21 May, 2007

The Way I See It

If you've bought a cup of Starbucks coffee lately, you've likely noticed that many, if not all, of the cups have these nifty quotes printed on them. The quotes are part of a marketing campaign to "spark conversation", or as Starbucks puts it,
In the tradition of coffee houses everywhere, Starbucks has always supported a good, healthy discussion. To get people talking, “The Way I See It” is a collection of thoughts, opinions and expressions provided by notable figures that now appear on our widely shared cups.
As you may also have seen in various news stories, Starbucks has caught a little amount of flak for this program due to the allegedly large percentage of the quotes which are claimed by detractors to be either "liberal" or of the "freethinking" variety. (for example, Worldnutdaily had an article a month or so ago about a Catholic woman "offended" by a humanistic quote).

Now, I've been a regular (almost daily) Starbucks customer for years. I've seen many of these quotes and in reality there's no bias present in the quotes whatsoever. For every "atheist" or "freethinking" quote, there's a Deepak Chopra or Rick Warren to offset it. For every "liberal" there's a Jonah Goldberg. In this case, the whiners are just more of the same fragile individuals whose worldviews simply can't stand up to opposing opinions. Unfortunately for them, everyone's entitled to his/her own opinion, and with so many people out there, it's likely that you won't have to look very far to find someone with whose opinion about something you're likely to disagree.

For myself, I kind of like the quotes. They're almost always thought-provoking and interesting and other people's opinions are just that: opinions. Offensive some might be, but that's just the way things are bound to be.

But what about when someone's "opinion" is obviously and egregiously false? And what about situations in which such a falsehood approaches the moral equivalent of libel?

At Civil Commotion, Robert Felton calls our attention to a quote he found on a Starbucks coffee cup:
Darwinism’s impact on traditional social values has not been as benign as its advocates would like us to believe. Despite the efforts of its modern defenders to distance themselves from its baleful social consequences, Darwinism’s connection with eugenics, abortion and racism is a matter of historical record. And the record is not pretty.
Via Starbuck's website, I see that the quote (The Way I See It #224) is from Jonathan Well's book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design. Wells is a well-known evolution denier and the author of Icons of Evolution, one of the first of the modern attempts to use the trappings of science (without any of the actual methodology or content) in an effort to cast doubt on evolutionary theory.

But Well's statement doesn't just represent an opinion. His statement is obviously and egregiously false. Darwinism has NO connections to eugenics, abortion, or racism. None. These oft-repeated falsehoods have been debunked many, many times by many people. That Wells repeats them is an indicator of the level to which he's willing to sink in order to further his agenda.

I can certainly understand Starbucks wanting to provide an open forum for opinions and the exchange of ideas, but since when should that include countenancing the promulgation of obvious and egregious falsehoods? If Wells were a holocaust denier or a geocentrist, would his "opinion" still have been printed? Surely the mere fact that this is his opinion shouldn't shield it from editorial review? Doesn't Starbucks have a responsibility NOT to promote obvious falsehoods?

Even further, doesn't Starbucks have a responsibility NOT to disseminate material of a libelous nature? If Wells' statements were to be true, surely it would cast evolutionary biologists and other proponents of Darwin's theory as moral reprobates. Only a degenerate would participate in teaching and promoting an idea with such truly negative consequences. And truth would be a positive defense to a charge of libel, so Wells' statement would be wholly justified.

But Wells' statement is NOT true. And demonstrably so by multiple sources. And a falsehood that maligns the character of innocents for no purpose other than to further a personal agenda is quite possibly an example of libel. Now Well's libelous behavior doesn't surprise me (Google his name for plenty of examples of his disgusting tactics), but in this case, Starbucks must share the blame for turning a blind eye in the name of "diversity". And that's the way I see it...

Update: A little more searching locates posts on the Starbucks coffee cup topic at Stupid Evil Bastard, Dispatches from the Culture Wars and Atheist Jew.

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