Friday, June 03, 2011

Oh so hip Wal-Mart

Another Wal-Mart Shareholders' Meeting has descended upon my hometown, Fayetteville. And more pop stars have joined the Wal-Mart Hall of Shame, lending their voices to shill for one of the world's premier anti-labor corporations. This year brought us: Will Smith, Black Eyed Peas, Alicia Keyes, Darius Rucker, and Bob Seger. Previous years have brought such luminaries as J-Lo, Beyoncé, Kool and the Gang, Journey, Shakira, Taylor Swift...the list goes on and on.

Okay, let's forget about workers' rights, for the sake of argument. The Walmart Visitors' Center in Bentonville, on the site of Sam Walton's original Five and Dime store in that city, sits right across the street from a statue to Confederate soldier James Berry, erected on the town square in 1908 by the Daughters of the Confederacy. You can see how close that monument to the heroes of the War of Treasonous Secession is to the monument to corporate America from the photo above, which I shot on a visit to Bentonville a couple weeks ago.

Seriously, Will & Fergie & Alicia, couldn't you at least ask why Wal-Mart, with all its corporate power, doesn't insist that the statue to those who fought for their Confederate home and fatherland be taken down? Do you really need the money that badly?

And seriously, why does no one ever seem to complain about the fact that our beloved pop stars cavort so shamelessly for corporate power?

And then there's the issue of Crystal Bridges, the museum of American art that will open in Bentonville this November. It was initiated with funds from Alice Walton (daughter of Sam, founder of Wal-Mart, and the 8th richest American -- 3 of her siblings are alson in the top 10), and just received another huge endowment from the Walton Family Foundation. It will be a fabulous museum, and the architecture and the site promise, according to all reports, to be amazing. (Expect a report in the New Yorker soon.) And at the same time it will serve the function of art-washing: to clean up the Wal-Mart image through the Walton family's "disinterested" support of culture and the arts.

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