Amazon Prime Day is the purest and most terrifying American holiday of all

July 26, 2017 Originally published on SFGate

Every holiday is a manufactured holiday. Christmas to Valentine’s, Easter to Hanukkah, Mother’s Day to the 4th of July – no matter the supposed legitimacy of a given celebration’s origins, capitalism has seen to it that every one on the American calendar has been gutted, repackaged and turned it into a massive marketing gimmick, wrapped in a retailer’s wet dream, tied to a 50% off clearance sale.

Commercialism has swallowed tradition and spit back mountains of plastic landfill. There is no holiday without shopping. There is no celebration without mega-sales and screaming ad banners, horrible songs and endless marketing gimmicks urging you to buy more stuff as quickly as possible, lest the GDP drop and the American dream suffer and die.

No one understands this hellish matrix better than the beast than Jeff Bezos birthed. It should come as no surprise that Amazon, AKA Earth’s Biggest Everything So Shut Up Already, would dispense entirely with the hollow pretense of, say, overweight, red-robed saints and egg-laying rabbits, gluttonous turkey dinners and ten million toxic roses, and just make up its own holiday, no silly “tradition” required.

Behold, Amazon Prime Day, the newest and, let’s be honest, most all-American holiday ever invented by ruthless marketers and/or numb politicians, and that includes Columbus Day and President’s Day and Flag Day and, well, pretty much all the rest.

Amazon Prime Day is America incarnate. It is capitalism unleashed, frighteningly well armed and live-blogged in real time, unafraid to decimate your truest values and your maxed-out credit limit. Prime Day is where Black Friday meets the opioid epidemic in a giant blow-up kiddie pool, and then stabs you in the spine with a Bluetooth-enabled LED talking “smart” meat thermometer/garage door opener, for dogs.

It’s all here: Ridiculous overconsumption, BS pricing tricks, idiotic appliances you will never use, fake “reviews,” nefarious tracking/predictive shopping algorithms recording your every twitch and click, all coupled to simply staggering fuel consumption/air pollution/packaging waste via all the factories and planes and trucks that manufacture and deliver your crap to your door within 48 hours and which will, in turn, soon result in mountains of landfill because, as mentioned, you’re not a real American unless you can’t close your garage without knocking over three ruptured trampolines and seven WiFi-enabled Sno-Cone Waffle Makers you bought for 24% off but that never actually worked and now live in your nightmares.

Amazon Prime Day is also, let’s just admit, a perfect scam. As expert product-review site The Wirecutter discovered, only a small fraction of Amazon’s “exciting” offers were worth the bandwidth they wasted impaling your anima. Last year, the site scanned nearly 8,000 deals and found a mere 64 – that’s less than 1% – to be any good whatsoever.

Will this year be any better? Maybe two percent? Who cares?

For Amazon, Prime Day isn’t really about selling more stuff, anyway. It’s just a way to lure new members into signing up for an annual Prime account, which will ensnare millions in Amazon’s ever-expanding metaverse of goods and services and, in turn, enable still more Americans to buy even more stuff they do not actually need, at prices that aren’t really all that great anyway.

After all, Prime members spend anywhere from two to four times as much on the site as non-Prime members, upwards of $2,500 a year. So, you know, sucker on, America.

Too cynical? Not really. Amazon’s miracle of convenience and speed is only matched by its staggering waste and increasingly terrifying scale. Amazon already handles a huge portion of the world’s Internet commerce in its services division. It spent $11 billion on shipping alone, just last year. Its powers are garguantuan, its reach staggering, its aims shamelessly monopolistic.

Bezos could soon be the world’s first trillionaire. “I have the best job in the world because I get to work in the future,” he told Fast Company. Please note that “the future” he’s talking about has everything to do with massive, never-ending, relentless, hyper-convenient consumption and, well, not much else. Maybe he really is the new Jesus.

Should you care? Depends on what you do, well, tonight. For 30 hours starting at 9PM Eastern on July 10, a large portion of America will be caught in a newfound summertime shopping frenzy matched only by its rabid ignorance of the damage wrought, both karmic and environmental. Hide the children, get your credit card ready and never mind that deep shudder in the bones of the fragile planet: the new American holiday is here. Rejoice!


Mark Morford has been providing hyper-literate, award-winning commentary and cultural criticism to the San Francisco Chronicle and SFGate since 1998, which probably astounds him more than it does you. He’s also one of the Bay Area’s premier yoga instructors, leading classes, workshops and retreats in SF and around the world since 2001. Read his latest stories, follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, or just visit for the whole of it. Email him here.
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