Friday, November 26, 2004

Trojan horses...

Further evidence today from the BBC on the influence of advertising on children. Regular Cru-blog readership will be aware of my on-going enthusiasm for a ban on advertising aimed at the under-12s in the UK. On the basis that they're too young to understand the difference between what an advertiser tells them: "you must have a doll with her own make-up bag and beauty equipment" and what a teacher or adult tells them: "you must look both ways before crossing roads". As Adbusters like to periodically remind us - the average American teenager sees 100,000 alcohol advertsisements before reaching the legal drinking age (point taken - these are not necessarily aimed at children, although I think some alcopops ones do appear to be). Compare this with, at best, a few hours of education about the risks of alcohol and drugs and smoking. Net result: they don't stand a chance.

And in answer to the most popular counter-arguements on the subject...

1) It would hurt the economy.

It might be bad for the advertising industry, true. But it would probably be great news for places like the early learning centre which sell educational toys. It might be bad for the bigger chains, like McDonalds, but it would be good for smaller family-run restaurants. And the loss to chains like McDonalds would be partly recouped by the reduced cost to them of advertising. And if kids demanded less stuff from their parents, the parents would have more money to save or to spend on other things. And even if netting all these factors off it did hurt the economy a little, who is to say it wouldn't be worth it?

2) Why can't we give people free choice?

In order for people to effectively exercise free choice they need balanced unbiased information on the situation. Children can make their own choice about advertising once they are old enough to recognise it as such and understand what that means and what views it therefore represents. Personally I think 12 is a pretty low estimate of the age at which that is possible. We don't let kids drink or smoke at that age. So why should we allow them to be bombarded with messages advocating unhealthy and addictive lifestyles?

3) What about the sports, public transport, etc that is partially funded by advertising?

There's a reason why advertisers are prepared to pay for good advertising slots. Because it brings in more money than it costs. We shouldn't be running out sports facilities or our public transport on money donated by corporations alone. The next step is advertising in schools (already happpening in the US - see these horror stories) and a slippery slope to advertisers being involved on decisions about what to sell in school tuck shops (to the point of guaranteeing certain levels of sales to the pop manufacturers) and what to put on the curriculum . Eventually the corporations would run our education system. Is that what we want?

...oh and by the way - today is Buy Nothing Day. Why not see how hard you find it to go 24 hours without buying anything. Pretty hard huh? And if it goes well the next event in the anti-consumerist, anti-media diary is TV turn-off week in April.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Spiralling out of control

Further to my last post, I should point out that I am really not complaining about the individual soldier involved, but the US administration and it's failure to manage the invasion properly. I remember when the mission in question was to win the "hearts and minds of the Iraqi people". Then they launched a major offensive on the holiest day of the year. Can you imagine if a foreign government decided to bomb us on Christmas day? Would that win over "hearts and minds"?

If anyone was in any doubt that the situation in Iraq is now desperately out of control, that the US cannot effectively look after or control its own troops and doesn't have enough troops out there, try this article, which among other things mentions that the marine who shot the injured man "had been shot in the face the day before but had already returned to duty". When asked by his lieutenant if the man/men shot had been armed, the marine apparently shrugged. Draw your own conclusions.

Who needs an international criminal court?

Clearly not the US, who continue as ever taking matters into their own hands. Yes the evil commie Fidel Castro has been convicted of executing a CIA pilot who was trying to invade his country and "overthrow" (i.e. kill) him. And this guy's daughter will be getting $80m in compensation out of frozen Cuban assets.

What was Mr Castro supposed to do with the guy? Give him a cup of tea and a biscuit and send him on his way? This wasn't really a warfare situation - more a small piece of terrorism. So I figure Cuban law applies to the guy. No-one is questioning the guy's guilt, the US admits he was attempting to overthrow Castro, i.e. a crime of something like "treason". The death penalty exists in Cuba, like in the US. So at worst here Castro is guilty of not following correct legal proceedure, he didn't have to kill the guy, he could have just taken him prisoner and then subjected him to a full trial. Under the circumstances $80m seems a bit steep to me.

However this must be good news for the bereaved family of the injured and unarmed Iraqi man shot dead at point blank range (in a Mosque for good measure...) on TV footage shown around the world on Monday. Presumably his family can sue for $80m too.

Monday, November 15, 2004

If Bush really believes in what he's doing...

...why is he behaving like this? Anyone who has read "Killing Hope" (and if you haven't I recommend it, and further if you are London-based and get in touch you would be welcome to borrow my copy) will be very surprised to see them described as a "hotbed of liberals"!

Friday, November 12, 2004

Is there a "boycott coke" campaign?

Actually there is! I have only just found it today. Related to murders of Colombian trade unionists.

There probably should be a bigger one since I seem to hear a lot of stuff about how they try to foist their products onto school kids, etc. Personally I don't really believe that consumers have the power to govern corporate policy, I think that's a bit of a myth. Its all very well in theory but most consumers are restricted by things like poverty, addiction, lack of education and misunderstandings based on biased advertising campaigns, lack of time and lack of genuine choice in the markets. On top of this a lot of companies don't sell to consumers directly - they sell to other companies or government departments which in theory we should still be able to influence with our voting policy and through secondary level consumer influence. In practice however, corporates are doing everything they can to make this as difficult as possible (err like murdering trade unionists for one thing).

However there are times when we can do something. Maybe not solve the problem but consumer pressure has clearly affected policy at McDonalds. Coke - with its 100% reliance on consumer buyers, should be vulnerable too. I shall stop drinking Coke and Coke-made brands today.

For those who would like to do the same but can't live without a fizzy caffeinated drink I recommend switching to Irn Bru, which is independently produced within the UK - where trade unionist murders are fairly rare and pollution controls are a little tighter. And is produced under a strict environmental policy, viewable on their website.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

A bastion of democracy?

Apparently the Bush campaign have said that John Kerry "should concede to spare the voters a drawn-out battle".

When was the result of a democratic election decided by one party telling another party to concede? Surely the way to decide a democratic election result is to count the votes. It amazes me that either party has anything to say about who's winning. Shouldn't the chief vote-counter be the one to talk first?

Election delayed so that Bush can finish cheating

Of course the US wouldn't have this problem if they didn't have a large number of people who genuinely choose to vote for Bush...

If I was the leader of an extremist Islamic terror group I can imagine I might see Republican voters as legitimate targets.

As a nice, middle-class English woman however I'll say just this: isn't it confusing how the "lefties" are in blue and the "righties" in red?