Mass Manilow Mall Maneuvers

Mass Manilow Mall Maneuvers

Managers of a New Zealand shopping plaza threaten to unleash the ultimate weapon against loitering teenage “Mall Rats”  — Barry Manilow. The facility will play tunes by the crooner over its public address system. “The intention is to change the environment in a positive way,”  Paul Lonsdale of the Central City Business Association told Associated Press. Mr. Lonsdale’s outfit manages the Stewart Plaza shopping mall in Christchurch.

Human Rights advocates are stunned. New Zealand is a signatory of the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and may adopt the Optional Protocol. Recorded pop music was an instrument of torture at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and at clandestine CIA “black site” detention centers.

Partial pop torture playlists are available; while none mention Manilow,  Neil Diamond’s “America” was featured on the Torture Top Ten and Top of the Psy-Ops Pops. Surely if one permits use of Neil Diamond, escalation to Manilow is virtually assured.

Success of the Mass Manilow Strategy is uncertain. The mall is offering up musically-sensitive consumers as collateral damage and may drive customers away; many Mall Rats carry iPods (Pop-Pap Protection Devices) and can easily mute Manilow. The tech-savvy teen target population also threatens blasts of pop-punk pop counter-programming from high-wattage boomboxes. Pity the poor pedestrians caught in that cacophonous crossfire.

 The Manilow scheme has had another unintended consequence: even before implementation it is the most famous public art project in the history of New Zealand.  The world press ignored installation of the 42-foot-tall “Flour Power” sculpture in Christchurch’s Stewart Plaza last year (cost: $250,000) but the media are amplifying this row, and the echoes continue to reverberate.


Image by Mike Licht (after Edvard Munch). Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

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