Tuesday, May 3, 2011

How Utterly, Utterly American

Buy several! Give 'em to your friends!

"Looks like Osama bin Laden is worth more dead than alive. That is, at least, in the make-a-buck marketing world of souvenirs, collectibles and tchotchkes."*
          --Lead-in to story discussed below

How long did you think it would take American merchants to figure out a way to make money off the killing of bin Laden? If you guessed less than 24 hours, advance to Go and collect $200. This article appeared in USA Today this morning under the headline "Marketers act fast." Between midnight on Sunday and mid-afternoon on Monday literally thousands of people posted Osama-death product ideas on such sites as Zazzle.com and CafePress.com where they could perhaps earn royalties if some company picked up their idea and used it for a consumer product. Executives at both these places say they haven't seen such an outpouring in a long time. This is even bigger than the capture of Saddam Hussein!

Divided into roughly four categories--patriotism, military support, celebration, "justice is served"--you can get T-shirts, buttons, coffee mugs, caps, bumper stickers, neckties, a phone case for your iPhone at $51.40, and, but of course(!), a T-shirt for your dog. One of the marketeers explains that they've always reflected popular culture. "What's more important than personal expression?" (Oh, gee, I don't know. How about civility or taste or virtue?)

I'll let the psychologists explain this. "People wear these things or buy these things in order to inflict the final indignity on bin Laden, says one. "And $25 isn't a lot to pay to gain entry in the national act of ridicule." And while they do their explaining and read their tea leaves, I'll just be disgusted and embarrassed yet again by the accident of my birth to be identified with these idiots.

*Tell me the truth: did you have to look up "tchotchkes"?
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