Stay Free! | 27 November

Carrie McLaren carrie at
Mon Nov 26 19:29:11 EST 2001

Hello, I hope everyone had a pleasant holiday and watched as much 
television as I did. For the next STAY FREE, I'd like to compile some 
of the worst examples of advertisers exploiting the war in 
Afghanistan. . .  so if you see anything egregious, let me know. 
Financial services seem to be leading the pack, reminding those who 
dare forget that investing in multinational corporations equals 
freedom. The New York Stock Exchange, for example, associates itself 
with the civil rights movement with the tagline, "Let Freedom Ring." 
A new trade group, Invest in US, is running an ad picturing Osama bin 
Laden under the headline, "He wants you to sell." 
( Syndicated gossip columnist Liz Smith got 
the message, writing that "the most important thing for citizens of 
any age--for themselves and for their Uncle Sam and as a tribute to 
the thousands who likely died--would be to call a broker and buy 
stock in American companies this week, and next week and the next." 

In other markets: Chevrolet urges us to "Keep America Rolling" with a 
commercial that juxtaposes dramatic scenes of firefighters with a 
shot of a Chevy.

Newcastle Beer has advertising posters in bars that say, "Drink 
Newcastle to help the victims of September 11."  AT&T ran a 
commercial using dramatic footage of the World Trade Center to sell 
AT&T Wireless services. Also, a video on their website compares the 
heroic work of firefighters to the heroic response of the AT&T 
network (they're not kidding). See:

Then there are all the talking heads airing their perverted views 
about how we should just go shopping. Dick Cheney, for one, has 
called shopping a way for ordinary citizens to "stick their thumbs in 
the eye of the terrorists" (LA Times, 9/17/01). He's not alone, as 
dozens of local and national officials have echoed this sentiment.

As far as I'm concerned, pushing SUVs and clothes and junk food in a 
time of crisis is one thing. But if companies want to capitalize on 
the war, they could at least not lie about it. There's nothing heroic 
about the 13 mpg that Chevrolet Suburbans get. And many of the same 
companies invested in this rah-rah Americanism are simultaneously 
behind the scenes influencing media coverage of the war. Shortly 
after the September 11 attacks, Procter & Gamble (which owns Tide, 
Pampers, Tampax, etc.) told magazines it advertises in that no P&G 
ads can be placed within 6-8 pages of terrorist coverage. No doubt 
other major corporations have followed suit. Why else do you think 
the New York Times runs all the war coverage in a special section 
without ads? Not because it doesn't want ads to get in the way of the 
news, but because it doesn't want the news to get in the way of the 

Ultimately, the problem with all the exhortations to spend is what's 
missing. Shop. Just shop. Don't read about U.S. foreign policy, or 
volunteer for a nonprofit, or write elected officials to let them 
know where you stand. Shopping is the media's way of turning a 
profit. And the government's way of keeping us stupid.

- - -

I was talking to a friend the other night who told me her post Sept. 
11 pet peeve: people who drive around in SUVs decked out with U.S. 
flags. That sort of gets to the heart of the contradiction: Instead 
of a patriotism that favors conservation--thereby reducing our 
reliance on foreign oil--Americans' love of country is instead built 
around cheap flags and plastic replicas of the statue of Liberty. 

- - -


"Save Harry" Potter campaign against Coca-Cola:

"Grow Your Own Rainforest"
McDonald's has sponsored a kids' website with a section called "Grow 
Your Own Rainforest." Yeah, kids, McDonald's may be killing off the 
rainforests but, hey, you can just grow another one! Sorta like SUV 
ads that promote getting back to nature while you in fact destroy 

"How Dare
New site that challenges wartime profiteering by corporations. 
Includes a handy form for writing your government representatives.

"School Sells Naming Rights to Gym"

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