I come to this column after a little Memorial Day weekend dust up on Facebook. Yes, Facebook: the sad, but brutally honest, window into the combined psyche of what’s left of the average American’s brain. What I saw isn’t a pretty picture. Indeed, it should cause distress.
The dust up was over a certain T-shirt sold at PacSun stores designed by some hip hop group I know nothing and care even less about. The T-shirt featured an upside down American flag. OK … Fair enough. Stores sell stuff I don’t agree with whether it’s a product or from some manufacturer. I simply state my opinion by discriminating against those companies, manufacturers and stores by not spending my money with them — just like millions of other people.
What made this situation catch my attention was that some Facebook member (from I have no idea where) decided to post a picture of PacSun’s display along with a statement he’d never shop there again. Exactly what that particular display did that offended him, I can’t say. I have no idea if he looked into the source of the shirt, hates PacSun or he just can’t stand seeing the flag upside down. Unless I missed some law being passed, it’s still that person’s right. And that’s fine by me. Customers should be able to register complaints at the stores where they shop, and the stores should be eager to hear them to become better in what they provide their clientele.
But that isn’t what happens in our country any longer. Nope, PacSun supporters came out swinging, calling the people who agreed with the original poster names and using obscenities in their responses. And, yes, some of these responses were local in addressing other locals who were unfortunate to repost the original post (Facebook users would understand). And, yes, I attempted to present some thoughts on the topic only to have them deleted by people who one would think to be staunch supporters of free speech. It would seem that rational discourse is a thing of the past in our country when looking into the window of our Facebook soul.
Yup, being offended for the sake of being offended rules the day any more. Obviously, the original poster was offended in some way, and his course of action was to tell PacSun he won’t shop there any longer. (Or, if he’s like most of us, for at least a few weeks until something cool comes out.) Is that an overreaction to a display? Perhaps to some it is. Does it deserve the vitriol I saw on Facebook? I think no, but we’re not at a point where what I think matters. We’re at the point where everyone can be outraged for any reason and we all must respect or riots, fires and death can surely follow.
That storm now includes vitriol on both sides, name calling, cursing and from what I understand, threats to the actual stores and employees of PacSun. All for a shirt that’s been pulled from shelves! Hey folks, this is asinine and beyond insane! It’s shirt for crying outloud! And quite frankly, the designer of our shirt deserves much more attention than the mistake of PacSun and its buyers making a huge lapse in judgment. While we have the proper result of a conflict in our economic system, we also have the loss of proper discourse in the public realm.
It didn’t have to be this way. This whole story could have been just a simple exercise in what’s truly great about our country and its economic system — the only system on the planet that protects PacSun and its choices and the citizenry and our choices. And it’s all on a simple, tidy document called the Constitution.
I’m happy to speak out in defense of PacSun. The company has the right to do, sell and serve however it wants inside its property. That includes selling asinine T-shirts designed by pot-smoking, women-degrading thugs like the folks involved with the A$APMOB. (Go to asapmob.com. I’m sure you’d love to see your kid in their toggery after reading the quality lyrics in their “songwriting.”) But PacSun sells those shirts at its own peril or success.
I also would stoutly defend the young man who decided to post that picture on Facebook because he saw something in the public realm and put something out there for his fellow citizens to take into consideration. He didn’t like the display, and PacSun should be just as eager to hear his opinion on it as his friends who responded in kind to his feelings.
The above statements are constitutionally protected — as is anyone’s reaction. But what we have lost track of is that those protections and the free exercise thereof also come with consequences. PacSun has suffered from its poor decision, as should anyone who has reacted, based on how they reacted. Our founders would abhored the death threats and decried the name calling and obscenities. (They saved those for other, deserving politicians.) The people spoke, and the shirt was pulled. Much better than parents sending their high schooler to work worrying they might be shot, don’t you think?
The only ones making money are the drug-using, misogynist thugs who created the shirt. The travesty is that we accept that as well.