It turns out the news media had a pretty shameful weekend. A British couple came forward to say that while they were hiding from terrorists at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel in Mumbai, CNN broadcast details of their specific hiding place in the facility, resulting in a fresh search by the gunmen in control of the hotel at the time. The Indian government blacked out local TV after claiming the terrorists were gaining tactical information from the broadcasts. And now David Carr weighs in via the Times with a column about how U.S. newspapers were complicit in whipping shoppers into the frenzy that culminated in a deadly Wal-Mart stampede:
In a day-before story, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution advised readers to leave the children at home, at least the ones not big enough to carry the loot, because they will just slow you down... "we know a few shoppers willing to use four wheels and a child as a weapon..."
An article distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News sounded as if the writers were composing a sonnet for fishing or camping until they got to the punch line: “Nothing rivals the thrill of waking up before the sun, or that sprint through the store for the perfect present.”
...Newsday offered a “Black Friday blueprint,” with store openings listed so shoppers could plot strategy, including noting that at 5 a.m., the Green Acres Wal-Mart would open and customers could expect to buy a 42-inch LCD television for $598. Many continued to pursue that particular bargain even as Mr. Damour lay dying.
Of course, it was just Wednesday that the Times was mythologizing gluttonous consumerism, and not long ago that it literally serenaded the frenzied crowds chomping at the bit for their iPhones. And the holiday edition of high-end-consumption porn rag T Magazine is due in the next week or two, right? It's true that Black Friday is a stupid, fake idea, but media cheerleading of crazed consumerism is here to stay. If an unfolding economic depression wasn't enough to stop rabid consumers from breaking down doors to buy LCD television sets, a single death isn't going to reform desperate newspapers.