Ads don’t kill people, people kill people

Advertising has been blamed for a lot of things in this world — including hyperactive children, obese adults and, now, killing WalMart employees.

The tragedy of a man’s death in a New York state WalMart on “Black Friday” this year really has me thinking we need to put an end to the madness that is the post-Thanksgiving holiday shopping stampede. In the latest case, that stampede was literal and Jdimytai Damour, 34, was crushed when a throng of unruly shoppers decided a great deal on Christmas presents was worth more than civility or even human life.

For years, we have watched as retailers have opened their doors earlier, many now forcing employees to be ready and smiling at 4 a.m. We have seen the advertising intensify. We have seen the deals seemingly get so good no one can possibly pass them up. Retailers have increased their pitchmen’s shouting volume, their outlandish claims and their audacity to force employees to bid an early goodnight to family as they prepare to earn a bleary-eyed buck on the day after Thanksgiving.

It has been annoying and frustrating — but is it responsible for a man’s death?

Mr. Damour’s family has filed a lawsuit claiming that WalMart didn’t provide enough security that fateful morning but also, “engaged in specific marketing and advertising techniques to specifically attract a large crowd and create an environment of frenzy and mayhem.”

If this case proceeds to a judgment against WalMart or even an out-of-court settlement, you’ll see a growing crowd of salivating trial lawyers the likes of which even the WalMart stampeders would cower from.

Mr. Damour’s family deserves our sympathy and, if at all possible, those responsible for killing this man deserve to be punished. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that neither WalMart nor their advertising agencies crushed Mr. Damour. WalMart shoppers are the killers in this scenario.

Advertising informs, titillates and entices. Advertising drives us to take action and be at a certain place at a certain time for a certain deal. But advertising in no way is responsible for people giving up all sense of decency and storming a discount retailer so they can save a few hundred dollars.

According to several news reports, shoppers even refused to leave the store during the police investigation, claiming they had been standing in line all night and had a right to be there.

No amount or style of advertising is responsible for that kind of ruthless, cold-hearted sentiment.

Ads don’t kill people, people kill people.