelves and racks there are books,
magazines, newspapers, and probably even CDs that upbraid the
president over his policies and politics and poke fun at him and
everyone else under the sun. Amy Korsun, the Borders marketing
manager who cited Ms. Rose's comment "George Bush has chicken
legs" in terminating her, surely wouldn't have it any other way.
But one gets the feeling that when Ms. Rose sits before a mike
and tweaks the president, free expression has taken the night
Borders may not be a bistro with blasphemous beatniks banging
bongos, but it is still a bookstore where speech should trump the
overdelicate sensibilities of some customers.
This episode naturally brings to mind the Texas-based Dixie
Chicks, whose lead singer told concert-goers in London last March
that "we're ashamed the president of the United States is from
Texas." The Chicks paid a price for the self-indulgent pop-off,
uttered the same month U.S. troops went into Iraq. Radio stations
(though not WFLS) stopped playing their songs. People destroyed
their CDs. Fine. Freedom of expression works both ways.
But Ms. Rose was giving aid and comfort to no one in her remarks
with the possible exception of one or two Democratic presidential
contenders who may look better than the president in a pair of
Still, maybe those offended by Ms. Rose's chatter ought to buy
some of her CDs so they can stomp on them in front of TV cameras.
She probably wouldn't mind the publicity.