Re: Walmart and Black Friday

1

It's union-busting as a cargo cult. Ban the words and organising will disappear, never mind the substance.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 8:20 AM
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It's easy to be anti-Black Friday, and I am

racist


Posted by: unimaginative | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 8:24 AM
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3

Some of my best children were born on Black Friday!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 8:26 AM
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But it's basically Halloween for grown-ups, and grown-ups seem to get equally excited as Hawaii and Hokey Pokey got for Halloween.

It's like a Halloween where a bunch of union busting corporations are now forcing employees to come in on Thanksgiving when they should be on a paid holiday with their families just so a bunch of soulless assholes can get a bargain on shit like electronics that's likely already a very small percentage of their yearly spending.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 8:27 AM
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5

Banning organizing is probably more effective than building a sham port.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 8:28 AM
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This big deal about Black Friday was invented, what, 5 years ago?

I don't know if I've ever heard anyone talk about it as if they were actually going to go and participate. The universal chorus from relatives, coworkers, is about how stores need to be avoided at all costs because they are going to be full of grim-faced morons demanding bargains.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 8:29 AM
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But it's basically Halloween for grown-ups

What gswift said, but also costumes are such a big part of Halloween, and who the hell pays for their candy? Better Halloween for grownups: dress up in a ninja costume and play "trick or treat" at Wal-Mart. Either you get a fun TV as a treat (the best Wal-Marts give away full-size TVs) or you have fun burning down the store!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 8:30 AM
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Training activities included the Walmart cheer. Every morning, as store associates do, we would participate in the cheer. A few people stood up to read the daily numbers, then break out into a chant--"Give me a W-A-L-M-A-R-T," with the rest of the people in the room shouting back the same letter. Back then, Wal-Mart still had a hyphen, so between the L and the M they would yell, "Give me a squiggly!" and everyone would do a butt wiggle.

The loss of the hyphen, and ,consequently, the butt wiggle, marked the beginning of the decline of
Walmart.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 8:30 AM
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"Cargo cult" is such a great description of Wal-Mart generally. Maybe cargo death cult.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 8:32 AM
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4 is so right on.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 8:34 AM
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stores need to be avoided at all costs because they are going to be full of grim-faced morons demanding bargains people die in those stampedes


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 8:37 AM
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OP:...but a lot of people do find it extraordinarily fun.

Some people live in small towns where there are very few things to do, and Black Friday is a thing to do.


Posted by: real ffeJ annaH | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 8:39 AM
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I'm not reading this whole thread, but surely someone has said that Halloween is Halloween for grown-ups.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 8:42 AM
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11 is silly alarmism. You're more likely to die because you can't afford medical care, because you overpaid for your huge flat screen tv.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 8:42 AM
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Something something destruction of small town life in a frenzy of consumerism irony of ersatz holiday as stand in that ruins employees' actual holiday something something.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 8:43 AM
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Or instead of dying you might live an unhappy life without a nice TV.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 8:43 AM
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17

Don't the people in the small towns know anyone who works at Walmart? Can't they sympathize with their misery?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 8:44 AM
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Everyone works at Walmart and none of us have any time for sympathy.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 8:45 AM
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Oh look, I still hate everybody! Hooray.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 8:46 AM
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I swear I'm not defending union-busting holiday-wreckers.

At the same time, there is a reason to have a non-exploitative version of Black Friday. I still wouldn't participate because it seems horribly not-fun to me and everyone here, but that's definitely not universal.


Posted by: heebie-heebie | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 8:46 AM
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Some of these students work at Walmart or best buy.


Posted by: heebie-heebie | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 8:48 AM
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What if we celebrated black friday by not going to work and just wearing our pajamas all day?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 8:48 AM
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Just like a regular Friday.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 8:52 AM
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17: Americans in small towns are peasants.* It never even occurs to them to imagine better, let alone demand it. For all they know, their great grandparents were either Black Friday shopping or Black Friday working. It's simply the way of the world since Jesus made it.

* This at least is my experience growing up in virulently anti-union states.


Posted by: real ffeJ annaH | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 8:52 AM
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Except on a regular Friday we don't explain everybody's jokes.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 8:52 AM
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Query: is it more elitist to condemn Black Friday as a corporate-marketing trick that's trapped rubes into ersatz soulless consumerist "fun" that's grossly exploitative of workers, or to say "hey this is just how the country folk these days have fun and who wants to deny the rubes their fun."


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 9:10 AM
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It's a trick question. The answer is that even contemplating a dilemma introduced with the word 'Query' makes you irreparably elitist, so you might as well give up.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 9:14 AM
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@26

A real elitist will do both at once.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 9:18 AM
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I'm going to outdo everyone by storming the gates and buying all the goods on Thursday. Black Friday Winner!


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 9:18 AM
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30

Walmart has already moved its opening time to 8 pm on Thursday, so you're going to have to get there on Wednesday.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 9:31 AM
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1

Actually, this is representative of a larger Republican speech act theory, which I might write about some day. You're right that words seem to have a magical quality whose mere usage or occasionally repetition brings about reality. Maybe it comes from Evangelical Christianity? Certainly it's the exact opposite of standard Western ideas that language is referential (which has its roots in English Puritanism). In terms of language of this sort put to political and social-engineering ends, there seem to be strong similarities between Republican attitudes towards language and language use described in Victor Klemperer's "The Language of the Third Reich." (LTI)


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 9:32 AM
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I'm already there, Sir Kraab, and I'm buying everything. There will be no Christmas this year!


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 9:33 AM
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The worker activism going on at Walmart right now is pretty amazing.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 9:42 AM
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even contemplating a dilemma introduced with the word 'Query' makes you irreparably elitist,

Even better, start with Quaere.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 9:42 AM
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35

Yeah, I dunno. Rather than be all snooty about Buy Nothing Day, I think I'm going to stop by the local hardware store for some of their deals like I did last year, and maybe the feminist sex toy store too, as they are having some kind of kaffeeklatsch that sounds fun. I don't have enough money to buy a new big teevee though, even steeply discounted. And my shoplifting days are behind me, more's the pity, 'cause that kind of craziness is an IDEAL time to walk out with stuff.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 9:44 AM
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36

You want to know the real problem with Black Friday? It's that it stands in blatant contradiction to the noble principles WalMart was founded on.

As a pioneer in "Everyday Low Prices" (EDLP, in the retail vernacular), WalMart rejected the age-old retail practice of time-limited promotions designed to get customers in the door and fill their shopping carts with other, higher priced items. The addiction to promotions was ultimately self-defeating for both retailers and manufacturers: for retailers because it becomes a zero-sum game as consumers learn to wait for a sale and then stockpile, and for manufacturers because it leads to the "pig in a python" phenomenon in the supply chain, which drives costs up disproportionately.

WalMart deduced that smoothing out the peaks and valleys in production and delivery would lead to better asset utilization all up and down the supply chain, which translates into a lower cost of goods sold and more affordable prices for consumers.

So what does Black Friday do? It creates the biggest pig-in-a-python in the civilian economy. A huge proportion of the logistics assets of the country (container yards, warehouses, rolling stock, trailers) are tied up in staging the X-Boxes and flatscreen TV's and so forth so that they can be available for purchase on this one day. The costs involved in provisioning the surge capacity for this once-a-year event are mind boggling. But if you want to do business with WalMart, you have no choice but to go along.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 9:44 AM
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even contemplating a dilemma introduced with the word 'Query' makes you irreparably elitist,

Even better, start with Quaere.

Even better, let all dilemmas be introduced with curare, preferably on the tip of an arrow.


Posted by: Annelid Gustator | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 9:47 AM
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38

@35

But if you buy your feminist sex toys at Walmart think of the savings!


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 9:49 AM
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39

Yeah, there's actually nothing wrong whatsoever about getting out to some locally owned shops at a normal hour on Black Friday and doing some holiday shopping.

We'll be at SeaWorld, which is apparently deserted on Black Friday.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 9:53 AM
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WHAT DO YOU MEAN "BUY YOUR FEMINIST SEX TOYS"? I'M MY OWN FEMINIST, AND I'LL BUY MY OWN SEX TOYS.


Posted by: OPINIONATED FEMINIST | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 9:54 AM
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39.2: I hear there are some real orca bargains.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 9:57 AM
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39: Blubber for everyone on your list.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 9:58 AM
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43

I hear there are some real orca bargains.

Be sure to check the warranty, though.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 10:00 AM
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44

Thanks for making that explicit, high-priced consultant


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 10:03 AM
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45

We celebrate Thanksgiving on Black Friday, which gives us the opportunity to enjoy empty ski-slopes the day before.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 10:07 AM
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46


44: If you lend me your watch, I can tell you what time it is.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 10:08 AM
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47

Actually, this is representative of a larger Republican speech act theory, which I might write about some day. You're right that words seem to have a magical quality whose mere usage or occasionally repetition brings about reality.

I'm not sure the broader Republican/conservative/evangelical magical thinking, if such a concept is real, is necessarily tied to language. It's just as much about an aversion to being exposed to knowledge of the very existence of some perceived evil (especially around sexuality). See for instance the reactions to sex ed, books in school libraries which even mention homosexuality, the HPV vaccine, acknowledgment of foreign (or even English) legal precedent in US judicial proceedings etc.

That said, there is definitely a form of magical thinking that is enamoured with the power of words themselves. You see it very obviously in the sovereign citizens movement, and I'm sure Shearer would claim the left has its own version in political correctness.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 10:12 AM
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My brother-in-law went to a Walmart Black Friday. He got there at midnight, when the prices were supposed to drop, but he said that since the doors opened hours earlier, people came and did all of their shopping-gathering and then massed near the checkout, waiting for midnight. I think he gave up and went back home.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 10:27 AM
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49

the interesting thing about sovereign citizens is that the linguistic weirdness seems to actually lead to schizophrenia, which reminds me of Lacan's notion that it's a state in which the distinction between the signifier and the signified collapses.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 10:31 AM
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49: which comes first, though? It's like the CIA employing all those paranoid schizophrenics: does working for the CIA make you mad, or is it just more difficult to notice when someone's paranoid if they are working for the CIA?


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 10:33 AM
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51

49 wins the elitism contest.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 10:33 AM
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52

But signifier/signified confusion is at the root of most magic. This bit of wood is carved into the shape of an ear, therefore it will affect ears. And so on.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 10:35 AM
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47.3: Oh, I would claim that too, although I might say "identity politics" or "tumblr memes" or something, as "PC" is an old Stalinist term resurrected by the far right in the 1980s to smear the left, so I don't use it.

But yeah, most people are pretty credulous, doesn't seem to have much to do with any other factor. Obviously the sovereign citizens are out on the lunatic fringe on so many valences that their use of language/magical thinking is going to seem more extreme. But look at all the google-proofing we do around here.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 10:42 AM
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45- Didn't someone propose a religion in which all holidays are a couple weeks after the real ones (insert Greek Orthodox joke here.) Maybe that was a Seinfeld joke. Think of all the clearance items you can save on, and for Christmas you can just take someone's used tree off the curb.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 10:44 AM
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55

Ideology=camera obscura, mumble-mumble.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 10:44 AM
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36 is pretty awesome, gotta say.


Posted by: Klug | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 10:50 AM
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would claim the left has its own version in political correctness.

Like Natilo in 53 I wouldn't use the term "political correctness", but I also do think that there's a bit of magical thinking around the progressive passion for language policing.

I don't mean the common sense stance against obvious racial/sexist epithets, but the zeal for devising ever more rarefied lists of words/phrases to avoid that you sometimes see in the progressive blogosphere.

It definitely seems to have a purity ritual aspect to it.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 10:51 AM
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52 & 47

I would say Republicans' aversion to information they find repugnant is consistent with a treatment of words or signs as magical, as it conforms with Mauss's law of contagion (on of the three laws of sympathetic magic): physical contact or proximity can alter the essence of the object in contact. We can see this in sex ed hysteria, as there does seem to be a sense that exposure to sex ed knowledge will corrupt children in a way far beyond the transfer of knowledge. Until this election, I thought the refusal to engage with reality was a conscious manipulation of information and could be explained through a more standard fascist/authoritarian language propaganda framework, but now it appears that not a small number at the top genuinely believe that a language creates reality in a much more fundamental way than the term is usually meant. This is obscured by the fact that language, particularly in a primarily discursive realm like politics, does have significant performative power, but it appears to go much deeper than that. If we understand that Republicans see language as possessing magic reality-creating properties, we also can understand why pointing out blatant untruthfulness has no effect on its efficacy, as magical/ritual speech is judged by its success or failure, not its truthfulness.

I think with mainstream Liberal PC stuff, there's no real belief that eliminating racist language actually eliminates racism, although sometimes it can veer in that direction at the fringes.


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 11:20 AM
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It may be worth noting here that conservatives have a tendency to misuse scare quotes, such that they'll put them around things that are uncontroversially real and rhetorically unloaded, but that they simply don't like. E.g. "I don't believe in the 'theory of evolution.'".

Even Rehnquist was doing this in the 50s, which surprised me. I would have guessed it was a movement conservative thing.


Posted by: real ffeJ annaH | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 11:32 AM
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58: The problem with reading a lot of that Horsey Surprise tumblr is that comments like this begin to seem like intentional trolling.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 11:33 AM
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6: This big deal about Black Friday was invented, what, 5 years ago?

Was curious about that myself, knew it was somewhat recent. Wikipedia:

The news media has long described the day after Thanksgiving as the busiest shopping day of the year. In earlier years, this was not actually the case. In the period from 1993 through 2001, for example, Black Friday ranked from fifth to tenth on the list of busiest shopping days, with the last Saturday before Christmas usually taking first place. In 2003, however, Black Friday actually was the busiest shopping day of the year, and it has retained that position every year since, with the exception of 2004, when it ranked second.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 11:36 AM
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60:
I prefer tongue-and-cheek polemical.


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 11:39 AM
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A huge proportion of the logistics assets of the country (container yards, warehouses, rolling stock, trailers) are tied up ... so that they can be available for purchase on this one day.

Yeah, my sister is in a similar field as Knecht and amazes me with stories of Christmas stuff arriving in container ports in July.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 11:46 AM
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I've always been anti-Black Friday as well. We're buying a new fridge and a new range this winter. I really wouldn't mind saving a boatload of dough on them. I think, though, that the last week of December is going to be better than BF.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 11:50 AM
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I thought the big black Friday thing was a push by big box retailers to beat back the forces of online retail.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 11:53 AM
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66

That sounds plausible. Oh no here comes CYBERMONDAY.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 11:56 AM
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67

Even better, start with Quaere.

I once noted on facebook my fondness for beginning questions with "quaere:". The first comment averred, presumably facetiously but how am I to know, that I must get laid a lot.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 12:02 PM
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On racism & speech, I think it's useful to think about it at a micro level. Like most middle aged white men, I have very little actual power. More than many, I guess, since I'm a dad and an employer, but there's not much I can do one way or the other than has anything to do with structural racism or sexism at the societal level. I can, however, hurt people's feelings -- that's a power I have every day all the time. I can become a small cog in an oppressive machine, just by insulting someone. Now it's a speech act, and a speech act alone that causes harm: I'm free to think whatever evil I want about anyone, but so long as I say nothing, I'm the only one harmed, not the people I see walking down the street etc.

In this context, it's perfectly reasonable to ask me to refrain from conduct which, even if not structurally oppressive, is individually hurtful.

There's another role for the speech act: even if no member of the hated group is present, I can validate, by speech, the hateful act of another. I don't think much of an obligation to denounce -- there's stuff happening every day that merits denunciation -- but there are social contexts where it is required.

I see PC as primarily dealing with these areas, and as a useful exercise.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 12:03 PM
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"stories of Christmas stuff arriving in container ports in July"
There's got to be a movie plot somewhere in that premise.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 12:10 PM
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61 -- the Wikipedia page also notes that the trend of Walmart and other stores opening late on Thanksgiving started in 2010. I feel like there's still time to stop this bullshit.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 12:17 PM
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The logical conclusion is that stores should just have a way, perhaps electronically, that anyone can browse their goods and order any time day or night or holiday. Someone get to work on that.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 12:20 PM
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67. Sed contra est quod all the real players make long running labor-intensive inside jokes.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 12:25 PM
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1, 31, 47, 58:

I don't agree with the thrust of the conversation here. Magical thinking and conscious manipulation aren't the only alternatives, but I think manipulation explains these behaviors better than magical thinking.

For one thing, if you limit racist language, you really do damage racism. And Walmart is surely engaged in conscious manipulation, and not magical thinking at all.

Walmart is letting its employees know that:
1 - it is really, really hostile to unions.
2 - it is really, really intent on controlling employees' thoughts.

The author of the linked piece is quite clear on this:

Nothing from that eight weeks of brainwashing was geared to help you do your job as an assistant manager. Essentially it was more of a police academy, training the managers to be police officers for Walmart. We were being trained to put fear into the hourly workers' heads. Step out of line, and you lose your job.

The first sentence isn't quite right - that eight weeks of training defined the job, whose most important and difficult component was putting fear into the hourly workers' heads.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 12:25 PM
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For one thing, if you limit racist language, you really do damage racism.

I do think this is right -- that if being openly racist is too impolite to do in public, then racists can't support or encourage each other, and can't easily teach the next generation. It's not that they can't still do racist things, but it's harder.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 12:30 PM
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And kids are very sensitive to situations in which their parents violate community norms in private. Now, sometimes kids agree and sometimes disagree, but they're very aware of the descrepancy.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 12:33 PM
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||

Nnngh.

|>


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 12:35 PM
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Walmart is letting its employees know that:
1 - it is really, really hostile to unions.
2 - it is really, really intent on controlling employees' thoughts.

I don't disagree with this at all, but the passage quoted in the OP spoke to both anti-union mind control and magical thinking, in that a notice about a harmless (from senior management perspective) meeting was flagged while a notice about something that they would presumably view as truly detrimental was ignored, simply because it didn't contain a magic iword.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 12:41 PM
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Wait, why is Potluck Wednesday truly detrimental?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 12:42 PM
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Is Your Break Room Breeding Botulism?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 12:43 PM
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78: Everyone who can sneak away from their job will be in the break room eating.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 12:46 PM
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Yeah, what peep said. I inferred the two examples were chosen for precisely that reason - contrasting something happening outside of work hours that couldn't remotely be construed as undermining productivity or promoting labour organisation with something taking place during work hours that at least implicitly encourages what management would see as slacking off.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 12:51 PM
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Ok, I don't really believe Republicans think language is magical. However, I think there is a non-referential language ideology going on that appears difficult to explain or understand if we start from the standard assumption that Western "folk" language ideologies are some combo of Lockean/Herderian language theory, and instead which might be better explained by looking at non-Referential speech theories.

I also think there's value in challenging the theory of rational intellectual progress which has reached its apogee in the West, i.e., the belief in magic is replaced by a belief in religion, then philosophy, and then science (cf Durkheim, Comte, et al), which still seems to implicitly shape how we talk about our own society vs. others. (I mean, why is it ok to attribute beliefs of modern Nuer to magical thinking, but not modern Texans? What assumptions are we really making here?)

It is also true that language actually does things in the world. Thus, it is true that banning racist language can affect actual racism. However, the question is, what is the relationship between those two? If it's that eliminating racist language makes it harder to express racist speech in the public sphere, then that is a very different claim than that the elimination of a racial slur in a particular context solely through the act of eliminating that one slur then changes the minds of those who said it. Again, these are fundamentally different ideas of how language is performative.

Finally, it is totally possible to consciously manipulate language for the purposes of brainwashing and to have a non-referential concept of speech.


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 12:56 PM
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69: Christmas In July (Todd Solondz, 2014. Starring Giancarlo Esposito, Gene Hackman, Helen Hunt and Lucy Liu. Written by Todd Solonds and Todd Haynes.)
Solondz departs from his usual stomping grounds of suburban anomie and disgust to helm this light-hearted comedy co-written with fellow Todd Haynes. Esposito plays a harried logistics expediter at the Port of Long Beach who must deal with a Longshoreman's strike led by crusty union boss Liu, an approaching tsunami tracked by port meteorologist Hunt and the hijinks of his zany office staff led by his assistant, Hackman, while trying to move several thousand containers of electronics on to their destination warehouses in time to be ready for Black Friday.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 12:59 PM
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s s/b z


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 12:59 PM
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85

To use the example in the OP, there are two explanations for why Walmart would want to ban a sign that uses the word committee (which aren't totally mutually exclusive.)
1) banning language remotely associated to organization sends a signal that organizing will not be tolerated. In this sense, the banning of the language is symbolic in the way burning an effigy is: it is a threat.
2) merely the sight of the word "committee" will engender desires to collectively organize in employees who had not thought about it before, and thus to prevent employees from being influenced into organizing through the sight of these words, they must be banned.

While we might say this first explanation makes more sense, as Ginger Yellow points out, there seems to be a little bit of the second sort of thinking involved too.


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 1:02 PM
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Britta, your argument fails to take account of the fact that words have meaning.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 1:07 PM
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85:

3) Walmart headquarters (or its outside union-busting consultants) has ascertained that union organizers habitually use innocuous sounding informal workplace organizations as cover for secret discussions of unionization.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 1:08 PM
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Britta's comments are getting me all hot and bothered.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 1:08 PM
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Halford's 85, on the other hand, sort of just has me perplexed.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 1:09 PM
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90

I mean a committee is actually something, not just an idea in the head of Republicans.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 1:11 PM
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Yes, but there's nothing wrong with committees per se. 87 is a better reason to be dubious of innocent-seeming committees than the fact that they're committees.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 1:13 PM
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Another would be the idea that just the fact of being on a committee, making decisions, hashing things out, etc., would give workers too much of a taste for autonomy, and can't be allowed.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 1:15 PM
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93

Which, he continued, I suppose could be construed as something "wrong with committees per se".


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 1:15 PM
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94

What is a word for committee if not something that means a committee.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 1:16 PM
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95

You'll have to spell 94 out a little more.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 1:18 PM
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What struck me, aside from the anti-organizing-language, was that managers are basically forbidden from being normal human beings around those they supervise. I'm not quite sure that I get the rationale; not wanting people to form relationships that could threaten... Walmart?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 1:18 PM
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Oh, OK, this is fun but I can't keep it up. 86, 89 and 94 were attempts to apply the skills I've now learned in 60+ pages of Horsey Surprise to Unfogged. Yet my net has captured only Nosflow. Someone with better endurance can probably do better, or I'll try again later.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 1:20 PM
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98

Halford fails to take into account that sometimes, words have two meanings.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 1:20 PM
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But union organizers aren't stupid. If the list of banned words is pretty well known and they need to have a secret announcement they'll just advertise for the monthly possum exegesis, first Monday of the month at 8pm. (More realistically, something like Bible club that Walmart would have PR trouble banning.)


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 1:20 PM
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100

sorry bro you fell for my double-reverse meta-troll. I was only pretending to be taken in.

:(


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 1:22 PM
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Britta is on a roll.

The answer to 86 is a sound clip of "When she gets there she finds that the stores have all closed// Sometimes words have two meanings" from STairway to Heaven but the disturbing Dolly Parton cover rather than the original.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 1:23 PM
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So my guess would be that Walmart can't actually ban employees from talking about unions specifically (per this kind of thing) so instead they ban them from talking about all of the concepts that would be necessary to talk about unions in a comprehensible way. That way they can de facto ban talk about unions without specifically banning talk about unions.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 1:24 PM
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103

87

Sure. But then, this means that in the Walmart context, "committee" comes to be language associated with organizing, and so forth. If next union organizers use "coffee klatsch," and it is recognized by all members of the community that the meaning of "coffee klatsch" is actually "secret union meeting," then Walmart will ban it because it is language related to organizing. This is why stamping out resistance through banning language is extremely difficult. Since there's an arbitrary relationship between signified and signifier, once one signifier is banned another can take its place. (FWIW, this is also why its hard to eliminate un-PC language or profanity, since what is profane or un-PC also shifts over time.)


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 1:24 PM
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104

pwned by 99


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 1:26 PM
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105

101.2 -- before you saw 98? Odd!

But I didn't know Dolly Parton covered "Stairway to Heaven". Odder!


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 1:26 PM
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103. If most speech is mediated via search engine, and the repressive authority controls the index, it gets a lot easier, especially if the written language is Chinese.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 1:29 PM
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If you want to know how hard labor law sucks in this country, check out the complaint Wal-Mart has filed with the NLRB accusing labor of daring to protest management behavior without jumping through the required ten thousand hoops first.

So what does Black Friday do? It creates the biggest pig-in-a-python in the civilian economy. A huge proportion of the logistics assets of the country (container yards, warehouses, rolling stock, trailers) are tied up in staging the X-Boxes and flatscreen TV's and so forth so that they can be available for purchase on this one day. The costs involved in provisioning the surge capacity for this once-a-year event are mind boggling.

A good example of how private markets can create inefficiency.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 1:29 PM
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its hard to eliminate un-PC language or profanity, since what is profane or un-PC also shifts over time

I'm reminded of a young woman who was horrified that her professor used the highly offensive term, "Native American", instead of the correct, "aboriginal peoples of North America".


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 1:29 PM
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"aboriginal" strikes me as right up there with "primitive" for offensiveness. First Nations or bust.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 1:34 PM
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102 and I'd guess that Walmart doesn't have much confidence in its store level managers either, and is giving them a list of words so it doesn't have to rely on their discretion.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 1:35 PM
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Also, the front page posters have a golden opportunity to troll Halford by posting about this copyright law contretemps ?


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 1:35 PM
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112

They already tried, but it's telling that Yglesias, beyond his classic incredibly simple-ass lazy analysis, even manages to get the summary of basic events somewhat wrong.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 1:42 PM
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74: if being openly racist is too impolite to do in public, then racists can't support or encourage each other, and can't easily teach the next generation

That's why the KKK, Neo-Nazis, Illuminati, and Jewish Lizards got together and invented the internet.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 1:44 PM
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Actually, I'd been meaning to point to this as the ultimate Yglesias post. Incredibly simplistic analysis favoring free-market economic planning? Check. Adulation of chain store? Check. Early 2000s girl band reference? Check. Prominent spelling error? Check.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 1:44 PM
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114: Oh, for crying out loud.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 1:53 PM
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115 was me and was aimed at Yggles, not Halford.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 1:54 PM
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The obvious reason to ban words like "organize" or "committee" is so that if you overhear someone talking about organizing, they don't have a valid plausible cover story like they were just talking about organizing a potluck. If all words with similar meanings are forbidden, then there's no way for them to express that kind of thought on the job.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 2:21 PM
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Which is I think what Halford meant in 86, that if you ban all words with a certain meaning, then it becomes more difficult for people to talk about the things that the words mean.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 2:22 PM
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Speaking of BF, I'm getting courtroom closed messages from various places around the country. That definitely didn't used to be a thing.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 2:27 PM
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120

From a slightly more problematic universe than 83:
On the Waterfront II: Christmas in Hell (Seth Rogen, 2015. Starring Kreayshawn, Chris Tucker, Cheri Oteri, Franka Potente, Ricky Martin.)
Director Rogen's sophomore effort paints a grim picture of the sordid underbelly of the shipping industry in this taut noir thriller follow-up to Kazan's 1954 opus. Kreayshawn is an idealistic young crane operator at the Port of Vancouver who is secretly organizing for the Industrial Workers of the World while working round-the-clock shifts during the big summer run-up to the Christmas rush. Tucker plays Father Ousmane, the Senegalese-Canadian priest who tries to protect her as she is caught in a vicious three-way power struggle between sinister Maersk rep Potente, scheming port supervisor Martin and crime boss Oteri. Shot on location in Canada, with Toronto standing in for Vancouver.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 2:35 PM
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It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas. The holiday feel-good movie of the year tells the story of Daryl Kingsgrove (Jason Bateman), a night-shift dispatcher at the Port of Long Beach who is too nice for his own good. When the Longshoreman want the fourth of July off, he can't say no. When a mega-corporation wants to move 10,000 containers of next Christmas's hot new toy off the docks by the end of the weekend, he makes a fateful promise. Now his job is on the line -- and nothing would make his evil boss Derrick (Bill Murray) happier than to be able to replace Daryl with his nephew Beezer (Nick Frost).

Just when Daryl's task seems hopeles, he discovers an Indian stowaway (Ayush Mahesh Khedekar, Slumdog Millionaire) hiding in a shipping container. The stowaway turns out to be a precocious genius at operations research, who can solve complex sequencing optimization problems in his head. They are helped by Daryl's love interest Tracy (Zoe Deschamel), a journeyman engineer specialized in container port planning, and by her reclusive sister Megan (Cameron Diaz), whose facility with martial arts and beekeeping save the day in a surprising but gratifying plot twist.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 4:34 PM
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I'd watch 121. Streaming, certainly.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 6:14 PM
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The current wave of Wal-Mart strikes is the most exciting thing to happen since Zucotti Park. I'm really hopeful that OUR Walmart lasts and builds -- it's not technically a union, although it's been spun out of the UFCW's organizing efforts. There's also Warehouse Workers United, which is working along the lines of a workers center on the supply chain. I'm going to be on a plane on Black Friday, but I orange post title you to join a Wal-Mart strike -- just enter your zip code here.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 6:40 PM
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Coming in way late. 85 is interesting, but seems to me to be sort of a blunt pass. 85's (1) and (2) aren't mutually exclusive, no. The banners of the language in question presumably wouldn't feel the need to issue a threat (that, is, 85.1) unless the very idea of organizing (85.2) was perceived by management to have occurred to employees.

58: Until this election, I thought the refusal to engage with reality was a conscious manipulation of information and could be explained through a more standard fascist/authoritarian language propaganda framework, but now it appears that not a small number at the top genuinely believe that a language creates reality in a much more fundamental way than the term is usually meant.

I'm not ready to believe this yet, I think, though a lot of people are wondering, and I could be persuaded. With respect to Walmart, I can't let go of the authoritarian model.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 7:08 PM
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123 gets it exactly right.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 11-20-12 8:07 PM
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I guess this is demonstration #463 that I am still not a grown up. I far prefer Halloween, and put an unseemly amount of time in to my costumes for a mid-career "information" "worker".


Posted by: Grumbles | Link to this comment | 11-21-12 3:31 PM
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122 gets it exactly right.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 11-21-12 3:46 PM
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128

Wow! I like fun, too.


Posted by: Hattie | Link to this comment | 11-23-12 1:04 PM
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