Bush and Kids: Standing Small

President Bush may be asserting friendship with “Old Europe,” as Donald Rumsfeld, his defense secretary, famously called it. But it is no secret that the Bush administration holds that part of the world in less than high regard. Time magazine reported that the Bush people frequently call their European allies “Euro-wimps.”

Well, guess what? When it comes to standing up for kids, those “Euro-wimps” have shown a lot of guts of late. The Bush people, to put it politely, haven’t.


The Parent’s Bill Of Rights: Helping Moms And Dads Fight Commercialism

Paul Kurnit is the president of KidShop, an advertising firm that specializes in marketing to children, and he has plans for our kids.

“Kid business has become big business,” Kurnit says.1 To make kid business even bigger, he preaches what he calls “surround marketing”: saturation advertising that captures kids at every possible moment.2


Bush’s War on Children

Washington is awash these days with avowals of concern for children, especially on the Republican side. Whatever the issue, it’s really about the kids they say. President Bush referred to children 11 times in a single speech — on tax cuts no less. In a speech on federal money for churches — excuse us, “faith based initiatives” — the count was up to 35 (not counting “kids” and the like.)

“The values of our children must be a priority of our nation,” Bush said in a budget speech in March. But exactly what values was the President referring to? He gave the impression it was the traditional ones of hard work, abstemiousness and the rest. But look more closely at the administration, and a different meaning emerges.


Kids Are Obedient — to Advertisers

If you want to get a sense of the spirit of this Christmas season — the commercial version, at least — you might pick up a copy of Advertising Age magazine. There you will find such articles as “Young Girls Targeted by Makeup Companies,” which describes the efforts of cosmetics firms to make eight year olds feel a need to paint their faces – to sell “kid makeup,” the magazine says.

Christmas cheer for advertisers means nagging, pouting, insecure kids throwing tantrums until their parents relent. It creates tension and chaos in the family, yet in reality it is a form of training — obedience training — that is taking place on a societal scale. Kids may
give their parents problems and headaches. But for advertisers they are cooperative to a fault.


Disclose donors in political ads

Political candidates are a lot like purveyors of processed meat. Both deal in unsavory ingredients they would prefer to keep to themselves–but are obliged to some extent to disclose. Thanks to Congress, the public has a better chance of knowing about meat “byproducts” than it does about big political donations.

Meatpackers must list hot dog ingredients plainly on the label, where shoppers can see them. True, the euphemism “byproducts” can hide a lot of unappetizing stuff, but at least it hints at what the meatpackers don’t want us to know. Politicians get off easier. They only have to file lists of contributors with the Federal Election Commission. It’s public information, but imagine if you had to call the Food and Drug Administration to find out the chemicals in your shampoo–possible, but unlikely. Politicians must also put tag lines at the end of TV ads, but these are generally meaningless: “Paid for by Citizens for Snodgrass,” for example. A similar hot dog label would say, “This product contains ingredients.”


TV & Me

When I was little, my uncle got me into the Peanut Gallery of the Rootie Kazootie Show, a Howdy Doody knockoff that had a brief run in the early fifties. … More