Two days after United Airlines was publicly eviscerated for having a passenger beaten up and dragged off of an airplane, its stock has recovered.
But people haven’t. That man was forced off the flight from Chicago to Louisville because United had crew members who needed to get to Louisville to work their next flight.
Disturbing video of the episode has been seen worldwide – reportedly more than 250 million times in China alone, where a boycott of United has been threatened because the victim of the corporate mugging happened to be Asian.
The narrative that’s catching on, though, isn’t just about one company that has a long history of treating its customers like cargo:
Or about how United CEO Oscar Munez made it worse by standing by the corporate policy while merely apologizing for having to “re-accommodate” the victim.
The bigger narrative is how United Airlines’ literal mugging of a paying customer is emblematic of a much larger disease in which humanity itself is subordinated to corporate profit.
No article says it better than this one, by Shayne Ryan in Paste Magazine.
“I have an idea,” he writes. “Don’t overbook the flight in the first place, and then make other people pay for your incompetence and greed…watching a multi-billion dollar business hire police to forcibly remove a paying customer not doing anything illegal is a jarring reminder of who really controls this country. Corporations clearly aren’t people, because citizens don’t have anywhere near this much power in the United Corporatist States of America.”
A less-examined question is when did it become the job of police officers to enforce the policies of corporations? Why is it part of their mission to make sure United Airlines makes its numbers for the fiscal quarter? If United Airlines needs goons to beat up passengers and drag them off airplanes, it should pay for them itself.
Since the incident, three of the involved officers — sworn in by the Chicago Department of Aviation to protect and serve — have been suspended pending an investigation.
This moment of sanity is sure to fade quickly. It will be replaced and upstaged by something even worse in the next few days, and the whole thing will be forgotten except by public relations people who specialize in crisis management.