How many remember that this "Black Friday" marks the 10th anniversary of George Bush's famous presidential advisory just after 9/11 for citizens to do their patriotic duty by pushing their worries aside and going shopping? The idea of asking the American people to make sacrifices in the face of the coming "War on Terror" was too '70s, too Jimmy Carter.
The 2001 attacks were quickly seized upon by hard-core propagandists and "shock doctrine" advocates as the "new Pearl Harbor," sparking a decade of blatant social-psychological manipulation. The media onslaught has proved sadly effective in getting Americans to support the ongoing series of bloody and bankrupting wars and to overlook the root causes of this violence in today's world.
By incessantly pushing on the emotional hot-buttons of fear, hate, greed, false pride and blind loyalty (in that order), warmongers and flim-flam men have, since time immemorial, sought to bring out the worst in human beings. Up to now the propaganda has worked, persuading most Americans to accept with minimal visible coercion the enormous corruption and cruelty at the heart of the corporate-military-industrial-congressional-media complex.
I'm embarrassed to admit that I played a small role back in late October 2001 in stoking the national shopping addiction, which worked so well to distract the American citizenry from looking closely at 9/11. At that time, the officially endorsed shopping compulsion served to prevent people from asking questions about how and why the attacks had occurred, and from paying full attention to the horrendously wrongheaded initial responses. These included the mass roundup of innocents; the establishment of indefinite, due process-free, Kafkaesque detention zones at Guantanamo and elsewhere; and the initial conspiracy to go to the "dark side" and resort to systematic torture -- all of which served to morally bankrupt the United States.
At that time, Minnesota's Mall of America boasted of being the largest shopping complex in the world. Soon after 9/11, its stores, like others around the country, fell victim to the "Halloween terrorist threat hoax," which mall owners feared, would scare off would-be shoppers. And so, as our FBI office spokesperson, I dutifully participated in a hastily organized press conference instigated by the Mall. I merely spoke the truth at the press conference, assuring the gathered media that the warning that terrorists would target malls in the United States was just a hollow rumor that had gone viral, without any real evidence or intelligence behind it.
However, now that I see how American citizens are so routinely manipulated, I regret having contributed even in this small way to encouraging mindless consumption, which Bush, Rove and others pushed to keep people from questioning what they were doing. Stoking people's addiction to shopping is primarily a function of the "greed button," but the tactic also connects to the human frailties of indifference, complacency, false pride and blind loyalty.
If one Googles images of "Black Friday" and "shop until you drop," one finds numerous glossy ads and artistic renderings of pretty women carrying colorful packages and sacks.
Actual photos of hyped-up throngs of shoppers waiting to rush through store doors intermingle with these cute shopper images. It makes us all want to feel the high that comes with buying mostly worthless stuff and joining in this materialist orgy.
"We have about 50 per cent of the world's wealth, but only 6.3 per cent of its population... Our real task in the coming period is to maintain this position of disparity... To do so we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming... We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford the luxury of altruism... We should cease to talk about vague, unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we will have to deal in straight power concepts."
(By Coleen Rowley with editing assistance from Hugh Iglarsh. Rowley is a retired FBI agent and former Minneapolis Division Legal Counsel, also a 9-11 whistleblower. She joined the Church of Stop Shopping before it even was formed. Hugh Iglarsh is a writer/editor/citizen based in Chicago.)