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Back in 2005, two activist groups—Wake Up Wal-Mart and Wal-Mart Watch—launched campaigns to kick Wal-Mart's ass in the media. Which they did quite successfully for a while. The soulless retailer spent untold millions on a huge, political-style PR campaign from our friends at Edelman to fight back against the criticisms of them for everything from poor health care to union busting. But the Times reports today that Edelman's Wal-Mart war room shut down months ago, and the torrent of news stories about the company's flaws has died down. Why? Because Wal-Mart has adopted a philosophy of working with critics, and made their enemies their friends. This is either evidence of progress, or cause for despair. Since the company is still a horrible union buster, we'll go with "despair."

Shrill condemnations and embarrassing leaked documents are giving way to acknowledgments of progress — and, in the case of Wal-Mart Watch, free advice.

"It's fair to say we have been less in-your-face," said David Nassar, the executive director of Wal-Mart Watch, which had hammered the company in stinging newspaper advertisements and provocative reports with titles like "Shameless: How Wal-Mart Bullies Its Way Into Communities Across America."

The mellowing of the anti-Wal-Mart movement is an unexpected development for the retailer, whose public image and share price were bruised by the well-financed union campaigns. On Friday, when the chain holds its shareholder meeting in Arkansas, investors are likely to applaud Wal-Mart for fending off these detractors.

What we need now is an activist group that condemns Wal-Mart just for homogenizing the American landscape. The company can have no defense for that.

Until then, Wake Up Wal-Mart is still making propaganda videos like this, which will have to suffice:

[pic via Blizzmax]