Joe Gandelman: Black Friday and the darkness in America's soul
Clearly, it MUST have been a video produced by America's enemies, a vicious piece of propaganda that was so outlandish it would have brought laughs 10 years ago. No one except indoctrinated citizens of communist countries would ever believe it.
The setting is Franklin Mills Mall in Philadelphia. The date is "Black Friday," the day after Thanksgiving, a day when retailers offer shockingly low prices in shockingly short time-frames — so it's grab 'n go time in what has become an increasingly competitive and physical enterprise. And there's always a sprinkling of human turkeys that come out to shop, and oh did we see them on this video. The video shows two women fiercely fighting with each other and punching each other. Someone yells for them to stop and you hear a taser. Why, sure that was put in by some cheesy sound effects guy.
But no, it's reality imitating 1960s comedy or American enemy propaganda. It's for real. It's now.
And it's growing.
The latest Black Friday outrage was captured on video by Mike Napolitano, who told NBC's outlet in Philadelphia that it "started out, one couple was fighting with another couple. They had words, the guys got into a fight and then the girl. One couple, they were like a familyÂ and all, with a young child in a stroller." Security stepped in.
Is this just happenstance? No. It's a trend. The website blackfridaydeathcount.com counts seven deaths and 90 injuries since the madness truly began in 2006. This includes people being run over, pepper sprayed, stabbed, and assaulted.
During the 1950s the legendary comedian Jack Benny had a Christmas episode that opened with a shot of screaming women in a crowd, and Benny slowly crawled out from the bottom. It was sale day. The pioneering "adult cartoon" The Flintstones showed Wilma Flintstone and Betty Rubble getting ready to shop yelling: "Charge...it!" Propaganda by America's enemies in the 50s and 60s portrayed the United States as a cravenly capitalistic society where the only thing that mattered was materialism. The first two are comedy; the second is hogwash.
Black Friday violence isn't happening in a vacuum.
Statistics vary on the grave problem of road rage but despite law enforcement efforts it's still all the... rage. At Costco you can run into supermarket cart outrage. America has become coarser, more violent.
It's no coincidence that generations of Americans loved and watched the make-believe pain and violence of The Three Stooges, but it's now old hat and outdated due to Jackass, where young people can see the real thing. Young people see a fight at school or on the street and put it on You Tube and it gets big viewership.
In our politics, everyone seems to want to confront, shout, demonize, demand apologies and insist their side did nothing wrong because it was the other side —when the other side often did or advocated what their side does or advocates now —something they previously defended (uh, oh, I hear the False Equivalency Police knocking on my door and must brace myself for angry comments and emails).
It's like America has now evolved into one, big, fat episode of The Jerry Springer Show, without the crowd shouting "Jer-ry! Jer-ry!" —and without the needed security team to pull people apart.
But with many of the people fighting looking like the past, screaming fist-fighting guests on The Jerry Springer Show.
Honestly, you look at these videos and wonder:
How has our culture sunk to the point where people will literally fight each other and use a stun gun to try and get a cheaper piece of merchandise?
And — no joke — what will happen in the next escalation when mere fights and taser are oh, so, 2013.
How much more violent can it or will it get?
Good thing no one had a dirty bomb on what is becoming Dirty Friday.
Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.