Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Why no discussion on preventing Black Friday Riots in the media?

After the initial coverage of Black Friday sales I was beginning to think that there might not be nearly as many riots or other disturbances this year as there was last year. As I explained recently in Count down to Annual Black Friday Riots I was expecting more riots due to the fact that not only didn’t they do anything to prevent them but they also continued the practice of increasing promotions, including one about a $315 pair of LeBron sneakers. This conclusion was based partially on a series of studies into marketing to children which I believed provided some evidence to indicate what is causing these riots.

One of the more widely reported stories involves a woman that was arrested in Florida at Wall-Mart for cutting in line, although she claims that she was looking for her sister and that she wasn’t trying to get a head in line. One thing that is routinely overlooked by many people is the fact that the police are there at all. Considering all the trouble they have at these stores during sales it may be understandable but many of us live in areas where we don’t even expect to see police in stores most of the time unless there is some kind of trouble that required their presence or they happen to be there for their own casual purposes that have nothing to do with their duties.

This also raises the question of who is paying for this police presence in the areas where they need them. Is this at tax payer’s expense; or do the retailers pay for extra coverage they need due to the hyped up promotions that cause all this excitement? Should this be considered a subsidy? If the retailers are paying for it does that mean that they have influence over the policies of the police and how they treat potential conflicts between the retailer and the customer? Are they more inclined to act in favor of the retailer without thinking things through?

This doesn’t mean that I don’t think that they should be there when there is potential for trouble but this does raise some questions that should be answered as well although it is beyond this blog. However one thing that is worth considering is the possibility that the promotions and deceptions from the retailers might be a major contributing cause to this violence. As indicated in the previous post about the subject I think there is an enormous amount of evidence to indicate that this is a major part of the problem.

If the corporations are partially responsible for creating conditions which inevitably lead to these riots then they should be held accountable for them and they should be required to pay for the police presence or, better yet, they should be required to stop creating the conditions that inevitably lead to the riots. Furthermore this could be considered a form of entrapment, in a round about way. The corporations create an enormous amount of hype to get people excited about their products then when that succeeds and they go overboard the consumers have been held accountable without any acknowledgement of the deceptive marketing that contributed to it. Furthermore the people that have studied marketing to children haven’t had the opportunity to get their message across to the vast majority of the public because the corporate media has simply declined to cover it which leads to the selective messaging that creates this environment.

The initial coverage did include some additional stories about problems including one about someone who left a child in the car while shopping for a TV and a few other incidents but these reports were much milder than the ones I saw last year which seemed to indicate that they were getting much worse and they included at least one incident where their was a shooting and someone that used pepper spray. There were more stories reported over the next few days but they weren’t nearly as extreme as many of the storied that were reported last year.

However, a relatively quick look at the internet clearly indicates, that there were almost as many incidents this year if not more.

More important, whether you look on the internet or in the news there doesn’t seem to be any discussion about the causes for this or understanding how we can stop them.

One thing that is sure is that if they cut back on the reporting of these riots for the wrong reason then they could be down played and that could prevent people from understanding how widespread this is. As indicated previously the coverage I saw from the TV was much milder than many of these riots and this is probably much more common; however this has been presented by the traditional media which now seems far more concerned with promoting sales than they are with reporting the news. This isn’t the way it was thirty years ago when there was a much more diverse media that spent much more money on investigative reporting for a variety of subjects, including on occasion corporate fraud.

The corporate media now spends an enormous amount of time promoting Black Friday; and they’ve been following it up with coverage of what they now call gray Thursday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.

These aren’t media outlets; they’re marketing efforts thinly disguised as “news!”

This also raises a major concern over the credibility of the coverage. The vast majority of the advertising that I believe has been contributing to this problem goes to the corporate media so they have an enormous incentive to decline to cover this properly. Not only don’t the media outlets cover it but I haven’t been able to find any major institution that is studying ways to prevent this although there are plenty of bloggers like me commenting on it and putting their two cents in. The closest thing to researching the subject, which I know of, involves mainly the marketing researchers that I cited previously that study marketing to children. There have been other studies that are related but I haven’t seen any attempt to do a statistical study into this that would study the escalation of these riots and compares it to the marketing practices that happened at the same time or the way they media covers it.

The government hasn’t been any better about addressing the subject either. It is run by politicians that collect their campaign contributions from the same corporations that finance the media outlets and all this hype and they routinely pass laws that benefit the campaign contributors with little or no regard to the best interest of the public. When it comes to protecting children from abuse in sweatshops they say it isn’t their jurisdictions since this now happens in other countries; but then they pass laws making trade with those countries protected without any accountability for the abuse of children and they force local workers to compete while the oligarchies no longer have to compete. When it comes to marketing to children instead of providing disclosure laws requiring corporations to let the public know about any psychological research to manipulate them or even remaining neutral they pass laws that make this information proprietary trade secrets so this manipulation is protected by law while the children are subject to the lack of mercy of corporations and child psychologists.

In other words when ever it comes to choosing between the best interest of the campaign contributors or the best interest children, shoppers, workers or anyone else they choose in favor of the contributors. Thanks to the Supreme Court the money they donate to campaigns is now considered speech so these virtual bribes are protected by the first amendment; but the speech of their critics is relegated to the fringes because they don’t have access to the corporate media.

That means that there is little or no institutional support for sincere research into this subject. All the best financed studies are designed to increase profits for the corporations regardless of how much damage it does to the majority of the public and these studies are extremely biased, since they allow the motives of the corporations to influence their research.

In fact this could be the closest thing that I know of to a statistical study, even if I do say so myself; however it is clearly inadequate and hasn’t been subject to peer review nor does it include a proper scientific protocol that would include consideration of many other potential contributing causes. The only reason this might be the best that I know of is simply because people with better credentials haven’t done the research; or hopefully they have; but I simply haven’t found it yet. Perhaps it could be considered more of a rough outline of what could be done to do further study and consideration of some of the information that is currently available and the preliminary conclusions that could be drawn from it.

One of the first problems that you might run into when considering these Black Friday riots is that if you look at the coverage that focuses primarily on one incident after another and talks about how they’re happening “all over the country” you might get the impression that they’re happening equally in all malls; this is almost certainly not true. There is almost certainly a large variation in the differences between different towns or cities and they may have many other factors that might impact the severity of the riots. Furthermore, all of these areas will almost certainly have a large number of people that have simply declined to show up for these riots because they have seen the hype and don’t want to get caught up in it. Many of the people that do go to them almost certainly like the hype and the excitement; which, in many cases might make them more likely to participate in these activities and contribute to the riots.

As I indicated in “Child abuse and bullying link in study long over due” there are a variety of methods used to research that contributing causes of violence to children and how it escalates later in life and they cross check these different methods to verify the conclusion that they come to. The same should go with researching into how marketing could contribute to Black Friday riots; and this should consider other potential causes. When it comes to studying the causes of these riots it would help to gather a variety of information about many potential contributing causes. This almost certainly would include many studies that have already been done so it would help to have the help of people that have already taken the time to review these studies.

One of the ways to gather this information would be to simply do Google searches to find all the articles about Black Friday that the researcher can. This can provide a significant amount of information but it almost certainly wouldn’t be statistically representative so it would be suspect when it comes to drawing hard conclusions. Another method that could help would be to search the crime records of areas that have had a large amount of problems and others that have had much less or some in between. This could include comparisons with other crimes and a study to find out if their might be a correlation. A study to find out if they might be more common in areas where there is more advertising targeting children might help as well; although this will have flaws since many of the children in areas where there were heavily targeted advertising might move to other areas when they graduate from school assuming they do graduate. This could go for participation in charter Schools as well and whether they come from areas that rely heavily on corporal punishment which leads to teaching children to obey authority without question. This also teaches children to be more susceptible to hype and it might make them more susceptible to commercial or political advertising that is often based on distorted versions of the truth or outright lies.

Susan Linn has also indicated that marketing to children from an early age has an impact on their ability to make important decision about there purchases and democratic decisions as well as indicated in the following excerpt.

In the context of marketing to children, the “object” in commercialism certainly refers to the things that are advertised to children. However, it’s important to remember that in the world of marketing, children themselves are commodities. In their role as audience for television programs, for instance, they are sold to corporations who buy advertising based on the number of viewers an ad can reach. (Of course adults are sold as an audience as well, but since I am writing about marketing to children I am going to refer only to them.) Advertising agencies are paid for their capacity to deliver children for “ownership” by a particular brand, hopefully for life. As Mike Serles, then president of Kids “R” Us, puts in the late 1980’s “…if you own this child at an early age you can own this child for years to come….Companies are saying ‘Hey, I want to own the kid younger and younger and younger.’ Psychologists are paid by advertising agencies and corporate marketing departments because they possess the tools to deliver the minds of children for ownership. “Share of mind” is the phrase used in the industry to describe what corporations want from children.

When children are unprotected in the marketplace, they become commodities to be bought, sold or traded to facilitate profit. Unfettered commercialism strips children of their value and their values. In that sense it is as much a threat to religion and democracy as Soviet-style communism ever was. Susan Linn "Consuming Kids" 2004 p.185-6

In the page following this excerpt available on the Google excerpt Susan Linn discusses how some religious leaders including Pope John Paul II have criticized excessive commercialism. Billy Talen and the “Church of stop shopping” have gone even further and they seem to have made a big point out of teaching people to abandon commercialism. According to his about us page he seems to think that the “Devil” is responsible for the claim that “Corporate Commercialism has sped up to a roar, virtually unopposed.” Whether you believe in the devil or not there appears to be some degree of truth to this at first glance; however I suspect that if his educational efforts are based on as much hype as the commercial advertising to children is without teaching people to sort through the details then he might be setting up his followers to follow the hype where it leads and they could just as easily be led back into the “cult of commercialism” as soon as they have a little more money or they could follow the hype in the pursuit of some other cause which they might not understand. Some of what he teaches is almost certainly better than what the corporate marketers have been teaching but it almost certainly could use some peer review although it does have the advantage of attracting people that wouldn’t respond to secular studies that don’t acknowledge the worship of God.

Susan Linn has also indicated that:

It turns out things do not make us happy. In studies conducted across the globe, researcher find that relationships and job satisfaction are what brings us the most happiness. Not only that, people with predominantly materialistic values-those who believe happiness rests in the next car, CD, toy, or pair of shoes-are actually less happy than their neighbors. People who live in countries where disasters-natural or otherwise-have left them bereft of food, medical care and adequate shelter, are significantly less happy than those who live in countries with a comfortable standard of living; but researchers have found no difference in the (collective) happiness of people in wealthy countries and of people of less wealthy countries where basic needs are being met. Susan Linn "Consuming Kids" 2004 p.184

If you look at these people in these videos of the Black Friday riots it is hard to doubt the claim that these goods aren’t making their quality of life much if any better especially if they buy products that don’t have much practical use or fall apart fast due to shoddy quality that is incredibly common with the wide spread use of planned obsolescence and cutting manufacturing expenses as much as possible while increasing the amount of hype in commercials to mind boggling levels.

Photo source

It should also raise doubts about whether the people that get so caught up with all the hype about commercialism can participate in the democratic process properly. In order to participate in important decisions and vote for the candidate that is most likely to look out for the best interest of the public people need to have access to information on any given subject and they need to be able to process it rationally to make their decisions. If they can’t scrutinize the commercials that lead them to get so excited about shopping then should we expect them to be able to make important decisions that impact the way we run our government?

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not advocating that these people should be deprived of their right to vote but we need to make a better effort to understand how advertising effects peoples ability to think critically and teach them about how they can be manipulated by advertising so they can avoid falling for scams whether it is political scams or marketing scams. The same critical thinking skills need to be used when making other decisions about other issues including wars and environmental destruction.

The current political class that controls the most powerful institutions doesn’t appear to be making any rational decisions about any of these subjects. They continue to try to pursue a course of action that is clearly designed to maximize short term profit no matter what impact it has on any other issue; and this is a very dangerous course of action. If this continues then the escalating amount of environmental damage will continue to go unchecked and as the media has occasionally warned us the next war might be about clean water not oil sicne it is already becoming scarcer in many places around the world and if the current political class holds power with the tacit approval of a complacent majority they will continue to pursue the same irrational policies that led to this problem in the first place and it will lead to the deterioration of our society. And this could escalate dramatically without notice at some unknown point.

This is all the more reason why we should stop allowing ourselves to be distracted by non-stop obsession with buying more stuff even when it doesn’t provide any benefit and there should be much more to look into the causes of these problems and many others so that we can prevent them in the future.

Fortunately there are many researchers that are looking into these things and; as I said previously some of them may have already looked into some of the things that I covered in this blog although I haven’t been able to review it yet. For those of you who are interested I have begun compiling a relatively small list, so far, of academic sources that are looking into these things and added them to my List of Alternative Media Outlets. I may add more as I go along.

As indicated previously this absurd behavior could and probably will lead to the serious deterioration of society at some point; however this isn’t a guarantee and panicking about it certainly won’t help prevent it. There is also an enormous amount of information available that indicates that many efforts to prevent just that are escalating although they aren’t completely coordinated. Recently Naomi Klein wrote “Superstorm Sandy—a People's Shock;” where she advocates for the use of a disaster to usher in progressive change to fix some of the problems that we have been facing. This is similar to the tactics that corporations have been using to get their agenda across as she described in “The Shock Doctrine;” when they come in after disaster while people are in shock and offer their solution but under conditions which have a long term price. The version that she advocates would be more similar to some of the policies that were implemented in the Great Depression when FDR ushered in reforms that gave many of the lower and middle classes rights that they didn’t previously have but in that case they provided only as much as they had to in order to repair the economic system in a manner that continued to give the bulk of the benefits for the work done by the majority to those with the most political power.

Ideally a new reform movement wouldn’t make long term commitments until all the options were considered carefully and if further research indicated that some of the current decisions need review it should be possible to implement those changes that are necessary without an enormous amount of political bickering.
In the mean time it would be helpful if more someone did more research into the impact of advertising, media violence, and early childhood abuse on Black Friday riots or other violent activities and when these problems come up we should think of them as things that should be prevented in the future.

There has been some speculation about the possibility that Black Friday Riots could be A Preview Of The Civil Unrest That Is Coming When Society Breaks Down! Whether this is the case may depend on whether we acknowledge accurate facts and base our decisions on them or whether we pursue political goals that benefit a small minority without concern for the majority; and when the disaster escalate, for one reason or another, whether we panic or not.

The following are a sample of the posts that I found related to Black Friday riots while checking on it; there are more where that came from if you Google for it; with these terms or a slight variations. 

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