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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    The dark truth behind the Black Friday death

    The departure of Thanksgiving, thousands of businesses depending on a single day of sales to stay in business, massacres in India – and what was the top story over the weekend? A temp worker was trampled to death at a Wal-Mart in upstate New York. The story is almost as horrifying and compelling as the death itself is meaningless and arbitrary.

    From the local news to the Arizona Daily Star all the way to the New York Times and beyond, the Wal-Mart Black Friday mob has steadfastly trickled into the depths of fame. It started off slowly, and when it happened many outlets chose not to highlight it as a top story in lieu of Mumbai coverage or local Black Friday issues. But by the end of the day and early Saturday, it was the top story on most every news site in the country and even abroad.

    Why is this? The story reinforces the American obsession with capitalism. Not everyone in the country is responding to it for the same reasons, but nobody is looking at it just because it’s about murder. If people cared about sheer entertainment value and bang-for-your buck violence, they’d be much more interested in the “”Indian 9/11,”” as the Mumbai attacks have been labeled.

    There’s a sheer tabloid twist to this Black Friday article that makes it compelling to the masses while still making a statement about our values. It’s intellectualism, propaganda and celebrity gossip all at the same time. It’s got something for everybody.

    First of all, the story hits a nerve with anybody who’s ever been to a Black Friday sale or heard about one. They’re ruthless, to say the least, and it’s not hard to imagine one getting more out of hand than usual and turning into a bloodfest.

    I went to a Black Friday sale a few years ago, and I think I still harbor some unchecked anger over it. People were rude, pushy, annoying and everywhere. To read about this poor man being trampled by an oblivious rampage or “”shrieking mob”” is to feel vindicated over the unspecified grudges I had that had never fully developed until now. This story gives everyone a concrete reason to hate shopping.

    But more importantly in liberal cities and abroad where American resentment still flourishes, it’s a symbolic picture of everything that’s wrong with the U.S.A. If you look at the actual wording of the story itself, it’s pretty anti-capitalist. For example, The Associated Press shared this quote: “”When they were saying they had to leave, that an employee got killed, people were yelling, ‘I’ve been in line since yesterday morning,’ They kept shopping.””

    Or this from an international newspaper, the Belfast Telegraph: “”The customers stepped over the dead man and became angry when told the store would be closing because of his death.”” To describe what happened, the AP story uses the words: “”out of control,”” “”utter chaos”” and “”savages.””

    I didn’t listen to any liberal talk radio over the weekend, but I can’t help but imagine some of the feigned outrage that must have been generated. This man isn’t just Jdimytai Damour of Queens, N.Y., anymore. He’s a martyr.

    But the popularity of the issue also demonstrates a deeper truth about America. It shows that even while we may protest the system, we’re buying into the nationalist ideology.

    Why is this story more important than almost 200 people being killed? Because it’s about us. Even though many of us have never been to New York or met any of the people involved, we feel connected to this man in a way that we could never feel for a person in India. We don’t really care about them, to put it bluntly.

    If you think back, what was the main news peg about the India story in the first place? A rabbi. On the front page of USA Today, we see that, my gosh, five Americans died along with about 170 others. Startling!

    It’s understandable that we’d be interested in one of our own, but it really shouldn’t matter in a case like this. It’s not like we’ve ever met these people, and the whole statement just seems callous.

    Maybe as we watch capitalism breaking down before our eyes this year, Americans as a whole are becoming more and more callous. It’s a callous act to step over a dead man in search of a cheap plasma television, no matter how hard up you are because of the economy. When people become disillusioned, they see themselves as individuals fighting against a collective disservice. They begin to shun the world community and duck into themselves, or lash out in violent ways. Let’s hope that our fascination with this trend is only a curiosity and not something concrete in all of us.


    – Andi Berlin is a journalism senior. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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