Black Friday Shopping Store Injuries: Uncivilized Masses, or Et Tu, Brutus?

Well, well – here we are:  Black Friday, that ignominious day in the American calendar when otherwise (and I use this term liberally) “normal” people, turn into openly aggressive, violent, even maniacal individuals – all in the name of scoring a few less dollars on the latest wide screen TV or pair of sneakers.  To quote an aphorism that has become quite true, “Because only in America, do people trample others for sales exactly one day after being thankful for what they already have.” How bad is this problem?  In just the past eight years, from 2006 to 2014, the total death count involving Black Friday shopping incidents has reached seven deaths.    Visually, try to think of being in a cemetery and seeing seven gravestones, each reading “Killed in a store by other shoppers the day after Thanksgiving.”   Two of those deaths were the result of people actually being “trampled” by aggressive shoppers. Two more were shooting deaths, and the remaining fatalities were due car crashes that were directly related to Black Friday shopping.

And the number of people seriously injured in these displays of animalistic degradation?  Almost 100 (98.)   Those injuries are largely resulted from either stampeding crowds or shoppers fighting over merchandise.  In a 2011 incident, an off duty police officer had to use pepper spray on Black Friday shoppers in North Carolina, injuring 20 people.

But of course, now that Black Friday 2016 is almost over, those numbers are now even higher:  Very early this morning (Friday, Nov. 25 2016) two people were shot — one to death — outside a Macy’s Department store in a southern New Jersey mall awaiting its Black Friday opening, according to news reports.  In Reno, Nevada, police there are looking for a suspect in a deadly attack they say was over a parking spot at a Reno Walmart Thanksgiving night.  At this point it’s a little sketchy to say whether or not it’s directly connected to Black Friday shopping, but at present it has all the markings of being so.  In Memphis, Tennessee, a person was shot outside Wolfchase Galleria Mall.  Police have reported that the incident occurred as shoppers were taking part in early Black Friday sales at the mall.

So bad – so prevalent – that there is a website that actually tracks these incidents:  Imagine that.

What is wrong with people?   What kind of a people have we become, and even more importantly, how and why have we devolved so?  That, unfortunately, is a question that demands the analysis of psychologists specializing in group behavior, psychiatrists, sociologists, criminologists, and even theologians.  I wish I could bring such specialists together in a video post to this blog, but as a Massachusetts assault & battery lawyer, I’ve seen enough to provide my own professional view of this phenomenon.

Simply, it’s called mass desensitization.  Violence in the media on a level that is inhuman – all kinds of media:  Entertainment media, news media, the internet and violent video games.  Mass shootings.  Mass murders.  TV shows that celebrate cruelty to others on a scale that can be twisted and depraved. (Ever seen “Survival”?  “The Bachelor?”  Or a certain show called “The Apprentice”?  These popular shows propagate and celebrate psychological and physical cruelty to others.  Trust me, they aren’t the movies, TV shows and game shows I grew up with.  Much of it is on a scale that is depraved.

What hasn’t changed is the law:   In Massachusetts, you can be charged with a variety of criminal offenses if you are arrested as an aggressor in a violent shopping incident – Massachusetts assault & battery, resisting arrest and mayhem are common charges in these events.  Do yourself a favor:  If you want to go shopping for a deal, on Black Friday or any day of the year, act like a civilized person.  Or as a Boston criminal defense lawyer, I can assure you:  The next person you see may not be a cashier – it’ll be a judge.

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