“Mouse Inc?” Disney Bullies Small & Mighty CCFC From Home?

March 10, 2010 I bought and watched Academy Award nominee  Food Inc. last night, the riveting documentary on corporate pressures leaning hard on farmers that’s nothing short of mafia-style thuggery for compliance and adherence to industrial machinations.

Looks to me like we’ve got a similar scenario with Disney strong-arming the powers that be to silence and oust tiny but mighty advocacy group CCFC from their decade long lease at Harvard-affiliated children’s mental health center JBCC…Quel surprise.

Today’s New York Times reveals a scenario that’s akin to the Disney Mouse House springing onto the scene like the giant Hippety Hopper Aussie kanga from the old Looney Tunes cartoon:  Boing, Boing, Squash. Splat. Gee, sorry there mate, you got in the way…The sudden clamp down and forced exodus of CCFC from its Harvard-HQ/JBCC allies is beyond chilling.

When a corporation can take a swat at what they no doubt perceive to be a troublesome gnat, using legal firepower and intimidation tactics that not only usurp free speech, but send out a warning signal flare to the rest of us with small and mighty voices to beware of large industrial sized wallops, it’s a dangerous threat to childrens’ advocacy.

Disney’s got some serious ‘splainin’ to do, coming on the heels of CCFC’s successful FTC scrutiny asking Disney to tell the truth about BabyEinstein false edu-claims implying brain advancement and language learning skills (UCR study, Harvard, Boston Children’s Hospital, and more proved the edu-claims unfounded) entitling consumers to refund coupons and prompting corporate baby media reps to launch inflammatory rhetoric claiming they were “under attack by propaganda groups.”

Interesting, I’ve never thought of School Library Journal and Shaping Youth and other child advocacy entities writing about these issues as being worthy of such monikers, have you?

It’s a sad day for democracy in action, but for some of us, it’s a cue to turn up the heat even higher at the risk of being singed.

Note to Disney: watchdogs are meant to bark and warn, not be muzzled, beaten to submission through abuse and control.

So with that, I crack open my donation wallet to support CCFC and take what little pittance there is to say ‘power to the people, right on.’

As CCFC-Cofounder Susan Linn herself summed in the NYT today:

“It’s really chilling, that any corporation, and particularly one marketing itself as child friendly, would lean on a children’s center,” said Dr. Linn, a psychiatry instructor at Harvard Medical School. “And it’s heartbreaking that a children’s center would cave in.”

I’ll say.  As to where they’ll land and how they’ll rise from the ashes of this needlessly volatile  flamethrower from Disney?

NYT reports, “The campaign, which has a paid staff of two and a budget of about $250,000, has just moved into new quarters in Boston at Third Sector New England, a group that helps support nonprofit organizations.”

CCFC’s new contact info is here.

As many of you know, I write about CCFC’s efforts often, and screen their excellent documentary “Consuming Kids” on a regular basis for both youth AND parent media literacy so wish them well with renewed enthusiasm.

p.s. For equal time? I double dog-dare Disney’s mouse house reps to meet with me in L.A. at the Tween Town Hall this week on cam for an interview.

My goddaughter Lara, 12, is a HUGE Disney fan, using the theme park like a playground living so close to same in the Orange County environs.

She’d no doubt love to hear what Disney has to say in response, up close and personal, as she’ll be reporting at the event for Shaping Youth. Plus, Lara offers distinctly ‘friendly fire’ as opposed to my strong kids’ advocacy bias…which remains in full undying, unflinching, unfettered support of CCFC in this hogwash of a pig farm/Food Inc. style muddy street fight.

Questions? Want to set up a time? DM me on Twitter: @ShapingYouth or leave a comment here on the blog, or  email Amy at ShapingYouth dot org.

Promise I’ll be fair. But I’ll admit, I’m furious about this. NOT OKAY, Disney. NOT okay corporate precedent peeps…Remember, the David and Goliath story?

Slingshots and reverb can strike back at any time with full force. Even by little guys like me.

Related Posts on the Baby Media Controversy via CCFC:

After Victory Over Disney, Group Loses Its Lease
New York Times, March 9, 2009
No Einstein in Your Crib? Get a Refund
New York Times, October 24, 2009
Video: Good Morning America – Disney Expands Refunds on ‘Baby Einstein’ DVDs
ABC News, October 24, 2009
Disney Expands its “Baby Einstein” Refunds
CBS News, October 24, 2009
Disney Expands Refunds on Baby Einstein DVDs
Associated Press, October 23, 2009
Parents Offered Refunds on Baby Einstein Videos
Canwest News, October 23, 2009
Disney Offers Millions of Parents Baby Einstein Video Refunds
Telegraph, October 24, 2009
Disney Admits Baby Einstein is a Fraud
ArtThreat, October 24, 2009
Refunds Offered on Baby Einstein DVDs
CBC News, October 25, 2009
Disney Isn’t Smart About Baby Einstein Response
MediaPost, November 2, 2009
Baby Einstein and the Myth of TV as a Teacher
Lousiville Democrat Examiner, October 26, 2009
Disney Offers Baby Einstein Refunds After Alleged False Advertising
The Consumerist, October 25, 2009
Disney Offers ‘Baby Einstein’ Refund
Brandweek, October 23, 2009

Text from CCFC Newsletter, How YOU CAN HELP!

“Dear Amy,

After ten incredibly successful years, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has been forced to leave Judge Baker Children’s Center (JBCC), a Harvard-affiliated children’s mental health center in Boston.  CCFC now has a wonderful new home at Third Sector New England, an organization devoted to promoting a more just and democratic society.

We’re pleased to have landed in such a great place. But we feel that it is important for you to know why JBCC severed our affiliation at a time when our work on behalf of children and families was being heralded worldwide.

As described in today’s New York Times, last fall’s successful campaign to get Disney to offer refunds on Baby Einstein videos came at a price.  At the height of the media flurry about the refunds, representatives from Disney contacted JBCC, and our relationship with the Center was changed irrevocably. We were pressured to stop talking to the press about Baby Einstein.

Questions were raised about whether CCFC’s mission was appropriate for a JBCC program.  Finally, in January, we were told that we had to leave – quickly.  And, for our remaining time under JBCC’s auspices, we were forbidden from conducting any advocacy aimed at a specific corporation or product.  You may have noticed that you haven’t heard from us in a while.

It is chilling that any corporation, particularly one marketing itself as family friendly, would lean on a children’s mental health center.  We have great admiration for the Center’s staff, and the work they do for children.  At the same time, we are deeply saddened that the institution ceded its ground and stopped supporting CCFC and our efforts to challenge powerful interests in order to protect children and support parents.

The sudden loss of the home where we flourished was a tremendous blow.  Our move was unexpected and expensive.

We know that Disney – and Nickelodeon, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Scholastic and all of the companies whose profits are threatened when we stand up for children – would love to see CCFC go away.  But we are more determined than ever to continue our important work.

Here’s what you can do to help:

The outpouring of support has already been amazing. An anonymous donor has pledged an extra $10,000 if we can raise $40,000 in the next few weeks.  We’re already halfway there. 

Your tax-deductible donation will ensure that the voices of people like you, who care about children more than the bottom line, will continue to be heard.

Thanks for all you do for children…”

Highlights/history of CCFC’s advocacy work

For the first time in three years I’ll be unable to attend the CCFC Summit 2010 coming up April 8-10, as I’ll be ‘unplugged’ on Catalina Island for spring break R&R w/some of our teen tribe.

Please consider attending and live blogging or tweeting the event, titled “Market values, human values and the lives of children” as it’s always got the latest and greatest studies, advocacy and academic indicators of how we can best ‘raise the bar’ to shift toward positive content and digest healthier media as part of our consumption patterns!

Meanwhile, again, let’s all help CCFC to keep their vital voice heard loud and clear.

Our next screening & Q&A discussion of CCFC’s Consuming Kids will take place Tues. April 20, 2010, 6:30-8:30pm Thornhill Elementary School-Montclair 5880 Thornhill Dr. Oakland. PLEASE RSVP HERE ON BRAVE NEW THEATERS FOR HEADCOUNT!!!

Questions? Local contact? Donna Tate: bstill4kidz at yahoo dot com Trailer below:



  1. Thanks for this update on Disney and CCFC. I also posted on CCFC’s outing of Baby Einstein, and also provide an alternative that I believe parents need to be able to ditch “early learning” gimmicks like this. Parents need to understand the way children learn, and they also need a way to get breaks from chid care without using TV and videos!

    When it comes to babies and learning, the best things in life are truly FREE. (The real baby Einstein would have known that.) Here’s my post: Baby Einstein is No Genius.
    .-= janetlansbury´s last blog ..RIE and Attachment Theory: Why Earliest Relationships Matter – The 21st Annual RIE Conference (featuring Sir Richard Bowlby) =-.

  2. Amy, Thanks again. I messed up sending the link to Baby Einstein is No Genius. Trying once more! http://bit.ly/2el5YN
    .-= janetlansbury´s last blog ..RIE and Attachment Theory: Why Earliest Relationships Matter – The 21st Annual RIE Conference (featuring Sir Richard Bowlby) =-.

  3. Janet, thanks for the link, enjoyed your article and am thrilled I found your site.

    Readers: here’s the long link if the bit.ly is jammed:

    I was tweeting with @davidkleeman Pres. of American Ctr. for Media/Children & I realize in this piece I wrote, disclosing my bias of how dangerous I think it is when corp. use velvet hammers I clearly am biased toward child advocacy and clarity w/regard to consumer affairs, since I’ve ‘lived’ the marcom side for decades and know how some of these players ‘play.’

    I need to really grok that about myself, as I’m smack dab in Silicon Valley central where info can either flow, squelch, choke, or gasp with a click and a call, so I’m highly sensitive to powerplays and underdogs getting their tails kicked…

    Soooo be therefore informed, readers, I AM predisposed to the backstory of bullying, and need to deep dive the nuance here to be fully credible in how the corporations/respective orgs (Disney/JBCC etc.)

    Needless to say, I anxiously await a PR person from either org to inform/explain their decisions…As NYT mentioned in this bureaucracy footnote,

    “Dr. Bell, director of the Institute for Juvenile Research at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said his mental-health center had a community board, while Judge Baker had a corporate board, which he said might explain the Boston center’s actions.—“On a community board, it’s about public health, trying to transform people,” Dr. Bell said. “Corporate boards are more on the business transactional side of life, so they’re a bit more money-oriented.”

    yep. They sure are. And that’s all the more reason I’ll support CCFC’s strident advocacy even when I disagree w/some of the premises and/or tactical nuance.

    My guess is that long time CCFC ally JBCC felt the legal beagles breathing down their neck, w/CCFC representing a ‘loose cannon’ of advocacy, so blew them outta there before they (JBCC) could be blown apart, in first strike mode.

    Again, sympathies all around…Even tho I understand the self-preservation mode, the need for a clarion call of unfettered, untethered voices and truths SOME where SOME how in our society merits 200% support…

    Otherwise we’re just listening to corp. commodification and justification for the almighty greenback regurgitated in varying degrees of harm and hope, w/zero regard for kids developmental socio-emotional or physical health.

    In sum…I have to agree with Dr. Bell when he says, “Children are all gasoline and no brakes,” Dr. Bell said, “and whether it’s cigarettes, alcohol or junk food, we need advocates to tell society to stop giving children so much gasoline.”

    CCFC is that voice that holds firm in the checks and balances systems of child rearing…and I for one want to hear it yell and bark when it needs to, so WE can determine what fights to champion and pick through priorities.

    Not that you asked, but… 😉 heh.

  4. Adding this exc/informative link via The Human Condition (Newsweek blog) that details the hunch I just mentioned above…


    e.g. The notion that CCFC represents a loose cannon of sorts and JBCC needed to divest/duck-n-dodge for their own self-preservation.

    “In short, the people at Judge Baker are not bad guys or corporate stooges, and until now they’ve been hugely supportive of the CCFC.

    So what happened here? I spoke with Karen Schwartzman, who’s handling the PR on this for Judge Baker. She said she couldn’t say much directly about the conflict between CCFC and Disney because as part of the settlement over the Baby Einstein refund, “there was an agreement to which the parties were required to not comment.”

    But she did explain why Judge Baker decided the CCFC needed to move out, and—well, I’ll just let her say it:

    “The issue was that the campaign was targeting specific corporations that have seemingly endless resources, very deep pockets, and all the ability in the world to initiate litigation in retaliation for activity that they feel is targeting them…. The board of the Judge Baker center did not know about the Disney activity until 18 months after it began. All of a sudden they found themselves in this position where members of their staff were heavily involved in a matter targeting a particular corporation, helping to organize plaintiffs and identify legal counsel, all without oversight by the board.”

    …”As soon as they understood how involved the program staff was in legal activity targeting a major corporation and the risks that would ensue to the entire Judge Baker center, they immediately began to have conversations about the importance of separating the campaign from the center—because there’s no isolating the Baker center from any litigation or legal action. There was a need to protect the entire institution.”

    In other words, if Disney were to threaten the CCFC with a costly lawsuit, the rest of the services the Baker Center provides would also be in jeopardy.”

    I still maintain ALL of these voices need to be heard, there is no ‘villain’ other than industrial strength machinations eroding independent thought and outspoken candor due to verifiable fear.

    We should not have children’s advocacy groups quaking in their boots waiting for a knock on the door or a boot to the backside from legal beagles…(Not JBCC. CCFC, or Disney itself for that matter!)

    We all need to start seeing the ‘big picture’ through the eyes of accountability, responsibility and public health if we’re EVER to have self-rein and peace within consumer affairs, corporations, CSR and the parent posse.

    There SHOULD be watchdogs, and they SHOULD be unmuzzled… Not tied up with a strong choke chain to yip in a solo, abandoned empty lot.

  5. When I got the email from CCFC I was appalled. I did the same thing you suggested: made a donation to CCFC, and am urging like-minded folks to do the same. Without groups like the CCFC working to keep rampant commercialism in check, behemoths like Disney set standards that I’m not comfortable with.
    .-= Margaret´s last blog ..One More Reason to Hate The Disney Corporation =-.

  6. Margaret, Just read your post and agree with the larger focus about behemoths and industry titans being deserving of extra watchdogging, far beyond Disney. The big media/small ownership monopolization is a precedent that needs extra eyes from ALL consumers to ensure voices aren’t squelched.

    As for Disney itself, I don’t wanna go hatin’ on ’em (or any one org specifically) since CSR in these giant corps help sponsor some really good stuff for causes/kids too…but I guess the ‘at what cost’ comes into play universally.

    I’ve heard chapter and verse about Disney this wkend since I’m writing this in mousehouse central, visiting LA in a home brimming w/Disney tchotchkes and fandom. I asked pointblank, “Does this surprise you? Does it change how you feel about the co?”

    I was taken aback by the fact that they not only ‘got it’ and didn’t dispute the possibility, but added to the convo w/other instances of strong-arming and profiteering… including offering ‘exclusive’ collectible releases/events and such during school/work hours when kids/working parents can’t attend, only to have scarcity drive demand on ebay and such…

    Many consumers ARE in fact wise and DO vote w/their wallets but differ in approach with comparison/contrast…e.g. the ol’ ‘their message is healthier than so & so’ approach.

    Personally, I snort laughed at your mention of the vapid values of tween TV on the Disney channel (the pimple/boy-girl appearance cues, etc.) because that’s EXACTLY how those shows land on me, fueling my ’cause and affect’ argument…

    But I guess what I’m saying is, rather than demonize Disney or any ONE company…how can we vote w/our wallets to create healthier fare and champion change by applauding media that DOES do a decent job of appealing to kids w/more meaningful messaging that entertains and inspires without the crass crud and toxic cues and sassmouth that’s become so normative on literally every “channel”—

    How can we counter-market by funding/developing/producing alternatives, to get quality media into the mix that engages, inspires, and creates a humanity ascending vs. humanity devolving relationship w/kids? As the FB line goes, “it’s complicated”

    .-= Amy Jussel, Shaping Youth´s last blog ..ALLY Awards: Architects of Change Amidst Brands: Tween Town Hall =-.

  7. Amy, you’re wonderful. Thank you for all you are doing!
    .-= janetlansbury´s last blog ..A Letter That Changed My Day =-.

  8. It’s too cool and beautiful to develop and motivate, build up character.

  9. Nice article. You have a great site.

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