Black Friday Footage Is Basically Poverty Porn

If you think fighting over a flat-screen TV makes someone an animal, you've probably never struggled to afford anything.

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Nov 28 2014, 4:35pm

Have you been on Twitter or Facebook today? If you have been on Twitter or Facebook today, then you'll have noticed that it's Black Friday. It's been trending all day, between between #CameronMustGo and that shit Star Wars trailer. 

For people in the UK, the concept of Black Friday may be unfamiliar, as it's relatively new over here. It's essentially a national holiday in the States, born out of the turkey-bellied consumerism of Thanksgiving weekend. Its origins can be traced back to the 19th Century, though the name "Black Friday" is a more recent tag (and, weirdly, has been used throughout history to label various massacres and fishing boat disasters). It's a day of celebrating capitalism, the American Dream and Wal-Mart's ownership of the Soul of Man.

Bringing the phenomenon to the UK is clearly a cynical move by retailers. Sales dipped by 0.3 percent in September and rose only marginally in October, whilst online sales struggled for momentum. But everyone knows that the High Street, and Wonga, are just waiting for Christmas – our national celebration of the birth of Steve Jobs.

We don't celebrate Thanksgiving (though I think we all had a nice Thursday) here in the UK, so Black Friday falls on a weird workday. It might've made more sense to schedule it to coincide with a bank holiday, but I guess "Black Monday" is less sexy. Plus, coinciding with the US means piggybacking their sales and hashtags.

While retailers have been chinking champagne glasses, shoppers have been going crazy. Online, I've witnessed people treating Black Friday like its some sort of zombie apocalypse. The hordes are braying at the gates of Curry's, salivating like rabid dogs over the prospect of discounted electronics, clothes, and video games.

The Telegraph decided to "​live blog" Black Friday. To call it snide would be to do it insufficient credit: it is a Homeric catalogue of "shit poor people will do for a TV".

The Financial Times, meanwhile, has ​run with the headline, "Surge of Shoppers Brings Black Friday Chaos to UK Retail Stores". By chaos, I assume they mean "a fuck-ton of business".

The Independent, worst of all, ​ran an article called "The Science Behind Why People Kill Each Other Over TVs on the Friday After Thanksgiving", which is a sort of fascistic look at how we might eugenically breed this desire out of people.

The problem isn't just the reaction of the Telegraph, the Financial Times or The Independent, the problem is that I can't go on Facebook today without seeing people taking cheap cracks at the Black Friday shoppers. "Fucking disgusting Americanism," one person said, whilst another went for, "Are we fucking animals?" Twitter read similarly: 

Mild xenophobia aside, what people are really enjoying, when they post videos of people climbing over one another to get to the discounted plasma screens in Asda, is desperation. This is poverty porn where the money-shot is a child getting knocked to the ground over an iPad. 

Yes, the police were called to an incident at a supermarket in Wembley, where violence broke out over a television, but people are beating each other because we live in a country where the cost of living is higher than the minimum wage. And you're calling them the "animals". 

A large swathe of the nation cannot conceive of a world where you would fight through crowds at a discount supermarket for a 40 percent reduction.  I decided to go down to John Lewis in Chelsea today, to see whether the scenes I'd witnessed on grainy Facebook videos were repeated there. Of course they weren't. The shop was barely even busy, just tourists milling around, sniffing perfume and giggling.

But that's an affluent area, and people don't need to fight tooth-and-nail to make ends meet. There's no scrum there because people can afford Christmas, can afford benefits cuts, can afford tax hikes. But if you're near the breadline and you're going to be buying a TV in the next 12 months, why the fuck wouldn't you fight to get it for £139 rather than £219? That's the price reduction on a 40" HD TV at Asda, and to a lot of people it's kind of worth knocking someone's teeth out over.

Black Friday has migrated from America not to keep shops full whilst people are on holiday, but to exploit the fact that our desire for "stuff" is constantly rising, whilst disposable income is constantly falling. But that doesn't mean we should spend the day jerking off over images of desperation.

Don't pretend that we don't all have TVs and computers and smartphones. Instead of judging poor people for wanting what most of us have, why don't we switch off the poverty porn and watch something else?

@nickfthilton

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