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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Wide-Screen Televisions, the New York Times and the Class Struggle

The New York Times outdid itself this weekend with an exculpatory piece on the mob that crushed to death a Long Island Wal-Mart temporary worker early Friday morning, the day after Thanksgiving. Beginning with a headline that likens the incident to the Guernica bombings of the Spanish Civil War, the prose only gets riper and culminates in the Times writer assessing culpability for this horrid incident. See if you can guess whom he really thinks is at fault (you did guess President Bush, didn't you?).
After 9/11, President Bush dispatched Americans to the malls as a patriotic act. When the economy faltered early this year, the government gave out tax rebate checks and told people to spend. In a sense, those Chinese-made flat-screen televisions sitting inside Wal-Mart have become American comfort food.
But, you might ask, doesn't the ravenous horde that stomped the oxygen out of that poor Wal-Mart employee bear at least some responsibility for its barbarous behavior? Kinda, sorta, says the Times but really, those poor benighted fools just couldn't help themselves; blame it on capitalism.
It was a tragedy, yet it did not feel like an accident. All those people were there, lined up in the cold and darkness, because of sophisticated marketing forces that have produced this day now called Black Friday. They were engaging in early-morning shopping as contact sport. American business has long excelled at creating a sense of shortage amid abundance, an anxiety that one must act now or miss out.

...It seemed fitting then, in a tragic way, that the holiday season began with violence fueled by desperation; with a mob making a frantic reach for things they wanted badly, knowing they might go home empty-handed.
Remember, however, it was not food or clothing most of those downtrodden members of the proletariat "wanted badly" to wrap their empty hands around, it was bargain-priced wide-screen televisions and Wii consoles, items the vast majority of the world's people couldn't afford even if they were marked down 99 percent.

No longer seeing itself as a conduit of truthful reporting, rather the molder of correct perceptions and scrupulous eschewer of unpleasant realities, the Times also engages in a bit of photographic duplicity. Observe the image accompanying their overwrought think piece: true, it is of a Wal-Mart store, taken early Friday morning as a mob barrels in but also note the store shown is in Elk City, Oklahoma, a long way from the store in Long Island where the temporary worker met his grizzly end. The New York Daily News website has plenty of photographs taken at the scene in Long Island that the Times could have availed itself of but did not. Why? Take a good look at them and hazard a guess.

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