You, Too, Can Own a Little Piece of Tragedy
by Brian Phillips · February 11, 2008
You might have been worried, after the touching memorial to the victims of the 1958 Munich air crash at the Manchester derby yesterday, that the open market would never offer you, the wealthy obsessive, the chance to buy macabre memorabilia of the disaster online. After all, human sentiments being the inconvenient sticky things they are, what feeling person would cheapen the significance of the memorial by putting a piece of it on sale?
Fortunately, your worries were misplaced. Today, less than 24 hours after the derby, a group of hard-minded and clear-thinking entrepreneurs have listed their commemorative “Munich anniversary packs” on eBay, including the scarves given to the fans at Old Trafford to mark the occasion, match programs, and “Munich clocks” set to the time of the crash. (“Although the clock works,” one listing reads, “we suggest the removal of the battery and placing the hands at 3 min past 3, the time of the disaster.” Fantastic.)
According to the Telegraph, bidding on one scarf has reached £15,100, a sum which anyone with any experience of eBay can tell you will absolutely be paid, because there’s absolutely no chance it’s a fake bid, because absolutely no one would be motivated to place a fake £15,000 protest bid on a morally dubious item that can be had elsewhere on eBay for around 1/400 of the cost. Come on, Telegraph. Do you know what eBay is. Have you ever looked at eBay before.
Anyway, here’s my question. Did crassness enter into this scenario only at the moment when the items were listed for sale, or was there something a little crass about Man Utd offering fans memento packs in the first place? It just…it seems so…football.
BREAKING NEWS: eBay has decided to remove the Munich mementos from its listings, to the delight of Manchester United. Some of the (obviously fake) bids for the items had reached the £10 million range. The Independent, a newspaper which seems to know its eBay, asserts that authentic bids were peaking at around £60.
Is this an overreaction from eBay? I mean, it’s end-times tacky for people to sell these things the day after the memorial, but is it so wrong that they should actually be prevented from selling them? eBay’s explanation—that “the potential for profit to be made from human tragedy” conflicted with the site’s Offensive Materials policy—seems deeply inadequate given the amount of commemorative Holocaust material by which they are profitably unoffended every day.
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