Nuremberg Trials Set for Tony the Tiger, Spongebob Squarepants, Trix Rabbit

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Yesterday, Reason's Jacob Sullum blogged the announced lawsuit by Center For Science in the Public Interest against Kellogg's and Nickelodeon for marketing sugary breakfast cereals and other weapons of mass flabulation to kids.

Reader Jeffrey Moyer sends along this Reuters account that notes that Nickelodeon licenses "its characters for 'good-for-you' products" as well as Pop Tarts and the like. Indeed, SpongeBob Squarepants--the Zarqawi of the homosexual agenda now that Tinky Winky has effectively gone missing--has graced packages of the appopriately named "Grimmway carrots."

And blogger Eric Berlin points out that one of the parents cum plaintiffs has stated that she doesn't even buy sweetened cereals for her kids. She's told the press, "Although I have a strict policy against junk cereals in my house … this doesn't stop my children from asking me for them, especially after seeing enticing ads." To which Berlin responds, "What did she say? She doesn't buy sugary cereals? She's threatening to sue companies for millions because her children ask for something she disapproves of? Is she out of her MIND?"

Which seems about right.

One note about all this: As a parent--and a former child--I don't think there's any doubt that emblazoning a product with a popular kids' show character helps move product or, at the very least, get kids interested. My four-year-old son will routinely call for the Batman SpaghettiOs (buy 'em by the case here) over the same non-superhero version of the product. (He thus validates an insight that cyber-guru Esther Dyson made in a 1996 interview with Reason: That "from a business point of view" intellectual property is "dead" and that its primary function now is to serve as "advertising to charge for speaking, consulting, for software support--for T-shirts.").

Which isn't to say that such character promotions rise to Vance Packard-like levels of unstoppable, if not quite hidden, persuasion. As the parent/plaintiff's own press testimony above underscores, it's one thing for a kid to clamor for Libby's Libby's Libby's on the label label label (or whatever) and something very different for parents to comply.

NEXT: Chicago's (Legal) Smokeasy

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  1. She's told the press, "Although I have a strict policy against junk cereals in my house ... this doesn't stop my children from asking me for them..."

    Next she will be suing the makers of shiny things

  2. This woman is saying that she has the right to make sure her children only see commercials for things she actually intends to buy.

    Oh. My. God.

  3. Indeed, SpongeBob Squarepants--the Zarqawi of the homosexual agenda now that Tinky Winky has effectively gone missing--has graced packages of the appopriately named "Grimmway carrots."

    Is this somehow linked to today's posting on anal sex?

  4. I read the WaPo article this morning and almost choked on my name-brand bagel when they mentioned the (paraphrase) "1 billion dollars of economic harm" in Massachusetts. I almost had to stop reading. I'd love to know how they came up with the 1 billion number and what rational they are using in applying the term "harm" to it. Come to think of it, no I don't

    D.A. Spongebob doesn't have an anus. He's entirely porous. sheesh.

    My initial reaction to all this was to wonder why these do-gooders were going after one of the few channels that makes kid-friendly programming that kids actually enjoy. Nick shows are funny and innocuous and very popular. Isn't that what the "think of the children" crowd want? I guess they think that they should continue to make that programming while living in cardboard boxes and eating at soup kitchens.

  5. I don't let my (2 year-old) daughter watch commercial TV OR eat Pop Tarts, and she doesn't know who Sponge Bob is, but can I get some money anyway? I could use some cash to do some work on my house.

    Wait, wait: she wanted these Finding Nemo "fruit snacks" that turned out to be gummy candies sweetened with white grape juice and enriched with Vitamin C, and they tasted terrible. Whom do I sue for that? And am I suing because they sucked or because Disney made her want them in the first place? Somebody explain, please. It's a brave new world and I want to make sure I get what's coming to me.

    Also, Nick, you wrote something once for Suck that made me kind of depressed for a couple of hours once back in 1998 or something, and depression gives me a craving for sugary snacks. You'll be hearing from my lawyer.

  6. Damn do-gooders?how much more suffering will our corporations have to endure at their hands?

    Don?t they realize each company?s God-given right to indoctrinate children for a live of meaningless over consumption?

  7. Some folks are just weak in the brainpan. I have a friend who claims McDonald's jams food down his throat... by advertising.

  8. Altough it's nice that Captain Crunch is finally going to get his come-uppance, it's sad that parents plop their kids in front of the TV for 50 hours a week, feed 'em McDonalds every day, and then are shocked that their kids are fat dimwits.

  9. It's not that simple, people. Believe it or not, some people do not have a choice with their behaviors. Their incentives are driven by desires you do not understand, and they suffer consequences, through no fault of their own, they cannot see.

    Certainly any Libertarian can see that the benefits gained by limiting advertising to children (future health care costs) greatly exceeds any costs incurred (so Kellogg's will have to change their advertising strategy - big deal).

  10. This is ridiculous. It sounds like this woman does not want to have to be a parent. Part of the job of raising a child is to deny them things that are or can be bad for them, even when they really, really want it. The entire purpose of advertising is to entice people to buy goods. Parents are supposed to show their children the difference between right and wrong, not hide the wrong from them hoping they never find it. I hope this woman and her supporters get nailed in the courtroom and taken down a notch.

  11. Finkelstein is forgetting about the cost to our speech rights. And that it is immoral to coercively impose costs on one individual or group for the (alleged) benefit of another.

  12. This woman just wants to make a lot of money. Just another person trying to exploit the court system in order to make some cheese. Her next lawsuit will be against the public for not telling that she is a dumb ass.

  13. I've been a parent now for about two years.

    At what point can I expect that magical moment to occur when I attain the power to control all elements of my child's life?

  14. Dan T says, "At what point can I expect that magical moment to occur when I attain the power to control all elements of my child's life?"

    Maybe sooner than you think, Dan T. It looks like the magical moment when the state controls every aspect of business' and consumers' lives is fast approaching.

  15. Commericals are good examples to use to teach kids how to not be affected by marketing.

    If we take away commericals we'll raise a generation of such non savvy kids that when they see a poster of Uncle Sam saying "I Want You" they'll go and enlist in droves!

  16. Maybe sooner than you think, Dan T. It looks like the magical moment when the state controls every aspect of business' and consumers' lives is fast approaching.

    Really? That sounds like quite an extrapolation from the idea that the government can regulate advertising geared towards children.

  17. Since I'm being a smart ass in this thread, I thought I might as well include an OT comment. Am I the only person who laughed when he read the absinthe ad (upper left) and found Johnny Depp appended to the "genius" list of Wilde, Picasso, et al?

  18. Dan T. suggests, "That sounds like quite an extrapolation from the idea that the government can regulate advertising geared towards children."

    "Advertising geared towards children," is a pretty vague definition, and could easily be expanded to include any sort of media. Look at the absinthe ad. Who likes Johnny Depp? 12 year old girls do. That ad should be illegal, as it is pushing a mind-altering substance on 12 year old girls.

    Dan, are you really afraid that a TV commercial can outwit you when it comes to advising your child on his or her diet? So afraid that you think it is more reasonable for the state, whose power comes from guns and prisons, to use that power to limit every American's speech rights, than for you to take more stringent measures to keep your child from viewing the commercials?

  19. Remember how, in college, the kids who were raised in the strictest households ended up being the ones most likely to spend all their time drinking like fishes and humping like bunnies? By the same token, I'll bet Mrs. No-Sugar-Cereal's children gain forty pounds in the first year after they leave home.

    Of course, the thought of letting her kids eat sugar cereal in moderation never occurred to her. Nope--it has to be all or nothing.

  20. Dan T.: Yeah, because telling your kid no is, like, such a burden man. They should do something about all this desire kids have for crap, like, for the children. Kids shouldn't want anything, at all, ever because wanting Coco Puffs is just another form of slavery to our corporate masters!

    THINK OF THE CHILDREN!

  21. Remember how, in college, the kids who were raised in the strictest households ended up being the ones most likely to spend all their time drinking like fishes and humping like bunnies?

    Because we finally realized that these things were fun. I should've done more of the humping, but it's my fault I dated that prude for a couple of years.

  22. Because we finally realized that these things were fun.

    Yep, and Ms. No-Sugar-Cereal's kids will learn that sugar cereal tastes good, and so they'll do things like eat an entire box of Froot Loops for lunch.

  23. Froot Loops for lunch? Ugh. Count Chocula is the lunch for gourmands like myself. Or maybe Peanut Butter Crunch.

  24. Dan, are you really afraid that a TV commercial can outwit you when it comes to advising your child on his or her diet?
    No, I am more persuasive than the multibillion dollar advertising industry. It?s an amazing gift. Children would much rather listen to my verbal arguments than watch TV commercials with bright colors, catchy songs, cartoon characters and promises of fun and happiness.

  25. Certainly any Libertarian can see that the benefits gained by limiting advertising to children (future health care costs) greatly exceeds any costs incurred (so Kellogg's will have to change their advertising strategy - big deal).

    No offense Finkelstein but that is a retarded argument. The libertarian solution is not to get rid of Kellogg?s advertising, it is to get rid of the public funding of health care costs. If you want to live a lifestyle that increases your probability of diabetes, you pay for. For some the cost-benefit analysis falls on the side of sugary cereals. Apparently for the all-knowing leftist it is never okay to chose a shorter, more gratifying life over a longer, deprived existence.

  26. they'll do things like eat an entire box of Froot Loops for lunch.

    That sounds awesome, as long as they aren't those damn marshmallow fruitloops.

  27. "At what point can I expect that magical moment to occur when I attain the power to control all elements of my child's life?"

    You talk about attaining the power to control your child's life as if it were a good thing. You're probably better off reading some of the works Lenin or Pat Robertson. They differ on implementation, and who's actually holding the reins, but they've both worked awfully hard to make it easier to control people.

  28. Children would much rather listen to my verbal arguments than watch TV commercials with bright colors, catchy songs, cartoon characters and promises of fun and happiness.

    well, there's always the OFF button.

  29. I am more persuasive than the multibillion dollar advertising industry. It?s an amazing gift. Children would much rather listen to my verbal arguments than watch TV commercials with bright colors, catchy songs, cartoon characters and promises of fun and happiness.

    Then what do you care what your kids see on TV? You stand astride advertising, and your children build simple but faithful idols of you and worship them. Maybe you should spend more of your time promoting your gift instead of bitching about powers that are lesser than the likes of you.


  30. Dan T says, "At what point can I expect that magical moment to occur when I attain the power to control all elements of my child's life?"

    Who does the grocery shopping in your house? You, your wife, or your kid? If it's the latter, I submit that you might just be a fucking retard. If it's not, then don't bring home things you don't want the child eating.

  31. Dan T:

    How hard is it to tell your kid no? I mean, seriously, "gee, little precious flower, you can have Honey Comb for breakfast twice a week, but that's all." Doesn't seem like that big a stretch, my folks told me stuff like that all the time: no you can't eat cake for breakfast, no I'm not buying you a new mountain bike, drink your milk, eat your peas...

    But, but, but...I can hear you saying,"But sometimes they go OTHER PLACES! Where they will see advertising or be fed these things!" Yeah, probably true, that's life bub. Deal with it, don't expect the rest of us to go out of our way to undermine our own liberty so that your pwecious wittle darwing won't, well, whatever it is you're so afraid of.

  32. The libertarian solution is not to get rid of Kellogg?s advertising, it is to get rid of the public funding of health care costs.

    But if this happens, will I have to pay to have the corpses removed from the street in front of my house, or can we at least publicly fund that?

  33. But if this happens, will I have to pay to have the corpses removed from the street in front of my house, or can we at least publicly fund that?

    If that many people drop dead you'll have other worries. Like the plague of zombie's that's sure to follow. Maybe zombie Jesus will be there, if it happens around Easter.

    Zombie Jesus: Back from the grave to save your soul and eat your brain!

  34. Guys, before you spend too much more time arguing with Dan, I suggest you take a look at his Web address.

  35. Dan T.: I have the same problem you do. I know that when my three-year-old sees something on TV that I don't want him to have, he nevertheless wants me to buy it for him. I, of course, have absolutely no means to resist this, as, like you, I am a sad, pathetic excuse for a parent.

  36. Deal with it, don't expect the rest of us to go out of our way to undermine our own liberty so that your pwecious wittle darwing won't, well, whatever it is you're so afraid of.

    Good point. You?ve changed my mind.

    Sorry kids of America if you grow up with obesity problems and who knows what else. We couldn?t undermine the precious liberty of allowing corporations to assault you with nonstop messages designed to get into your brain and cause you to act in ways you otherwise might not.

    Now excuse me while I go complain about why my Medicare tax is so high.

  37. Guys, before you spend too much more time arguing with Dan, I suggest you take a look at his Web address.

    Yeah, that?s this blog I started doing. It?s entirely sugar-cereal-advertising-free and safe for children. Except for occasional f-bomb I drop.

  38. Dan,

    Does the "T." stand for "troll," by any chance?

    You need, I think, to go back to basic sarcasm. Your "advanced" stuff isn't funny.

  39. Jennifer: Well, then, I well...maybe I should look at some of their materials. It seems I could use lessons.

  40. "It's not that simple, people. Believe it or not, some people do not have a choice with their behaviors. Their incentives are driven by desires you do not understand, and they suffer consequences, through no fault of their own, they cannot see."

    "Certainly any Libertarian can see that the benefits gained by limiting advertising to children (future health care costs) greatly exceeds any costs incurred (so Kellogg's will have to change their advertising strategy - big deal)."

    Um, no offense, but do you even know what libertarianism is?

  41. "...messages designed to get into your brain and cause you to act in ways you otherwise might not."

    Is it just me, or could the word "idea" be defined in exactly this way? See, this is why we're so nervous about restricting advertising; it's too easy to conflate "Ads The Government Says Are Bad" with "Ideas The Government Says Are Bad."

  42. I wonder how much free children's television there would be if advertising aimed at children were banned?

  43. Go ahead and ban advertising during children's programming. But then make the parents pay for all the costs associated with bringing those shows to your children. Just don't expect the rest of us to subsidize your children's entertainment.

  44. The fact that Dan T. is not in earnest has taken the wind out of my sails. Can't that Finkelstein post again? He seemed like a good foil. Where is joe?

  45. My kids always are asking me for those crappy toys that they advertise during kids shows. I'm sure they aren't safe and they fill up landfills when parents throw them away when their kids aren't looking. Can I sue the toymakers?

  46. As the parent of the World's Pickiest Eater (TM), I only wish there were MORE advertising associating television characters with food. I used to think it was crass and commercial; now I find it enormously helpful. Great strides have been taken in my son's eating habits simply by trying to convince him that superheroes consume certain foods. Would he like to try this food? Look -- Dora is on the label! It must be good!

    As for the bad shows/junk food, it's amazing: my preschooler never seems to eat these because he doesn't have the money to buy them. For the life of me I can't understand why.

  47. Dan...You need, I think, to go back to basic sarcasm. Your "advanced" stuff isn't funny.

    Maybe it's just the Advanced Sarcasm, but it's been at most a full 6 days since Dan last called someone a Nazi-in-Training. What is the Corollary to Godwin's Law about calling an Orthodox Jew a Nazi?

  48. As the parent of the World's Pickiest Eater (TM), I only wish there were MORE advertising associating television characters with food. I used to think it was crass and commercial; now I find it enormously helpful. Great strides have been taken in my son's eating habits simply by trying to convince him that superheroes consume certain foods. Would he like to try this food? Look -- Dora is on the label! It must be good!

    According to my mother there was a time period when I survived on peanut butter and air. For a while my sister wouldn't eat anything white...I'm sure he'll get over it eventually.

  49. *snaps fingers*

    I've got it!

    I'm going to open a new business that's a private club. We'll allow members to smoke and eat bowls of the most horrendous children's cereals.

    Now I just need a catchy name...

  50. I'm going to open a new business that's a private club. We'll allow members to smoke and eat bowls of the most horrendous children's cereals.

    Be careful, didn't someone already patent the cereal club idea?

  51. How about just Puffs?

  52. I remember reading some stuff some time ago that claimed going without breakfast would take something like 6 years off of your life. If you look at it from that point of view, sugary cereals look far better.

    Anyone notice that at some point between then and now Kelloggs Sugar Frosted Flakes became Frosted Flakes?

  53. Froot Loops for lunch? Ugh. Count Chocula is the lunch for gourmands like myself. Or maybe Peanut Butter Crunch.

    During my freshman year of college, I ate almost nothing but Cap'n Crunchberries for breakfast/lunch/dinner, and I turned out ok...didn't I?

    I'd love to see these activists get hit with the other side's litigation expenses...

  54. How about just Puffs?

    True fact: I noticed in the cereal aisle two days ago that Kellogg's now sells "Pops." Not "Corn Pops" or "Sugar Corn Pops" or whatever they used to be--just "Pops."

    Remember Super Sugar Crisp? That was some good stuff. None of this Golden Crisp nonsense. I still have a holohram of Sugar Bear that I got from a box of SUGAR Crisp back in the wearly nineties.

    Holy Christ, I'm turning into Grandpa Simpson.

  55. Mediageek,

    I vote for The Cereal Killer Club

  56. "holohram" was supposed to say "hologram," by the way. And "wearly" is "early." Figure out the rest of my typos for yourself.

  57. 1. CSPI caused a gigantic stir here in Texas in the middle '90's by being the last people on Earth to notice that a steady diet of enchiladas and beer makes people fat. It's hard to take seriously a scientist who required a study with lab rats to determine that lard contains fat and that eating a lot of it makes the consumer resemble the source of the substance.

    2. It seems to me that banning Kellog's ads on Dora won't solve the problem if no one knows with what to replace Sugar Snaps or Count Chocula. I mean, who's to say the consumers won't just move on to some other prepared convenience food? (BTW, on the Nick Jr. stuff, the ads fall between the shows, not in the middle of episodes. This means the kids watching usually get up and leave. At least my 4-year-old does, and I see little difference in his behavior from other kids or from my now 7-year-old at that age.) If CPSI were really serious about changing eating habits, it would buy 5 minute spots featuring Emeril or Rachael Ray or Alton Brown (all three hugely popular with the preschool and elementary set) designed to get kids and their parents interested in cooking. Only when the adults around how to prepare something other than by opening a box or firing up the microwave will kids actually change eating habits.

  58. "Zombie Jesus: Back from the grave to save your soul and eat your brain!"

    Timothy - BRILLIANT! Mind if I steal it?

    CB

  59. Only allow your kids to watch ESPN, so they'll only nag for beer and trucks.

  60. Maybe it's just the Advanced Sarcasm, but it's been at most a full 6 days since Dan last called someone a Nazi-in-Training. What is the Corollary to Godwin's Law about calling an Orthodox Jew a Nazi?

    I didn't want to be racist by assuming that only gentiles can adopt such a philosophy.

  61. This woman just wants to make a lot of money. Just another person trying to exploit the court system in order to make some cheese. Her next lawsuit will be against the public for not telling that she is a dumb ass.

    "CSPI?s attorneys say the plaintiffs would settle for a commitment from the companies to change their marketing practices."

    I'd love to see these activists get hit with the other side's litigation expenses...

    That depends upon what the Massachusetts state law says. I haven't read it -- have you? We may be dealing with a meritorious claim under a bad law, rather than a frivolous claim here.

  62. Dan T. - you're still sounding a lot like my friend! 🙂

    See, when business and gov't are nearly the same thing, that's called fascism. Of course, people will take me to task for saying that the USA is in any way a fascist nation, but I'll say it anyway.

    So I agree with you there, Dan. Which is why I have no love for Bush, either. But what's the solution? Surely it isn't to give the gov't more power over corporations?

    Let's see, gov't and corporations colluding. What to do, what to do? I know, let's let the gov't control what a corporation can do! That'll fix it!

    Don't you see a problem there?

    Also, you say "...orporations aren?t evil, but they are very powerful and self-serving." - and the gov't isn't?

  63. Jen,

    The best is Sugar Smacks, which are now just called Smacks. Sounds even more like heroin than before!

  64. The best is Sugar Smacks, which are now just called Smacks. Sounds even more like heroin than before!

    Well, they probably use corn syrup, so your kids would probably be better off if it WAS heroin.

  65. "Zombie Jesus: Back from the grave to save your soul and eat your brain!"

    Timothy - BRILLIANT! Mind if I steal it?

    CB

    CB: Feel free, go forth and make disciples of all zombie nations.

  66. I would like to see one pundit or politician imply that these parents have obviously raised children unable to resist advertising. They have thus failled as parents and thier children should be taken away from them.
    At least it would make the discussion interesting.

  67. RC's post made me think...the bastard!

    Did they take the "sugar" off the name because it was bad marketing or did they change the sweetener? Cuz I'd be all for Splenda Frosted Flakes since I'm too lazy to put splenda on corn flakes myself.

  68. The parents and CSPI won't win. Frosted Lucky Charms... they're MAGICALLY delicious!

  69. Holy Christ, I'm turning into Grandpa Simpson.

    Only if you're referring to that episode where he didn't take his medications for two weeks...

  70. Do any of these idiots realize that sugary cereals are stuffed full of so many vitamins that kids could eat them instead of vegetables?

  71. I'm certain that both Dan T and Finkelstein are parodies. They're just pulling our chains.

    nmg

  72. "Zombie Jesus: Back from the grave to save your soul and eat your brain!"

    Timothy - BRILLIANT! Mind if I steal it?

    Not if I copyright it first! Mwa-ha-ha-ha!

  73. Totally interesting discussion for reasons having nothing to do with the topic of the thread.

    From Dan Sperber (if you don't know him, read his shit... very sharp)

    "In inferential communication the communicator seeks to fulfill her intention by making it manifest to the hearer. Such a procedure carries a clear risk: the hearer, recognizing that one seeks to influence him, can easily foil this intention. On the other hand, inferential communication, because of the very fact that it is overt, has two advantages that make it generally much more powerful than all the other ways of acting upon people?s mental states. While a mistrustful hearer may refuse to be influenced, a hearer who trusts the communicator?s competence and honesty will make an effort to understand a message that he?ll be willing to accept. More importantly still, whereas the manipulation of the mental states of others by non-communicational means is relatively cumbersome to enact and always imprecise, overt communication makes it possible to transmit at very little cost contents as rich and precise as one wants."

    The question is where does advertising fall in this process? Is it intentionally deceptive? Can it's (possibly) deceptive intention be countered by a system biased towards cooperative understanding of communicative acts? And the bigger question for a political forum is how does this all play into the activity of deciding public policy?

  74. The Cartoon Network runs a very well produced add with fancy graphic of teenagers tossing a ball around from set to set, where the ball glows. The music is a nice tune "We could touch the sun" or something. The product the pushed: playing outside.

    My boy insists on Yoda bubble bath. He's never seen an ad for it. He can't read, so he didn't even know what it was. It was just a bottle with a Yoda on it to him, and he had to have it. They should come out with Jedi branded drain cleaner and trash bags. I would be, figuratively, helpless.

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