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A NOTE FROM THE OWNER

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A NOTE FROM THE OWNER |

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,”
The French philosopher Voltaire wrote in the 1700s.

 

THE INTRO and the WHY

Why tell this story at all?
Why not just issue an apology and let the next “big thing” knock this off the front pages of social media?
That’s what happens. One controversy winds down, replaced by someone else’s heartache.
What does this have to do with women and why am I, a man, writing it?
To answer the first questions, this is about intimidation, intolerance, and women bullying women. As to
the other question? I was there first hand, guilty of fanning the fire by engaging in the defense of our female
publisher from commenters engaged in cyberbullying.
*************

AN APOLOGY and a QUESTION- What does freedom of speech mean to you?

By Reade Brower, owner of Courier Publications, publishers for Maine Women Magazine

 

In the previous Maine Women Magazine (MWM),
an interview with Dr. Christiane Northrup, written
in February and printed in early March (before
COVID-19 had shut down our state), raised some
eyebrows. Shortly after the magazines began circulating,
Governor Mills began to shut down our
state. Northrup’s critics, vociferous with their views,
began posting on MWM’s social media page and
calling advertisers, urging them to pull their support
of MWM.
They were upset about Northrup’s views on vaccines
and COVID-19. Neither of these views were
discussed in the interview, but they were claiming
she is dangerous. In a subsequent MWM response,
Dr. Northrup clarified that she believes COVID-19
is real, but questions some of the media hype surrounding
it. She also clarified that she believes
mandatory vaccinations are government overreach.
These clarifications did nothing for the small but
vocal group of disruptors with a mission of seek, disrupt,
destroy.
One of MWM’s prominent advertisers decided
to pull out, doing it publicly on social media after
speaking with MWM Publisher Mary Barstow and
not getting the answers she wanted—namely a denouncement
of our cover choice and for MWM a
demand to go back to our distributors to pick up all
printed copies.

The challenge with the apology was it needed to
be heartfelt and honest, and to satisfy this advertiser,
MWM would have had to condemn the views of
Northrup—which would have been a change in our
policy that we don’t endorse or condemn any of the
women written about in the pages of MWM.
The anti-MWM movement ratcheted up . . . the
sharks were circling, writing and calling advertisers
on the phone, shaming MWM for supporting
Northrup’s personal views, which we did not even
mention, let alone endorse.
Neither would we put out a statement throwing
Northrup under the bus. MWM created a measured
approach and tried to balance freedom of
speech with the fact the interview happened before
COVID-19 and dealt exclusively with Northrup’s
career and her ideas about life, rather than her personal
views, which her opponents were now calling
out as “dangerous.”

MWM believes that it is more dangerous when
voices are limited or readership can’t be trusted to
make their own determinations.
In the end, for MWM it came down to freedom
of speech.
The idea behind MWM is to celebrate and highlight
women from Maine with interesting stories, careers,
or hobbies they believe readers will enjoy. If
readers do not like the person chosen, perhaps not
reading the story is a better choice than organizing
boycotts and public shaming.
MWM has developed a disclaimer which will
run in future issues reading: “We believe in freedom
of speech. We do not endorse or condemn any woman
featured in our magazine based on their belief system
or political viewpoints.”
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,”
The French philosopher Voltaire wrote in the 1700s.

THE STORY BEGINS and
THE _ _ _ _ HITS THE FAN.

The story begins with the choice of Dr. Christiane Northrup,
who was chosen as one of several interviews because she is a
a successful woman in Maine. MWM was not aware of how vocal
her critics were: mostly those who opposed her stance of
“YES on ONE” last election.
That’s a fair discussion, but what happened next was anything
but fair.
A call from a prominent advertiser demanding an apology,
damning the interview, and insisting we go back to our distributors
to pick up our April issue was not something MWM
could comply with.
The company cancelled their annual advertising contract
because of it.
What happened next is where the story begins.
The advertiser put it on their social media page, and it exploded,
just like it had done when MWM first posted the
interview on our MWM Facebook page.
It should be noted that MWM’s original post was taken off
Facebook because of vile and hateful comments that began to
mount against Northrup and MWM. There were comments
about Nazis, and the final straw was a comment suggesting
that “the publisher should be hanged.” This same group of
hornets would now go to the advertiser’s site and do what they
do—disrupt.
Soon, the advertiser’s post was shared over 160 times, without
any response by MWM. It was happening too fast. As
the hours passed by, things escalated. The Northrup detractors
smelled blood and were empowered. They began sending
emails with the advertiser’s damning post copied in the body
of the email. They followed up with phone calls, giving advertisers
and sponsors the choice to denounce MWM or face
repercussions.
As the owner of Courier Publications, publishers of MWM,
I was brought into the loop.
THE ORIGINAL POST, RIDING ON A
HIGH HORSE CALLED JUDGEMENT . . .
MY RESPONSE, and EMPOWERING THE BULLIES.
Since the story starts with the public posting and my subsequent
response, I thought sharing those appropriate. Most
of the commenters hadn’t even read the Northrup interview.
Many were applauding the advertiser for “believing in science”
or condemning MWM for running the interview.
Without MWM’s response, people were judging us simply
by the advertiser’s post. Unintentional perhaps, but taking this
from a private conversation between customer and client to
social media brought this thing to a new level.
Empowering the bullies was also a consequence of this public
sharing. Some would take that post and send it to MWM
advertisers. Disrupting the MWM business was their apparent
goal.
MWM may have lit a match, but the public posting on
April 10th was the gasoline that would turn this into a bonfire.
MWM trusts their readers and advertisers can make up
their own minds, but not without two sides of the story.

ORIGINAL POST on their Facebook page: April 10th, 2:42pm, 2020

To our Coffee By Design customers and Maine Women Magazine
readers, we have made the decision at this time to end our support
of Maine Women Magazine. While normally a business’s advertising
plans are not worthy of sharing publicly, in this instance we felt we
needed to explain our decision.
The current issue of Maine Women Magazine features a cover
story on Dr. Christiane Northrup. Coffee By Design is a strong
supporter of the right to free speech, and we have ourselves
been chastised for sharing unpopular sentiments over the years.
However, the decision to promote Dr. Northrup in a fluff piece that
does not address her broadly-known anti-vaccine stance, compounded
by her now public statements that COVID-19 is a hoax, has
put us in an extremely uncomfortable position. We know that the
decision to interview her, and the interview and printing of the issue
happened before COVID-19 was of national concern, but we are
now in the midst of a pandemic, and there has been no attempt by
the publication to address the profile’s poor timing, or to publicly
state that they do not support, or condone, Dr. Northrup’s beliefs.
We spoke with the editor and publisher of Maine Women Magazine
today and did not hear a solution to this situation that made us
feel we could continue to support the publication. Please know
that we will remain an advocate for Maine women, and are also
advocates for public health, free speech and a future unmarred by
misinformation.
Stay safe,
Mary Allen & Alan

FOLLOW-UP POST: My response post 5 days later on the
MWM Facebook page April 15th, 3:23pm, 2020:

Dear Maine Women Magazine readers and customers of Coffee
Design RE: the earlier Northrup post by Mary Allen;
I appreciate the opportunity to address you and perhaps clear
up some misconceptions. My name is Reade Brower and “Maine
Women Magazine – MWM” was started by “Masthead Maine” and
later transferred to our Rockland-based newspaper group; I am
the owner of both. I am speaking to you directly because the buck
stops here. I respect Mary Allen’s decision to pull her ads and we
have canceled her remaining contract per her request. The interview
with Dr. Northrup that has caused so much disruption was
written and printed before the COVID-19 pandemic. If you read the
the piece, it is a personal profile about her – there is no mention of her
political views. MWM is a human interest magazine and does not
THE INTRO and the WHY
Why tell this story at all?
Why not just issue an apology and let the next “big thing” knock this off the front pages of social media?
That’s what happens. One controversy winds down, replaced by someone else’s heartache.
What does this have to do with women and why am I, a man, writing it?
To answer the first questions, this is about intimidation, intolerance, and women bullying women. As to
the other question? I was there first hand, guilty of fanning the fire by engaging in the defense of our female
publisher from commenters engaged in cyberbullying.
*************

AN APOLOGY and a QUESTION What does freedom of speech mean to you?
By Reade Brower, owner of Courier Publications, publishers for Maine Women Magazine.
A NOTE FROM THE OWNER
6 MAY 2020 MAINEWOMENMAGAZINE.COM 47

go into deep dives into political views, as a general rule. Northrup
was chosen because she is a prominent woman from Maine, having
appeared on Oprah 15 times, a slew of other national shows, and
her books have been translated into 30 languages, selling over 5
million copies. MWM does not endorse her political views, nor did
we write about them, nor were we aware of them – her personal political
views were not prominent on her website or on a casual google
search. MWM did not expect the avalanche of hate, shaming and
bullying that would come from this, so our reaction has been slow
and measured. In Mary Allen and Alan’s letter to you, the owners
wrote “her now public statements that COVID-19 is a hoax” was their
main decision to pull out of MWM. Never has Northrup said it was a
hoax; she believes government overreach is an issue. We asked for
clarification from Northrup the other day, she wrote us; “They are
incorrect. I believe that the Corona virus is real. But in my opinion
the way it is being spun in the media is inaccurate.” She also wrote
she is not against vaccines per se: “And I strongly believe that the
CDC, WHO, and the FDA are overly influenced by Big Pharma and
that they have an agenda that is not as transparent as it should be.
And mandating vaccines for everyone is a dreadful over reach.” As
I mentioned earlier, we do not endorse her political views any more
than we would any other woman we write about; that’s not what
we do. Our mission is to introduce readers to interesting women
in Maine. Period. The amount of bullying and shaming we received
from this article frankly floored us. It was so vile on our Facebook
page that Facebook took down the post from our page entirely; I
have asked Facebook for a screen shot. One of the posts read to
the effect our Publisher should be hanged for featuring Northrup
in our magazine. We have heard from some readers/fans that many
in the “hate Northrup” group are vicious, threatening to contact all
of our advertisers telling them to cancel their ads with us, and organizing
boycotts. Without going into further detail, let it suffice to
say there are others who want MWM to fail. I’ve been through this
several times in the past. As I did then, I will do again – stand up to
the bullies and not be influenced by the shaming and intimidation.
Intolerance in any form is not acceptable. Thank you Mary Allen for
the opportunity to give you and your followers another side of the
story. With over 900 likes, 500 comments and 160 plus shares Mary
Allen’s post has gone viral and I hope those same people will comment
and share again now that they have this new information to
consider. P.S. I can tell from the passion of the customer comments
that Coffee by Design is a Maine business that thrives on nurturing
and integrity, I believe in that too. I also believe in science, but
that is not the issue at hand. From the many supportive comments
MWM received this weekend, the real issue here is one of freedom
of speech. When we limit that, we gain nothing. When we encourage
or accept limiting free speech, we are doomed. I believe that
those beliefs are deep in the heart of the Maine spirit and it is the
essence of what keeps America great.
Live in Peace :LIP: Reade
SEE THE ORIGINAL POST AT THE LINK BELOW.
https://www.facebook.com/…/
photos/a.13833…/10158190098584866

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT:

The first hour, the MWM post was warmly received by
Facebook followers. I write the publisher and ask if she is “feeling
the love.” She writes back that she is slowly feeling better
and more hopeful. An hour later, the haters arrived. This time,
the post would stay up, even though comments quickly became
caustic and disrespectful.
I made the huge mistake to engage. I know better, but emotions
got in the way. The negative was putting more gas on the
fire; the plus was a curiosity leading to learning. There were
about five commenters, all relentless, going on how irresponsible
MWM was and that they should be ashamed; at least
no threats to the publisher this time. What was interesting is
that when confronting a couple of them, asking if they were
the ones who put on the original comments, they immediately
attacked me and accused me of threatening them.
“No, I wasn’t,” I thought. I simply asked if they were behind
the comments that got the first post taken down. I inquired if
they thought those kind of comments were okay, and whether
sending out letters to MWM advertisers, threatening boycotts
was appropriate.
When my wife came to my defense, I knew it was time to
disengage, but it was too late. The next day they would go
to MWM distributors and demand the removal of our magazines.
Three of them would cancel subscriptions from other
publishing businesses where I have owner interest.
Engaging them and trying to have a civilized discussion
was not the route to closure.
At the time of my response post, I asked the advertiser of
the original post to allow me to post my response on their page,
figuring that was a pathway to putting this behind us. With
1,000+ likes, 650+ comments and now 170 shares, MWM
needed their side of the story out.
After taking the MWM response post above, and tagging
the advertiser, I asked it be posted to the advertiser’s page,
with similar prominence and timing as her original post.
She would not allow the post and instead said it could be
posted as a comment, something that would not, in my estimation,
get the story out. One comment out of 650 died a quick
death, as I knew it would, with no one responding to it. At
this point, the post with my comment was a week old and had
run its course.
I didn’t hide my disappointment, but I respect they have a
right to look after their business, which had not gone unscathed
from this. Their decision to go public, rather than keep it private
between magazine and customer created a tsunami they
probably did not anticipate.
I would have to find another way to get the message out. In
the meantime, a sponsor pulled out, after being approached
by several of our critics, citing the Northrup cover as their
reason. After all that had happened this was not just about
Dr. Christiane Northrup anymore. It was about freedom of
speech, public shaming, and bullying.