For the past year Victoria Hearst, the granddaughter of William Randolph Hearst, has been on a rampage to censor or remove Cosmopolitan from the shelves, asserting in a ridiculous campaign that “Cosmo Harms Minors” because of its open, liberated approach to sex. It’s worked in several markets, and this week a major grocery chain announced the magazine will be pulled from the checkout lanes, in what’s a could be a hit to the business but a win for evangelical puritanism, I guess.
WWD reports that Marsh Supermarkets will remove Cosmo from prime placement in 72 stores, thanks to efforts from Hearst and the organization she works with, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. Amazingly, though, Cosmo claims that it’s not Marsh that’s pulling the title—it’s them:
A Cosmopolitan spokesperson disputed the claim that it was Marsh’s decision, and offered: “Yet another example of a fake news story perpetuated by a fringe special interest group, in this instance NCOSE. This decision was made by us —not the retailer — in August. It is not unusual for us to strategically shift where and how we display our product.”
A spokesman for Marsh confirmed the news, but did not elaborate on how the decision was made or who made it.
Strategic changes are common but in the media industry—particularly in a world in which print is swiftly declining—logically it would seem that rejecting prime placement at a major grocery chain is a terrible business decision (though it should be noted that Hearst, like its competitors, has been doing a lot of shifting lately). Cosmo is one of the most widely read titles in the world, as their new reality show informed me, so perhaps it’s financially absorbable. But it would also seem that Victoria Hearst’s viewpoint is in conflict to her own interests, and in an era where journalists are legitimately worried for our First Amendment rights, if this is truly self-censorship, it’s foreboding.