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Desperate Shock Exec Smears Boycotters

After a French magazine conglomerate used one of acclaimed blogger/war correspondent Michael Yon’s most famous photographs without his permission, Yon fought back, setting up a web page where readers and fellow bloggers could ask retailers not to stock the offending magazine — a new publication called Shock. Shock didn’t just use the photo without permission. It used it to make an anti-war statement on Memorial Day weekend. Yon wrote that the publishers completely stripped the photo of its context. 

As the New York Post reports today, Yon and his readers and fellow bloggers are beating the media giant. Borders and Rite Aid have just added their names to a growing list of retailers that are refusing to stock Shock because of consumer complaints. The bad news is, like a cornered snake, Shock exec Jack Kliger is calling up retailers and smearing the boycott effort as some kind of astroturf campaign:

Shock magazine, which is being pulled by Borders and Rite Aid, is taking the unusual step of writing to its major retail and distribution partners, urging them not to buckle to what it sees as censorship campaign by a blogging photographer. […] 
“[People] are sending e-mails according to scripted copies,” said Jack Kliger, chief executive of Shock’s publisher, Hachette Filipacchi Media.
“I don’t mind if I get complaints from readers after they’ve seen it. That’s their right and I expect that. But this is some Pied Piper telling everyone what to think. They’re not readers, they’re followers.”

What a truly pathetic defense. Kliger says that he doesn’t mind getting complaints “after they’ve seen it.” Guess what, Jack? We have seen it — we just saw it on Michael Yon’s web site first.
You put the photo on the cover. You didn’t have permission to use it. You refused to abide by the terms of the deal you made with the photographer once he confronted you with your impropriety. Is Jack Kliger trying to say that we’re so stupid, we can’t make up our own minds when given these three simple pieces of information?
Keep up the pressure. Kliger’s desperate defense reveals that it’s working.
UPDATE: Yon has responded to Kliger’s smear in a press release I just received:

On Friday, Yon responded to an accusation of “censorship” leveled against him by Hachette Filapacchi executives who were starting to feel the pinch of diminishing shelf space. “This campaign is NOT censorship. It’s the muscular articulation of principle,” he says. “It’s how honorable people align their actions with their words. Not buying Shock, or any HFM magazine, cancelling subscriptions they may already have, and shopping in stores that are with us in this battle, are all ways Americans are sending a clear message to this company, its distributors and advertisers.” […]

Kliger also argued that Shock’s use of the photo was not intended to attack the U.S. military on Memorial Day weekend. Here’s Yon’s response to that:

“They can claim it’s not an attack against our soldiers, but there is not a single positive syllable or statistic anywhere in that article,” Yon says. “From inflammatory captions like ‘apocalypse then and now,’ to the shoe-horned statistics and misleading claims, to the telling photograph and mention of Cindy Sheehan, this goes beyond patent bias. It’s a smear that leaves no question about what Hachette Filapacchi Media thinks about the United States military. They can dress that animal up in haute couture, but Americans know a pig in a party dress when they see one, and they’re not buying it.” Yon says the campaign, which is only a week old, will grow in magnitude with every instance of stonewalling and spinning from Hachette Filapacchi Media: “we are holding them accountable.”

HFM is in real trouble. I think its execs are just starting to realize that.


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