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Democratic Underground Makes Choices. What Do We Choose Now?

You know, we’ve been trying to get some kind of response from the purportedly liberal website Democratic Underground on the issue of the shirts it sells for a long time. J. Clifford started asking why Democratic Undergound sells t-shirts from ethically problematic sources back in November of 2005, and followed up after that. 25 days ago, I wrote Democratic Underground founder David Allen an e-mail asking him whether he would commit to a change in the sourcing of Democratic Underground t-shirts. I got no response whatsoever. So 15 days ago, I not only wrote Democratic Underground founder David Allen another e-mail, but also wrote an e-mail to Democratic Underground founder Dave Allsopp and another e-mail to the “general inquiries” DU e-mail account. I got no response whatsoever. So 8 days ago, I made a post on the Democratic Underground message boards, on a thread regarding ethical sourcing of apparel, a thread that David Allen (using the username “Skinner”) had previously tracked and written on himself. Regarding DU’s use of CafePress shirts that are of questionable ethical origins, I wrote:

CafePress ( makes it easy to choose various shirt types and exclude others. Why is Democratic Underground offering Hanes shirts, for example, when it could very easily limit itself to American Apparel shirts on CafePress? The record on workers is much better and more transparent for American Apparel.

DU has publicly excoriated Republican politicians for using sweatshop apparel. Will DU make the changes that bring its sales choices better into line with its public statements?

I look forward to a response.


Can you guess whether I received a response from Skinner or anybody else in the Democratic Underground leadership? If you guessed “No,” you win the Meritorious Conduct In Making A Completely Obvious Choice Award Certificate of the day.

At this point, you’d have to be a pathologically optimistic person to believe that the Democratic Underground leadership hasn’t encountered our questions. It’s becoming clear to me that they just don’t want to answer the questions that J. Clifford and I have raised. They must feel uncomfortable about something if they won’t come out and explain themselves, but that’s their choice. It has also been the more disturbing and consequential choice of Democratic Underground to go right on selling shirts of questionable ethical origin despite being made aware of the issue — shirts that have progressive political statements on them but which are the result of a decidedly non-progressive production process. That’s their choice, too.

These are Democratic Underground’s choices. Now we have some choices of our own to make. What should come next?

4 thoughts on “Democratic Underground Makes Choices. What Do We Choose Now?”

  1. J. Clifford says:

    As for me, I say we keep looking for new ways to communicate the issue. It’s important for the people working in sweatshops, and it’s important to address this weakness in a supposedly progressive web site. The kind of behavior from Democratic Underground creates a lack of credibility for progressive web sites just like WIlliam Jefferson creates a lack of credibility for Democrats in Congress.

    Looking for other shopkeepers who work through CafePress who may be willing to change – and put more pressure on those shopkeepers who refuse to do the right thing.

  2. John_Stracke says:

    Looking for other shopkeepers might be a good idea. You could establish a “sweatshop-free” logo people could display in their shops.

  3. Nijma says:

    The “thinking blogger” badge has been propagating through the blogosphere, and its meme has even turned up in Australian spam. If people were “tagged” with a fair trade badge, some of them might write a blog about the idea.

    A local newpaper where I used to live used to award ‘flower’ and ‘onion’ symbols to locals who either had landscaped their businesses or allowed them to fall into thistles and broken glass. You could even do a “forked tongue” award for sites that pretend to care but use products produced with child labor anyhow, or an angel/devil badge for those who only have some fair trade items.

    Look at the way Nike has changed its transparency policies and corporate goals as a result of public pressure. Pressure from buyers does make a difference. One person can make a difference.

  4. Jim says:

    This is a good idea. We’ll think on it…

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