Determined not to be outdone by the hoopla surrounding our own royal wedding, Americans have with breathtaking speed and ingenuity turned their commercial talents to creating a May Day souvenir-fest celebrating the killing of Osama bin Laden.
Best-selling, according to America’s mass market newspaper USA Today, is the inevitable T-shirt – retailing at about $20. Merchandise legends and designs range from “Obama killed Osama” to “Fish Food”, alluding to bin Laden’s expeditious burial at sea.
But it is the sheer scale and range of the merchandising that impresses: buttons, coffee mugs ($15 each), caps, bumper stickers, ties, phone cases, thongs, and (best of all perhaps) dog T-shirts with a Facebook-friendly thumbs-up logo.
“People wear these things to inflict the final indignity on bin Laden,” says a cultural anthropologist reported in USA Today. “And $25 isn’t a lot to pay to gain entry into the national act of ridicule.”
But isn’t all this crowing about what was, after all, a bloody political assassination, just a bit tasteless?
Joe Schmidt, senior vice-president of retail at CafePress – one of the principal souvenir-peddling websites, is unabashed:
“We’ve always viewed ourselves as being a mirror to the culture. What’s more important than personal expression?”
What more indeed?