Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Right to be a Jerk

I support it. I know I am a jerk sometimes. You are too. Until my jerkitude causes me to commit a battery or infringe the property rights of another, I want to be able to be as offensive as I want. Similarly, I am allowed to associate with people and patronize businesses as I please, so if one offends me, I can move on. You can do that too. If I am so much of jerk that no one want to talk to me, they shouldn't have to.

All this brings me to Blue Joe's in San Antonio. The owner of the bar refused to allow an artist to show his photographs because they depicted the artist's boyfriend dressed in Victorian costume and wearing make-up. According to the artist:
[The bar owner] just said they looked too much like drag queens, and he didn't want to attract that type of clientele to the establishment. Of course, right then and there, I felt really offended.
In response, the bar owner has been accused of homophobia and a myspace campaign started to spread the word. The bar owner tried to defend his decision because the photos might give an impression that they cater exclusively to gay customers, which they do not. The owner has a valid point: in a commercial setting, artwork needs to appeal to the broadest customer base. Chances are, though, Joe Blues won't have to worry about any gay customers for a while now. (Though if the owner really is homophobic, a boycott by gays might be the very thing he wants)

So far the response has been perfectly appropriate. I'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop: Joe Blues being sued for anything other than breach of contract. They may have a perfectly appropriate breach of contract cause of action, but if I know lawyers, and I do, that won't be the only claim if a complaint is filed. Since this is Texas we probably don't have to worry about any legislation flowing out of this little tiff.

My point: using market power and information to punish businesses that offend = okay; using the power of the state to force them not to offend or to punish after they have = bad.

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