Make America’s Children Props And Billboards Again! Or Rather, Let’s Not…

trump rally Westfield

I hate this.

Using children as props for adults to make their own political or commercial statements is unfair, demeaning and an abuse of power. Oh, maybe putting kids in T-shirts with messages they neither understand nor have consented to convey is not as bad as this exploitation of children for publicity value, perhaps, or this exploitation of kids by their parents, a website and a shameless comedian.  And I know that politicians using his own children as their clueless and unconsenting mouthpieces has a long and shameful history, with such landmarks as President Jimmy Carter trying to use his young daughter Amy as the agent of his own position during a Presidential debate with Ronald Reagan, to Ted Cruz’s employment of his daughters in a campaign video that inspired Washington Post political cartoonist Ann Telnaes to portray the little Cruz girls as monkeys.

Nevertheless, I do hate this stuff, and I’m calling for a cultural consensus that using children as billboards, mouthpeices or props for advocacy purposes, no matter what the cause or context, is wrong. I would like to see politicians, advocates, organizations and movements that use children in this manner pay a steep price in lost contributions and support, until the message is learned that the tactic will not be tolerated. I would like to see any parents who volunteer their kids for this demeaning duty to be properly and decisively shamed.

The photo above is an easy place to start; after all, this was at a Donald Trump appearance in Westfield, Indiana,  and a substantial percentage of the public hates Trump already.

It’s not like the kids are wearing shirts spelling out “GIVE PEACE A CHANCE,” though that would be equally unethical.


Pointer: Prof. Mike McGregor

Unethical and Unfair Advertising With No Laws or Rules Against It…So That Makes It OK, Right?

Justice Holmes warned about people like this.

From Wisconsin we have a perfect example of how new technology creates opportunities for the unethical to find new ways to exploit it, uninhibited by either basic fairness or formal ethics rules that were written before the technology was available.

The Wisconsin law firm Cannon & Dunphy purchased the names of the two named partners of their biggest competitor in personal injury law, the firm Habush, Habush & Rottier, for a sponsored link, meaning that  every search for “Habush” or “Rottier” produces an ad for Cannon & Dunphy at the top of all the search results.  incensed that their names were being used to promote their competitor, Robert L. Habush and Daniel A. Rottier sued, alleging a breach of privacy and a misuse of their publicity rights. Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Charles Kahn Jr. rejected the suit, holding that purchasing a competitor’s name as an advertising key word on the Internet is reasonable commercial use. Continue reading

Hateful, Vicious and Wrong…Constitutional or Not

In New Mexico, Greg Fultz has responded to the loss of the baby he almost fathered with  his ex-girlfriend by putting up a billboard along the Alamogordo, NM. thoroughfare that shows him holding the outline of an infant, accompanied by text that reads, “This Would Have Been A Picture Of My 2-Month Old Baby If The Mother Had Decided To Not KILL Our Child!”

His ex-  has taken him to court for harassment and violation of privacy, demanding that the billboard be removed.  Fultz and his attorney are not giving in, and argue the order violates Fultz’s free speech rights.

Fultz may have a good case. I could see him prevailing in a First Amendment analysis that places free speech above the breach of privacy and the embarrassment such a billboard would cause. If his girlfriend really did have an abortion (she claims it was a miscarriage), I can also understand how many would sympathize with his claim of father’s rights.

It doesn’t matter. The billboard is ethically indefensible. It is motivated by hate and anger, and designed only to humiliate and hurt. Putting it up is a mean-spirited act of vengeance, with no redeeming virtues at all. I sure wouldn’t want to be the kid that had a man who would do something like this as a father, and I can certainly understand why the ex-mother is also an ex-girlfriend.

The only good thing about the billboard is that it doesn’t have a picture of any portion of Congressman Weiner.

Parental Responsibility, Child Exploitation, and Billboard Ethics

Here’s a rule of thumb: Don’t give the rights to reproduce your child’s photograph to a photographer or ad agency unless you are prepared to accept however it is used, and certain that your child will not be harmed or embarrassed as a result.

Is that so hard?

Tricia Fraser has sued Life Always and Majella Cares Heroic Media, an anti-abortion group, claiming it used her daughter’s picture in “a racist, controversial advertising campaign” that is “defamatory, unauthorized, and offensive,” posting the 4-year-old girl’s photo on a giant billboard by the Holland Tunnel and another in Florida.

Nice try. But there is nothing racist about the campaign, and nothing defamatory about using her daughter’s photo in it.  Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Ethics Quiz: The Home as Billboard…”

Jeff Hibbert sets a record for pithy and concise with his comment on the Ethics Quiz about the company that will pay your mortgage if you’ll let them turn your home into a billboard. Besides, it made me laugh, and I needed a laugh.

“Eventually, everything flat will have advertising on it. This is why I think a flat stomach is overrated.”


Ethics Quiz: The Home As Billboard—“Ick!” or Unethical?

The Ad firm Adzookie will make their monthly mortgage payments for people willing to turn their homes into billboards. According to the company’s  CEO, it has received over 1,000 applications from people willing to have their houses turned into something like the eye-sore in the photo.

Your Ethics Quiz: Is this unethical conduct by the company, or merely disgusting, provoking our “Ick!” reflex?

For the Unethical side, consider: Continue reading

Chicago’s Anti-Abortion Billboards

The new billboards, soon to be 30 strong in Chicago,  feature an image of President Obama next to the words, “Every 21 minutes, our next possible leader is aborted.”

The campaign has pro-abortion advocates in full attack.  “Racist Anti-Abortion Billboards Hit Chicago” declared the Today’s Chicago Woman blog. Hmmm. Racist, eh? Would the billboard still be racist if we had a white president? If the same billboard was displayed in an all-white neighborhood? How is that message racist?

It isn’t. But if there’s one lesson the past few years have taught, it is that crying racism is as effective a way of stifling open debate as ever was. Continue reading