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Schor, continued from page 20 to the techniques of yesteryear, which were to show products doing miraculous things they can’t do to try and get kids to want them. That’s not the way advertising is done today. Today, we see the rise of symbolic messaging, which means it’s less about the product than about the social meaning and the symbolism of the product. So, you say: This product makes you cool. Now, I think a good case could be made to CARU and the . companies that that’s magical thinking, that’s fantasy, but they haven’t interpreted it that way. They interpret it in such a narrow and strict way. But the symbolic messages I would say are more powerful than the messages which are about “Wow, look. This product can do this amazing stuff!” TO: So the method is: This cape, sure it won’t actually make you fly, but it will make you happy that’s just as fantastical, really. JS: It’s a really important point, which hasn’t really come out in the debates the way it needs to. TO: And yet, the industry asserts that they empower kids through marketing. What is their basic argument for why what they do is beneficial to kids, or at least not harmful? JS: Actually there are a lot who are unhappy and uneasy with what they’re doing. That came out of my own research and also in a survey that was done of kids’ marketers in which many of them expressed reservations, although they mostly pointed at other people”My colleagues, they’re the problem,” and so forth. The major line of defense is “We need to make money.” In some way this goes without saying, but it should be said because what it shows is a pernicious and instrumental relationship to kids. Now, their two other biggest lines of defense are, [firstly], that the problems are really coming from parentsbut this is kind of an incoherent argument. I mean let’s say junk food: It doesn’t let you off the hook to be pushing it just because you can also point to another actor in the chain of events who is doing something wrong. The idea that they are empowering kids is a more complex one, and a more defensible one in the following sense: The idea that kids should get to be consumers, that they should have commercials and products oriented to them and that they likeall of those things I agree with. One of my marketer informants said to me in a discussion of all this research, “Well, do you think it would be better if we made products that kids didn’t want or like?” My answer to that is no; but it’s easy to get kids to want stuff that’s not good for them and you need a balance between that empowerment and the messages and products [themselves] and I think that balance is missing. TO: As a teacherand in your case as a parentI agree it is important to give kids autonomy and choices, but at the same time they’re kids, and they’re not making choices with the same resources we have available to us. JS: There are people who argue you shouldn’t do any advertising to kids because they have a hard time processing and resisting it. They aren’t really up to it in some pretty fundamental way. I think that’s a reasonable point of view. It partly depends on the age you’re talking about. What’s curious is in the survey that was done of marketers that I mentioned earlier, most of the marketers didn’t differ too much from the child psychologists on when they thought kids could really resist the persuasive intent of advertising; the marketers say 11-and-a-half years and the child psychologists say 12 years. So one question is whether you think there should be a sort of fairness as law. The two key principles of advertising law are deceptiveness and fairness. Well, they’re violating deceptiveness all the time. That’s become a huge business, deceptive advertising, whether we’re talking product placement or word of mouth advertising, stealth advertising in school, or curricula advertising. The second question: Is it fair to advertise to kids, do they have the ability to withstand the pull of the advertisement? The research suggests that kids below 12 have limited abilities to do that and bewildered and yet in the process lost my own innocence. He had never been nave about this dread past, but the bookstill in printhas given him a public platform from which to expose the historical dimension of racial inequities and their contemporary manifestations, linking his scholarship with social policy. That vital linkage led him in 1959 to turn down a post at the University of Hawaii. As Franklin writes, “it was too far from the center of the fight that I continued to wage within the academy and without and too far from the places where I hoped to exert influence.” Influential he became, and remains, as testified to by the number and array of awards he has received, professional commendations and public acclaim that came with new demands on his time and energy. None more so than his chairmanship of the advisory board of President Clinton’s Initiative on Race. His account of that service, and of the swirl of media misrepresentation of its efforts, is a sharp-eyed critique of the inability of some to understand that “the problem of race has been, and continues to be, an American problem, and the conversation that board began was, and remains, the means to a national solution.” The dialogue, however incomplete, came to a halt with the 2000 elections, but that has not silenced Franklin. As had Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Dubois, and James Weldon Johnson before him, he has continued to hammer away at our resistance, obfuscation, and apathy. The “test of an advanced society is not in how many millionaires it can produce,” he concludes, “but in how many law-abiding, hardworking, highly respected, and self-respecting loyal citizens it can produce. The success of such a venture is a measure of the success of our national enterprise.” Contributing writer Char Miller teaches at Trinity University, and is author most recently of Deep in the Heart of San Antonio and editor of 50 Years of the Texas Observer. 24 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JANUARY 27, 2006