Chuck E. Cheese's, the arcade/pizza restaurant chain popular for children's birthday parties, has a marketing slogan: "Where a kid can be a kid." It's a nice, simple phrase that punctuates its TV ads. And it's highlighted by contrast when the ads appear on the children's network Nickelodeon.
It's not that that Nick has replaced "Sponge Bob" or "Fairly Odd Parents" with adult programming - Nick's entertainment fare is still fun and silly. It's that Nick has launched "The Big Green Help," a multimedia campaign that encourages the network's young viewers to become junior environmentalists, and major finger-waggers. "Nickelodeon's Big Green Help is all about helping YOU find simple, positive ways to protect the Earth every day," explains the home page on Nick's Web site.
The Big Green Help is filled to the brim with throbbing dance music, bright colors (green most prominent, of course), grinning teen celebrities and feel-good phrases, Nick is indoctrinating kids into the secular cult of environmentalism, and it wants them to indoctrinate you in turn.
Where a Kid can be a Pawn
Nick is a very successful family of kid- and teen-centered channels, part of the MTV Networks owned by media conglomerate Viacom, which claims Nickelodeon is "the most-watched television network by kids in the United States, and basic cable's #1 network overall."
Nick achieved its success by understanding what kids like and knowing how to convince them to like its wares. Done for profit, this is called marketing and branding. Done for politics, it's propaganda. The Big Green Help is propaganda.
According to a press release announcing the launch of the initiative, Nickelodeon/MTVN Kids and Family Group Executive Vice President of Public Affairs Marva Smalls said, "With The Big Green Help, we want to provide them with the necessary tools and information so they can become part of the environmental solution."
If kids can be part of the solution, there must be a problem. Obviously, The Big Green Help takes it as a given that a) global warming is real and b) humans are causing it. Nick doesn't acknowledge on the site or in the ads run continuously on the network the considerable skepticism of and disagreement with these views. That might not sit well with Nick's partner in the campaign, the radical Natural Resources Defense Council.
NRDC, who's Board of Trustees includes liberal celebrities like Robert Redford, Leonardo DiCaprio and Laurie David, boasts a staff of "more than 350 lawyers, scientists and other professionals," and spent about 59 million on "environmental programs" including lobbying in 2007.
A glance at NRDC's Web site is evidence enough of the council's extremism. Humans, through greedy uncaring business interests, are slaughtering species, polluting the oceans and destroying the planet with our greenhouse gasses. The global warming we're creating contributes to all sorts of scary - but unproven - phenomena, including coastal flooding, more frequent and damaging wildfires in the western United States and stronger hurricanes.
NRDC's answer? It advocates massive, compulsory disruption of the U.S. economy to cut CO2 emissions. The Group's Web site calls for new laws, regulations and technology mandates for industry, and even wants government to regulate the "appliances and equipment in our homes and offices to reduce our electricity needs." That the cost might run to trillions of dollars and diminished liberty is of no consequence. Funny, though, just about the only measure NRDC doesn't propose is increasing use of mostly carbon-free nuclear power.
Not that you'd learn any of that from The Big Green Help. In fact, it doesn't offer kids much information at all beyond a few factoids ("About 20% of CO2 emissions in the United States comes from cars. That's a lot.") and environmentalist platitudes ("Too much of the Earth's energy and precious natural resources are wasted every day." And "Humans have created a lot of things that send too much CO2 into the Earth's atmosphere.")
On the Web site, kids can take "The Big Green Quiz." Depending on how well they answer multiple choice questions like "Recycling an aluminum can saves how much of the energy needed to create a brand new can?" and "Recycling one ton of paper saves how many trees?" they can earn the title "eco-warrior." Nick provides few sources and no context for the information it uses. The site doesn't give evidence or even provide links to educational resources.
It certainly doesn't offer a hint of doubt about green pieties.
But it does have games! All motion, lights and sounds of the video game industry are brought to bear to drive home the eco messages. From the urgent ("Battle CO2 monsters in 3D!") to the prosaic ("Help Bessie build a backyard habitat!"), players get to be environmental good guys who pick up trash and conserve water for fun and points.
Where a Kid can be a Scold
When they tire of "regreening" the virtual landscape with The Avatar Earth Healers, young visitors can "Pledge it!" that is, "Help battle CO2 in the in the real world by pledging Big Green Help actions." These actions fall under four categories:
- Slow the Flow -- Educating kids on how to curtail the waste of energy and natural resources.
- Recycle and Pre-Cycle -- Encouraging the use of items which can be recycled.
- Curb the Car -- Encouraging kids to get where they're going without automobiles.
- Grow the Green -- Planting trees and preserving our natural resources, kids can create a greener planet and also spread the word.
Within four theme categories, kids can pledge separate actions that, they are told, will remove a certain amount of CO2 from the atmosphere. Each of the "pledges and CO2 offsets [were] developed in collaboration with the National Wildlife Federation."
Under "Slow the Flow" of resources, kids can pledge to "Replace 5 ordinary light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs)" and save 563 lbs. of carbon per year. Under "Curb the Car," a child can save 420 lbs. of CO2 per year by walking or biking four miles a week. In "Recycle/Precycle," he or she can "Skip bottled water & drink filtered tap water instead." (Coincidentally, the Natural Resources Defense Council is no fan of bottled water, even though 100% of plastic water bottles can be recycled, according to the International Bottled Water Association.)
Nick isn't put off by the necessary inclusion of and deference to adults in these pledges. Big Green Helpers shouldn't be shy about insisting others behave in an environmentally suitable manner.
A young "eco warrior" can eliminate more than 700 lbs. of CO2 per year by reminding "parents to turn off the engine when their [sic] waiting in the car" and reminding them to "keep their care tires properly inflated every month." If Little Tommy can "convince one person each month to replace five ordinary light bulbs with CFLs," you're talking almost 6800 lbs. a year (along with a corresponding drop in his popularity.)
The Big Green Help wouldn't be a proper environmental initiative if it didn't give your little eco-nags an avenue for self congratulation and righteous indignation.
Hence, the site's message boards, which, with appropriately child-like sincerity, give ample evidence that Nicks indoctrination is effective. Here's a post from Evergirl44 [all posts appear with their original spelling, grammar and punctuation]:
"I love living on the earth it gives us oxygen and the things we need I think saving electricity and helping the earth should be something that every person should have to live by." [italics added]
Polly 164, was obviously in high dudgeon when she started a thread with this post:
"OK ANYBODY THAT IS A HONEST TREE HUGER THAN SEND ME COMMENTS. WE NEED TO STOP THIS KNOW. THEY ARE DESTROYING THE FOREST.WE ETHEIR NEED TO STOP THEM OR WEN PLANT MORE.
BY 2011 WE WILL HAVE NO MORE TREES BY THEN!!! SEND ME MAIL AND TELL WHAT YOU THINK!!"
Polly must have been encouraged by this response from democrat33:
i really am an honest tree huger almost all my shirts are made out of organic cotton and i already planted a tree, i protested at school, signed 5 petitions,and i have an artificial christmas tree!!!
And finally, H20sponge4 has clearly internalized The Big Green Help's message:
This is getting me mad!
kids just leave their trash everywhere--i see trash everywhere!!!!!!
they don't care about global warming or nothing!!!!!
we need to fix out earth!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!