Lou Hinger thought it sounded simple enough. Her bank had invited her to “express herself.” It was part of Capital One’s “Express Yourself” credit card campaign, whereby account holders upload a fun photo of themselves, or anything else they want, and it will appear on a personalized Capital One credit card.
Because Lou and her husband Frank of Hamburg, New Jersey, are avid hunters, she thought what better than to upload a photo of Frank, dressed in his hunting gear, posing with a beautiful buck he had taken last hunting season.
But when Capital One received the Hingers’s photo, well, apparently it wasn’t quite up to snuff.
Lou received an email that said, in part:
“Sorry, we were unable to approve the image you submitted. We will not approve any images that contain the following: ‘Violence, hatred, or cruelty to humans or animals, profanity, obscenities or any type of death imagery.’”
If that sounds frightening, it was. Shocked and offended that her bank thought her, her husband and her children “violent and cruel” for participating in a time-honored and entirely lawful sport, she tried calling Capital One to get some clarification. What did that mean? What was so violent or obscene about her husband’s photo -- a photo that is undoubtedly repeated in millions of homes across the country? The kind of photo that US presidents, generals and famous leaders from around the world have posed for?
She got no answer.
The Hingers, like many Americans, hunt to feed their family. Especially when times are tight, thousands of Americans turn to hunting for sustenance. I should point out that thousands of homeless persons also depend on hunters for sustenance, through one of the many venison donation programs around the country.
Despite the liberal media’s frequent portrayal of hunters, the Hingers are not vigilantes running around the woods with a shot gun for kicks, or to satiate a gnawing blood lust. They hunt lawfully and respectfully, both because it’s an American tradition and it puts meat in the freezer.
“We are livid,” Hinger told the NRA's Hunters Rights blog, “as we are God-serving Americans who hunt to feed our family. In these economic times our family is fed by hunting, and it’s horrible to be associated with words like 'hatred or violence.'"
When I spoke to Lou and Frank, they told me how much hunting meant to them, how serious they are about it, and how humanely they take their deer.
But for Capital One, the idea of deer hunting is apparently too violent for that company’s sensitive palate. You know Capital One, right? They have those commercials where wild-eyed vikings and barbarians run around with medieval weapons like spears and battle axes and catapults, throwing farm animals around and, well, joking about violence?
Like this one.
Or this one.
Or this one.
Now these commercials are obviously meant to be funny. And they are. Anyone who finds them offensive should probably stick to CSPAN and the Weather Channel, and get their sense of humor checked out.
But they are also, well, kind of violent. In one of the commercials a live human being is shot at from a catapult! In another a child sits on Santa's lap with a battle axe! In another a horse is flung into the air!
If Capital One has issues with violence, their commercials violate their own standards. There is nothing violent about lawful hunting.
I talked to the NRA about this. J.R. Robbins is managing editor of NRAHuntersRights.org, and he was not amused by Capital One’s implication that the Hingers’ past time was somehow inappropriate.
“Number one, they just called 14.9 million law-abiding American hunters violent or cruel,” said Robbins. “Number two, there are laws against cruelty to animals and hunting doesn’t violate them. And number three, hunting is a legal activity that funds most wildlife conservation, game management and research efforts in this country.”
Robbins also took issue with the way the bank handled the situation, saying, “Capital One’s reluctance to talk to the Hingers about this incident is just bad customer service and bad business.”
I also talked to Capital One spokesperson Pam Girardo this morning. She was familiar with the incident and had this to say:
“Capital One has a broad customer base with diverse interests and we are pleased to offer our cardholders the opportunity to personalize their card. We do in fact accept hunting images and have many cardholders with such imagery on their cards. In this case, the photo was too graphic. We invite this cardholder to either submit an alternate image or crop the current image.”
Capital One told the NRA that the photo in question was not the original photo the Hingers sent in, and that the original photo "showed blood." Robbins concedes that "the image on our site was cropped to eliminate a slightly distracting portion of another deer hanging in the background."
The point is this: I don't care if there was a gut pile in the photo. Classifying hunters as violent and cruel is unacceptable.
Furthermore, I’m not sure how Capital One thinks deer are hunted. With kittens? Pillow feathers? Marshmallows?
Unless they’re bionic deer, they bleed when they are shot. That’s the reality of hunting. Incidentally, fish bleed when they are caught, too. Again, there’s nothing violent -- or criminal -- about hunting or fishing.
Capital One is free to set whatever decency standards they wish. That’s their right. And it should be noted that the NRA, which also offers personalized credit cards, follows a similar standard, requesting that cardholders clean up any visible blood from their photos. But the NRA would never categorize 15 million Americans as violent or cruel or criminal in the process. That is the distinction.
Capital One owes their customers a clearer set of directions when submitting a photo for personalization. And more importantly, Capital One owes their customers a less offensive response than to characterize them as “violent” or “cruel.” In my opinion, Capital One owes the Hingers an apology for that statement.