CNN reports today on two separate tragic incidents in Wal-Mart stores. One was a death by trampling and the other by shooting.
In the first, a temporary Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death in a rush of thousands of early morning shoppers as he and other employees attempted to unlock the doors of a Long Island, New York, store at 5 a.m., police said.
In the second, unrelated incident, two men were shot dead in a Toys "R" Us in Palm Desert, California, after they argued in the store, police said.
A few things about this story got my attention. One is the obvious, how could a crowd of people be so frantic to do shopping that they not only trampled an employee to death, but started lining up at the locked doors the night before? To me that seems truly bizarre.
And I wondered what's wrong with CNN to have devoted 90% of the article to the trampling and practically no information about the shooting in California. Maybe they just didn't have the details from the west coast, but is such a thing possible in the internet age? Could this be an example of their famous picking and choosing of the sexiest stories? Did they make an editorial decision that the trampling was so much more intriguing to the readers that they gave the shooting, which is commonplace these days, short shrift? It's been suggested that the only reason I find so few defensive shooting stories in the main stream media is because they prefer printing the violent illegal ones and not because the defensive ones are so rare. Could this story be an example of that very editorial mechanism in action?
And finally, about the title of my post, what's wrong with Wal-Mart. Besides a nifty bit of alliteration, it's a serious question. I often hear disparaging remarks about the retail giant, which I find odd. I know they exploit their suppliers by supporting the third-world sweat-shop system, and they exploit their domestic workers in various ways, but don't they provide exactly what America needs and wants? I've been out of the country for 20 years, but on my visits I've had occasion to visit Wal-Mart's and other places like them. I thought the vast variety and incredibly low prices made up for many of those sins. What do you think?