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The New York Times reports this morning that Wal-Mart Stores has decided to stop selling three men's magazines because it says they are too risqué for both its customers and associates.

Maxim, Stuff and FHM, which the NYT says "feature a mix of scantily clad starlets and bawdy humor but go to some lengths to avoid being labeled as pornography" (and MNB will take their word for it, since we've never read any of them), no longer will be available at Wal-Mart.

While there is not a specific link cited in this case, the NYT notes that Wal-Mart has been under pressure from Christian groups not to sell certain kinds of products.
KC's View:
First of all, we have no problem with Wal-Mart saying it will or won’t sell certain kinds of books, magazines, CDs or DVDs if the content does not meet its standards for acceptability. That's within the company's rights. We also think the company is absolutely correct in enforcing age requirements when selling video games -- that's something more retailers ought to do.

Where we start to have a problem is when Wal-Mart sanitizes albums by having certain songs omitted or changing the cover art, another set of practices that the NYT article refers to. That's censorship -- and even if the publishers of the material accept the idea, we think it is a bad one…the same way we objected to Albertsons selling sanitized versions of R-rated movies last year.

This will become even more troublesome as Wal-Mart continues to grow and exert more influence over popular culture. Art is art and commerce is commerce…and while we respect the right of commerce not to support or make money off certain kinds of art (and we're using the term "art" in a broad sense here…we're not saying that Maxim is particularly artistic), we don’t want to live in a word where Wal-Mart's commercial imperatives determine the kind of art that exists there.