By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
It’s official. I’m a hatemonger.
I don’t think of myself as a hatemonger. I think of myself as a “cartoon writer” or a “novelist,” as a “dog person” or a “reluctant gardener.” You could toss in “cheapskate,” “lazy butt” and “cranky old coot,” and I couldn’t raise an honest objection. But . . . hatemonger? How did that happen, and who says? The Microsoft Small Business Center, that’s who. Here’s the how:
I’ll admit to hating George W. Bush, his administration and most of Texas in general. There’s a long list of things I hate, from people who drive faster than I do to people who drive slower, from mosquitoes to killer asteroids. But when I find negative feelings rising to the surface, I make a beeline to my tranquil center and resign myself to the fact, say, that I can be smashed at any moment by a thousand tons of space rock and there’s nothing I can do about it. Aside from eliminating standing pools of water from my back yard, there isn’t even much I can do about mosquitoes.
When it comes to George W. Bush, though, I feel a moral imperative to do something dramatic to keep him from getting re-elected. No need to go into all of the reasons why. In summary, I’m convinced that he sucks at the job of being president. So I did what any morally outraged person with too much time on his hands would do. I designed a T-shirt. And a bumper sticker. This is what they look like:
I made the shirts and stickers available through a shop at CafePress.com. Then I contacted the Microsoft Small Business Center (MSBC) to place as many banner ads on the Internet as 50 bucks would buy. I paid the money, and I submitted the banner.
Of course, I knew that the MSBC would have to approve the banner. I checked back the following day and was shocked to discover that not only was it rejected, but my entire campaign had mysteriously disappeared, had been totally erased with Orwellian thoroughness, as if it had never existed.
I leaped into action and fired off an inquiry through the site’s feedback form, and received the following e-mail in reply:
Thank you for writing to Microsoft Small Business Center about the status of your campaign.
We appreciate your cooperation.
Sincerely, Rose Microsoft Small Business Center Support
I had just been branded a hatemonger!
I telephoned the Billing Department and spoke with a customer-service representative and her supervisor (Linda and Lee, respectively). They both confirmed that my campaign had been rejected as “hate speech.”
I pointed out that I was not in any way advocating violence against the president. That would be Wrong. I was merely encouraging people not to vote for the man, which is political speech, which is free and protected.
Linda and Lee remained adamant. The campaign would not run.
“Okay, fine,” I said from the serene confines of my tranquil center, “then refund my money.”
Here’s where it gets really scary. They wouldn’t give me my money back!
“It isn’t our policy to issue refunds,” Lee said, as if that explained everything. As if I were expected to reply, “Oh, it’s your policy to take people’s money for a service, to arbitrarily decide not to provide that service, and to keep their money anyway. I understand now. Never mind, and I’m sorry for the intrusion.”
As it turns out, I have some policies of my own. One of my policies is not to put up with obvious crap, even when it comes from mega-corporations like Microsoft.
The problem is, this is not even a David-vs.-Goliath battle. The scale is entirely different. If Microsoft was Goliath, I was a flea on David’s sandal. All I could do was hop over to the sandal of another Goliath — my credit-card company — and file a complaint and get the charge removed from my credit-card bill. Which I did. And it didn’t make me feel one little bit better.
I am not a hatemonger! Expressing a political opinion is not hate speech! And even really big corporations that donate heavily to Republican political campaigns have to either provide the service they’ve been paid for or give the money back.
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