Friday, November 04, 2005

Sager pans the Wal-Mart Movie

Ryan Sager, in Today’s NY Post, criticizes Robert Greenwald’s documentary the Wal-Mart Movie: High Cost of Low Price. He has two major criticisms: the film misrepresents the reason for why one of the featured family-owned businesses closed and that the successful anti-Wal-Mart site fights are not to be celebrated for all they created were empty parcels of land. As Sager remarks, “Vacant lots. What a victory.”

Let’s start with the second critique. Either Sager didn’t actually watch the film or his eyes must have glazed over during this segment which he uses to substantiate “what's wrong not just with the anti-Wal-Mart ideologues, but the whole anti-development, anti-globalization, anti-everything left.” We say this because one highlighted site fight involved a proposed Wal-Mart right next to a residential community and two schools. Does Sager really think that these concerned neighborhoods and parents are part of the “anti-everything” left? Does he think that people in small towns in Colorado and Vermont who, who didn’t want a 200,000 sq. ft. box store ruining their quality of life, are all rabid leftists bent on destroying our free market system?

Furthermore, did Sager actually check to see if the properties where Wal-Mart was prevented from siting are vacant? Communities who fight Wal-Mart often do so because they want the land used for other purposes such as office space or park land. We also find this “vacant lot” argument hard to swallow considering the large number of vacated Wal-Mart’s all around the country (We guess the columnist didn’t see that part of the film).

The other critique involves a family-owned hardware store that, according to the movie, closed after Wal-Mart came in to town. Sager mentions that the store closed 3 months prior to Wal-Mart’s entry and had previous financial difficulties. If true, this point is much more reasonable and Greenwald should have mentioned the other factors that led to the store’s demise. However, this doesn’t mean that the coming Wal-Mart had no effect on the owner’s decision to leave. For a small store already in the red, the coming arrival of a subsidized Wal-Mart can be the impetus to close up shop instead of trying to stick it out. Also, Sager does not mention others parts of the movie where other family business close due to Wal-Mart. Again, did he actually see the film or is he basing his conclusions on the trailer and hearsay?

One last point: Sager’s “anti-everything” left thesis falls apart considering that many people interviewed are conservative and/or Republican. Employees who talk about being mistreated by Wal-Mart often have George Bush memorabilia on their walls. Managers don’t talk about the evils of capitalism but the love they have for their country and their concern about jobs leaving for China and overtime being denied. And community residents aren’t talking about how to stop all development but to make sure big commercial development isn’t too close to their homes.

According to Mr. Sager's logic he should have no problem with a Wal-Mart being built right next to his Manhattan apartment or wherever he resides. Otherwise, the columnist also is a member of that anti-development, anti-globalization, anti-everything left that he so freely excoriates.