mercredi 24 juin 2009

Censorship in the Blogosphere ?

When a luxury behemoth attacks an independent critic, even indirectly, it is legitimate to speak of intimidation tactics, or even of attempted censorship.

My dear friend Octavian Coifan of 1000fragrances was ordered yesterday by his hosting services provider to remove his post on Idylle, the new Guerlain perfume: otherwise, his account would be suppressed. It isn’t too much of a stretch to imagine who’s behind this.

Other French blogs had reproduced the Idylle ad, which was initially leaked by the online edition of a French financial weekly, Stratégies. They were asked to delete it, as was Stratégies. So clearly, someone in the legal department has discovered the use of emails. The bloggers complied.

Why not have contacted Octavian in the same way? His contact is up on his blog. Why use such devious tactics? This shows bad judgment, to say the least: first, because it’s terrible public relations and second, because it should’ve been obvious that this would cause a stir. It’s easy to play thug with a little blogger who can’t afford to hire a legal team. It isn’t to silence the blogosphere. Just try. You can’t stop information and opinions from circulating, but independent thinking sits uneasily with groups who promote their products with million-dollar campaigns, while quaking at the thought that the merest Google search will bring up opinions that neither they, nor the press they control through advertising revenues, can control.

Yes, this does look like censorship, and what’s more, against one of the oldest, most widely read and most highly respected perfume blogs. I’m afraid this is just the opening salvo in much more systematic intimidation campaigns. I hope not, and I hope that luxury groups will realize that you can’t silence critics, that bad reviews must be taken in stride with good ones, and that bloggers and their readers can be much more useful than harmful to the industry, precisely because their praise is credible and genuine.

I hope I’m wrong about this whole thing, I hope the mess will be cleared up without further insult being added to the injury that Octavian has already suffered, and I hope he won’t have to mutilate his fantastic blog by deleting each and every post about Guerlain. Which I’ve downloaded, just in case. I’d suggest you do the same.

I would also like to add this in the interest of full disclosure: On June 22, Sylvaine Delacourte of Guerlain invited, on her own initiative, and not Guerlain’s, several Parisian bloggers and perfumistas to discover new raw materials and some vintage Guerlains.

Sylvaine kindly asked me to invite whomever I pleased, and I seized the opportunity to get the Paris perfume blogosphere together for the first time ever. The afternoon was a great success, thanks to Sylvaine’s generosity and talent as a hostess.

As Sylvaine has stated herself in the comments to Octavian’s post, she was absolutely not aware of what was going on in the wings. The fact that Octavian received a threatening message from his hosting service the very next day was all the more shocking to all of us, starting with Sylvaine. And I can vouch for that.

Added June 25th at 11 A.M.

I have deleted yesterday's addition to my post because it contained speculation based on erroneous information. Once the smoke has cleared and I have gathered more accurate information, I will post about this affair one last time, writing with a clear mind rather than under the shock of seeing a friend pushed around.

8 commentaires:

  1. Hello, Denyse. Thanks for blogging about this. I agree with you: the approach taken here by LVMH is appalling. Too bad for them that these high-handed tactics are likely to backfire on them in the long run. The perfume blogosphere is already impatient with the state of affairs at Guerlain, and this attack on one of the most widely respected perfume blogs around is unlikely to help their image much.

  2. Jarvis, in my experience with the French luxury industry in another sphere (fashion), it is not particularly internet-savvy or web-literate. Hence this mishandling of a case that must deeply annoy them, without thinking out the repercussions.

  3. That's awful!
    And totally counter to good business sense. They will see that, in a quote from the movie 'Serenity' - 'Can't stop the signal!'
    The internet is too big to police, and nobody has the right to try. Not China, not Iran, not Guerlain.

  4. Tania, I don't know the wording to the Blogger message Octavian got, and if LVMH was mentioned at all. I'm starting to suspect one of the anonymous commentators on Octavian's original post: he was clearly livid with rage and may have been the whistle-blower...

  5. Well, if it came from Guerlain, they're idiots. Why garner the bad press and harass someone like Octavian in the process? People like you and Octavian are, in my opinion, the very voices they should be trying to work with (as SD is apparently doing) and not *against.* It seems so stupid I can't help but wonder whether another theory (someone outside Guerlain) is correct. I am glad Octavian went public with this.

  6. March, I'm kind of banging my head against the wall trying to figure it out. Pending more info I'll just apply the icepack, I guess.

  7. Ugh. If those involved with the launch were behind this, I can only point out how silly it is to garner such negative publicity. They may not believe that that the opinions expressed in the blogosphere are that widespread, but the tentacles reach beyond those of us who comment. Many lurkers out there!

  8. Melissa, I think they didn't measure the repercussions. Or maybe they did and thought they would serve as a warning to other bloggers?