Sunday, March 14, 2010

One More Reason to Hate The Disney Corporation

I am not a big fan of the House of Mouse.   

As a stepmother, I bristle at the stereotype they foist upon me.  I take issue with ABC, and their news coverage.  My kids are basically banned from the Disney Channel, with the exception of Phineas and Ferb.  No Wizards of Waverly Place, no Hannah MontanahICarly?  IDon'tThinkSo. The lessons these shows bring our kids are *not* wholesome.  A talking pimple that makes misogynistic comments about young teen girls?  On the forehead of a young teen boy?  No, thank you.   These shows focus on appearance, and  in the case of Hannah Montana, we're talking about a girl who has to resort to an alter-ego, because honestly--in today's society a young girl can't possibly just be herself if she's good at something, now can she?  

OK, I told myself I wasn't going down that road, and I'm not.  While I despise the inundation of show-related products supposedly wholesome programming, my ire is raised today for a different reason. Are you familiar with the Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood?  This is the organization that filed a  class-action lawsuit against Disney, and got them to settle the suit by offering refunds to parents because of the misleading implication that  

Baby Einstein videos + Your Kid = Massive Genius/Prodigy in the Making.  

This was an enormous victory for CCFC and parents throughout the U.S.   Highly marketed videos do not create smarter kids--Pediatricians actually recommend that babies do not have any so called "screen-time," according to the NYT article discussing the settlement.  So, while Disney was 'acquiescing' publicly--effectively patronizing the CCFC and the public--they were apparently privately twisting the arm of the non-profit organization that had supported CCFC since it's inception ten years ago. 

The Judge Baker Childrens Center has severed their ties to CCFC and unceremoniously kicked them out of their offices.  Following the settlement agreement, Disney representatives contacted the JBCC and expressed their upset over the work of the CCFC.  So the JBCC booted them, and said as much, according to this NYT article.
The CCFC has not perished, however.  Affiliated now with Third Sector New England in Boston, the CCFC released a statement outlining their new partnership, and explaining the lack of communication during their JBCC-imposed gag-order. (The statement is reproduced at the end of the post.)  

Here's what pisses me off:

The Walt Disney Corporation could suck up the loss of refunding the Baby Einstein videos with nary a blip on the financial radar screen.  It is with that very same financial might that, rather than plunk some dough down for some solid research into how to best harness creativity and critical thinking skills as a method to enhance the intellectual growth of a child's mind, they instead choose to intimidate and threaten a non-profit organization that wasn't supportive of every last element to their for-profit organization. 

Which is entirely, utterly repugnant.   And so disturbingly representative of the Corporatocracy in which we live today.  

Is anyone else as sick of the giant corporations deciding things for us?  What's moral? What's ethical? What's appropriate social behavior?  What's good business practice?  What's good for our families...our communities? Should GE/Disney/ABC be deciding these things for us?   I don't want them deciding for me.  So, when I see Disney muzzling an organization because they don't like the negative publicity they had to endure as a result of hawking "shiny things" as educational tools, I get furious.

Do you have five bucks?    I know I can probably scrounge that up between delving to the bottom of my purse, clearing off my nightstand and picking up the floor of the van.  Do you know what I'm going to do? I'm going to send $5.00 to the CCFC.  

You should too.   

The CCFC has taken on behemoths:  Are you aware of the campaigns they've run?  Take a gander here.  Report Card advertising by McDonalds?  BusOne radio?  CCFC was the leader in taking on these corporations, and others, in an effort to reduce the constant flow of marketing and advertising to which our children are to exposed on a daily basis.  Between corporations having carte blanche to spend on campaigns, and them playing bully with tiny (like, $250k-annual-operating-budget tiny) non-profit organizations, I am fed up.   

I'd rather see my money go to the CCFC where every penny counts, than to dump it into the gaping maw that is the Disney Corporation. 

If you're the tidy type who doesn't have spare change rolling around, call it your movie rental money for the week...or, skip the Ariel Fruit Snacks or the 101 Dalmatians coloring book.  Send the money you would have spent on some Disney Licensed Crap to the CCFC instead.  I'm a little tired of the House of Mouse throwing their weight around--and frankly, money talks.  

Disney's public 'mea culpa' in the form of Baby Einstein refunds shadows their true intentions:  To silence an organization that dares to point out that the "Family Friendly" and "Reliable" Disney Corporation was willfully and deliberately misleading parents.  If you read the mea culpa link, you may also find it interesting that the Disney Corporation (behind the veil, you'll note, of "The Baby Einstein Company") has chosen to direct their their disdain not at the CCFC, but rather, they have chosen to publicly attack Susan Linn of the CCFC personally.  

We can personally strike back.  Skip the Disney Crap, and support an organization that recognizes the insidious nature of marketing to children.   Join me in sending $5 to the CCFC as a show of support for the very important work they do for our children--Every Day. 

CCFC to Disney: We Won't Be Silenced
Advocacy group vows to continue its important work on behalf of children

BOSTON (March 10, 2010) -- After ten incredibly productive years, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has been forced to leave the Judge Baker Children’s Center (JBCC), a Harvard-affiliated children’s mental health center in Boston. JBCC’s decision to end its affiliation with CCFC came after representatives from the Walt Disney Company contacted the Center following CCFC’s successful campaign to persuade Disney to offer refunds on its Baby Einstein videos.

“It is chilling that any corporation, particularly one marketing itself as family friendly, would lean on a children’s mental health center,” said CCFC’s Director, Dr. Susan Linn. “It is more important than ever that those who care about children’s wellbeing speak out against the corporate takeover of childhood.”

Last fall, after a front-page story in the New York Times called the Baby Einstein refunds “a tacit admission that {the videos} do not increase infant intellect,” representatives from Disney contacted JBCC. In the aftermath, CCFC staff was pressured not to talk to the press about Baby Einstein. Questions were raised whether CCFC’s mission was appropriate for the Center. In January, CCFC was told—after its most successful year-to-date—to leave Judge Baker.

Judge Baker’s decision was sharply criticized by psychiatrist Dr. Alvin F. Poussaint, director of the Media Center at Judge Baker Children's Center, who was scheduled to receive JBCC’s prestigious World of Children Award on Saturday, March 13 at a gala celebrating his commitment to children’s wellbeing and a lifetime of advocacy. Dr. Poussaint refused the award on CCFC’s behalf:
“In convincing some of the biggest corporations in the world to change their marketing policies, CCFC's work has benefited not just the children directly served by Judge Baker, but children all over the world,” wrote Dr. Poussaint in a letter to Judge Baker. “It is the obligation of all health and mental health institutions, and professionals, to stand up to any entity that is harming children and to work hard to change the related societal forces.”
“We have great admiration for the Center’s staff, and their work on behalf of children,” said Dr. Linn. “But we are deeply saddened that the institution ceded its ground and stopped supporting CCFC and our efforts to challenge powerful interests in order to protect children and support parents.”
CCFC now has a new home at Third Sector New England (TSNE), an organization devoted to promoting a more just and democratic society.

"Third Sector New England is delighted to be the new home of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood,” said TSNE’s Executive Director Jonathan Spack. “CCFC's work to halt the commercial exploitation of children by corporate marketers is a wonderful addition to TSNE's social and economic justice programming. We look forward to helping CCFC continue its successful advocacy for policies and practices that protect the most vulnerable among us."

Added Dr. Linn, “We are so pleased to be at TSNE. It’s a wonderful organization, and a great place to continue our work reclaiming childhood from corporate marketers.”

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is a national coalition of health care professionals, educators, advocacy groups and concerned parents who counter the harmful effects of marketing to children through action, advocacy, education, research, and collaboration. CCFC is a project of Third Sector New England in Boston.

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