Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Way Who Sees It?

The Bourgeois Wife informed me of Starbucks' "The Way I See It" campaign. The campaign consists of putting quotations on the side of their coffee cups. Starbucks says the quotations are meant to start conversations. Many conservatives are up in arms about some of the examples, which include the following from Armistead Maupin, a gay author commenting on why he didn't come out sooner:

I surrendered my youth to the people I feared when I could have been out there loving someone. Don't make that mistake yourself. Life's too damn short.

(See A Certain Slant of Light for more details.)

I think before we give ourselves over to outrage or boycott, it would be necessary to look at the list of people quoted, which Starbucks lists on their website. (It would also be nice to see an explanation of why certain quotations were chosen.) Starbucks says it was "it was hoping to inspire old-fashioned coffee-house conversations" by the campaign; so one quotation does not an agenda make.

The list of contributors includes Jonah Goldberg and Michael Medved, which means that there is a conservative voice in the campaign. In fact, Goldberg is featured on the "The Way I See It" portion of Starbucks' website.

So we have the quotation from Maupin; we have a quotation from Goldberg. (There's also one from John Wooden, but it's not listed. Does anyone know what it is?) In this context, giving a quotation from Maupin about how he wished he'd been more confident being gay doesn't seem to be promoting an agenda. It actually seems to be a good conversation starter: "Do you think Maupin is doing something wrong by being gay? Is it simply a 'lifestyle decision' which everyone should agree is okay?" Etc. etc. etc. Now, of course, we probably won't see a quotation by a former homosexual saying "All that time I spent being gay when I wanted to be straight was a waste; don't let peer pressure keep you gay"; so if you think such a quotation is necessary to balance Maupin's, then you probably won't be satisfied with Starbucks' campaign.

But as long as the opinion expressed by a quotation is taken to start the conversation and not to settle the issue, then I don't see a problem.

I'm making this judgment based on the Starbucks website, but the campaign doesn't seem biased. Of course, someone will probably develop a conspiracy theory discovering that more coffee cups are produced with liberal quotations than with conservative. Until there's proof of that, I'll keep drinking coffee from Starbucks.

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