Innocence Abuse, 2012

Stop it.

In the view of many (including me), the exact moment Jimmy Carter lost the 1980 Presidential election was when he used the closing minutes of the only Presidential debate to spin the tale, dubious at best, about his solemn conversation with his daughter Amy. Carter claimed that he asked her about her assessment of the most important issue facing the nation, and that  “the control of nuclear arms” was his thirteen-year-old advisor’s sage response. The story seemed insincere and manipulative, all the worse for Carter’s placing his answer in his daughter’s mouth for tactical purposes. Carter used Amy as a prop and a ventriloquist’s dummy. Even if the story was true, the tactic was offensive.

Here in Virginia, a closely contested “purple” state, the tactic of using children to carry political messages in full bloom. An ad for Republican Senate candidate George Allen, attacking opponent Tim Kaine and President Obama for their pro-abortion stance shows a series of cute “potential” children, facing the camera and telling us what they would have been in their lives—a mother, a fireman, a soldier (no homeless, serial killers or drug dealers, oddly enough)—if their existence hadn’t been snuffed out in the womb. Meanwhile, President Obama recently descended to the rock bottom level of the rest of his campaign by calling Mitt Romney “a bullshitter” by placing the epithet in the mouth on an anonymous 6-year-old girl.

With that kind of leadership model to follow, I suppose it shouldn’t be too shocking that far worse was on the way. A pro-Obama group called “The Future Children Project” has released an ad that represents a new low in the use of children as programmed messengers. Created by advertising agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, the spot shows a chorus of dead-eyed, sad children, shot in black and white, singing from a dystopian future about what America became because it didn’t re-elect Barack Obama. The lyrics:

Imagine an America
Where strip mines are fun and free
Where gays can be fixed
And sick people just die
And oil fills the sea

We don’t have to pay for freeways!
Our schools are good enough
Give us endless wars
On foreign shores
And lots of Chinese stuff

We’re the children of the future
American through and through
But something happened to our country
And we’re kinda blaming you

We haven’t killed all the polar bears
But it’s not for lack of trying
Big Bird is sacked
The Earth is cracked
And the atmosphere is frying

Congress went home early
They did their best we know
You can’t cut spending
With elections pending
Unless it’s welfare dough

We’re the children of the future
American through and through
But something happened to our country
And we’re kinda blaming you

Find a park that is still open
And take a breath of poison air
They foreclosed your place
To build a weapon in space
But you can write off your au pair

It’s a little awkward to tell you
But you left us holding the bag
When we look around
The place is all dumbed down
And the long term’s kind of a drag

We’re the children of the future
American through and through
But something happened to our country
And yeah, we’re blaming you

You did your best
You failed the test
Mom and Dad
We’re blaming you!

If you missed the part of Mitt Romney’s campaign where he promised to “fix” gays, let sick people ‘just die,’ pursue “endless wars,” recycle Reagan’s “Star Wars” weapons system, crack the earth, flood the oceans with oil and fight for the au pair deduction, don’t feel bad: the lyricist just made those up.*  The objective, after all, is just shameless scaremongering to frighten the presumably moronic “low information voter,” who will believe anything, that a victory for Republicans will mean a descent into Hell. This song would be inexcusable if it was sung by a chorus of 40-year-old PhD’s. Putting the words into the mouths of children, however, is both cowardly and an abuse of innocence. It’s clever, certainly: the ridiculously exaggerated lyrics can be excused by reminding critics that this is just kids talking from their innocent perspective. What the ad really is, however, is a way to make inflammatory, unfair attacks while hiding behind children who have no idea what they are saying, and cannot meaningfully consent to being preserved on the internet forever mouthing such garbage.

I have long believed that using children to deliver partisan campaign messages, including mothers turning their tots into little billboards by festooning them in “Vote for..” T-shirts and other paraphernalia, and teachers forcing classes to sing anthems to Presidents, is unethical, not to mention creepy. I would like to see both parties swear off the practice.

* In fairness, Romney did promise to make Big Bird pay his own salary. The Horror.

_______________________________________________

Facts: Newsbusters

Source: Politico

Graphic: Althouse

44 thoughts on “Innocence Abuse, 2012

  1. An ad for Republican Senate candidate George Allen, attacking opponent Tim Kaine and President Obama for their pro-abortion stance shows a series of cute “potential” children, facing the camera and telling us what they would have been in their lives—a mother, a fireman, a soldier (no homeless, serial killers or drug dealers, oddly enough)

    That is what is so disturbing about this argument. Why should not abortion be justified if there is a high probability the baby will become a serial killer or serial rapist?

  2. I agree. Using children is manipulative, exploitative and ultimately counter productive. When I see this kind of ad I am moved to vote against the people doing it even if I agree with their politics on other things.

    • That raises the different issue of how stupid the ad is. Its misstatements and exaggerations of the issues are insulting, as well as the way of delivering them. I doubt that the net effect is positive, but then I have this tendency to over-estimate the instincts of my countrymen sometimes.

    • I am one of the children in this video and I fail to see how I was “manipulated or exploited”. I received an invitation to participate in the filming of this video, and did so of my own free will. I was fully aware of what I was doing, as were the other children. It was a wonderful experience with witty lyrics and a powerful message to the world.

      • Irrelevant. The main issue I see isn’t that the children are used, it’s the inherent usage of the “BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN!” argument.

      • Let’s assume for the sake of argument that you are who you say you are. Why and how were you presented with an “invitation” to participate? “Fully aware”? “Of my own free will”? Are you over 18, then? If not, then your “awareness” is suspect and your “free will” is irrelevant, as you are a minor. Lots of child actors have said this (being well coached by their handlers beforehand) in order to justify some of the most depraved roles of child exploitation ever conceived. And they were led to say it, not so much for their own career’s sake, but for that of those selfsame filmmakers who exploited them.

        You have been exploited, whether you realize it or not. The odds are you don’t, not to any significant degree. What you have done, however, is to bring disgrace upon yourself at a terribly young age. You’ve been made party to one of the sorriest and most deceptive political ads since LBJ’s infamous one with the little girl and the H-bomb. It’s not your fault, of course. You’re too young to be rightfully assigned that responsibity. That falls on you parents, your agent and the producers. But you will know the shame nonetheless. So will those other children. I pity you all.

      • That’s the problem, it’s a ‘powerful message’ which is completely fraught with lies. The argument is not about your decision to partake, but about the ways in which the message is distorted by the use of children. It wouldn’t be interpreted the same if it were adults singing those lyrics – that is the point.

  3. I am one of the children in the video. We were not tricked or bribed into filming, nor did we have the task forced upon us by adults. I participated willingly when I got an invitation and was fully aware of what I was doing. It was a wonderful experience with witty lyrics and a powerful message to the world. So please don’t assume we were used or manipulated, and please stop with all the “child abuse” comments.

    Also, we are in no ways affiliated with or supported by any school, organization, or the Obama campaign itself. We are children in local choirs and we all freely contributed our time and effort to making this video, and did so of our own free wills.

    Ultimately, I was more than happy to make a mark in the political world because now I know I can make a difference in it, even without the ability to vote.

    • I do not believe for one second that this is authored by any of the children in the video. The exploitation continues, obviously. If you are really one of those dead eyed kids, call me at 703-548-5229. If you can express yourself half as articulately as this message pretends, I’ll retract my conclusion. I won’t be holding my breath.

      • I have no qualms about calling you to prove that I am in the video, except for the fact that I have been taught never to talk to strangers, even if it’s just on the phone. I realize you only have my word to go on here, but I promise you that I AM one of the children in that video and that I received no adult assistance in wording my previous comments. As for being articulate, I have my previous English teachers to thank for teaching me how to write so that others think I am older than a “child”.

        • Also, I thought I might mention that the reason we are “dead eyed” is because normally, we are taught to sing with a “smile under our eyes”. However, the role we are playing is certainly not a happy child, hence the order to “not smile”.

          (I’ll also add that if I were lying and was actually an adult posting this comment and pretending to be child, wouldn’t I have used “kid language” and not been as articulate as I have been?)

          • No. You’re an adult who didn’t think to fake “kid” language or thoughts, or a midget posing in the video as a child. And you’re not fooling anyone, just proving my point.

            I await your phone call.

            • We won’t call you. Why would we? Ever heard of “stranger danger”? I’m another one of those kids. And I know exactly who the other “child” is. This person is not lying. We are two of the children in the video. I know you have no reason to believe us… We could very well be lying. But please have it in your heart to believe us. We knew what we were doing. This wasn’t child abuse. We weren’t tricked. Both of us, going under the alias of “Child of the Future” along with several others are trying to tell the world that they are mistaken. The internet has been under the assumption that just because we are children, we have no idea what we’re saying. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. The two of us are in high school, and fully capable of using articulate English. If you think that just because we look blank in a video, and because we are children that we don’t understand basic politics, I’m sorry for your lack of understanding.

              • Nonsense. You are reading my blog. All my ID information is on it. What “stranger danger”? My address is available; my identify is no secret. What exactly is dangerous about calling me.

                You-Are-Lying. Obviously. If you were as well-informed and intelligent a “child” as you pose as, you would also know that the lyrics of your song are nearly 100% fiction, slander, and unmoored to reality. If you understood basic politics, you wouldn’t sing that garbage. I wonder–have you even seen the video? If there were any high school students in it, they were well hidden or late bloomers. The kids appear to be between 8 and 12.
                I’m not accepting another bogus e-mail from a “Child of the Future” until I get that phone call. 703-548-5229. Jack Marshall. Be sure to be able to tell me which kid you are in the video, because I’m pretty good at picking out voices—a lot of experience directing choruses. Don’t worry–f you turn up dead after talking to me, they’ll know who to arrest.

                Now stop wasting our time.

                • Do they have the same IP? I think most trolls don’t understand internet tracing, but this one can write clearly, if stupidly, so different IPs isn’t dispositive.

                  • Nope. We’re separate people in separate places. I understand tracing thank you very much. Thanks for the compliment about our writing. Much appreciated. I’m beginning to enjoy this debate over our identity. I know who I am, and I know I’m being truthful, but you guys have no reason to believe us. I don’t know who you are and you don’t know me. Ah the power of anonymity via the Internet. I guess there’s no convincing you that we were in that video. I’m sad that it was taken so badly. I was really excited about being in a film. It had a green screen and everything!
                    Too bad. I almost feel like giving up, knowing that we’ll never convince you people of the web.

                    • I guess there’s no convincing you that we were in that video. […]Too bad. I almost feel like giving up, knowing that we’ll never convince you people of the web.

                      Since your so smart, you should realize that everything you have provided could have been created by anyone. Noone should be convinced by it.

                      Jack’s also provided you with one way you could convince him. Hell, you could have your parent(s)/guardian(s) listen in on the phone conversation.

              • Indeed good sir. I am amused at having been labelled a troll, as I have never successfully trolled in my life. However, this isn’t trolling… Bummer. At least there’s one pleasant person in this chain.

                • I’ve just read the entire commentary. Jack. The only way that any of those children in the ad could comment like this is if they’d been coached beforehand. This is like what you’d have heard from Dakota Fanning or Chloe Moritz at the same age during a rehearsed TV interview. The purpose is to establish these children in the minds of the audience as being “mature for their age” and, thus, magically capable of making career decisions; the law and the facts of nature to the contrary. The real purpose, though, is to take the onus off those behind them. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if any of those children were actually typing the messages personally. Their commentary comes from the adults who profit off of them.

  4. If you missed the part of Mitt Romney’s campaign where he promised to “fix” gays, let sick people ‘just die,’ pursue “endless wars,” recycle Reagan’s “Star Wars” weapons system, crack the earth, flood the oceans with oil and fight for the au pair deduction, don’t feel bad: the lyricist just made those up.*

    It’s like you forget basic logic and reading comprehension when you talk about Politics. No Romney has never claimed he will fix gays, he just stands with the people who do. Romney has never said he just to let sick people ‘just die’, but his policies would cause that result. Same goes for endless wars (remember, time tables are evil) and oil in the ocean (pro-unregulated drilling that we know causes this).

    The weapon in space is standard hyperbole based on his comments about cutting the military and the current weakness of the navy, and the au pair is hyperbole of his economic policies geared towards the rich.

    I agree that having children sing the song is horribly, horribly low, but your tangent was uncalled for.

    • Huh? These are pure scaremongering tactic and outright misrepresentations! Michele Bachmann claims you can “fix” gays—Romney has never suggested anything of the sort, not is he allied with Bachmann. Was Obama advocating “fixing gays” when he took essentially the same position regarding gay marriage as Romney? Or is this an anti-Mormon slur? So someone could say that Joe Biden wants abortions to be illegal because he’s a Catholic? “Romney has never said he just to let sick people ‘just die’, but his policies would cause that result”—is still, in addition to being pure supposition, a description of a misrepresentation….”Let” suggests intent and callousness. It’s a lie. Time-tables aren’t evil, they are tactically stupid—my father, who was military, was also antiwar, and believed that making a hard withdrawal commitment bordered on criminal negligence. So does John McCain, so so most military strategists. What do 8-year-olds know about it? You can excuse any misrepresentation as hyperbole—that’s a dodge. Calling Obama a socialist is hyperbole, except that the people who say this want us to believe it. The same with these “hyperboles”.

      “The weapon in space is standard hyperbole based on his comments about cutting the military and the current weakness of the navy, and the au pair is hyperbole of his economic policies geared towards the rich.” Neither is true. A deduction for child care is a progressive sacred cow—it has nothing to do with Romney. And you can’t say that Romney wants to build weapons in space when he hasn’t said a thing about it, and claim “hyperbole.”

      Why do you allow your usual objective instincts to go off the rails like this? I would absolutely make the same complaint and post if Romney had a bunch of kids echoing the conspiracy theories of Mark Levine. The thing is, he hasn’t done anything like this.

      • I knew when I pointed this out, you’d go crazy.

        Like your silly examples. For instance, Biden has repudiated his church’ teachings here. Romney hasn’t.

        Like your non sequiturs. Deduction for child care doesn’t have to do with Romney. Agreed Lowering the taxes for the rich is Romney, and that’s what’s getting pointed at.

        Like your flat denials. Weapons in space is clear hyperbole as I already explained. Romney backs seriously ramping up defense spending.

        Moreover, this isn’t just about what Romney directly supports, it’s what Romney would fail to veto. Romney’s legacy of following whoever yells the most and yells loudest is well known. I don’t have to think Romney supports ex-gay therapy to think that he’d sign an anti-gay marriage bill that includes ex-gay language.

        —-

        As already noted, I’m not taking issue with your claim that use of children was bad. No reason to bring that back up. I agree wholeheartedly. This is about your failure to remain unbiased when you get into the politics of the matter. Your statements, while true, are simply misrepresentations of what the song was saying. More importantly, there was no reason for them whatsoever. Whatever the content of the song, it was the use of children that I believe you were highlighting.

        • You pointed out nothing; you did surprise me with an uncharacteristically weak argument. One can call any outright slander a hyperbole, just like you can call it a joke–both are transparent evasions in a case as extreme as this one. These weren’t hyperboles, and one has to be especially forgiving of the speaker and hostile to the target to claim otherwise. Biden hasn’t repudiated his church’s teachings at all—he just double talks about them. He claims to be a good Catholic, and to believe the church’s teachings. But he won’t “impose” his morality, which is utter hypocrisy and cowardice. That’s what lawmakers do: they decide what is right, and impose it. I have never heard Romney speak about the Mormon attitude toward homosexuality—if he says he believes it, then I’ll agree that he wants to see gays “fixed.” Otherwise, its as much a lie as Harry Reid saying Romney’s a tax-evader. How you can summon the brass to write “Deduction for child care doesn’t have to do with Romney. Agreed Lowering the taxes for the rich is Romney, and that’s what’s getting pointed at”. You are excusing an outright falsehood as a legitimate attack on something a) that is 100% unrelated to it b) is a pet deduction for progressives across the board. What makes it relate to the rich—that it’s called an au pere in the somg? Our daytime sitter called herself an au pere–does that mean we’re in favor of tax breaks for the rich?

          Weapons in space is different in magnitude, theory, principle, feasibility and cost from straight defense spending—if you think that’s a fair “hyperbole,” then anything can be. Similarly, the “let people die” language is right out of the playbook of the horrendous Alan Grayson. It’s not hyperbole; it’s hateful slander, suggesting, as much of the Obama campaign has, that Romney is some kind of a monster. That’s not fair, or honest, or accurate. And this is not unrelated to the fact that children were used to relay the message. Putting slander in the mouths of kids facilitates the rationalization, which you are inexplicably adopting, that it these are just childish exaggerations. If such claims—Mitt Romney advocates fixing gays! He wants to let sick people just die!—were made in a a traditional way, they would be widely regarded as scurrilous or laughable, but these are only kids, so they can’t be taken literally.

          It’s an embarrassing smear job, and nothing less.

          • 1) Hyperbole can be over used, but this looks like legit hyperbole to me. I’ll grant that I have biases here, but you’d have to grant the same yourself, and we’d pretty much say that no hyperbole is ever allowed. I don’t like that. I think hyperbole is a useful tool when it’s clearly hyperbole, and I found this to be clearly hyperbolic. Wait…the general populace probably doesn’t understand it’s hyperbolic. Okay, hyperbole bad here.

            2) I was incorrect on my comment about Biden, but the truth is even better, though, I know, you seem to think that lawmaking based on religious teaching isn’t theocracy somehow.

            3) Romney has not spoke about an attitude that his church teaches. The parsimonious assumption is that he agrees with them.

            4) No falsehood in the au pair comment. It’s representative of his general policies. Tax cuts and deductions for the rich. This though goes back to number 1. Will the audience understand? I say unfair with our populace, but a fair statement in decent company

            5) Weapons in space is again, hyperbole. He’s rah, rah military. That’s it. See above

            6) The let people die comment is not slander. It’s absolutely true of his policies. The government has the responsibility here, and his desired changes and cuts would let people die unnecessarily. Are his policies born out of belief that they would be better for the country? Maybe (again, Romney was for healthcare for all before he was against it). In any case, his assumed sincerity of belief does not mean we should pretend the policies won’t result in what they will result in.

            7) The issue isn’t that false attacks are being said by kids. It’s that attacks are being said by kids…. and in a way that won’t be understand by the target demographic.

            ——

            I hold forth that the way you attacked those statements was wrong, but I’ll agree that they were all bad in this context.

            • No. It’s not just that children were exploited in a political ad, TGT, although that’s enough in itself. They were also used to spread deceit and slander as fronts for others. Deny all you want, but that’s the reality.

              • Children exploited in a political ad and invalid claims in a political ad are separate issues. It’s clear from the opening that this post was about using children in ads.

                • I disagree that these are separate cases, TGT. Taken by itself, a video of a children’s choir is not necessarily exploitation. It wasn’t that the children were filmed in acts of gross violence or sexuality- Hollywood style. It was that their images and words were used to convey a deceptive political message with an underlying emotional element that children can be used to provide. As for the kids themselves, it establishes in their minds that this sort of thing is an acceptable career builder.

                  I mentioned Dakota Fanning earlier for a specific reason in regard to this, Her own (ultimately) sorrowful career was kicked off in just this manner. In June 2008, I wrote a column on my blogsite covering that incident (and another involving children in politics) entitled “The First Misstep: Democrat Convention 2000”. I’ll try to provide a link later (I’m short on time here), but it can also be accessed in a recent repost on my Facebook page. The incidents are not only eerily similar, but illustrate an ongoing trend in political advertising that I find disturbing.

                  As to content, we could argue forever on the merits (if any!) of the allegations from the lyrics. I’ll just point out that the ad received so much negative reaction that it was withdrawn from YouTube, reportedly by request of the DNC.

                  • Taken by itself, a video of a children’s choir is not necessarily exploitation.

                    Nobody said it was. This is a classic strawman.

                    It wasn’t that the children were filmed in acts of gross violence or sexuality- Hollywood style.

                    Again, nobody said it was. More strawman.

                    It was that their images and words were used to convey a deceptive political message with an underlying emotional element that children can be used to provide.

                    Whether the message is deceptive or not is irrelevant, the “underlying emotional element” was the reason the use of the children was inappropriate. The ad could have been kids quoting Mitt Romney’s press releases in context, and it still would have been unethical.

                    • 1. I didn’t say you did. I just made the statement for clarification. Stop jumping into haystacks!

                      2. Ditto.

                      3. YES, it’s relevant. You’re teaching children that it’s okay to be deceptive in a public setting and get paid for it! it’s the combination of this with the “pathos effect” of child participation that makes this all so objectionable.

                    • SMP,

                      1 and 2: You attacked those statements instead of my statements. I stand by my comments here.

                      3: There is no teaching of the children to being deceptive here: they weren’t coached to lie. They were just singing the song.

  5. And I stand by mine. Those children knew enough to realize that they were singing a condemnation of their elders. They also knew that this was a political statement. In having to sing those lyrics, they couldn’t help but know that they were also making startling accusations which, if true, were indicative of pure evil. Thus, they were accusing all non-Democrats of just this. This singing ad was thus far removed from kids singing from a church hymnal. From their own lives afterwards and from the aftermath of the ad’s being screened, they will soon learn the extent of the deceptivity of the lines that were put in their mouths. No, the younger ones were likely NOT knowingly lying, but they were coached into singing what they will likely discover to BE lies.

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