retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Got a number of emails responding to yesterday’s story and commentary about graphic new images and wording that the government says must be on tobacco packaging.

One MNB user wrote:

So we all know that smoking is HIGHLY addictive, kills over 400,000 people per year in the US, contains 100’s of toxic ingredients, makes you, your cloths, and those around you stink, wrinkles and yellows your skin, is an incredibly expensive habit, costs the US billions of dollars per year in healthcare costs, and is just plain nasty.

Yet it’s still legal and we want to put scary pictures on the package.  Why not just make them illegal already?  Can you say political bribes…I mean donations.

Another MNB user wrote:

And yet the government is right in the middle of this crap subsidizing tobacco growers.  There is so much $$$$$$$$$$$$$ in it they drool over the tax money paid by smokers.  If everyone in Wisconsin quit, Scooter Walker would have to tick off a whole new set of citizens in order to make up for the money lost in taxes.  Bunch of bureaucratic hypocrites.

It’s no different than other drug issues (yes I consider nicotine an addictive drug not unlike heroin).  It’ll never end as long as greed prevails!!!  No matter how many images you put on the product it will still be purchased, images overlooked, by the smokers who can’t fathom the thought of quitting.  Cigarettes are a friend (stress reliever, companion in crisis – if you never smoked you won’t understand it) and an enemy (we know it’s a killer).  My neighbor says they’ll have to pull the cig from his cold dead hands – he will not give them up.

From another MNB user:

I have always thought that tobacco companies need an approach that will reach kids. These new graphics might change adult behavior, but kids don’t really worry about the future like that. They don’t worry about their health and they certainly don’t worry about dying. So I don’t think these tactics really work against kids. Why not take an approach that might really make an impression….like “Girls hate guys who smell like ashtrays”, or “who wants to kiss an ashtray”, or “Guys don’t find cigarettes sexy or attractive”……. “or “Cigarette smell isn’t a turn-on?”   Wouldn’t that work better?????

And MNB user wrote yesterday to comment that he found the “Your Views” emails to be increasingly polarizing - and polarized - and I responded that I do my best to keep the conversation relevant and civil, though occasionally I do allow the lunatic fringe to have its voice heard.

Which led one MNB user to write:

You mentioned you sometimes feel the best way to illuminate the lunatic fringe is to highlight the lunacy and let them speak.  If people want to see the lunatic fringe, they can simply turn on the news – especially cable news.  It’s not hard to find.  The thing that appeals to me most about MNB is you can get the latest headlines and developments in the world of retailing and read some thoughtful, level-headed discussion and debate of various topics.

Giving lunatics a podium to preach/scream/spew is one of the greatest aggravations of our time. And I say that because not only has technology given them a voice to the extent of which they’ve never had, but society has also shifted to think it’s the norm to be frothing at the mouth.  I’m not saying free speech is a bad thing; it just comes with side effects we have to manage.  But I am convinced that the multitudes of vocal minorities out there in the world that incite so much grief and rage and anger are for the most part in no way representative of the quiet (and sometimes silent) majority that they propose to speak for.  That’s not to say those in the majority are an opinion-less, amorphous blob of in-eloquence and non-confrontation.  The viewpoints and beliefs are likely just as stern on some things, they just communicate and debate in a rational fashion.  And unfortunately that discussion style can get drowned out by all the lunatics.

When I come across a forum for the quiet majority, it is always pleasing on the ears and eyes.  And I find I often learn the most.  Here’s to hoping MNB can remain such a place.

Fair point, and of course that remains my goal.

What I should have noted yesterday is what when I post an email from the lunatic fringe, I generally do so because I actually think that the person is voicing an opinion held by a lot of people but is going unsaid ... and because it allows me to make a larger point.

Finally, one MNB user wrote:

Your story today about the corporate-owned obesity "scientist" and the recent story about CEO pay remind me of my favorite George Carlin routine, "The Real Owners of the World”:

"The real owners are the big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions. Forget the politicians, they're an irrelevancy. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don't. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They've long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the statehouses, the city halls. They've got the judges in their back pockets. And they own all the big media companies, so that they control just about all of the news and information you hear. They've got you by the (expletive deleted). They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying ­ lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want; they want more for themselves and less for everybody else.
"But I'll tell you what they don't want.  They don't want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don't want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking. They're not interested in that. That doesn't help them. That's against their interests. They don't want people who are smart enough to sit around the kitchen table and figure out how badly they're getting (expletive deleted) by a system that threw them overboard 30 (expletive deleted) years ago. 

"You know what they want? Obedient workers ­ people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork but just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly (expletive deleted) jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, reduced benefits, the end of overtime and the vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it. And, now, they're coming for your Social Security. They want your (expletive deleted) retirement money. They want it back, so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street. And you know something? They'll get it. They'll get it all, sooner or later, because they own this (expletive deleted) place. It's a big club, and you ain't in it. You and I are not in the big club."

Thanks for your work....I'm often very proud of you of speaking unpopular but undeniable truths, especially when I think of all the corporate policy-makers who read your words every day.

In quiet, contemplative and even dark moments, I know deep in my heart that in addition to being one of the funniest people on the planet, George Carlin also was one of the most accurate - able to cut to the heart of the matter (and the spleen, backbone and almost any other body part you choose) in a way that most of us could not even imagine, much less achieve.
KC's View: