This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 6th, 2005 at 10:45 am and is filed under Christ....


I think Justin is on the money here regarding Sainbury’s, Woolworths and the Jerry Springer DVD.

[Note - If this is news to you, catch up via this entry at Bloggerheads and the following article from the Independent: Major retail chains have bowed to pressure from a tiny fringe Christian group by withdrawing copies of a DVD of Jerry Springer: The Opera from stores around the UK. Woolworths and Sainsbury have both taken the unprecedented step of removing the film from shelves because of "customer" concerns about the content of the musical, released three weeks ago. Sainsbury has admitted it received just 10 complaints.]

Given the behaviour of Sainsbury’s and Woolworths – especially the dismissive ‘copy and paste’ answer from the latter that simply does not stand up to scrutiny – I think we can confidently replace the word ‘complaint’ with ‘threat’…. and, just in case you’re uncomfortable working on the assumption that Christian Voice is behind this, in this article (via), Stephen Green confirms what most of us already suspected: Stephen Green, the organisation’s national director, said the group had recently managed to stop Sainsbury’s from stocking videos of the opera.

Strangely, there is no mention of this action (or a call to action) on the Christian Voice website. But, as we all know, veiled threats are most effective when made under the cover of darkness.

Christian Voice has past form here…

They beat their drums from the shadows. They ride their Banthas single file to hide their numbers.

And this time, they have the benefit of a favourable season.

Think about it; if you were a High St retailer, would be willing to risk ‘Christian’ vigils pickets during Christmas?

Well, you certainly would if the focus of protest were a popular profitable title like Harry Potter, but in the case of Jerry Springer: The Opera it’s much easier to trust in the ignorance and apathy of the wider public and accept the well-worn path of least resistance.

Stephen Green knows he can rely on this reaction to JS:TO, especially after the success of the very compelling lies about the frequency of swear words (always an attention-getter) and the purpose/meaning/nature of the depictions of God and Jesus in this production.

This is why JS:TO has been his primary target weapon these past 11 months. Taken at face value, the opera appears offensive. Sprinkle a few inventions of your own on the surface, and it seems deliberately offensive. In short, he has found a razor-sharp edge to a very large wedge.

If pressed, it’s likely that Sainsbury’s and Woolworths will also use this as a weapon in order to justify their cowardice. It’s also very likely they will attempt to paint the spontaneous counter-complaints and boycotts as the actions of a pressure group… because they don’t give in to pressure groups.

My own personal shopping boycotts* stand, but I’m not sure a co-ordinated counter-campaign involving boycotts or pickets is the answer here.

(*They are expressions of disappointment from a dissatisfied customer; one month for Sainsbury’s and two months for Woolworths – Woolworths earned an extra month when their Customer Support Advisor Danny Myers dodged my questions and shut me off with a curt “I now consider the matter closed and no further correspondence will be entered into.”)

The only positive action must start with the retailers. Sadly, this involves them admitting that they made an error in quietly caving to these threats rather than exposing and denouncing them. This is not an easy move to make. But if Sainsbury’s and Woolworths look closely at Stephen Green’s primary weapons – misinformation, fear and darkness – they should see how easy it will be to turn this around.

These retailers have bigger PR machines, they will earn public support by showing no fear, and they can undermine public support for Stephen Green simply by shining a very bright light in his direction.

And here’s your starter for ten, big boys.

Try Something Different Today. Stand up to religious extremists.

UPDATE – Asda still stock the DVD, which I find odd given the past behaviour of their owners. I’ll try to find out what’s going on there.

UPDATE – Asda state that they don’t sell it, and that they’ve never stocked it (because of ‘poor demand’). And because they never sold it in the first place, the matter of pressure applied by Christian extremists isn’t even a factor because it was never an issue in the first place. Erm… perhaps they will pardon me for being difficult, but what the hell is this? Another story from a retailer that just doesn’t add up? I’ve been promised an update. With you shortly….

UPDATE – It is being sold online, but not in stores. The ‘low demand’ story holds water, as many retailers sell items with lower demand on their website, but not in-store. As far as the Asda press office in concerned, they will continue to sell the product online and they know of no plans to withdraw the item from the website. HOWEVER… this statement came from the same man who – when initally informed of the anomoly – said “I thought I told them to remove that.”

Let’s sit back and see how long the online listing lasts, shall we?

In the meantime, there appears to be a suitable compromise here for Sainsbury’s and Woolworths… they can adopt the line of ‘low demand’ and sell the item online. That way, Stephen Green and his merry band can picket the online store(s) from the comfort of their own bedroom(s), and customers won’t have to put up with being prayed/shouted at. Genius, no?

UPDATE – Tesco still sell the item online. Chasing press office…

UPDATE – Tesco said they trialled the item in stores, but it failed to sell well. Now they only sell the item online. They have not been targetted by Christian Voice. At all. That ‘low demand’ story with the online-only sales option is looking better and better for the Cowardly Crew.

UPDATE – WHSmith sell it online. I fail to see what the problem is here.

UPDATE – How shocking! How disgraceful! I’m dismayed and appalled. In fact, I think I may vomit.