Hypocrisy award goes to “children advocacy” center

March 11, 2010 | By | 3 Replies More

If you want to know about an organization’s character, watch what it does; don’t listen to what it says.

Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood is a gutsy little organization. How little? Two employees. How gutsy? They make a lot of noise and they get a lot done.  CCFC is the hero in the story I’m about to tell. Here’s a post featuring one of those two employees, Josh Golin, speaking intelligently and from the heart about the disturbing trend of increased commercialization of childhood. And consider this bold stand that CCFC took when President Bush praised a fraudulent corporate scheme to make children “smarter” during his 2007 State of the Union address.

Not content to simply make a lot of noise, CCFC threatened litigation against Baby Einstein (which had become part of the Disney empire).  This approach resulted in Disney offering refunds for its Baby Einstein products which, alas, weren’t actually able to make children smarter–in fact, there is good evidence that they hinder the development of children’s brains because many of the products require plopping babies in front of televisions for extended periods.

Happy ending, right?   Nope.  Now I’m going to tell you about children advocacy organization that refused to do the right thing.

It appears that Disney wanted some revenge against CCFC, and that Disney pressured “Judge Baker Children’s Center,” (CCFC’s landlord) to suddenly evict CCFC from it’s headquarters.   It also appears that Disney attempted to gag CCFC at about the time when Disney agreed to offer those refunds (under threat of litigation by CCFC).  Therefore, it appears that Disney used its power to turn a large prestigious children’s center against a tiny children’s advocacy group.  And the more you know about JBCC, the more it is clear that this move is about far more than choice of office space–CCFC was kicked in the teeth thanks to this eviction.  For the record, Disney’s actions were reprehensible, but that’s what I’ve come to expect from all big for-profit corporations (note this for the record).  Maybe I’m naive, but I still assume that non-profits such as JBCC will generally do the right thing.

I just sent an email to JBCC to voice my intense displeasure at its actions.  In the subject field, I entered “Shame on you.”  Here’s my email:

To:    John R. Weisz – President, Judge Baker Children’s Center
Stephen Schaffer – Chief Operating Officer
Michele D. Urbancic – Vice President of Advancement
And to everyone else it should concern at the Judge Baker Children’s Center:

I have just read in the New York Times that your prestigious Center suddenly evicted a tiny do-gooder organization that had recently exposed consumer fraud committed by the Walt Disney Company.

In case you folks haven’t done it recently, I’d recommend that you each spend about a minute to read your own mission statement.

The Judge Baker Children’s Center promotes the best possible mental health of children through the integration of research, intervention, training and advocacy . . . Through advocacy we use scientific knowledge to expand public awareness and inform public policy.

[Emphasis added].  Truly, your Center has just demonstrated a lack of class so momentous that it deserves some sort of special public recognition above and beyond the recent NYT article.  At least now we know that your mission statement is for sale.  And PLEASE don’t blame it on your board.  No one forced any of you to sit there in silence while your Center betrayed Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.  You were free to call the NYT and criticize your own Center; of course, that would have taken courage and scruples.  And no one forced any of you individuals to acquiesce when your Center tried to gag a bona fide children’s advocacy organization.

The rank hypocrisy of what you did (and tried to do) to CCFC reeks all the way to my hometown of St. Louis.  Here’s a suggestion to avoid this kind of scolding in the future:  try to remember that your mission is “improving the lives of children.” Your mission (and your “shifting focus”) should not be to serve as the enforcement arm for corporate wrong-doing.

For your punishment, you should each go look in a mirror and contemplate who it is that you are seeing.

I’ll leave you with a quote:

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Erich Vieth
St. Louis, Missouri
http://dangerousintersection.org/

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Category: advertising, American Culture, children, hypocrisy, Science

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (3)

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    In response to this post, the Judge Baker Children's Center emailed me a letter that it had sent to its supporters, along with the following email:

    "Thank you for your e-mail. The attached letter regarding the decision about the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the cancellation of the World of Children Award Celebration will provide you with another perspective on the situation."

    Here's a copy of the letter attached to the email.

    In response to that email and pdf, I sent the following email back to the JBCC:

    Thank you for sending the Center’s perspective on recent events. I will publish your Feb 16 letter at Dangerous Intersection.

    I would like to publish the full story on my website, however. Therefore, could you please send me the substance of all oral conversations and copies of all written communications between any representative of Disney and any representative of Judge Baker Children’s Center from the past 12 months? If you have accurate written transcripts of the oral communications between Disney and JBCC, those would be even more helpful. I’d be happy to publish anything you care to send me, in order to provide my readers the ability to read everything for themselves and only then make up their own minds.

    Erich Vieth
    <a href="http://dangerousintersection.org/

    ” target=”_blank”>http://dangerousintersection.org/

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    This is not the first time Disney has tried to privatize "the commons" with its money and power.

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  3. Erich Vieth says:

    I was one of the recipients of this mass emailing from CCFC a few days ago. The author is Susan Linn:

    One essential component of moving on is to take stock of the past and wrestle with its meaning. While we can't deny the personal toll of CCFC's ouster from Judge Baker Children's Center, our major concern now is the take away message for parents, advocacy groups, educators, public health professionals, and individual activists.

    Throughout time, power brokers have used retaliation-and exploited fear of retaliation-to silence dissent and maintain the status quo. We've learned from other movements that change happens-and only happens-when people remain committed to telling the truth, and standing up for social justice, even in the face of powerful deterrents, and adverse consequences.

    Representatives speaking for the Judge Baker Board have said that CCFC's work-including simply speaking out publicly against exploitative corporate marketing practices-posed "too much risk" for the institution. We can't let the assertion stand. First of all, we don't believe that it's true. But if it is true-that we live in a society in which corporations are so powerful that the protectors of children's health must be silent about the commercialization of childhood or face reprisals-then we have to change that society.

    That's why we are committed to continuing to work through every legal means possible to stop the commercial exploitation of children.

    And do check out this hard-hitting op-ed from the Boston Globe: http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opini

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