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Reactions to Bookworks Bookstore's rejection of MRFF Founder and President Mikey Weinstein's book-signing appearance in Albuquerque
Friday, February 17, 2012
Letter from MRFF Attorney
to Bookworks Bookstore:
Mr. Wyatt Wegrzyn
Ms. Danielle Foster
4022 Rio Grande Blvd NW
Albuquerque, NM 87107
Re: Mikey Weinstein
Dear Mr. Wegryn and Ms. Foster:
I represent the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and its founder and president Mr. Michael L. "Mikey" Weinstein. I have been provided the background, emails and circumstances of your specious decision to prevent Mr. Weinstein from speaking and signing his new book, "No Snowflake in an Avalanche" at your store. The original explanation and subsequent flip-flopping on the explanation demonstrate incredible ignorance for a business entity that should have a paramount appreciation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Your initial explanation to Mr. Weinstein that you were concerned about offending sensitivities in the current "political climate" is nothing short of censorship. Given that the shelves of your bookstore and litany of past speakers offer a spectrum of differing political opinions, it is difficult to believe that Mr. Weinstein’s courageous plight, which has been nationally and internationally recognized, could justify a more narrow-minded edict. For your information, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation has been nominated four times in the last three years (including 2012) for the Nobel Peace Prize. Furthermore, it is the only New Mexico organization to be considered for such an honor.
This decision is compounded even more by a subsequent explanation which is pretextual. After initially providing Mr. Weinstein one excuse, you then shift into another unbelievable explanation for your denial. In doing so, you only further my belief that all other excuses are a sham.
There are many people in this community, state and country who value locally-owned bookstores as a last vestige of free speech. They are supposed to be free of corporate- driven censorship and small-minded concerns about offending parochial beliefs. As such, I have been a patron of your store for many years.
So, it is with incredulity that a locally-owned Albuquerque bookstore would slap the wrath of censorship on a valued local author who has been described by Harpers Magazine as "the constitutional conscience of the military." Fortunately, he is articulate and driven enough to shed light on your constitutional hypocrisy. The First Amendment, while serving you well, is not a law of convenience.
You have done something this community will not take lightly. In my 22 years of litigation experience with the First Amendment, it is, by far, one of the most egregious violations of free speech I have ever seen.
You may find it wise to revisit your decision. I would highly advise that you timely do so.
Martin R. Esquivel
Esquivel Law Firm, LLC
Bookworks responds to
original MRFF release:
This is Amy Lahti writing from Bookworks. I would like to clarify some things stated in this article.
First, Mr. Weinstein’s book is not “banned,” either “in Albuquerque” (Mr. Weinstein just had an event for his book at Page One bookstore in Albuquerque), or at our store, as we plan to stock the book for purchase at Bookworks.
While the factors I cited in my letter to Mr. Weinstein’s publisher (which the publisher unfortunately decided to make public, despite the fact that it was meant as a communication just for Mr. Weinstein’s publicist) were accurate, ultimately, the decision not to host Mikey at our store was based on two things: one was past sales of his book at our store. We sold zero copies of Mr. Weinstein’s previous book at the store, and have had no requests for copies of the new book, indicating low customer interest in his book and topic. We don’t usually tell this to authors, though, as we understand why authors are sensitive about hearing that their book has generated little interest among customers.
The second factor was the fact that Mr. Weinstein had just had an event for his book at Page One in Albuquerque. We try not to have an event for the same book and/or author too close to another bookstore event in Albuquerque, as we find that attendance and sales at our event is greatly compromised if the author has had a previous local event. Many bookstores have this policy, of asking for “event exclusivity” within a certain mile radius of their store. Mr. Weinstein chose to approach Page One about an event for his book before Bookworks, and therefore, we had to make a decision based on the idea that we were second in line to do an event. Again, we don’t usually talk about this with authors as by the time we get their request, it’s too late for them to do anything about it; they’ve already had a previous event.
Finally, we at the store are very proud of welcoming people of ALL creeds, beliefs, religions, etc. into the store and do not ever want to alienate anyone based on their personal beliefs. We are proud of this and I am glad that Mr. Weinstein chose to share that portion of my letter.
We’re sorry we couldn’t host Mr. Weinstein at Bookworks. We do regret that Mr. Weinstein, and his publisher, have apparently taken our decision personally, and are using it to draw attention to his book and their cause in an inappropriate and frankly unfortunate way. Contrary to what Mr. Weinstein said on his website, his book is not “banned” in Albuquerque, or at our store, as we plan to stock his book for purchase. We simply cannot accommodate an event for him, at this time.
Thanks, and I welcome any questions or comments at events at bkwrks dot com.
Vireo, publisher of No Snowflake in an Avalanche, responds to Bookworks:
We go way back together, and you obviously felt the ability to be frank with us regarding the owners’ concern for potentially upsetting military and evangelical clients of Bookworks. However, if the issue really is sales data and lack of interest, I believe you would have felt the ability to be frank with us about those concerns as well.
Please stop backtracking on this issue. We both know that if your reasons for declining the event were actually based on these new reasons, you would have told us. The communication was happening between Bookworks and Rare Bird, not Bookworks and the author. There was no need to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings.
If you can’t stand behind your original statement on this, the credibility of everything you say after is completely null.
The following are selected emails
MRFF supporters sent to
as well as to Bookworks
(Amy, Wyatt, & Danielle):
The American Democracy is the best form of government that exists.
However it can only work in an environment where the electorate is knowledgeable of the issues and can then make an informed decision.
Libraries are the depository of our diverse opinions and conclusions and make this material free to the public WITHOUT CENSORSHIP. There are those who may desire to learn more from other sources. These people may visit bookstores, listen to authors and buy the book to have it signed. Then they read it, and derive their own personal conclusions, and may recommend it to others.
This is the informed citizen.
When a bookstore eliminates authors appearances that do not reflect their narrow views, they are depriving the public of the ability of choice and to educate themselves. Is this the bookseller’s real goal?
They have the right to choose, but should grant their patrons this same right.
To not do so is prejudice, un-American, and just plain stupid.
Informed Citizen, William Benjamin
Dear Wyatt and Danielle,
I have been a supporter of MRFF since its inception and I applaud Mikey courageous efforts on behalf of all Americans. I supported Madelyn Murray, too. I've fought for 4 decades to protect Constitutional rights. I find myself fighting for rights we fought for and "won" 30 years ago. It is indeed disheartening. to be fighting the same battles. Stop worrying about offending the religious fanatical fundamentalists who have taken over our military, i.e., stop worrying about your bottom line in book sales and start worrying about protecting Constitutional rights.
Your cowardly act is shameful and will circle the globe five times by tomorrow. It is not too late to reverse your decision. You wouldn't be the first. Please reconsider.
To Whom it May Concern,
I am a very strong supporter of independent bookstores. And independence means backbone. Your backing-down on hosting a book launch and book signing for No Snowflake in an Avalanche is a rank example of the sort of cowardice that marked the Weimar Republic, or America in the ‘50’s, or, for some, the current period. And you are bright people. You know where these things lead; or have you forgotten Martin Niemoller?
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out -- Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out -- Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out -- Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me -- and there was no one left to speak for me.
I urge you to reconnect with the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and take that principled stand, so that we can change things in this October Country—"that country where it is always turning late in the year."
I am a member of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and just recently received a copy of Mikey Weinstein's book "No Snowflake in an Avalanche". I was appalled to read that a bookstore which claims itself as "indie before indie was cool" would even think for two seconds that it was appropriate in any way to deny a famous local author a venue to sell his book and interface with the people of Albuquerque. Mikey Weinstein and his family have done more in the name of freedom that most of us will ever do in our lifetimes. Of course, you are certainly FREE to make this decision, but I'm not sure what kind of "free" that represents, especially since it appears that your freedom has been boxed in and held hostage by certain attitudes and institutions in your area.
My family has visited your area many times as we have ties to a local native American family. So we are aware of not only the wonderful culture of Albuquerque, but the gorgeous scenery and natural wonders of the area.
In my view, you just gave Albuquerque a black eye.
I hope you understand that you have caved to pressure from those who, if they succeed in their goal of transforming our democracy into a theocracy, would insist that you ban almost every book you now carry. How far are you willing to go to please an unpleasable faction of extremists? Your appalling lack of courage in refusing to host the author of No Snowflakes in an Avalanche empowers these extremists and misses a chance to educate sincere followers of all Christian faiths who might be taken in by their fascism just because it pretends to be Christianity. I hope you will take a more thoughtful and courageous look at what they are currently trying perpetrate in the name of Jesus and reconsider your decision.
Independent booksellers have historically defended the First Amendment. One of the elements of the First Amendment is that people have the right to hear and read ideas and words with which they disagree. Consequently, in your treatment of Mr. Weinstein and his book, you have failed in your First Amendment duty to any evangelical and right-wing clientele you might have. Likewise, you have failed in your broader, more general duty to the First Amendment, to reason. On the question that has been revealed by the contradictions, shifting and shuffling evident in your various letters, please consider what Jefferson says about reason being free to combat error of opinion:
If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union
or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as
monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be
tolerated where reason is left free to combat it. --Thomas
Jefferson: 1st Inaugural, 1801.
Given the SS flag issue, possible infiltration of the armed forces of various right-wing and fascist elements, and religious proselytizing in the Service, do you honestly believe that your treatment of Mr. Weinstein and his book even gives reason an opportunity to combat error of opinion? The life of reason is grounded in the First Amendment, part of America’s Enlightenment heritage. And I suspect, as most independent booksellers, you fancy yourself a champion of reason.
Crawl back into the dirt,
If you want to go to the heart of Christian Fundamentalism, Put Colorado Springs (or come to Dallas <VBFG>) on your potential Book Tour.
ABQ can't hold a candle to these "bastions" of the "bible belt"
Otherwise, I'll just get my copy on Amazon, Or meet you at a REAL bookstore in Sante Fe. <VBFG>
Fuck the snowflake, Bring on the Avalanche!
Hang in there Buddy.
CounterPunch. Duck. CounterPunch.
Your Eternal Heretic TransChristian Brother,
What about starting a petition on forcechange.com? I would be glad to start one with your permission.
Ask this bookstore if in 2004 they hosted that anti-Kerry smear book Unfit For Command written by that liar John Corsi and clown O'Neil. They may not have been in business then, but those liars did do a big book tour financed by right-wing billionaires from Texas and Oklahoma. I confronted these aholes in Oakbrook IL. They disputed my service record. I knew they would do that, so I had photos of me aboard river boats---which they refused to study, of course. I hate these people. I recall, too, the number they did on Max Cleland.
Vietnam vet LT Navy, VA-52 and Advisory Team 86.
I love it, Mikey, when you "Hitch-slap" the hell out of them! You and Tyson are right! .......
oh hell yeass!! that was an awesome enima!!
I have called the bookstore, and registered by distress at the actions against you and your new book.
You may be interested in the quote below, from Barry Goldwater a Republican legislator in 1994!!!!
Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the Republican party and they're sure trying to do so, its going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can't and won't compromise. I know, I'v'e tried to deal with them.
~Barry Goldwater, 5 term Senator from Arizona, credited with recreating Conservatism in the U.S. speaking in Nov.1994
Come to Berkeley! You'll have a standing-room only crowd!
I just wrote Amy and others at Bookworks and explained why, despite my commitment to patronizing local, independent bookstores, they will no longer be receiving my business.
Suggestion: You might want to consider including their email addresses in your next mailing. They really need to be called to account for their choices.
Absolutely outrageous! You might want to consider starting a petition of some sort urging people in Albuquerque to buy their books elsewhere! You could really make an negative impact on the bookstore's sales.
"NO SNOWFLAKE IN AN AVALANCHE: The Military Religious Freedom Foundation, its Battle to Defend the Constitution, and One Family’s Courageous War Against Religious Extremism in High Places"
The author, Mikey Weinstein, is presently giving
for the occasion of the release of this book.
To schedule an interview, journalists are strongly encouraged
Bekki Miller of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation at (337)356-8696
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