Monday, December 26, 2022

Beth from electronics takes a hike.

Beth McGrath I
     Amazing how memories can sleep for years, decades even, only to be suddenly unlocked.
     I was mindlessly scrolling through Twitter Christmas Day, manfully digesting mounds of homemade cookies so I could go eat more, and there was a video of a Walmart clerk in a pink neon vest talking over an intercom.
     "Attention Walmart shoppers and associates," she begins. "My name is Beth from electronics. I've been working at Walmart for over five years and I can say that everyone here is overworked and underpaid. The attendance policy is bullshit. We are treated by customers and management poorly every day. Whenever we have a problem with it, we're told we are replaceable."
     A classic take-this-job-and-shove-it moment. Posted Dec. 23, it had three million views two days later. Why not? Who hasn't dreamed of quitting a job in dramatic, public fashion? In the years when I was on the night shift at the paper, slumped over on my desk waiting to be sent out to cover the next apartment fire, nursing a raft of slights both real and imagined, I passed the time conjuring up a Scottish band. They would show up toward day's end, while there were still lots of people around. A drum major in a bearskin headpiece carrying a mace, a guy pounding on a bass drum, and a couple of bagpipers. They would arrive, start to play, all eyes upon them. I would leap onto a chair, make a quick speech of resignation, condemning my bosses and all involved, then lead them out, stepping high, to "Scotland the Brave." I'm not sure why a Scottish band and music — I suppose there's something very "fuck you" baked into the soul of Scotland.
Beth McGrath II
     In other variations I'd be down on the river, sailing on some kind of elaborate party barge, decked out like King Herod on a throne, being fanned by palm fronds, surrounded by bathing beauties and flags, and harangue the managing editor through a bullhorn. "Dennis Britton!!! I'm talking to YOU!!!"
     Those memories seemed the natural stopping point. But here is the odd thing — and on social media, if you haven't found an odd thing, you probably haven't looked hard enough. When I tried to find out more about the video, the backstory, as it were, I quickly discovered that the one caught on Twitter isn't the original. A video of the same speech, but being given by a white employee, Beth McGrath of LaFayette, Louisiana, was posted on YouTube over a year ago. Looking back, though the clerk in the recent Twitter video punctuated the "five years" by holding out five fingers, the camera soon cuts away to customer reaction and stayed there. You hardly see the faux Beth speaking. It smacks of falsity, in retrospect.
     So either the false resignation was staged, to synch with the audio, or a benign video was made to match with the audio. I was wondering why, approached Jazzie654, the person (with 175,000 followers) who tweeted the second video, followed them and was followed back. "Hey, thanks for the follow," I wrote. "I'm a news columnist with the Chicago Sun-Times, and I thought I'd write a post on that Beth from Walmart video you tweeted. It seems that the audio was put over a video of a completely different person. Did you do that? Any insight into what happened? Thanks."
    Jazzie654 replied, rather cryptically: "Greetings Neil, although this did happen, it's not the original video." And then, a dozen minutes later, "Quitting Wal-Mart over the intercom has turned into a thing."
     That didn't add much clarity.
     "Yes, but what's it a video of?" I persisted. "Someone else quitting? Why use the old audio? I'm confused."
     "I think it was changed to be more effective, since the original person that quit hid her face," said Jazzie. "I'm only guessing since I didn't record it, I wasn't aware of the original version until after I posted."
      Which is a reminder that with the growth of deep fakes, even a video apparently showing something can't be taken at face value online anymore. The record of one person quitting can be re-staged to show an entirely different person pretending to quit. Does that matter? I bet it will, more and more.


  1. Don't forget the goo-gobs of money some YouTubers make for spreading lies and inciting the simple-minded. 1A auditors invade libraries, police stations, private businesses with cameras, to get a reaction. When they do, getting trespassed or even arrested, they whine about their rights and e-beg for bucks. Nobody reads a newspaper and instead too many of us are attracted by tinsel squirrels.

  2. OK, I get the message. Don’t believe everything (or anything) you see on social media. Easy for me as I don’t follow any of them.
    What I’m not sure of is why the pic of the Mayor? If she wasn’t running for re-election maybe I could see her saying, “Take this job and shove it!” but she is running.

    1. Honestly? It was late. I needed a photo. I took that last month and never used it because our talk was off-the-record. So I shrugged and thought, "Why not?"

    2. Last year (2020), the restaurant I was going to for takeout at the time, had a life-sized photo of Lori in their entryway. The restaurant is in Forest Park. I think the message was, "It's not our fault; it's the evil Chicago mayor's fault." Myself, I wish she would exit gracefully. But not her style apparently.


    3. I have such issues with planned, purposeful misrepresentation, though nothing especially unique about that.
      I enjoy playing along with it in the creative realms.
      Perhaps both having lived being the object/victim of the purposefully misrepresentational thing in the personal life(for some years, as it turned out) AND once a history major, always a history major is why I have such a visceral reaction to lies and liars.

    4. I'm with you. With the exception of obvious satire, like my April 1 posts, I've never published an untruth, to my knowledge, or failed to correct a significant error.

  3. speaking of the mayor check out the invest southwest plan on the cities website

    1. Too late, in my opinion. I'm afraid that the Mayor won't even get a majority of the votes from the areas favored in the "southwest plan" and will hear from the Southwest side itself as well as Northsiders, "Where MINE?"


    2. As I said in a recent comment, I hate all bamboozlers, charlatans, con artists, fakers, flimflammers, liars, and scammers. You wanna know just how deeply I despise all those duplicitous deceivers? How much time have you got?

  4. "Does that matter?" Of course, it does. I've been concerned about this for a while, and it really is messing with my enjoyment of satire and people's "creativity" on Twitter.

    Someone posts something, it gets re-posted by somebody with a bunch of followers, and it's off to the races. Often, other folks will clarify that the thing is fake in the replies, but that reply is noted by a fraction of the number of people who have already seen the original post.

    The truism I'll paraphrase as "If it seems too good (or funny) to be true, it quite possibly isn't legit" definitely applies to a lot of entertaining stuff. The most recent example I stumbled across was this photo of Elon at the World Cup. The original photo is remarkable enough on its own -- why somebody felt the need to heighten the effect is beyond me. I guess because it was funny, which it is. Still, with so much harmful fake news being produced by malefactors, I kinda wish well-intentioned people would back off on the photo-shopping a bit.

    Original post of funny, doctored photo: 22 million views.
    Post of doctored photo next to real photo: 2 million views.
    Post of guy who posted original joke acknowledging that it's a joke, which he either created or was aware of: 1 million views.
    Along with a lot of arguing about whether the 22 million people assumed it was a joke, or thought it was real. Ay-yi-yi!

    And there we have more than anybody will want to know about that! ; )

  5. Entertainment value has its limitations. Sure, the Romans got their jollies by watching humans battle animals or other humans. I guess it was entertaining to some but overall, not good. Blackface was entertaining to some but which direction did it push the needle.
    The world is full of people who provide legitimate entertainment at little or no cost. We don't have to stoop to cheap thrills. Social media has no value.

  6. I guess your blog qualifies as social media so you are right, of course.
    There are different types of social media. Because this blog is not anywhere near the size of a Twitter, Facebook, or others of that ilk, you can screen each entry. We trust you are being truthful which is probably why those that follow you do. I can't say the same for the big players.
    That's the problem with the big players. They are not held responsible for what they allow to be spread. I guess you don't have to either but your standards are considerably higher.

    1. All true. I can say, I find Twitter immensely useful, even after Musk's purchase. The cover story I have coming up in Rotary magazine probably couldn't have happened without it. I like Facebook as a sort of low wattage quilting bee.


Comments are moderated, and posted at the discretion of the proprietor.