01 March 2010

Etsy and the art of FAIL

I was surprised this evening to see Health Care as the featured story on Etsy's front page. Figuring it couldn't possibly be about the current US healthcare debacle, I clicked on it. I was wrong.

What followed was a watered-down, left-leaning synopsis of the current state of health care legislation in the United States. It provided no salient details while it omitted a lot of important ones. It was how you might explain the healthcare debate to a third-grader, while trying to stay neutral. The problem is, nobody can stay neutral when discussing such a politically-charged issue. And third-graders aren't going to make informed decisions.

Regardless of your stance on the issue, it has no place on Etsy. What's next, reproductive rights and the art of handmade? I can see it now:

Reproductive Rights: An Etsy Guide.
Since many of our patrons and sellers are female, we thought we'd discuss reproductive rights. The right to an abortion is an issue that affects many people. People have differing opinions about this. Right now,
Roe v. Wade legalizes some types of abortions. Some people don't agree that this should be the case, but they have not been successful in overturning the Supreme Court decision. We here at Etsy thought we'd do a five-part series on abortion, to let you know the ins and outs of women's reproductive rights and how it might affect your life.

Maybe it's just me, but I can't see any way in which that would be appropriate. Frankly, I'm not that comfortable posting that fake paragraph here, on my blog. Did it make your blood boil a little bit? Do you find it offensive that I've even mentioned abortion in an uninformative, neutral fashion on my knitting blog?

It illustrates my point perfectly, doesn't it?

I would not want to direct buyers to my Etsy shop, encourage them to poke about the site, only to have them balk at the political discussion. It's not what you look for when you're shopping for a party dress, or a landscape painting, or some vintage housewares. I would like a disclaimer at the top of the article that Etsy in no way represents the political views of the individual sellers. Better yet, why not represent no political views at all, and keep that stuff for the editorial coffee break?

I commented on the article that discussion of such a divisive issue was inappropriate for a community of the handmade. That I enjoyed political discussion elsewhere, but Etsy was not the place for it. Two minutes later, the editors had deleted my comment -- no wonder it had been the sole dissent.

I repost the quote I have kept on the sidebar of my blog, in which I still firmly believe:
"If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind. . . . But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error." -- John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

Etsy welcomes discussion of topics -- as long as you foster discussion that agrees with them. Maybe Etsy should run for Congress -- they'd fit right in.

It's disappointing and disheartening to see this from a site I had liked so much. I'd write them a letter and explain why I don't want to shop there any more, or why I am considering closing my shop and not putting up the new listings I had planned, but I know they won't actually care. They're going to go right on in their happy, green, urban, veganized, shiny, sterilized, unilateral, and in some ways ignorant, world. Etsy in no way represents my political beliefs, and I want no part of it.


Your regularly scheduled knitting blog will resume shortly. We have a LOT of catching up to do.

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