Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Salon: Deplore Black Friday's Excesses, Just Don't Change Your Behavior

It cannot be repeated enough that the biggest reason why mainstream liberalism is so completely ineffectual is because it sold its soul to corporate America a long time ago. Case in point is an article by Andrew Leonard that appeared this past weekend on Salon.com about the excesses of Black Friday. It starts off promisingly enough:
Here’s a Thanksgiving recipe guaranteed to deliver a nervous breakdown impervious to even the most bleeding-edge psychopharmaceutical wonder drug. Go to YouTube, search for “Black Friday commercials,” start watching, and then, once you’ve sated yourself on grown men screaming at Justin Bieber, remakes of Rebecca Black’s “Friday,” and, most distressingly, the continuing adventures of the Crazy Target Lady, ask yourself this question:

What does it all mean?

I stared into this heart of retail panic darkness, and the more I clicked and pondered, the more confused — (mind-boggled? fascinated? flabbergasted?) — I became. The Crazy Target Lady, so proud of her OCD — obsessive Christmas disorder — is not funny. She’s scary. She’s why people trample each other to death. She is wrong.

There is a point in our culture beyond which camp and kitsch no longer make the least ironic sense, where consumerism loses its last mooring to civilization, where even seemingly legitimate protest devolves into farce. That point is Black Friday.
You're absolute right, Mr. Leonard. So clearly, the answer is to derail the crazy train of mindless American consumerism, right?
Let me be clear. I am not opposed to vigorous sprees of retail spending. For the sake of the U.S. economy, I would love to see a robust Christmas shopping season and I plan to do my part. I find the notion that we should “occupy Black Friday” and withhold our consumer dollars as a way of hitting back at the 1 percent just nutty. Voluntarily subtracting demand from the economy hurts us. A general consumer strike would result in more layoffs and pay cuts and bankruptcies and foreclosures. Sure, Wal-Mart would take a hit, but so would Wal-Mart employees.
I don't recall the last time I saw a writer so completely contradict himself with two successive paragraphs. You simply cannot assert that consumerism is losing its "last mooring to civilization" and then turn around and say you would love to see a "robust Christmas shopping season." That's called trying to have your cake and eat it, too.

What's most distressing is Leonard's utter inability to see that consumerism itself IS the problem, not just the Black Friday teevee ads that whip the more dimwitted members of our society into the kind of frenzy where they are willing to trample, assault, and pepper-spray one another in order to lay their hands on that deeply discounted video game. The teevee ads have become so diabolical because they reflect the fact that corporate America is desperately trying to prop up a zombie economic model that, thanks to peak oil and resource depletion, is already dead even if the body hasn't yet stopped twitching.

But the contradictions in the article don't end there. Almost immediately after proclaiming that he will be "doing his part" to fuel this insanity, Leonard goes on to write:
But there’s also a point where healthy consumerism becomes out-of-control marketing-driven commodity fetishism, and when we find ourselves checking our smartphones for last minute online deals while standing in line for a chain store opening at midnight on Thanksgiving, we are clearly too far gone. That’s insanity.

And corporate America knows this. The retail moguls are counting on it. They are outright encouraging it — and role-modeling the appropriate behavior for us. The Crazy Target Lady is not a joke. Watch her cannibalize her gingerbread man, or strategize her reverse psychology shopping techniques, or show off her shopping utility belt: You cannot avoid the dual conclusion that a) she is not a healthy woman, and b) she is America. She might be a lunatic, but it’s a culturally approved lunacy — the kind that keeps the American engine of capitalism all stoked up. The message that keeps getting blasted across my TV is that we should all be more like her — doing our patriotic duty to boost fourth-quarter retail sales. Sure, you can laugh at her. But then get in line and keep your credit card handy.
Yep, and you can stop kidding yourself because you are buying right into it too, asshole. It doesn't matter if you are too "hip" to be taken in by Target's crazy lady ads, or whether you wouldn't be caught dead standing in line outside a Walmart late on Thanksgiving evening, you are part of the problem. Depleting the planet's remaining resources to buy a bunch of useless shit you don't need to prop up the soulless, dehumanizing and climate-destroying American way of life is just as immoral whether you do it the day after Thanksgiving or you wait around until December 15th.

Even more hypocritical is Leonard's praise of the online petition against the early box retail store openings:
But, of course, the big story of this year’s Black Friday has been the welcome news that at least some subsection of the population of the United States has come to the realization that it’s time to step back from the brink. The budding protests against the decision by some of the country’s biggest retailers — Target, Macy’s, Best Buy, Kohl’s — to move the start of their Black Friday sales to midnight Thanksgiving, or even earlier, is laudable.

The nearly 200,000 signatures on part-time Target employee Anthony Hardwick’s petition to “Save Thanksgiving” is proof that both employees and customers of Target are beginning to see this endless race by retailers to one-up each other as dehumanizing and ridiculous. What does a Target employee forced to go to work at 11 p.m. on Thanksgiving have to give thanks for?
Gee, the public was so outraged about the Thanksgiving night openings that Black Friday sales INCREASED by around 7% this year. So fat lot of good those petitions did. Because you see, Mr. Leonard, all the petitions in the world don't mean a damn thing. The only way you can show your displeasure that will matter to the scumbags who run these chains is to WITHHOLD YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS from them altogether, NOT just on the day after Thanksgiving.

But no, you go ahead and "do your part" for the economy as you have pledged to do. Keep trying to have it both ways. Express dismay at how out of control things have gotten but don't ever consider changing your ways or that there might actually be a different and more sustainable way to do things. And maybe next year you can write some more drivel about how out-of-control Black Friday is so you and your oh-so-sensitive readership can feel better about yourselves by looking down your noses at those people who are taken in by the crazy lady ads. Because clearly, mindless consumerism only loses its last mooring to civilization when it is the dirty unwashed masses doing it rather than those above-it-all sophisticates who read Salon.com.

Bonus: in case you haven't been "lucky enough" to see them, one of the Crazy Target Lady ads


  1. Monkey see, monkey do in a world where we're all disconnected from the source of production and its resultant environmental harm. Habits and programmed behaivor are difficult to alter. Going to take a sledge hammer event to stop.

  2. Man, am I glad I don't have teeveeeee!

  3. On the bright side, BH, Hyundai has apparently chosen not to air ads featuring that cringeworthy hipster couple "singing" Christmas carols this year.

    Thanksgiving morning, as I drove past the local BestBuy I saw a line of tents on the sidewalk outside. It was clear these folks had been camped there a while. They would rather spend Thanksgiving in a box store parking lot than with their families. At such times I truly wish I owned a panzerschreck...

  4. Total agreement here. I heard almost the same kind of BS on NPR this morning, without any mention of what should be obvious by now: Consumerism is destroying the planet. There is no such thing as "healthy consumerism;" it is BY DEFINITION a religion of addiction. Yes, we need some consumption -- food, basic necessities — but those are only a fraction of this society's growth obsession. Much more of it is pissing away resources like this ridiculous invention. Only one word describes it — lunacy.

  5. Andrew Leonard is clueless, a conventional thinker par excellence. Not a insightful bone in his body. Brain soaked in formaldehyde. Walking dead. Etc.

    Which is why is writes for Salon, and you and I don't.

    -- Dave

  6. There are a bunch of these youtubes up, from different cities:


  7. @Dave Cohen - yep, "We're not worthy!"