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Nader writes: "Spreading 'joy with toys' is a major part of what the holidays in America have become - selling directly to children, without respect to limits, boundaries or even common decency."

Ralph Nader being interviewed during his 2008 presidential campaign, 08/01/08. (photo: Scrape TV)
Ralph Nader being interviewed during his 2008 presidential campaign, 08/01/08. (photo: Scrape TV)



The Commercialization of the Family

By Ralph Nader, Reader Supported News

23 December 12

 

amily is the foundation of our American society. In many ways, the family unit is one of the last bastions of decency holding out against encroaching corporate commoditization -- the corporations can sell food, medicine, clothing, entertainment, even child and elder care, but they can't provide the love, selflessness and generosity that close family members can provide one another. But if there was a way to commercialize all those generational, biological bonds, you can be sure that profit-hungry companies and clever marketers would discover it. In the holiday season, thoughts about family abound. But the advertisements that dominate all forms of commercial media aren't about the benefits of family life, about how parents shape the character and personality of their children, about how turning off the screens and engaging in conversation is the cornerstone of human development. Advertisements aimed at children are meant to tantalize and sell the latest toys, gadgets and video games -- many of which serve as electronic babysitters that feature violence and undermine parental authority.

Every holiday season, the commercial media relentlessly hype the big products of the season with "Holiday Shopping Guides" and "Hot Lists." These lists feature toys and gadgets that are, inevitably, in "extremely limited quantities," forcing parents to battle it out at early morning store openings to get the latest and greatest items. These "hot item lists" are released by the retailers themselves, such as Toys-R-Us, Walmart and Target. It's not clear why many of these items are "hot," aside from the fact that the chain stores that sell them say so. At one time, the big Christmas item was "Cabbage Patch Kids," and then it was "Tickle Me Elmo," then "Furby," and then the "Nintendo Wii". In 2012, Furby is back -- a furry, owl-like electronic doll that talks. It was popular back in 1998 and sold millions in the late 90's. Hasbro, the manufacturers of Furby, assumed that they could replicate the same big holiday rush sales with the same toy and the same marketing hype. According to Yahoo! Shine's Holiday Gift Guide for parents, "Desperate parents are turning to Amazon.com, where some versions of the $54 toy are selling for $80 or more, and to eBay, where less-popular colors are selling for about $75. The hottest colors come with the highest prices: $1,000 to $2,500 for a single Furby." One of the new features of the 2012 Furby is that is can interact with iPods and iPads -- another electronic gadget that advertisers tell children they need to be hip.

The Furby hype is, of course, a retail trick, designed to fuel children's desires for a new product. This translates into children nagging parents to acquire a new toy.

Spreading "joy with toys" is a major part of what the holidays in America have become -- selling directly to children, without respect to limits, boundaries or even common decency. The result is young children are spending more time absorbing corporate marketing, resulting in shorter attention spans, reduced vocabularies, and less understanding of their local communities.

The only defense against the onslaught of commercializing childhood is for parents to become more aware of the "corporate week" -- that is, their children spending more than 40 hours a week interacting with corporate products. These activities often involve idly sitting and absorbing entertainment with little to no historical or educational value. Children are spending less time reading, writing, studying, and having conversations with friends and family. The "corporate week" does not inspire critical thinking at a level beyond quick, Pavlovian responses. The potential impact on the developing psyche of young children of heavy exposure to the violence and crass humor found in entertainment is disturbing.

While completely shielding a child from the excesses of rampant commercialization isn't easy in our corporate society, there are still ways to protect the essential blessings of childhood. For starters, parents can demand that marketer's respect their children's privacy and set limits as to where and how marketers can direct advertise to young children. (Some action has recently been made in this area. Beginning July 1, 2013, the FTC will enact new privacy laws to protect children under 13 from having their information collected online. Read the details here.) And then it's up to the parents to turn off the TV, the computer, the cell phones and the iPads, put away the Furbys and the video games, and spend quality time with their children. This means eating family meals together and organizing family outings and activities with real educational and civic values. Consider, for instance, how many children are aware of the public workings of their town? Where does their drinking water come from? How does the local justice system operate? What is made there? For children, the local community is a vast and untapped resource of new information, new understandings, and new perspectives. Many local papers have a listing of community activities suitable for the whole family, such as nature walks, 5K races, book clubs, poetry readings, arts and crafts programs, film festivals, and more. (For D.C. residents, every Friday the Washington Post offers a huge listing of weekend cultural events taking place in the city.) By taking advantage of this nearby resource, making learning fun, and being more alert to the horde of corporate marketers that drive to infiltrate the walled boundaries of our family units, parents can provide better guidance and more enriching experiences for their children.



Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

 

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+81 # Dom 2012-12-23 13:13
Thank you Ralph Nader for writing about what many of us have neglected via the incorporation of our Country.
 
 
+85 # dyannne 2012-12-23 16:05
What Ralph Nader has written about here is why I have no trouble saying "I hate Christmas." The older I've gotten and I'm pretty darn old now, the more obscene it looks to me. Gone are the days of my childhood, when my mom and dad, my brother and I and anyone else who was there sat and strung cranberries and popcorn on string to decorate our tree with. We made snowflakes out of paper with scissors at school and they went on the tree too. My dad always made a big show of putting the golden angel on the top as the finale. We sipped hot apple cider and munched on some of the popcorn while we worked and sang carols. Now decorations cost a fortune and are much too fragile and costly to trust a child to hang them. We got apples, oranges and nuts in our stockings, maybe jacks or a pocket knife. Now kids get $50 worth of stuff in the stocking alone. People spend so much on Christmas presents that it takes months to pay the credit cards off. Radio and TV constantly reports on how much people are spending and how stores are counting on sales to make their yearly profits, as if this is the whole point of Christmas. And these days, it is.Bah, humbug.
 
 
+46 # rlhollow 2012-12-23 16:56
There's also "the joy of helping others". Parents can get their young families started on holiday/seasona l traditions of volunteering in the community. Knocks me out to see families doing that.

Thanks, Mr. Nader
 
 
-77 # jazzwineman 2012-12-23 17:00
You should not publish anything by Ralph Nader. Once I greatly admired him, but thanks to Nader and Nader alone, we had 8 years of Bush and with that an attack on 9/11 that may not have happened, the appointment of Roberts and Aleto to the Court. Don't you just love their decisions on guns, civil liberties, due process for the accused, campaign finance- do I need to go further?
Then we have the Iraq war and how much money, lives and injuries wasted for a lie, plus the Bush Tax cuts and the undoing of regulations on Wall Street. Thanks Ralph- do this country a service and go hide. You have done enough damage.
 
 
+31 # soularddave 2012-12-23 20:26
I hated to see it too, but it was NOT all Nader's fault. Unfortunately its an easy soundbite and doesn't use much critical thinking to dismiss the horrible things that the bushies did as someone else's fault.
If you want to be mad at anyone, try Cheney. He's my pick as the worst of the worst.
 
 
+26 # Smiley 2012-12-23 21:45
I blame anybody who didn't vote foe Nader for all that. Can you seriously tell me that you've seen anything different from the Obama administrations ? The banks and the military industrial complex are controlling both the major parties.
 
 
+25 # Ken Halt 2012-12-23 22:05
To believe that Mr Nader was responsible for Gore losing Fl is to be a victim of conservative propaganda. See Palast's "Best Democracy the Money Can Buy" if you want to inform yourself. With GW's brother the governor of FL, and its Secretary of State, Katherine Harris, as GW's campaign manager in the state, the fix was in from the start. Palast documents the voter list purge, the hiring of out-of-state thugs to disrupt the recounts, and other conservative dirty tricks. The state of FL was sued by the NAACP and settled out of court for the breach of voter rights. If only one Senator had stood up and supported the petition of the Congressional Black Caucus we might have avoided the Bush disaster. Nader was in on way responsible for the failure of democracy in FL.
 
 
+8 # Ken Halt 2012-12-23 22:06
To believe that Mr Nader was responsible for Gore losing Fl is to be a victim of conservative propaganda. See Palast's "Best Democracy the Money Can Buy" if you want to inform yourself. With GW's brother the governor of FL, and its Secretary of State, Katherine Harris, as GW's campaign manager in the state, the fix was in from the start. Palast documents the voter list purge, the hiring of out-of-state thugs to disrupt the recounts, and other conservative dirty tricks. The state of FL was sued by the NAACP and settled out of court for the breach of voter rights. If only one Senator had stood up and supported the petition of the Congressional Black Caucus we might have avoided the Bush disaster. Nader was in on way responsible for the failure of demcracy in FL.
 
 
-1 # 4yourinformation 2012-12-23 22:08
You are such a tool.
 
 
-19 # rsnJoe 2012-12-23 23:17
Alas, while I like Nader's Christmas article, his ill fated run for the presidency (which he had no chance of winning) helped create the disaster of the George W Bush presidency. There was help from the Supreme Court which I believe already included Alito. George H W Bush seemed relatively benign. If only he'd been childless. jazzwineman's sentiments accurately reflect mine and many others. Nader owes the American people and the world and apology.
 
 
+21 # wantrealdemocracy 2012-12-24 09:28
Nader having "no chance of winning" was not due to him having a bad platform or ideals. The two party system where we are limited to voting for the lesser evil is the problem. Now that we have descended to such a level of evil that the government attacks nation after nation with weapons of mass destruction and spends billions of dollars to keep the banksters in control of our nation while cutting our domestic programs with programs of austerity you realize it is an error to vote for any corporately funded candidate. Nader is a hero and rsnJoe is a fool. He should have voted for Nader.
 
 
+10 # reiverpacific 2012-12-24 18:24
Quoting jazzwineman:
You should not publish anything by Ralph Nader. Once I greatly admired him, but thanks to Nader and Nader alone, we had 8 years of Bush and with that an attack on 9/11 that may not have happened, the appointment of Roberts and Aleto to the Court. Don't you just love their decisions on guns, civil liberties, due process for the accused, campaign finance- do I need to go further?
Then we have the Iraq war and how much money, lives and injuries wasted for a lie, plus the Bush Tax cuts and the undoing of regulations on Wall Street. Thanks Ralph- do this country a service and go hide. You have done enough damage.

O' Gawd, are we never goin' to hear the end of this tired ol' saw?
You can thank Katherine Harris, Jeb Bush, SCOTUS, Ken Ley's jet load of thugs who threatened and intimidated the recount staff in Tallahassee, and a spineless (or threatened) Al Gore, for Dimwits.
Purging voter roles, "hanging chads", black voters being bullied, turned away from the polls, bamboozled and simply not counted had nothing to do with Nader/La Duke and I very much doubt that those who voted their conscience would have made a dent in that mass of corruption and skullduggery which constituted the Florida Rethug' dirty trick machine.
How soon some of us forget -or chose to!
 
 
+15 # Eliza D 2012-12-24 18:42
There are some of us who would find this planet unbearable without Ralph Nader and the few other honest justice-seekers in the political arena. There were two jackals running for office, and a hero came along to try to save us. He wasn't well heeled enough to overcome the jackals. But for those of us who saw a humble humanitarian truly working for social change and progressive values, that was a sight for sore eyes. If only all of us progressives had had the courage to vote for him. My husband and I did, and we're quite sure the world would be very different with Nader as President. His record of selfless dedication to justice speaks for itself.
 
 
+38 # brux 2012-12-23 17:16
Common decency ain't so common, Ralph.

When are we going to wake up to the fact that we have an inhuman culture that is toxic to human beings. Human beings are not mean to live like this - the billions giving up their lives and resources for the hundreds. It is dysfunctional and sick.
 
 
+19 # drshafer 2012-12-23 19:08
I agree with you, but also know that this culture of the millions serving the hundreds has been ours for thousands of years. We are only NOW (the past couple of centuries) beginning to realize that this pattern might in fact be unethical and unjust.
 
 
+2 # Smiley 2012-12-23 21:46
Only since the advent of "civilization" has this inequality existed.
 
 
0 # drshafer 2012-12-25 10:08
Quoting Smiley:
Only since the advent of "civilization" has this inequality existed.

Only? How about at least five millennia? And that doesn't include the early agricultural/pa storal societies where social classes diverged or chiefdoms with their pervasive inequality.
 
 
+16 # Vardoz 2012-12-23 17:18
We have not fallen pry to the gifts thing since the kids are older now. We just have a nice dinner with friends and family and a little tree.

Here's a great recipe

I bought some cubed organic winter squash from Whole Foods. I mix them with some brown sugar,( not too much) cinnamon, a bit of salt and melted butter and then roast it in a big pan until tender and glazed. Then I sautéed some sliced apples in a pan with the same spices plus a couple of caps of vanilla until they are soft and then when the squash is done I pour it overthe squash and fold it in and it was sooooo good. Happy Hoiidays everyone.
 
 
+21 # independentmind 2012-12-23 19:12
Same with us, we have not bought any gifts, nor are we going to. We will have a homemade meal, have spent time baking cookies and giving them away as gifts; as we don't have cable and there is not much on other than PBS, the kids have not been bombarded with ads. They don't need anything and neither do we. We're happy
 
 
+19 # Kootenay Coyote 2012-12-23 18:26
Nader is describing a process which began in the mid-1700’s with the identification of middle-class children as a market for books, developing into full-fledged marketing to children or their parents by the late1800’s; then accelerated, with the targeted marketing of Teen music via the RCA subsidized 45rpm player & discs; Hot Rod accessories by the early 1950’s; young women targeted in the late 1960’s (e.g., cigarette brands Vogue, Virginia Slims) &, most recently ‘Gender marketing’, which is not doing quite so well. Divide people into as many groups as the seller can isolate, then peddle the same stuff to them because they’re now conditioned not to share it but to have their own. Ah, Capitalism: divide et impera: divide & conquer.
 
 
+5 # Art947 2012-12-23 19:49
It would be interesting to read the comments of those people who put "keep Christ in Christmas" signs on their cars. Are they participating in the great Christmas buying spree as well? How do they recognize this holiday?
 
 
+16 # WallStWallFlowerGirl 2012-12-23 20:24
Jazzman- Nader isn't one of the bad guys; people wrongfully blame him for King George's coronation. He only did what we all want, which is to have more than two options to choose from. Ralph swung votes his way but it was the power behind King George; his arsenal of too-smart-for-o ur-own-good men behind him, and Gore was weak. For whatever reasons he was advised, he didn't fight the malfeasance & capitulated. He didn't demand a recount & he let us down, not Ralph.

However, I don't think we'll ever go back to living a Norman Rockwell life. Technology has taken us too far & the toys are too shiny; people will continue to support Wal-Mart to grow into its own country because only when the power goes out do people realize there's life w/o cell phones.

Oppenheimer could never escape the guilt of his creation & died living to regret it; Steve Jobs never lived to see the genesis from the destruction of his greatest, and worst, contribution to mankind. Perhaps he was spared.

If America made it possible for parents to raise their children w/o two incomes & not need Babysitter TV to "nurture" kids in their absence- we'd see remarkable improvement. Unfortunately, our government doesn't seem to want that because it does everything it can to suppress truth, justice & the "American Way."

Yeah... I'm a bit of a cynic, but I stopped believing in Santa Claus way before what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
 
 
+24 # Terradea 2012-12-23 21:33
... exemplified by the "Toys for Tots" drive at every business office. I refuse to participate; always seemed grotesque to me. Rich young executives working to gather donations of toys to give to children who have nothing while working equally hard or harder to deny them access to food stamps. Business hypocrisy makes me hate the holidays with a passion.
 
 
+11 # Byronator 2012-12-23 21:41
Guilt sells. A feeling of inadequacy in meeting our children's "wants" sells. Plus, the emotional convenience of providing an avalanche of Made in China toys is an easy way out for parents who are themselves too emotionally damaged by this culture to give of their time and their true selves.
 
 
-16 # JayMagoo 2012-12-23 21:45
Ralph Nader has no credibility after his stupid stunt that cost Al Gore the 2000 election. Nader is a total fool who should be ignored. He's responsible for eight years of George W. Bush and all the evils that Bush did to America, including the Bush tax cut for the ultra rich and the destruction of the economy under Bush's irresponsible eight years. Nader could live 500 years and he'd never get back into a position where I would see him without getting angry all over again about the 2000 election.
 
 
-15 # jazzwineman 2012-12-23 22:53
Sorry, Dick Cheney would not have been a factor if Gore had won the Presidency. Nader accomplished nothing. He did not create a 3rd party, nothing he campaigned on came to law- he just took votes from Gore and gave the election to Bush. Other than that, please tell me what his candidacy accomplished in 2000. I have heard him say that his votes would have been evenly divided- sure- how man people do you know that voted for Nader would have voted for a republican if Nader was not on the ballot? Even is a few did, there is no question that it cost Gore an outright win in Florida and New Hampshire. His argument there was no major difference in the parties is outright silly when history makes it's mark. For one reason and one reason alone- do you think Gore would have nominated any members of the Federalist Society like Roberts or Alito to the court??????
 
 
+12 # PGreen 2012-12-24 11:19
Nader's candidacy at the very least drove home to millions of people that there are more similarities than differences between the two political parties in this country. In the media, this is a fact still acknowledged only by the non-establishme nt Left. This is not to say that there may be SOME significant differences, but the collaboration between the two parties on major issues that hurt the public was long a secret that few would comment on. Despite what you say, I think that Nader brought in more disillusioned voters than he "stole " from Gore, and it is likely that his candidacy made little difference to the outcome. (http://prorev.com/green2000.htm) But, it does little good to dwell on might-have-been s. I suggest supporting Nader when he makes sense and especially when he raises pertinent issues that few others will touch. To those in power, who narrowly restrict the nation's agenda to the interests of the elite, he is, "an unreasonable man."
 
 
+12 # seeuingoa 2012-12-24 00:37
I never had a good answer to my question
about, what the SECOND election of Bush
says about American intelligence.
 
 
+4 # Result of Virginia Slim Commercials 2012-12-24 12:05
Because Bush was never elected the 2nd time. Fear was used to stoke the populace, close enough for Rove to steal the election.
 
 
+6 # Result of Virginia Slim Commercials 2012-12-24 05:54
Well, how I see it is that Nader is correct, but missing the most important evolution of the marriage of corporations with our children. It begins shortly after the "faux" chase for the "it" toy of the season. The real culprit just a few years later is the corporate pledge to only wear clothing with the corporate label. It has evolved to the point of obnoxious treatment of the customer by Abercrombie. Just give a try! It is amazing. You are pummeled with music too loud to hear or speak to one another. You are greeted early in the store with a clothing folder who will say welcome and good bye, but who does not leave their spot to look you in the eye or offer to help you. As you gather up the items that you are considering to purchase, if you ask for help, you are advised that they will not hold your items to set up a room. You are forced to stand in line to wait for an opening in the dressing rooms and made to feel fortunate to have the privilege to shop there. So, you need the required socioeconomic capability to shop there and then you need to feel that you had the privilege to shop there because they are so special like the "in crowd" who let's you hang out with them, making you feel special only because you were fortunate to be allowed into the group, if only for the moment. This shopping psychology is an incredible and successful method.
 
 
+4 # Result of Virginia Slim Commercials 2012-12-24 05:56
Part II

But it gets worse, the middle school age kids begin to wear the corporate pledge every where on their person. This pledge in the hallways at school and pervasive in every aspect of their lives creates the real foundation of what Nader is expressing.
Through time our 401 K's/IRA's/etc. have also taught us the pledge of allegiance to corporations. You see the results more directly of the rise and fall of corporations in the building of your retirement planning. This type of planning used to be done by experts, separating the majority of us from this kind of thinking. So, for our entire lifetime, we now have to pray/hope that the corporations will do well, and continue to do well for the likelihood that we can afford to not work until the day we die! These are very interesting thoughts that become the serious foundation of where we are today. As the R's say over and over again, you can increase taxes on the "job creators" you can see how affective all of this is to the worship of the corporate culture.
 
 
+4 # dovelane1 2012-12-25 08:16
Va Slim - To me, what you are basically talking about is "other-directed " thinking. We don't teach or support creative or critical thinking in schools. We teach to the test. We teach that "authority" figures have all the answers, and their answers are the only correct ones.

The society teaches the "status quo," the "don't rock the boat" philosophy. I would guess that's a much easier way of dealing with over-crowded classrooms. At least, in the short run.

That we continue to have as many whistle-blowers as we do seems almost like a miracle, with everyone wanting to avoid "bad" attention, or not wanting to "get involved."

The problem is a social problem. Syndicated columnist Sydney Harris wrote in a column long ago that the founders of this country meant for it to eventually be country where everyone had access to a good "quality" of life. In the 1800's, that philosophy was subverted to the idea that everyone should value and strive for a great "quantity" of life.

Where would this country be if we all were committed to the "quality" of life for everyone, as compared with the "quantity" of life we now are subject to, which only enriches the very few, while impoverishing us all in one way or another.
 
 
+10 # drlp 2012-12-24 08:02
I am so glad Nader is expressing the very same views that Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood has advocated for many years. This is the premier, maybe the only, organization whose sole purpose is to counter and prevent the commercializati on of childhood. Under the indefatigable stewardship of founder, Dr. Susan Linn,CCFC has successfully persuaded major corporations, including Hasbro, McDonald's, Disney, Viacom, to stop some of their more egregious marketing practices that target children. Mr.Nader should highlight and appropriately credit CCFC, which has brought about FCC decisions that impose significant restrictions on certain marketing-to-ch ildren practices. I suggest that readers who agree with Nader's points go to the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, see what they are doing, and give them your support.
 
 
+3 # Leadyourself 2012-12-26 10:59
Ahem,

Nader didn't cause Gore to lose because

Gore WON.

George W. Clownboy became President

because:

1. We have a Supreme Court that can't

be trusted with America. We'd be better off

with Diana Ross and The Supremes on that

bench.

2. Both Gore and ALL major media gave up raising all hell

without a whimper.

Result: Gore got $100million from Google and

Apple connections and will never be remembered as

the lone voice giving the first warning about Climate Change.

He won't go down in History at all now.


And THE NEW YORK TIMES lost their

unequalled reputation forever,which almost instantly

cost them hundreds of millions in revenue from

Advertisers and Readers. Proof? The weren't even

able to own their new skyscraper in Manhattan; they had

to sell it to keep the lights on and now pay RENT

to a rich landlord to occupy it.


And,lest we forget,Ralph Nader ALONE put

made seat belts the law; which still save an entire

Yankee Stadium full of lives every 5 years.

(That's 55,000 people).

Everyone on YOUR car may get saved from a

horrible death NEXT.
 
 
-4 # stu 2012-12-26 12:37
Seat belts are good, but GM car manufactures quit producing small cars after they lost the Corvair law suit. Anyway I just think Ralph should of built up a core of Senators and Congress people before he ran for president, he should of run for Senate or House of Representatives , made some friends in D.C.
 
 
+7 # KateNH 2012-12-26 15:20
Nadar states what has been obvious for generations; that television for starters and most corporate produced media/so called toys are nothing more than money magnets and brain drains.

I raised three kids and most of the time never had a television in the house, it wasn't hard. I had time to read and the kids spent more time doing creative things.

Television media rules our lives far too much, parents have an unrealistic idea of what a family is about; minus the pain, conflict and struggle of daily life the sitcom family presents an unreal world ready to make any parent or child feel inadquate by comparison. As a result we have a society of people eager to spend whatever it takes to become "normal" or to fulfill the lack of personal fulfillment in their lives because they work horrible jobs and contribute very little in reality to their community.
 
 
+3 # dovelane1 2012-12-26 22:45
Good job. Wish there were more aware people such as you out there.

As has been mentioned, you just can't fix dumb.
 

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