Editor's Note: In today's usage, Black Friday is supposed to be a good thing when retailers haul in enough money from frantic post-Thanksgiving shopping to get them out of the red and into the black.
However, the phrase also stirs Great Depression memories when "black" was attached to days of stock market crashes -- as the historic precedent for today's economic troubles was set, as Danny Schechter recalls in this guest essay:
Funny how, back in 1929, we had a black Thursday and then a Black Friday as the market crashed, plunging the country into a depression. Now we have every retailer in every mall in America on their knees praying for a prosperous "Black Friday," the day after Thanksgiving.
If you've read this argument before, it's because I have been making it since 2007, year in and year out. That's on account of the reality that the U.S. economy is driven more by consumption than production, and most consuming takes place during the holidays.
So once again we are being asked to join a global ritual even if we are broke.
Get in gear people, and get your wallets back to the mall: do your duty for Santa and Wall Street. It will be difficult for the economic recovery to make much headway without a pick-up in consumer spending as it accounts for two-thirds of the economy.
Here's the scenario as this Thanksgiving rolls around. Once again the economy is in deep doo-doo with unemployment high, millions on food stamps, and millions more facing foreclosures. The big banks seem to have "recovered" though most Americans haven't.
Nevertheless, Christmas is for the shopping, a time to feign merriment through gift gifting, to spend what you don't have. And the process will be "stimulated" and we will be guilted and mesmerized in our own homes by a non-stop electronic sellathon as TV advertising goes into hyperspeed.
Local TV channels will soon start hyping the "action" at the local malls announcing plans to "go live" without mentioning that they are doing it to attract more advertising, or as part of the deal they already have with sponsors to add news time to ad time.
If the past is any guide, we will be told how packed the parking lots are -- and they will, thanks to the hype, probably be packed.
Part of the reason is the deep discounting and special sales what are called "loss leaders" to get customers into the store even if you have to bribe them to come. All night sales are the latest marketing shtick.
What happened last year was that most consumers only bought the sales items and left most of the other goods untouched. No wonder, a number of malls are now in foreclosure.
At the same time, all we hear publicly from business is optimism, including the use of the term "surge" that has been used so deceptively in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Example news boilerplate: "Some e-retailers expect a strong surge in Thanksgiving weekend sales"
"Having already unleashed a flurry of deals, discounts and other incentives, web retailers are looking for strong sales the day after Thanksgiving, one of the busiest online shopping days of the year.
"And unlike last year, when the tough economy reined in spending, many retailers believe this Friday after Thanksgiving, often referred to as Black Friday, will deliver significantly higher web sales."