Chip Off the Old Block
The Bush Administration unveiled a new press management strategy emphasizing a "theme of the week." Highlighting "defense week" were announcements on the new Pentagon budget and the bombing of Iraq. Presidential spokesperson George Bush proved his parentage when he described the bombings near civilians in Baghdad as a "routine mission"-- a little like getting up in the morning and brushing your teeth. Welcome to the New World Order... Meanwhile we need to correct a common misperception that Bushs tax reform favors the rich. As Lawrence Lindsay, Bush's chief economic advisor carefully explained, "Were not giving it to the wealthy, were repairing problems in the tax code." Understand? (NYT 2/15/01, WSJ10/5/00)
"Freedom" of the Press
Amazon.com, after firing 1,300 employees, took another step towards profitability by announcing they would be charging publishers $10,000 to recommend their books in e-mail promotions. Amazon.com had earlier pioneered the charging of fees for reviews at its Web site. This reduction of book recommendations to paid advertisements was ably defended by Amazon spokesperson Kristin Schaeffer in these words: "Now were allowing publishers to have input as to what titles they would like to have in those e-mails." Just like the political parties do (in fact, the price for "input" is the same). But how do you make up for all those years in the wilderness when publishers input was denied? (WSJ 2/7/01)
Bad Taste Dept.
Nike started a wonderful program to allow consumers to personalize their tennis shoes by stitching on a name or phrase for only $50. This was, explained Nike, an opportunity to express your "freedom to choose and freedom to express who you are." Sadly, someone had to spoil the party. Jonah Paretti mailed in his money and requested that the word "Sweatshop" be added to his shoes. In a series of e-mails, Nike explained his choice of words violated their policy of not printing "inappropriate slang." Jonah e-mailed back, telling Nike he shared their love of free expression, but that according to Webster's, the term "sweatshop" was considered proper English, its use dating back to 1892. Finally he offered a compromise requesting a picture of the ten-year-old Vietnamese girl who had made his shoes. Very inappropriate. It's people like Jonah who give Ms. Manners gray hair.
By three-years-of-age, most children can correctly identify over 100 brand names thanks to the $2 billion advertisers spend on their education. Child psychologists have been happily offering their services to advertisers and so provoking concerns about the use of science to manipulate toddlers and preschoolers. John Mowen, president of the Society for Consumer Psychology, admitted the justness of these criticisms, but added a timely reminder. "What we dont want to see," he said, "are limitations on basic rights of corporations to free speech." (I forget which article of the Constitution guarantees corporations the right to address two-year-olds, but I'm sure it's there.) Maybe we should have a special time when corporations could address our toddlers. We could call it "Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday..." (Adbusters 1/01)
New Age Role Models
Children have been receiving more true-to-life scenes of violence thanks to a new genre of cartoons from Japan. These low-budget cartoons, like "Pokemon," "Dragon Ball Z" and "Digimin," are modeled on video games in which enemies are vanquished in gory detail. The high level of violence in these shows was defended by Joel Andryc, a V-P at Fox, who pointed out that not only are kids used to this kind of violence, but there are benefits of such exposure. "The kids can relate to these characters," he said. "They see how someone can empower themselves and fight a monster and save the world." Presumably by following the example of Batman, in a recent episode, and strangling the villain with a pole. (NYT 1/28/01)
Special Thanks to Paul Loeb for spotting quality Newspeak. Send in your own examples or be the first on your block to join the mailing list or harass the writer by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. More satire is stockpiled at http://www.scn/newspeak