Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Literary Deconstruction of Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart has been all over the airwaves in California as community resistance to supercenters continues to gather, and yesterday CEO H. Lee Scott Jr. gave a speech in downtown Los Angeles that was covered by the local media. So I was glad to see Timothy Noah in today's Chatterbox pick apart the main points of the speech for a larger audience:

The apparent purpose of the speech was to counter political resistance to the building of Wal-Mart "supercenters" in California. But if Scott saw much danger that Wall Street might believe his rosy picture of labor relations, he wouldn't paint it, because that would create an investor stampede away from Wal-Mart stock. What we have, then, is a unique rhetorical form: Nonsense recited by someone who is relying on most of his listeners to understand that he is spouting nonsense. Wal-Mart took the trouble to send this speech out to writers "who are in a position to influence a lot of others," according to a cover e-mail I received from Mona Williams, Wal-Mart's vice president for corporate communications. I took Williams' email as a plea to expose the dishonesty in Scott's remarks (Stop us before we kill again!) disguised as a plea to give Scott's remarks a fair hearing. I will try to oblige.

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