In some instances, the assault on choice has moved beyond predatory retail and monopolistic synergy schemes and become what can only be described as straightforward censorship: the active elimination and suppression of material. Most of us would define censorship as a restriction of content imposed by governments or other state institutions, or instigated – particularly in North American societies – by pressure groups for political or religious reasons. It is rapidly becoming evident, however, that this definition is drastically outdated. Although there will always be a Jesse Helms and a Church Lady to ban a Marilyn Manson concert, these little dramas are fast becoming sideshows in the context of larger threats to free expression.
Corporate censorship has everything to do with the themes of the last two chapters: media and retail companies have inflated to such bloated proportions that simple decisions about what items to stock in a store in a store or what kind of cultural project to commission – decisions quite properly left to the discretion of business owners and culture makers – now have enormous consequences: those who make these choices have the power to reengineer the cultural landscape. When magazines are pulled from Wal-Mart’s shelves by store managers, when cover art is changed on CDs to make them Kmart-friendly, or when movies are refused by Blockbuster Video because they don’t conform to the chain’s “family entertainment” image, these private decisions send waves through the culture industries, affecting not just what is readily available at the local big box but what gets produced in the first place.