Thursday, June 01, 2006

Beware Of Teenage Hippies In Bookstores

You might think that this post is going to be a memoir of my past life as a professional bookseller. It isn't, really, but in a way, it is, just for the following background information.

During my ten years working at a Borders location in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, I mingled with many leftist radicals, young and old -- and those were just my colleagues. Since anyone could see what reading material was being purchased by anyone else, it would have been futile to try to hide my own political leanings. Other right-of-center people came and went while I was there, but due to my staying power, I was generally labeled the Republican guy, or the conservative guy. I felt rather good about that -- it made me unique, and I didn't feel like I was going along with the crowd. Aside from a couple of psychos flipping out, no one really gave me a hard time about it, either. (One of them was a lost cause, but I gained revenge on the other by marrying her.) Some of them actually seemed amused to have me around. It must have been because I was a "minority" and these "progressives" felt that they needed to be "sensitive" towards me.

Our customer base was much more diverse in terms of political views, and might have even leaned right due to the demographics of the surrounding municipalities. I shelved and merchandised the Political Science books for
a few years. We kept running out of conservative titles, while liberal books sat around for months before being called back for reassignment at the remainder warehouse. Either most of our customers were Republicans, or Democrats were the majority and preferred fantasy books. (It would explain a lot.) When one of Rush Limbaugh's books came out, a lady came up to the checkout to pay for her books and expressed disbelief that Borders would carry anything by him. The guy who waited on her, an Assistant Manager, just shrugged it off in an unsubtle manner. He could have delicately pointed out that we carried books by all kinds of authors, or that Rush's book was already on the NYT bestseller list, but instead he chose to abandon any pretense of neutrality, as if the lady in front of him were the only person within earshot. He must have forgotten about me.

On the other hand, there was the lady whom I assisted in finding a copy of P.J. O'Rourke's Republican Party Reptile. She couldn't wait to buy it because "He's funny! Republicans must really hate him!" Because, you see, P.J. is obviously a Democrat who mercilessly taunts Republicans for a living, and everyone who works in book shops that sell his book must also be Democrats, including me. I saw no need to disabuse her of her laughably incorrect assumption. Ka-ching!

From time to time the store would host author events of political significance -- Oliver North, for example. He was one of our top five attractions in terms of turnout. We expected controversy to accompany him: parking lot protests outside, and line-jumping critics inside. Nothing happened. It was a good night. In fact, the employee who handled hosting duties that evening was a Vietnam Vet who returned home and became a peace activist. He was no fan of Ollie, but he was very gracious about greeting and announcing our guest. Perhaps he felt a bond due to the shared experience of Vietnam. It was a very civil affair.

A couple of years earlier, in 1992, the store hosted an event that was geared toward community outreach rather than promotion of any specific book. A freshman Republican from Mount Lebanon was running for reelection to a
hotly contested Congressional seat. The district had been gerrymandered following the 1990 census so that the Democrats should have had no problem ousting the neophyte. The Congressman's name was Rick Santorum. His opponent, Frank Pecora, was a longtime Republican State Senator who saw an opportunity to go to Washington that year. He turned Democrat (partly due to redistricting problems of his own) and joined a field of around half-a-dozen contenders for the party's nomination. Most of these candidates were liberals from the heart of the new district, the very pro-union and very left-wing Mon Valley. They ended up splitting the liberal vote in the primary, giving the opportunistic Pecora the chance to run against Santorum. The local Borders management and publicity folks saw an opportunity of their own: Invite both candidates to the store on a Saturday afternoon for an informal "town hall" type of outreach. People could come to the store, interact with the candidates, and buy lots of books on the way out.

Both candidates received invitations well in advance of the event; Pecora never responded. Rick Santorum, usually in tandem with his young family, was a not infrequent customer at the store. He accepted the invitation right away. Without the Democrat, the informal debate became a Santorum solo campaign appearance. I would love to give my impressions of the event, BUT...for the first time in two years, I took a Saturday off. My plans for the day were set long before the Borders event was scheduled. I really regretted having to miss it.

I did, however, have a mole, a self-described "Reagan Democrat" who later became sort of a laissez-faire Naderite. (You need to know the guy for that to make any sense.) At the time, he was more favorable to Republicans, and was very impressed with Santorum. He thought that Rick made some good points, and that he gave intelligent responses to the crowd's intelligent questions. The sole blemish on an otherwise civil event was another off-duty employee who had nothing better to do than come in on her day off to yell things like "What about a woman's right to choose?" Rather than ignoring her and going on to someone else, Santorum calmly explained his positions on the issues that she challenged him on. Based on my mole's account, I gather that Rick must have made her look like the village idiot.

His opponent that year, Pecora, was more like a jerk than an idiot. His sole issue in the campaign was Rick Santorum. All he seemed to talk about was the Congressman's youth, inexperience, and party registration. He was arrogant, campaigned as though the seat was already his because of the party registration advantage...and he lost.

To sum up: In a year when a President named Bush was losing support left and right, Rick Santorum faced a tough reelection campaign against a moderate Democrat who defeated more liberal opponents in the primary, and many observers were sure than Santorum didn't have a chance of winning again. All that's missing from the formula is another Santorum victory, and it will be deja vu.

Speaking of deja vu, Rick Santorum was making bookstore appearances last year, this time as a published author promoting his book, It Takes a Family. As a high-profile United States Senator who says all of the right things to send demented lefties into conniption fits, Santorum had no trouble attracting moonbat critics the way that a bug zapper attracts flies. Zzzzt! Not all of them got close enough to the Senator to do or say anything strange. A small band of dissenters who were refused entry to a Santorum book event in Delaware last year have enlisted the aid of the ACLU to sue over the incident. The Associated Press report is short on details.

Via Alex at Santorum Blog, we learn that one interested blogger has done some homework and pulled details of the incident from a Google cache. The most important point that I can make, based on my years of retail experience, is that a business is a private property. No one has the right to just walk in to a shop. Retail shops are open to the public as a courtesy, but by no means does it mean that the management of a shop is conceding private ownership. If they don't want you to come through their doors, they have that right. If you are on the shop's property, they have the right to ask you to leave -- and if you refuse, they have the right to have you removed by the civil authorities. There is no specific list of reasons that a business needs to refer to when it wants you to leave and stay out. It just can, because it owns the property and you do not.

In the Delaware incident, some Santorum campaign people overheard the moonbats joking about getting Rick to sign a book by a goofball whose biggest claim to fame is defaming the Senator. That was cause for concern, but not enough reason to bar the jokers from the shop. One Santorum staffer pointed out that the Senator was only there to sign his own book. This is common for authors on book tours; these personal appearances attract large lines of customers, and there is a limited amount of time for the retailer to allow everyone to meet the author. The best way to do this is to keep each visit brief and limit the signings to the author's own books. The staffer was right to point this out.

The cached article (told from the point of view of the moonbats) goes on to say that in addition to Santorum staffers, "members of the store" were concerned enough to inform an off-duty state trooper who was hired as security for the event. Santorum's people would not have been able to kick the moonbats out of the store. If the behavior of the moonbats was cause for the store's employees to be concerned, the store had the right to bar them. We don't know the exact details of everything that they were doing and saying. If you are a store employee and there is a group of disruptive teenagers who strike you as potential troublemakers in the store, of course you are going to be concerned. I would like to heard the story from the points of view of the employees and of the security guard. They must have had very valid reasons for denying the moonbats access to the Senator.

To put it another way: Supposing Rick Santorum comes to my house. Let's say that one of my loony colleagues finds out and decides to come over to give him a piece of her mind. But the Senator is an invited guest. My colleague is not. If I know that she is coming over intending to be rude and disruptive, I will not allow her inside. If she comes inside, I will ask her to leave immediately. If she refuses, I will call the police and have her arrested. She is trespassing on private property.

Trespassing on private property is against the law.

The security guard in Delaware explained this to the moonbats. They asked why they were being arrested. He did not need to give any reason other than trespassing on private property. That's it.

The ACLU is filing the suit on behalf of the moonbats because their civil liberties were allegedly violated. Powerful political entities were crushing their dissent, the ACLU says. Wrong. You can dissent all you want on public property or on your own property. You may do so on private property only with the consent of the owner.

The ACLU is violating the civil liberties of property owners, and is obviously using the suit to discredit Rick Santorum in an election year. (Note that this all happened before Santorum had even shown up for his appearance. He was not directly involved.) If the truth ever comes out (don't hold your breath), it's the ACLU that will be exposed as corrupt, not the Senator or his campaign.


Ben said...

Here is where you are incorrect.

This isn't a matter of the store's rights to their property. The store had nothing to do with the ejection. It was solely the work of two people, one who’s a security guard, and the other a representative of Santorum. They apparently did not recieve the permission of the store manager or owner. Hence, these are the two named in the lawsuit.

And are you not aware of how much of a bully the security guard was?

Nicko McDave said...

The only account of the story that has come out publicly is being told from the point of view of the girls and their supporters, so you need to consider that the store, the Santorum staffers, the guard, and even bystanders might have different versions of what happened.

Even so, in the account of the girls given in the cached article, the staffers spoke to store representatives before the guard approached the girls. The store management, then, was aware of the nature of the complaint.

Arguing about whether the management sanctioned the expulsion or whether the expulsion was done without the store's cooperation is pointless -- there's no "apparently" about it, either way. I would prefer to learn what others on the scene had to say.

The girls do make the security guard out to be a bully, but the fallout over this incident is about more important things that how mean the man in the uniform was to some teenage girls.

Ben said...

I am aware of the possibility that there was exaggeration of the account by the young women. This will probably come out in the trial. So on one hand, yes, I am patient enough to wait for the facts.On the other hand, and I will be upfront with my bias, this is one of those stories that made my blood boil because of how rudely the women were treated.

Basically, the question to be asked is, how is the asking of a Senator to sign a book by Dan Savage akin to being "disruptive"?
Because that's basically what happened.

jipzeecab said...

Dan Savage...oh yeah ..the gay sex advice columnist..the one who stalked Gary Bauer in Iowa in 2000 trying to pass on whatever was causing him to have the sniffles by wiping his nose on doorknobs and campaign files and anything else that Bauer might touch...that Dan Savage..Santorum would want to autograph that book for sure..
Rudeness begets rudeness..that's what happened here..