Over the past couple of weeks, the media, including the New York Times, have provided a steady drum-beat of hype, aggressively supporting the notion that because of the economic abyss into which our country has (according to the experts) plunged, there were going to be astounding bargains yesterday at American retailers. (Quote from the New York Times on Thursday: “Other retailers are promising that their deals will be even more striking than the sales they have already unveiled — with Wal-Mart, for instance, promising large flat-panel televisions for less than $400.”)
Full page ads — including in the New York Times — helped to reinforce the massive public relations on-slaught that promised unimaginable bargains available to those willing to get out of bed at 4:00 a.m. and head to the stores.
And yet, when that media-hype and advertising resulted in people actually lining up at stores, it is interpreted as another sign that the economy is so bad, people are desperate to find bargains like, uh, flat-panel television for less than $400? (Is it only me that finds flat screen TVs do not evoke dust-bowl imagery?)
Again, this is in a country where, even in good times, people will drive 30 miles to save 1% on sales tax. This is a country where each year, we read about fist fights breaking out over Tickle Me Elmos and Wii Fits. But today, because we are in the midst of a “crumbling economy,” when people line up for something the New York Times itself has hyped, the paper uses that fact as proof for how awful things are. Again, people are so desperate they’ll do anything for $400 flat-screen TVs.
And then, with an insensitivity I can’t comprehend, the New York Times has the audacity to run a commentary suggesting that a death at a Wal-mart store is “a sign of the times.” Even more incomprehensible, the writer even suggests that such a death “seems fitting.”
“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.”
No, I’m not suggesting that the New York Times bears responsibility for this tragic death. But I do believe that it’s a real tragedy some editor didn’t have the wisdom to spike that commentary before it made it into the paper or onto the website.
Later: Early reports indicate that ‘Black Friday’ sales are up 3%, which sounds good, except last year, sales were up 8.3%. Or, at least that’s how the article was written. Except, I was under the impression that any growth was not in the cards this year. I was under the impression that, well, all that stuff I read in the New York Times.
(Note: I have a phobia of being in a crowd. From the 1980 Who concert in Cincinnati or trampling deaths during the Haj, I find reading about any death caused by a crushing-crowd causes me anxiety.)