November 23, 2012

The geography of selfishness: Regional interest in Black Friday

Conservative commentators are too slavish to big business interests, leaving only liberal retards to criticize Black Friday. But lacking the richness of moral intuitions that conservatives tap into, they struggle and fail to pinpoint the essential corruption of the holiday.

It is not about "consumerism," as people have been buying things since forever, especially before a gift-giving holiday. As detailed here, the recent change is in the social nature of the shopping experience. In the good old days, it was communal -- the warm experience of each Christmas shopper amplified the warm experience of the others. You could tell that others felt the Christmas spirit while out choosing gifts for other people, and that recognition of togetherness within your community made you feel elevated yourself.

And because you were shopping for other people, you didn't have very specific items in mind, as you do when you shop for yourself. So if you saw someone else with a particular gift, you didn't think, "The son of a bitch beat me to it!" because you didn't have a cut-and-dried list of targets to hunt down.

Now, though, Black Friday couldn't give off a stronger odor of It's All About Me. Not only are people indulging in DOORBUSTER sales for themselves, and buying things for others as a fig leaf, but their interactions with other shoppers has become a zero-sum game. I'd rather call it a melee than a mob -- with a mob, there's a superorganic groupiness, and some degree of unity of purpose and action among the individuals (toppling a statue, burning the enemy's buildings, etc.).

The Black Friday shoppers are more like Third World looters after some NGO drops off a load of gubmint cheese. Anybody else's warm experience causes me anxiety -- those bastards must have gotten their hands on the good shit already! In fact, maybe I'll just ambush them in the next aisle over and jack that big screen TV right out of their shopping cart. There is no stickiness among individuals, or even within rival teams of individuals, but rather a Hobbesian "war of all against all".

Levels of fellow-feeling vary drastically around the world, with more cohesive societies springing up along what the historian Peter Turchin calls "meta-ethnic frontiers" -- where there's a faultline between two peoples who differ in way of life, language, religion, even genetic ancestry. (See his book War and Peace and War.) For instance, the increasingly cohesive citizens of the Roman Republic had felt pressure from the expansion of the dominant Celts toward the Mediterranean.

More atomistic societies, then, are found where inter-ethnic pressure has been lower, such as the core of an empire. For example, southern Italy after the fall of Rome has been periodically raided and settled by various groups, but nothing like a relentless advance of an outside group that isn't going to just go away and needs to be confronted in collective fashion. And that part of the world is famous for its devil-take-the-hindmost culture.

To explore these questions in the American context, I'd ideally like to find regional data on consumer spending for Black Friday, maybe as a departure from their ordinary amount of spending, and compared to their annual income. Lacking that, I'll just look at how much of a region's overall Google search traffic comes from people looking for "black friday". If someone is self-centered enough to plan out their Black Friday looting spree, they're going to want to know the low-down on what stores are open when, and what deals they're offering.

If the meta-ethnic frontier idea is right, then Black Friday should be a worse problem back East, where they haven't been plagued by Indian raids for hundreds of years, and should be less of a problem out West, where the frontier was only closed in 1890.

I've split the maps into two time periods to see if there's been any major change over time. The first is January 2004 through December 2007, and the second is January 2008 through December 2011. Both state-level and metro-level maps are shown.

First, 2004-2007:

At either the state or metro level, there's a striking east-west split, with less interest shown in the Plains and Mountain states, and even the parts of the West coast that have not been recently colonized by atomistic Easterners. It's not a liberal-conservative thing, as the Deep South is just as bad as the Bos-Wash corridor, and Texas is just as bad as the socialistic Old Northwest. The map also shows that internal racial diversity has little to do with it; it's more about where there have been pronounced Us vs. Them faultlines.

Just look at how mellow California appears compared to either the red or blue states back East, even though it's super-liberal and particularly during the mid-2000s was overrun with non-whites. In all the reporting and videos I've seen on Black Friday mayhem, California has only come up a couple times. Most of it came from the East Coast through the Midwest and Texas.

Next, 2008-2011:

Basically the same picture of regional differences, just with everybody getting more into it than before. It's not due to the recession, but a continuation of the steady rise in Black Friday chaos since around 1993. The Plains states are still not as bad as the band from the Midwest through Texas, but they're much closer than before. The Mountain states are more reliably cohesive over both time periods. California is still not as bad as the Bos-Wash states overall, although the Los Angeles and New York metro areas are about the same.

The other thing about the second time period is that this is when online shopping for Black Friday has become incredibly popular, unlike the mid-2000s. That's probably why the Fargo and Sioux Falls metro areas look worse than L.A. or New York, whereas in the first period they didn't show up on the map at all. I'd therefore put more weight on the first pair of maps.

Overall the meta-ethnic frontier effect appears to pan out. If this were a journal article, maybe I'd quantify how much Indian pressure the various metro areas have faced in the past 200 years, and compare that to the Google search indexes. But what the hell, it's only a blog post, and the pattern is clear enough from visual inspection.

So, there's one thing I'm very thankful for -- leaving the East coast for the Mountain states. As bad as it may feel out here, I remember that it's abysmal back East. The lasting effect of frontier togetherness may even be great enough to cure Eastern transplants, to some degree, of their atomization and antipathy. Seattle, San Francisco, L.A., and San Diego are too corrupted by now to be healthily incorporated into whatever Mountain-Plains region emerges as the new place to be. But they're like patients who only recently received the prognosis of terminal illness, where back East most major metro areas are already-rotting corpses.


  1. I don't think Turchin is right that the U.S. is splitting into different, autonomous regions.

    One kid I hated in college ended up moving to Colorado, so that kind of skews my views on it. From what I've seen, a lot of flakey types went out there and then pretended to be liberal, to hide that they couldn't get a job back east. Obviously I'm not putting you in this category, but how true do you think it is?


  2. I don't think Turchin's ever said that. That's more my extrapolation, based on his ideas.

    Most of the transplants in the Mountain states seem to be fleeing sky-high land costs and bi-coastal diversity.

    And I think they're more sensible about how realistic those dream jobs are back East or on the West coast. Look what happened to Wall Street and Californian real estate.

    People may be waking up to how illusory a lot of the job appeal is for those regions, unless it's established like publishing in New York or writing screenplays in L.A. Getting set in those fields couldn't be more chancy, but at least you know they're not going to go up in a puff of smoke in the next five years, however else they may shift around.

  3. But the larger point you bring up is a good one -- what happens if people just come out here to turn it into a low-rent SWPL playground?

    So far I don't see that happening too badly. Arizona has had by far the greatest pull, and it's still conservative... even willing to take more control into their own hands, if the national leaders try to look the other way.

    The Bookman's chain of second-hand stores is a great example of how Arizonans are conserving what's good of recent American culture. They've got stacks of used books, records, CDs, DVDs, magazines, video games, etc. On weekends it's packed like a community gathering space.

    Then there's all the classic cars you see around the state...

    Montana is starting to get rich libs who want a second home in a Pacific Northwest kind of place, but without having to pay for Seattle or even Portland land prices. There's a lot of buy-local stuff there, but mostly of a conservative and regionalist flavor.

    And despite all the southern Californians piling into Utah, it's still a solid red state. Although Salt Lake City could become the next San Francisco within 50 years. A little too welcoming to illegals and faggots.

    Ultimately I think the transplants who not only choose to come out here, but put down roots, are going to be far less liberal than where they came from, or at least are the kind of libs who have basic common sense.

    Mass migration within the country is bound to test how stable the regional ecologies are, but so far the Mountain states seem to be handling all the influx of West coast transplants.

  4. At the Thanksgiving holiday get togethers I attended, a topic of conversation was the stuff people were going to buy or had bought.

    We had some family who didn't attend family outings on Thursday and Friday because they were going shopping. And this even though we had out-of-town guests whom we don't get to see very often.

  5. Tell them not to show up next time if they're going to be rude guests again.

  6. Black Friday has only been the #1 shopping day of the year since 2005 (also 2003, but not 2004). So while it's been a big deal, I think it's gotten worse in the past 10 years.


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