Brian Flynn of Burlington Coat Factory e-mailed a memo to Freestar on Wednesday, December 1, 2004 calling those complaining about the Che shirts "provocateurs", "fanatics", and "extremists".
In the opinion of Freestar the memo had six purposes:
1. To try to scare off Freestar and the other protestors with threats of legal action by Burlington based on libel, slander or defamation
2. To try to discredit the protestors using ad hominem arguments
3. To try to confuse the issue of whether Burlington Coat Factory sold Che shirts or not
4. To apologize for selling Che shirts
5. To refuse to fire Scheer Advertising Group, the agency that created the TV ad featuring the Che shirt
6. To make our request that they fire those responsible the issue rather than the sale of Che shirts itself
Freestar responds point-by-point:
1. Everything Freestar has said about this news story is true and backed up by tangible evidence. We will not be intimidated by any implied threats of legal action against us. We are well aware of the laws of libel, slander and defamation and Freestar has not in anyway violated them. On the contrary it is possible that Burlington Coat Factory may have violated these laws by attacking us with such defamatory language. If Burlington takes legal action against us we intend to hire the best lawyer money can buy and have Burlington reimburse us for our legal expenses plus damages when we prevail in court. Such a lawsuit would also call attention the glamorization of Che in our culture with Burlington as the prime example. As Lenin said, "The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them." With stores nationwide Burlington is a major rope seller.
2. Ad hominem arguments are invalid. For Burlington Coat Factory to call us names is unprofessional and it fails to refute the news we reported. Such smears are in fact newsworthy themselves.
3. Some websites and blogs have incorrectly implied that the Che shirts for babies were being sold by Burlington Coat Factory. This is not true. La La Ling, a Los Angeles based children's retailer is selling Che shirts for babies. Burlington Coat Factory was selling Che shirts for teenagers. In the memo Burlington tried to confuse the issue by saying "Burlington Coat Factory neither manufactures nor supplies the tee shirt in question." Here Burlington can only be referring to the Che shirt for babies because they definately were selling the Che shirt for teenagers. Furthermore, this is the only interpretation which doesn't contradict their next sentence, "Burlington Coat Factory purchased these tee shirts and offered them for sale as a trendy item." Does Burlington really think that people won't see the contradiction in their statements and recognize it as linguistic slight-of-hand?
4. Freestar gives Burlington partial credit for apologizing for selling the shirts. However, to fully rectify this situation Burlington should fire Scheer Advertising Group. If Burlington fires Scheer we see no further reason to protest the company. In fact, firing Scheer would be a major act of corporate responsibility, a chance to "turn a lemon into lemonade", as the saying goes. I think that those of us who are repulsed by the promotion of Che Guevara would change from being Burlington protestors into Burlington promoters if Burlington: 1. removes all the Che shirts from its stores, 2. fires Scheer Advertising, 3. apologizes to the relatives of people murdered by Che, 4. apologies for its ad hominem attack on all the anti-Che protestors. It can be a textbook example of a company doing what is right instead of digging in its heels. Those of us who are opposed to communism, and the Cuban-American community in particular, have fought for decades against promoters of this evil ideology and we aren't going to give up. Freestar encourages Burlington to do what is right and fire Scheer by Friday, December 3 at noon.
5. Asking Burlington to fire everyone responsible for selling Che shirts and approving the TV ad that featured the Che shirt may not be possible or reasonable. Given the vast number of items sold by Burlington it is possible that certain Burlington buying agents and corporate officers were unaware of the Che shirts that they were selling and the ads they were running. However, Scheer Advertising Group certainly knew what they were doing. Evidence of this is the fact that the child that Scheer dressed in the Che shirt was also dressed in military pants. This underscores the fact that Che was a communist militant. For complete accuracy Scheer should have had him holding a gun to someone's head or leading a firing squad. This was the work of Che Guevara.
6. In their memo Burlington states, "We believe that such action [Freestar's request that they fire those involved] has no place in a free and democratic society." Once again the irony is incredible. First of all Freestar does not advocate that Burlington be prohibited by law from selling the Che shirt. Burlington should be free to sell whatever shirts it wants. We should be free to inform consumers about what they are selling. Burlington should be free to sell and we should be free to tell. The irony is that Che Guevara certainly was not an advocate of a free society so if Burlington truly has an interest in protecting freedom why are they selling the image of one of freedom's worst enemies?
The facts are these:
1. In August Burlington Coat Factory ran ads created by Scheer Advertising Group which featured a teenager with an angry look wearing military-style pants and a Che Guevara t-shirt. View the ad titled "Values" by visiting http://www.adforum.com/adfolio/simglist.asp Scroll to the bottom and in the box "Keyword" type "Values". Aside from the general issue of promoting a communist mass murderer it is especially irresponsible given the problem with school shootings that have plagued government-run schools. Che advocated armed violence. Is that a good message for teenagers?
2. Burlington Coat Factory was selling t-shirts for teenagers which featured a picture of communist mass murderer Che Guevara. As proof of this Freestar has in its possession a Che shirt with a dated receipt that it purchased on November 18, 2004, eight days after Burlington indicated it would remove all the shirts in an e-mail it sent to Freestar on November 10th. If Burlington was not selling very many Che shirts, as they claim in their December 1 memo, then they should have been able to remove them in a day or two.
But let there be no misunderstanding. Freestar is not primarily opposed to Burlington nor large corporations in general. On the contrary Freestar is a pro-capitalist, pro-corporation media alternative to the left-wing dominated media. In fact we have chosen to expose this story partially because of the irony involved. Che advocated communism, wherein, among other things, all private businesses are nationalized (taken by force by the government). Burlington Coat Factory promoted Che shirts on TV. Does Burlington want to be nationalized?
We are opposed to the promotion of communism through the merchandizing of one of its advocates. Since the mainstream media is sympathetic to communism and socialism they could not even recognize this as a story. This is why Freestar Media exists. In the years ahead we will tackle much larger stories that the left-wing media overlooks.
For now we encourage Burlington to fire Scheer Advertising Group by Friday, December 3 at 12 noon PST. If this occurs we will commend Burlington for rectifying this problem and all do something better with our time. Otherwise we plan on protesting Burlington at stores across the nation during the Christmas shopping season starting on Saturday, December 4. We are also preparing a video press release for national and local TV broadcast which will be transmitted to newsrooms nationwide by satellite. Several television stations have already picked up on the story.