Yep, We’ve Been Cancelled

Shoppers Drug Mart doesn’t want you to read Adbusters.

Recently we were “delisted” (how’s that for Orwellian?) by Canada’s largest retailer of print magazines. All copies of Adbusters were pulled from its shelves — shelves we had paid a premium simply for the privilege of appearing on them, buried behind Vogue and Vanity Fair.

And for what? An unspecified number of complaints about issue #155, in which we published a couple of photos of cows being slaughtered (now you know where your steak comes from) and a few offending “fucks.” See them for yourself below.

When we reached out to the distributor for clarification — What was the specific nature of the complaints? How many complaints did Shoppers receive? Does the company follow a codified procedure when deciding to delist? — we were met with a shrug. “I think it’s pretty self explanatory …” was their unsigned final word. Talk about courtesy.

Our attempt to get in touch with Shoppers directly proved predictably futile. Got a question? “Read the FAQs.” Got a complaint? “Call our 1-800 number and wait interminably in on-hold hell.” It turns out that the only feasible way to get a hold of a human being who works for the chain is to contact one of its stores. (There are more than 1,300 across Canada.) In other words: If you’re trying to get through to corporate, get fucked.

Is this how truth-telling journalism dies — at the hands of a few outraged grannies who don’t like naughty words or knowing how their beef gets made? Or are there other forces at work?

In 2014, according to the company, “Loblaw Companies Limited [acquired] Shoppers Drug Mart Corporation for $12.4 billion in cash and stock.” Loblaws is the largest food retailer in the country, with over $50 billion in sales last year. (Second-place Sobeys, owner of IGA and Safeway, did about half as much business.) Its subsidiaries include President’s Choice, No Frills, and Real Canadian Superstore. If you live up north, chances are you do regular business with the nation-spanning grub-monger in one way or another.

In short, independent mags like ours are at the mercy of just a few big corporate newsstands — basically the only ones left. And their interest doesn’t lie in defending free speech, telling hard truths, or standing up for internationally circulated home-grown publications. It lies in their trembling, knee-knocking bottom line. Can’t afford to put off delicate sensibilities, I guess.

The plain truth is that, even as they die a slow death, no one will defend vital voices like ours . . . except readers like you.

Like what we do? Ready to stand with us? Then ditch Shoppers — get your chewing gum from a store that gives a shit.

From now on, just don’t go there anymore!


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