The New Yorker has a lengthy new piece about Wal-Mart’s
media manipulation PR efforts. I’m only part way in, but already my jaw dropped:
Most recently, Wal-Mart announced that it had fired a technician from its Threat Research and Analysis division (which combats industrial espionage) for eavesdropping on telephone calls made by the [New York] Times’ Wal-Mart beat reporter, Michael Barbaro.
OK, obviously the eavesdropping is bad, but let’s look past that for a moment and consider the name of this department. The “Threat Research and Analysis division”? Whoa. I mean, whoa. That sounds like something out of the Pentagon.
Do you suppose those guys are like the IAD of Wal-Mart staffers? Like they show up at the store and all the front-line people start grumbling? (“Shit. The TRA guys are here. Somebody dropped a dime on me!”)
I’m picturing them roaming around stores, wearing black vests instead of blue, to distinguish themselves as the Wal-Mart Gestapo. Where the regular vests say “How may I help you?”, these guys probably have THREAT RESEARCH in yellow, S.W.A.T.-style.
Their reports, along with those of informants, are no doubt fed back into a secret underground bunker in the Bentonville mothership, where beneath a large “Today’s Threat Level: Orange” board,
Lord Vader the TR&A VP sits on an elevated throne, looking down at his bustling minions (who rotate in and out on 34.5hr/week floating shifts) as they scan radar screens for new threats.
And the room goes deathly still when a Wal-Mart threat analyst, bathed in the green glow of his display, hits the alarm button and utters those dreaded words:
“Sir, I’ve identified a new Target!”