Stupid Crusade Watch: Campaigning for the Impossible
By Ken Magill
A group of eight so-called consumer advocacy groups last week filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission calling for an investigation into Google, charging it with unfair and deceptive practices in connection with its YouTube Kids app.
The first clue into how ridiculous the complaint is comes in the name of the lead agency: Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.
In America. A commercial-free childhood.
Man, that was exhausting.
Are these people really that stupid? Do they fail to understand that commercialism has played a critical role in every purchase they have ever made? Do they not get that commercialism is what makes their cushy lifestyles possible?
They might as well be campaigning for a society in which we pay for everything with pixie dust and elves’ tears.
The rest of the who’s-who list of idiot organizations signing the complaint includes the Center for Digital Democracy, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Children Now, Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Watchdog and Public Citizen.
The complaint accuses YouTube Kids of:
• “Intermixing advertising and programming in ways that deceive young children, who, unlike adults, lack the cognitive ability to distinguish between the two;
• “Featuring numerous ‘branded channels’ for McDonald’s, Barbie, Fisher-Price, and other companies, which are little more than program-length commercials;
• “Distributing so-called ‘user-generated’ segments that feature toys, candy, and other products without disclosing the business relationships that many of the producers of these videos have with the manufacturers of the products, a likely violation of the FTC’s Endorsement Guidelines.”
Have these people never seen a LEGO movie or video game? Batman? LEGO Batman: The Movie? Transformers? Cars? Toy Story 1, 2 and 3? X-Men?
The list is endless.
Heck, PBS Kids is one big merchandising effort. Sesame Street is a marketing powerhouse. Why have these so-called consumer advocates never set their sights on PBS?
It is impossible to “protect” children from advertising in a commercial culture such as exists in the United States. Nor is it even desirable.
The intellectually challenged folks at Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood and the seven other organizations crying foul over You Tube Kids are doing the equivalent of taking a bucket to the beach in order to work for a water-free planet.
Rather than trying to prevent advertising from reaching our kids, we should be teaching them how to navigate a commercial culture intelligently.
When I was a kid in the ‘70s I bought Sea Monkeys after seeing this ad for them in a comic book. I thought I was going to get an aquarium of little people-like creatures. Of course, like so many comic-book readers of my generation, I soon found out they were brine shrimp.
I also spent almost a month’s worth of allowance on a “Polaris Nuclear Sub” that turned out to be a fancy cardboard box.
Hence, another cynical consumer was born.
My son was similarly duped a while back when he bought the Fushigi Magic Gravity Ball for a little more than three weeks worth of allowance. The ads make it look like the ball defies gravity when it is really just a ball and what the infomercial is selling is the hard-to-master art of contact juggling.
My son now considers all advertising one big pack of lies, a lesson well learned—albeit maybe somewhat over-learned—for a little over 15 bucks.
The problem wasn’t where the ads for these products were placed—in my case, Archie comic books, and in my son’s case, infomercials on cable. It was what they were selling.
The guy who sold Sea Monkey’s should have done time for stealing kids’ allowances. But Sea Monkeys did not constitute an argument for ending advertising in comic books.
Likewise, the Fushigi ball isn’t an argument for outlawing infomercials.
My son is currently a voracious consumer of YouTube videos. His latest favorite is Jacksepticeye. He doesn’t watch TV at all any more [Welcome to your future, bundled cable].
I don’t want Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood succeeding at getting the FTC to coddle my son from ads aimed at him. If they don’t want their kids seeing ads on their electronic devices, they can take their kids’ devices away.
My son is getting what he considers to be great content and I am not paying for it. I do not know if Jacksepticeye is sponsored or not. But if he is, I don’t want any dumbass do-gooders screwing the arrangement up.
Dear Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood: Please leave my kid’s entertainment alone. We don’t need your help. We don’t want your help. What is more, your mission is infantile and pointless.