Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Frosted Hyman Points: They're Magically Malicious!

Why does Mark Hyman hate our kids?

That’s the question
a recent Hyman editorial raises, in which he mocks the idea that advertising junk food to toddlers is legally or ethically problematic.

Specifically, Hyman makes fun of the Center for Science in the Public Interest for
its class action lawsuit in Massachusetts which is intended to offer some financial disincentive for corporations to use cartoon characters that children love to sell them food that’s unhealthy.

The crux of Hyman’s argument is that parents make the choice to buy food, so who cares if the average five year old is bombarded with ads in which SpongeBob tells them to eat cereal that’s little more than clumps of sugar in a bowl.

Technically, this is true. It’s possible that a parent could ignore the nonstop whining of their child for Super Sugar Rush Glyco Pops, the public tantrums thrown in restaurants and grocery stores, the refusal to eat what’s put in front of them for dinner, etc. It’s also possible for the parent to follow their child around to her or his friends’ houses to make sure no contraband is eaten.

But isn’t parenting hard enough? Mom and dad have plenty to worry about without battling corporations who spend millions of dollars to find the absolute best way to get kids to feel they absolutely *must* have Super Sugar Rush Glyco Pops. We already have a national health crisis with overweight kids (who will tend to grow up being overweight and needing extra medical care). Why make things even worse?

Hyman and his ilk will likely cry “free market!” Shouldn’t companies be allowed to advertise products to potential customers?

Maybe, but the concept of a “free market” is based on the notion of customers making free and informed choices about what they want. However, advertising to young kids has more in common with brainwashing than with free discourse. CSPI didn’t make up the idea of television commercials having an adverse affect on kids.
Study after study after study shows that younger children are unable to interpret commercials objectively. The American Psychological Association, the leading organization of psychologists in the U.S., notes that young children accept the claims of advertisers uncritically and that exposure to ads leads to unhealthy habits. This leads to serious ethical concerns about whether advertising aimed at young children is ethical at all.

That doesn’t bother Hyman. Why? Because to far right conservatives, the free market is the great arbiter of right and wrong. Despite paying lip service to the importance of values, many conservatives don’t adhere to a definition of “values” that most Americans would share. To them, being economically successful is an expression of moral rectitude and a solid work ethic. Any regulation that gets in the way of the successful businessman (the ideal democratic citizen, in the minds of conservatives) making his money is, by definition, morally repugnant (hence the animosity toward common sense environmental regulations, worker safety issues, etc.). Even if scientists have found a direct correlation between exposure to ads and unhealthy kids, it’s irrelevant when measured against the unquestioned right of the CEO of Kellogg’s to make unlimited profits.

My guess is that the average American, however, has a more highly developed sense of right and wrong. Sure, companies should be allowed to make money by providing goods and services. But they shouldn’t be allowed to do so in a way that leads to polluting the environment we all share. They shouldn’t be allowed to do it in a way that leads to the abuse and mistreatment of their workers who provide the goods and services (and profits). And they shouldn’t be allowed to do it in a way that takes
advantage of the vulnerability of the youngest of their neighbors and fellow citizens. These seem to be commonsensical ideas about ethics that most Americans would get behind.

But the fact that they are commonsense is probably the best indicator that they have no place in Hyman’s personal worldview. After all, if consumers had rights not to have damaging products foisted on them over the public airwaves, he’d be out of a job.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman Index: 3.61


At 7:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my God you people want the government to do everything for you!

At 7:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Given the fact that Hyman is a purveyor of daily crap on the public's airwaves, one can see why he frowns upon regulation of any kind.

And in Hyman's case, Sinclair abuses the public's airwaves for their private profit... a pretty raw deal for Joe Citizen.

People like the previous poster (likely Mike Thayer, who's gone underground as of late) don't get it, either out of obstanancy or some other defect:

Why the hell should the powerful be able to do whatever the hell they want at the public's expense? What ever happened to the concept of good corporate citizenship?

(then again, what ever happen to Compassionate Conservativism? Lost somewhere enroute to a torture camp in the former Eastern Bloc)

I'm tired of the MightMakesRight attitude of the Right. I'm tired of the anti-civilizing garbage spewed out by those only arguing for more greed, more coarseness, more illogic.

I miss civilized leadership. Throw these greedy asses out!

At 8:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny thing about today's Republicans... how since Reagan they have drilled in the idea that "The Government" (boo, hiss) is something terrible. How it is the Enemy.

Well, I suppose it is the Enemy to the Rapacious, as it could provide a counterbalance to the aggregation of great wealth and narrow interests.

But today's Republicans forget something uttered by a real President (a Republican, by God).

That we citizens should be dedicate to the great task, so that...

"...Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Prior to the poisonous words of today's pro-lobby, ultra-pro-business, pro-pollution, pro-torture Republicans, citizens once actually understood that, in a democracy (you know the thing Bush is installing in Iraq) the GOVERNMENT IS THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE.

Lincoln got it, but the Republicans of today only want to disenfranchise citizens from their government, by crippling it and then letting their cronies (Delay, Cunningham, Doolittle, etc) pick at the bones.

I wonder if the sickos of today even can comprehend the damage being done to the notion of civilization by the greedy anti-government types?

Yeah, Sicko, "we people" want the government to do everything for us!

But failing that, I'd settle for something much more modest, like forgoing the hypocrisy of a party that says "government can't or shouldn't do squat" while wasting hundreds of billions on a ridiculously arrogant and ill-thought venture to turn a repressed and oppressed Middle East state into a Democracy.

Funny, how the Republicans' hands-off idea of government doesn't extend to Iraq. Guess those stupid Iraqis should be grateful for our efforts.

There's the height of hypocrisy!

At 12:37 PM, Blogger Ted Remington said...

Thanks for the comments folks. Yeah, one of more important things that separates liberals and conservatives is that conservatives don't actually believe in the underlying premise of democracy: that the people ARE the government (and vice versa). Government is a monolithic "Other" that somehow exists separate from the people and has its own motivations. On the other hand, corporations (in the mind of conservatives) are not simply made up of people, but ARE people themselves.

The fact that democratic government is government by, of, and for the people doesn't make it perfect. It has all the foibles and drawbacks of any human institution. But to suggest that it is somehow utterly alien to the will of the people is to thow in the cards on the democratic project as a whole.

Of course, the now-cowardly-and-even-less-articulate-than-before Mr. Thayer's comment reveals this, but is also off point. Those filing the lawsuit don't want government to *do* anything for them other than to be the mechanism for settling a dispute between them and a couple of huge private corporations. And, to the extent it government is acting in accordance with the public wishes, it's not doing anything *for* us or anybody else; it *IS* us!


At 8:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Getting kids started early on a high-sugar diet means future revenue for the medical treatment industry.

Whatever your (or my) personal idea of "right" and "wrong" may be, it is a fact that to the mainstream US demographic, when all the marketing and tinsel is ripped away, it boils down to this: right is more money for rich men, and wrong is less money for rich men.

The purpose of workers, present and future, is to increase profits for key industries. That is the fundamental and guiding principle of the society. How this is accomplished is not relevant. The numbers on the quarterly reports reflect just that - a number of dollars.

It is true that the choices made by societies, just like the choices made by individuals, have consequences, and it is true that neither you nor I may be pleased by those consequences, but you are talking about decisions that have been consistenly made, over and over again, for decades.

Putting the needs of business first is a longstanding American tradition!


Post a Comment

<< Home

Cost of the War in Iraq
(JavaScript Error)
To see more details, click here.