LIMB FROM LIMB

People who don't get a kick out of Black Friday shopping – and personally I find the idea about as appealing as Ann Coulter's used panties – certainly seem to get a kick out of mocking Black Friday shopping. I used to be one of them. As I've mellowed out with age I see it more subjectively. Maybe some people who enjoy wading into crowds of holiday shoppers at the mall think I am nuts for enjoying attending a hockey game. I don't get it, but people like different things. Hell, some people like the bagpipes, and that's the worst thing humans have ever made.

One of the new rituals for anti-Black Friday fans is posting videos of people fighting over merchandise or while waiting in line for Black Friday sales. Here's a gallery of them. This is my favorite:

I've seen a lot of complaints about the classism inherent in mocking people who are fighting over discount Wal-Mart merchandise, which would make more sense to me if these people were poor in any meaningful sense of the term. It's facile to fall back on arguments like "Even the poorest American is wealthy compared to a starving African refugee", but in this case that isn't even necessary. Bargain hunters? Sure. Overspenders? Maybe. But no one who's out to blow hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on disposable crap – toys, electronics, gadgets – for Christmas gifts is poor.

The disturbing part is that this video of comparatively well-off Americans looks eerily similar to those clips of filthy disaster victims, famine-stricken children, or war refugees. Just replace the bag of UNICEF rice with some virtually useless tablet computer and make the surroundings cleaner and more sterile. That's ultimately what bothers me when I see these videos or the endless stories about fights, injuries, or even worse breaking out on Black Friday. I can't put my finger exactly on the logic leading me to this statement, but I always think: This is what They want. They want us tearing one another to pieces over a fucking stuffed toy or a handheld electronic device that will make the journey from Chinese sweatshop to leaking heavy metals in a landfill in less than two years. "They" are looking at these videos and smiling, possibly drumming their fingers and letting out a Burns-like "Excellent…"

Sure, this is a small sample of people. We're not all like this. It's nonetheless disturbing how many people seem to be ready to resort to rudeness at best and violence at worst to defeat their fellow Americans in the quest to buy shit. A rational person might look at the last remaining PS4 and think, "Crap. Well, I can always go home and order it on Amazon." Instead, we deem it socially acceptable to fight over it like we're dying of cancer and it's the last batch of chemo drugs.

It's in someone's interest to encourage and condone that mentality in this country. That's what I think about every year after Thanksgiving.

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38 Responses to “LIMB FROM LIMB”

  1. J. Dryden Says:

    Well, on the one hand, I think it's impossible to look at this and similar videos and not think "These people are unpaid gladiators." Christ, even the filmers of bum-fights have to throw the talent a sandwich and a couple bucks.

    On the other hand, I suspect that it's Madison Avenue that's really keyed up on making this happen. If you want to make sure that people will buy a product, just let it be known that it is, literally, The Thing That People Will KILL For. Somewhere in the Sony Corporate Offices, interns are being forced to scour Youtube in search of a clip of somebody getting his fucking head caved in over the last PS4 in the bin. (You know it's out there somewhere.) At which point, that sucker's gonna get linked allllll over the place, because nothing says "indispensable" to the buyer like "worth your fucking life."

    That, I think, is the "They" behind Black Friday Massacres–the folks in marketing.

  2. Danthelawyer Says:

    I don't know. Those folks in Forth Worth really looked like they were having fun. Looked more like looters than starving kids. Don't get me wrong, I'm repulsed to near vomiting by the "Black Friday" bullshit, and that video of Walmartians didn't help any, but I think your analysis is off.

  3. RosiesDad Says:

    If I can't find it at Costco (I go there weekly for office and cleaning supplies for my office) or on Amazon, I don 't need it. I don't do Black Friday, Cyber Monday or High Colonic Thursday; life is just too short.

    But my daughters and wife ventured to the mall on Thursday night. They were amazed at the hundreds of people queued up at Urban Outfitters. Can you imagine? Waiting an hour at midnight to get into a shitty clothing store at the mall? They didn't wait; got a few things elsewhere and came home. But my wife was amazed that the entire mall was open and packed with shoppers looking for a deal. It surprised me not even a little.

    BTW, The Onion nailed it.

    http://www.theonion.com/articles/42-million-dead-in-bloodiest-black-friday-weekend,30517/

  4. Xynzee Says:

    "appealing as Ann Coulter's used panties"
    Truly one of the most disturbing things you've ever written.

    What do you expect after 30yrs of encouraging rampant individualism? What we see in the videos is merely symptomatic of this fact.

    Then people are surprised with poll results like this:
    http://ap-gfkpoll.com/featured/our-latest-poll-findings-24

    Yes, "Excellent" indeed.

  5. Xynzee Says:

    BTW: there are plenty of poor in these shots. They're the poor schmucks wearing the uniforms because they financially can not tell their employers to go F themselves.

    The best thing to do is encourage people *not* to shop on T-day. As long as there are f-wits willing to throw others under the bus to experience the "thrill" of being in the store first, then shops will open. If there's no queue then there's no reason to open.

  6. middle seaman Says:

    Confession: I did partake in dark Friday festivities this year. It's my 1st. Last year, we participated in a hike of 16 miles titled: "why waste money? Come and waste calories he inhaled yesterday."

    My son, who travel from a far, insisted on buying a laptop. We went. He spent 2 hours (the cashier line was long than the Chinese Wall), while he was inside, I joined his wife and went shopping for women's clothing. (for her)

    Most people do dark Friday because they cannot survive a long year with the penetrating pain of the thought that they missed a bargain.

    Violence? That's easy: we are violent people. All of us. Don't look the other way.

    Lastly, who is Ann Coulter?

  7. Talisker Says:

    "They" are looking at these videos and smiling, possibly drumming their fingers and letting out a Burns-like "Excellent…"

    "They" didn't have to order this or even approve it. There was no Smithers saying, "OK, sir, we are ready to execute Phase Four of the plan to keep people weak, stupid and divided." The original idea of Black Friday arose organically from mid-level marketing drones, and competition between stores and brands did the rest.

    In the USSR, imagine the Party decreed one day was the Festival of the Potato, and people who lined up overnight in the cold and got one of a small number of tickets would get extra potato rations all year. It would not take a very bright person to see this as a transparent attempt to manipulate the public, or perhaps a cruel joke. Either way, it would do more harm than good to the Party's grip on power.

    What if the same thing arises spontaneously out of the underlying and seldom-questioned architecture of the system? People shrug, assume it's the way of the world, and go back to trying to score a cheap game console.

    As Ivars (or Borat) might say, that is genius of capitalist system.

    A rational person might look at the last remaining PS4 and think, "Crap. Well, I can always go home and order it on Amazon."

    If you had wandered down to the mall on a normal Saturday afternoon, certainly. But if you'd spent all night lining up in the freezing cold for a new PS4, I think you might be less than rational about not getting one.

  8. Anonymouse Says:

    I was in high school when the Cabbage Patch craze of the 1980s broke, and a lot of the families I babysat for were among those knocking people down and trampling over top of them for ugly wads of cloth and stuffing. If memory serves, Toys R Us may have even opened early or stayed open late or some such to accommodate the fighting. It became a status symbol to own more than one of those ugly things. Fast forward 30 years and you see people tazing each other over $3 toasters or whatever stupid thing is on sale. I'm at work now listening to the rwnj's around me bragging about how they stayed up all night to score some useless bit of trash that will end up in the dump or at a yard sale for a nickle in five years.

  9. Anonymouse Says:

    ETA: the shopping on Black Friday attitude among the people I work with seems to be that by getting cheap crap they don't need, they're WINNING because they were able to snatch it from someone else's hands, and thus deprive someone else of 'winning'.

  10. Freeportguy Says:

    And "They" are actually working very hard to turn the labor world as a giant WalMart on Black Friday by gutting se are laws (minimum wage, overtime, child labor) where desperate people will take part in a stampede to land a job, which would drive down wage and benefits…yep, just like in 1900…

  11. c u n d gulag Says:

    Yes, I can definitely see it – our Randian Overlords, sitting in a big circle, with HDTV display's all around, watching the opening of these stores.

    Giggling with glee as they watch people fight over the newest tchotchkes, with one buttery hand busy in a bowl of gourmet popcorn greedily stuffing their mouths, and the other buttery hand firmly on the knob or in the hole of the nearest other rich participant, in one ginormous circle-jerk, moaning with pleasure.

    I don't get the idea of Black Friday – or, now, Gray Thursday.
    But, for the last few years, I've been to poor to buy gifts – so, wtf do I know?

    I DO know that when I could afford nice gifts, I never, not even once, ventured out to a store or mall on Thanksgiving weekend, unless it was to a supermarket buy some food. And I rarely needed to do that, since the best part of Thanksgiving dinner, is the mounds of leftovers.

    I don't understand the appeal of going out into a mob.
    Unless, or course, I hear that there are tumbrel's and guillotines out there.

  12. Well mostly Says:

    The polar opposite of Zen. A bad example can also be instructive.
    X has it: the panties comment takes it right up to 10 on the yuck scale. Disturbing.
    At least it's over now. Like a bad dream. Hello, good morning, how've ya been?

  13. snarkyspice Says:

    This seems like the makings of some great G&T fiction. GET TO WORK ON THAT!

  14. sluggo Says:

    I heard on the intertubes that Ann Coulter is actually Andy Kaufman's final performance. That makes it easier to stomach.

    Black Friday is simply a middle aged mosh pit.

  15. sluggo Says:

    That TV isn't so cheap when you factor in your $150 ER co-pay and the $400 deductible.

    Shit man, I am ass deep in junk even though I try to avoid stores. Why would I waste a day off from work.

  16. GunstarGreen Says:

    There is nothing, and I mean absolutely NOTHING, that the great and powerful corporations of this fine nation can produce, that will EVER be worth dealing with the insane Evil Friday mobs in my mind.

    Evil I said and Evil I meant. Only a fundamentally Evil society can produce an entire day dedicated to deliberately harming your fellow citizen for a chance to buy some cheap shit you do not need.

  17. jon Says:

    I talked my mom out of getting a new tv over the weekend. She wants a bigger one, I told her to wait, and she finally agreed that they'll be on sale again before the Super Bowl. Of course, if she waits until next year….

    When I heard on Friday morning that Wal-Mart had already sold two million TVs (no need to emphasize "flat screen", since the old kind aren't even made anymore, although libertarians complaining that poor people buy flat screen TVs is an anachronism I enjoy,) I did a mental calculation and figured my next one can be from Craigslist at a price no DOORBUSTER!!! sale can match.

    If people are going to run around like their heads are on fire, it should be because Alabama's special teams coach never explained to his players that a missed field goal is a live ball. That's worth trampling people.

  18. Ten Bears Says:

    Unappealing is quite the understatement. That, is gonna' mess with my head all day.

    Your closing sentence sums it up: someone stands to gain.

    No fear.

  19. Sarah Says:

    Lastly, who is Ann Coulter?

    Ann Coulter is a smarter and nastier version of Sarah Palin. I believe she is a university graduate (including a J.D.) and has written several books, with titles like "Joe McCarthy was right" and "How to talk to a liberal, if you absolutely must."

    This is my favorite link regarding her (warning for NSFW, seriously).

  20. Andrew Says:

    Plenty of people shopping on Black Friday are poor. They may not have poverty-level incomes, but they have more debt than assets, so they are poor.

  21. Doctor Rock Says:

    For some reason the line "mellowed with age" really resonated. It's probably because of this holiday weekend. The things that used to set me off (and I used to have a short fuse) just…don't. They just don't anymore. And it's not like it's any effort on my part. The cousins and topics that used to bother me…water off a duck's back.

    I made an embarrassing comment at a function on Saturday, a younger me would have dwelled on it. Water off a duck's back. I see my teenage nephew and I think to myself "Thank GOD I'm not 16 anymore."

    Sorry for the tangent, but I just wanted to be Mr. Positivity by pointing out that age has SOME benefits!

  22. jharp Says:

    And a fair percentage of Americans think it makes everyone safer for those people to be carrying loaded guns.

    Good fucking grief.

  23. Doctor Rock Says:

    A monkey could get a J.D. I should know, I have one. Seriously, you really don't have to be that smart.

  24. mothra Says:

    Ann Coulter's used panties? Silly Ed. Everyone knows that Ann Coulter goes commando.

  25. Southern Beale Says:

    What I don't understand is why taxpayers underwrite Walmart's ruthlessly irresponsible Black Friday (and now Black Thursday) sales. I don't understand why the taxpayer funded police and sheriff's offices — yes that's Mah Tax Dollahs hellyeah I'll go there — have to be stationed at Walmart parking lots on a damn holiday weekend because of the violence they provoke at their stores. Fuck that shit. Pay for some private security, assholes. And if all hell still breaks loose then you'll just have to haul your ass into a courtroom and defend yourselves against the inevitable liability lawsuits (at least the ones ALEC hasn't outlawed yet).

    Call it my Libertarian streak but I don't know why taxpayers have to pay for Walmart's security force.

    Also: what idiot at Walmart thinks videos of YouTube brawls is good PR for them? I seriously do not get it. I suppose the profits outweigh the negative publicity.

    And speaking of publicity, what idiot at 60 Minutes thought it was a good idea to give Jeff Bezos millions of dollars of free publicity? I've called bullshit on the delivery-by-drone nonsense:

    http://southernbeale.wordpress.com/2013/12/02/hey-amazon-next-year-buy-a-damn-ad/

  26. Major Kong Says:

    There is nothing I need badly enough to subject myself to Black Friday.

  27. Andrew Says:

    I wasn't going to shop on Black Friday either, but I needed a laundry hamper, and I had a coupon for 20% off at Bed, Bath, and Bunghole, so I went to the smallish mall about a mile from my home. There was a bit of contention for a parking spot, but the store wasn't crowded, and I got a $50 hamper for $40. I was home 30 minutes after I left my house.

    That was the only thing, besides a movie ticket, a restaurant meal, an ice cream cone, and parking at a meter, that I bought that day.

  28. Sarah Says:

    A monkey could get a J.D. I should know, I have one. Seriously, you really don't have to be that smart.

    Dude, I wasn't saying that Ann Coulter is smart. I was saying that she's smarter than Sarah Palin. That's a very low bar to clear.

  29. Doctor Rock Says:

    My bad. That is a very low bar indeed. My wet farts are smarter.

  30. Andrew Says:

    Dude, my DRY farts are smarter than Sarah Palin.

  31. JB Says:

    Don't knock bagpipes, Ed. I don't understand Black Friday, I'll probably never do it. There is no material item I want enough to go through that. Some of my friends went a few places this year and said it was really busy, but wasn't actually that bad.

  32. Big dog Says:

    This is like a dystopian scene of the last stages of capitalism, where the love of money has completely replaced any hint of brother/sisterhood. Clearly some of these folks felt seriously threatened, why didn't more people resort to Stand Your Ground? Piles of bodies would really heighten the show.

  33. Gerald McGrew Says:

    At the very least it's good to know that everyone here is soooooo much better and smarter than all those saps who fall for that Black Friday crap.

    Well done people!

  34. Phoenician in a time of Romans Says:

    Ian Welsh made a recent comment on ideologies – "Whatever your idea requires people to do is what that idea will become."

    That's the problem with Communism, of course – nice idea, but it required people to deal with competing for limited resources through politics and social conniving.

    And here we see Capitalism requiring people to fight each other pointlessly in pursuit of cheap tat that will be gone in a couple of years.

  35. Arslan Says:

    Study the tactics in this video(particularly with the gladius and shield), and next year you will NOT be a victim. Roman style is perfect for this kind of close quarters combat and crowd control. The scutum(legionary shield) is particularly useful in this sort of retail combat. Just pin that heifer up against one of the more solid display cases and stab, stab, stab! They WILL drop that PS4, I guarantee it.

  36. VALIS Says:

    cf. Zizek on the London riots. When the superstructure of the society falters, citizens continue to obey the most important rule of the culture: consume.

  37. Eric Says:

    But she's got a new hat!

  38. Jado Says:

    "Hell, some people like the bagpipes, and that's the worst thing humans have ever made."

    Yeah, there's a reason my ancestors took those things into BATTLE, buddy.

    I love the pipes – they hit a primal area in my brain that calls back to my ancestors looking at Romans and English with unrestrained glee at the thought of what a Claymore can do to a human body.

    I hear the pipes and I know what defensive ends feel when they hear the word "Hike"