Pando

Why I'm done being outraged over tasteless 9/11 brand tweets

By David Holmes , written on September 11, 2014

From The News Desk

It happens every year.

On September 11, brands elbow their way into our communal remembrance of a national tragedy by posting tweets and other social media content related to that horrific event 13 years ago. Sometimes the posts almost verge on sincerity, relegating any explicit references to products or brand identity to the periphery. Other times they are tasteless and exploitative, offering up promotion codes like "FREEDOM" or "NEVERFORGET" so you can mourn in style in a half-price leather jacket.

But there's something else that happens every year -- journalists, content farmers, and other vaguely-titled media enthusiasts aggregate these tweets and Facebook posts into outrage-baiting articles that ostensibly seek to chastise the brands for their lack of sensitivity and tact. The Verge did it. Gothamist did it. The Daily Dot did it.

But after three or four years of naming and shaming, has anything changed?

Of course not. Because brands can't be shamed, for brands are shameless.

Moreover, brands aren't dumb. If their customers hated these tweets as much as journalists do, brands would stop sending them. Should customers care? I think so. These tweets turn a real event that cost the lives of thousands and led America into two wars where thousands more lives were lost into a commodity -- easily repurposed to serve whatever commercial end is required, whether it's to sell diapers or burgers. But customers don't care -- or at least they don't care enough to sacrifice unlimited mozzarella sticks in the name of fleeting outrage.

So instead of compelling brands to stop, these "Look At All The Dumb 9/11 Brand Tweets" posts are merely free publicity for the brands, an aggregation of advertisements published under the facade of journalism.

That's why this year I'm not going to embed the sex toy company's sanctimonious 9/11 remembrance, or the grill company's pleas to enjoy cooked meat with your family to prove the terrorists didn't win. Brands already hold enough power over journalism outlets by paying for the ads that run alongside our stories. I won't also let them enjoy free product placement under the guise of impotent outrage.