Doctor and activist


Notice: Undefined index: hide_archive_titles in /home/chesterf/public_html/wp-content/themes/modern-business/includes/theme-functions.php on line 233

Category: Education

Noam Chomsky’s 10 Media Manipulation Strategies

10 May 2021

Noam Chomsky, one of the most important intellectuals in life today, has drawn up the list of 10 media manipulation strategies.Give 5 minutes and you won’t regret it.If only to expand your knowledge.

1-The strategy of distractionThe primordial element of social control is the distraction strategy which consists of diverting the public’s attention from major problems and the changes decided by political and economic elites, through the flooding technique or flooding continuous distractions and insignificant information.Distraction strategy is also essential to prevent the public from becoming interested in essential knowledge in the area of science, economics, psychology, neurobiology and cybernetics. Keeping the audience’s attention deviated from real social problems, imprisoned by themes without real importance.Keeping the public busy, busy, busy, with no time to think, back to the farm like other animals (quoted in the text ′′ Silent weapons for quiet wars ′′).

2-Creating problems and then offering the solutions.This method is also called a ′′ problem-reaction-solution “. It creates a problem, a ′′ situation ′′ planned to cause a certain reaction from the public, with the aim that this is the source of the measures they want to accept. For example: letting urban violence intensify or intensify, or organize bloody attacks, with the aim of the public being those requiring security laws and policies to the detriment of freedom. Also: create an economic crisis to make social rights demotion and dismantle public services accept as a necessary evil.

3-The Strategy of Graduation.To make an unacceptable measure accepted, you only need to apply it gradually, to dropper, for consecutive years. This is how radically new socioeconomic conditions (neoliberism) were imposed during the decades of the 80 s and 90 s: minimum state, privatisation, precariousness, flexibility, mass unemployment, wages that no longer guarantee dignified incomes , so many changes that would have brought about a revolution if they were implemented at once.

4-The Strategy of Deferring.Another way to get an unpopular decision accepted is to present it as ′′ painful and necessary “, gaining public acceptance, in the moment, for future application. It is easier to accept a future sacrifice than an immediate sacrifice. First, because effort isn’t that taken immediately. Second, because the public, the mass, always tends to naively hope that ′′ everything will be better tomorrow ′′ and that the required sacrifice could be avoided. This gives the audience more time to get used to the idea of change and accept it resigned when the time comes.

5-Reach to the public like children.Most advertisements directed at the large audience use speeches, arguments, characters and a particularly childish intonation, many times close to weakness, as if the viewer was a few years old creature or a mental moron. When you try to deceive the viewer the more you tend to use a childish tone. Why? Why? ′′ If someone addresses a person as if they are 12 or under, then based on suggestionability, they will probably tend to a response or reaction even without a critical sense like that of a 12 person. years or less ′′ (see ′′ Silent Weapons for quiet wars ′′).

6-Using emotional aspect much more than reflection.Take advantage of emotion it’s a classic technique to provoke a short circuit on a rational analysis and finally the critical sense of the individual. Additionally, the use of emotional register allows the unconscious access door to implant or inject ideas, desires, fears and fears, compulsions, or induce behaviors.

7-Keeping the public in ignorance and mediocrity.Making the public incapable of understanding the technologies and methods used for their control and slavery.′′ The quality of education given to lower social classes must be as poor and mediocre as possible, so that the distance of ignorance that plans between lower classes and upper classes is and remains impossible to fill from the lower classes “.

8-Stimulating the public to be complacent with mediocrity.Pushing the audience to think it’s fashionable to be stupid, vulgar and ignorant…

9-Strengthening self-guilt.Making the individual believe that he is only the culprit of his disgrace, because of his insufficient intelligence, skills or efforts. So, instead of rebelling against the economic system, the individual devalues himself and blames himself, which in turn creates a depressive state, one of whose effects is the inhibition of his action. And without action there is no revolution!

10-Knowing individuals better than they know themselves.Over the past 50 years, science’s rapid progress has generated a growing gap between public knowledge and those possessed and used by dominant elites. Thanks to biology, neurobiology, and applied psychology, the ′′ system ′′ has enjoyed advanced knowledge of the human being, both in its physical and psychological form. The system has managed to learn better about the common individual than he knows himself. This means that, in most cases, the system exercises greater control and greater power over individuals, greater than that which the same individual exercises over himself.

Continue Reading

Skilled Migrants Needed as we stopped training people.

16 April 2021

I note in Australia’s recovery, we now need skilled migrants. Why? Because we stopped supporting TAFE and gave the money to dodgy private providers.

At the other end of the pile we need unskilled migrants to pick our fruit because the wages are so low that Australians do not want to work for them.

Where are young Australians in all this? Are our kids going to unis with no jobs at the end of their courses?  In India excess doctors drive taxis.  Marx said that the capitalists were more loyal to their class than their country.  Are we for a fair go for all Australians of not?  A living wage?  Or are skilled migrants who settle more likely to vote Liberal?

www.abc.net.au/news/2021-04-15/skilled-migrants-missing-link-australia-covid-economic-recovery/100069670

Continue Reading

Amateur Hour in Management and Politics.

16 April 2016

When friends discuss why the world of politics seems to be going downhill, they mention that there seems to be no respect for knowledge any more.  Because information is so available it is not valued.  But this is not the key.  The problem seems to stem from two sources;

Firstly the two wars last century were over markets and at Bretton Woods at the end of WW2 the key to preventing wars thought to be free markets, where there would be unrestricted trade and countries could rise on fall on their relative advantages, or harder work.  The second item was the notion of neo-liberalism where the duty of a company was to make as much money as possible, with other objectives being looked after by someone else.  But as free trade progressed like a monopoly game multinational companies became more powerful than governments, so there was no one to stop the accumulation of wealth and power.  Power and wealth became the important items.  If you had these, clearly you would know what to do.

A number of small stories often give insights into changing priorities.  When I was at school and aged about 11 another boy, Geoff, went on a trip to the USA, a rare thing to do at that time.  We eagerly asked him what it was like over there.  He said, ‘Money just stands up and talks over there.  If you have money and you say something everybody listens’.  What he meant was that it was not because the rich person actually knew anything.

When I worked at Sydney Water, there were 17,000 employees and there was had a program to separate storm water and sewage in the pipes in the old part of Sydney, where they had all been the same.  There were employment programs for the long-term unemployed, disabled people and even ex-prisoners.  There were quality control units and a well-respected apprentice training school with about 220 people that produced plumbers, electricians and carpenters. The staff worked their way up the hierarchy so everyone knew their job and the tasks that they were supervising.  In the early 1980s these was a major change.  Sydney Water was reclassified as a State owned enterprise. It was to be ‘right sized’ which was the euphemism for downsized to about 3,000 people.  All functions not immediately necessary were stopped.  No pipe replacement programs, fix them when they burst. No apprentice training. No quality control- (has to be out-sourced). No printing. No computerised land mapping program (a world first, given to the Land Titles Office and later privatised) and the government was entitled to a ‘dividend’ from the enterprise which was about a billion dollars a year from all the salaries saved and work not done.  There was a game of musical chairs which went on for about a decade with new management structures, each with fewer places in it, where people repeatedly applied for jobs that had slightly different titles but which amounted to what they had done before.  But more than this there was incredible nepotism and people who knew about money or were politically favoured replaced those who knew about pipes and water.  Deskilling was on a massive scale. Then there was a project to look at salary relativities, which seemed to come to the conclusion that the salary should relate to how many people you managed.  Professionals were hard to fit into this framework, so it was opined that they should get less, but in order to get them at all, there had to be some consideration of what they were paid outside the organisation.  As a professional I was also high enough up the hierarchy to get ‘management training’.  It seemed that the key objective was to create a new culture in the organisation, and the main element in this was the destruction of the old culture, which was naturally assumed to be inferior to the new vision of the new management.   Workshops were held to define our objectives and visions. The silly old guard had thought that it was to provide water and take away the pooh.

This seems to be what has happened throughout the entire public service.  Lifetime employment has gone, and the gradual salary increments that made public servants content to work for less because they had lifetime security of employment and respect for the niche knowledge that they had developed. 

Now the two overwhelming values are power and money. They are assumed to go together.  Money buys political power, and political power gives control of large amounts of money.  So part of this new values hierarchy is the assumption that other values are lesser.  Public interest knowledge as stored in the public service, the Australian Bureau of Statistics or the research community are run down as the new breed of consultants rise. The consultants are chosen by their masters for their political or economic orientation and have to come up with solutions that fit with the views of their masters lest they not get their next job.  It is an incestuous and nepotistic system where ideology and opinion have displaced long-term experience and expertise.

Some years ago, as a NSW Democrat MP, I went to a YADS (Young Australian Democrats) conference in Canberra. The YADs were enthusiastic young people interested in politics, and some of them were lucky enough to work in Parliamentary offices.  On the Saturday they hospitably asked me to come to a party that they were attending.  I felt a bit old for the group, but they insisted.  It turned out that the Party was at a Liberal staffer’s house.  No one took much notice of the old guy in the corner sipping his beer, so I observed a group of very privileged young people telling stories of their exploits in the corridors of power. The striking part of the stories was the extent to which they were merely playing a chess game.  They were the goodies, Labor were the baddies and the whole discussion was about winning. There was no policy content at all. The issue was whether we won or not.  John Howard was Prime Minister and I was left with the overwhelming feeling that power was in the hands of those who had neither knowledge nor respect for the responsibility that they were carrying.

So I was interested to read this article by Jack Waterford, which traces the replacement of the public service by political staffers, ambitious non-experts with a lot of ideological baggage and little time for long-term expertise. 

The replacement of respect for knowledge with respect only for power and money may be the reason for the decline in decision-making in our political and management systems, and may yet be the cause of the decline of Anglo civilisation.

Continue Reading

Subsidies for Inequality

5 March 2021

As a child our family moved to Port Kembla, and we lived on Hill 60, just above the rocks where a lot of people have drowned recently.

I went to Port Kembla Infant’s School, which was overcrowded but interesting.  Half the kids there came from the migrant hostel in the old WW2 army camp where ‘displaced Persons’ (as WW2 refugee families were called) lived.  These kids arrived in kindergarten without a word of English. This was taken as normal by the teachers, who just plugged on. The kids from the hostel were called ‘Hostels’, but it was a descriptor rather than a pejorative.  By the time we got to 2nd class in our 4th year (Kindergarten, Transition, 1st Class, 2nd Class) there was no difference between Aussie borns and Hostels.  There were 46 in my 2nd class and girls filled the top 6 places.  There was minimal racism in kids leaving this school.   

There was no anti-discrimination legislation or bureaucracy in the 1950s but all the parents had jobs in the steelworks or associated industries and the Housing Commission was building suburbs full of affordable housing as fast as it could.  If you had a go, you got a go. The ABC Radio had an awkward segment before the news called ‘Learn English with us’ where some somewhat stilted practical speech exercises lasted about 2 minutes.  I used to wonder how the new migrants all tuned in for this little segment if they could not understand the rest.  But the intention was there.

In 1966 there was a movement demanding ‘State Aid for Church Schools’ on the basis that they had paid their tax, and now they had left the state system they were paying twice.  The government wanted to win the election, and this was seen as critical for the Catholic vote. The Democratic Labor Party, which had split from the ALP were the champions of this and still represented a significant threat to the ALP as they preferenced the Libs.  State Aid came in.

Some time later there was a lot of emphasis on ESL (English as a Second Language) classes at TAFE, which were held during school hours.  Their target was migrant women and their objective was to encourage English speaking to allow the women both to meet each other and to participate in society more easily.  John Howard defunded the programme; ‘user pays’ was the new paradigm.

I now live in Sydney in a relatively central affluent suburb. Each morning 8 private school buses start near my door ferrying students to 8 private schools.  No public transport needed- the school takes care of it all.  Others students in private school uniforms catch subsidised public transport to the schools of their parents’ choice.  But the cost of ‘choice’ is ‘residualisation’.  Schools where there are a lot of ethnic students suffer from ‘white flight’, and so have concentrated social disadvantage and a lack of native role models. One school I visited in Western Sydney had had a stabbing in the playground about 25 years ago.  The school photos in the foyer had no white face for the last 20 years. That was as far back as the photos went.

When we wonder if the Cabinet have any idea how the poorer folk live, my opinion is that they do not.  These social dynamics have now been going for long enough that it is possible to be old enough to be in Cabinet and have no idea how the other half live.  Some think that people without jobs have ‘wasted their opportunities’ or have alcohol or gambling problems.  Add a little self-ri ghteous religion, ‘the poor are always with us’, a touch of arrogance and a peer group that thinks the same, and you have policies that are increasingly dismantling the fair go and equity that should be at the heart of our culture.  It may be that you cannot make all people equal, but you can give all children equality of opportunity, and all adults enough to live on. We have to change direction and do just that.

Here, at the risk of being repetitive, is an article on Christian Porter.

www.themandarin.com.au/150633-christian-porter-the-unshakeable-belief-of-a-white-man-born-to-rule/?fbclid=IwAR2PbktE5jzTIgIjcL4orzdW1TO8ax03VpOBCFDTzDbRUepQnigaB1WG24Q

Continue Reading

COVID Problems Caused by Lack of Respect for Knowledge

7 February 2021

Prof Raina McIntyre argues that the COVID19 problems in the developed world, particularly the Anglo world are the result of an understanding of and a lack of respect for public health.  She charts this as within the medical profession, which has its own hierarchies, but also in the political arena.  The overwhelming influence of the corporate sector and the profit motive, and the managerial approach which assumes that if  you are not an expert, you can quickly find one, bone up and take over has been found sadly wanting.  For a manager or politician, selecting an expert is not as easy as it sounds as there are many people who want to tart up their CVs and market themselves with dubious claims to expertise.

This has resulted in a very suboptimal preparation for and response to the pandemic. The failure in the managerial decision-making process has been laid bare in the COVID situation, but this is not an isolated example.  The lack of respect for expertise, the replacement of knowledge with marketing spin, and public good with corporate profits will lead to more bad decisions, which often take a crisis to become evident.  It happened in the bushfires, and is happening with climate change. Examples in foreign policy, education, health and defence all come to mind.

Here is Raina’s paper about COVID19

https://iser.med.unsw.edu.au/blog/hijacking-public-health-and-price-paid-during-covid-19-pandemic

Continue Reading

Are Google Algorithms Reinforcing Anti-Science positions? 3 Feb. 2021

As the anti-science movement seems to gain strength and undermines the campaign for COVID vaccination, there has been increased interest in the origin, strength and tactics of this.

It is blamed on the Russians, who presumably are trying to weaken and divide the West, and on civil libertarians, who want to politicise medical common sense.  But when it helped by people like Trump in the White House and Kelly in Australia the conspiracy theories are put into perspective, as the anti-science views are given legitimacy.

But in the fuss about Google withdrawing from Australia, or not covering Australian politics, I wondered what effect this might have and tried a different search engine, duckduckgo.  The difference is that google gives me a personalised feed, but duckduckgo gives everyone the same information for the same key words. 

Search engines at a basic level give a ‘top pops’ of popularity of a topic in that those with the greatest number of clicks go to the top.  This may be fine if you are looking for a movie review, but if you want older material it will be a long way down. Scientific articles are a lot further down than mainstream ones, and the algorithm is influenced by the viewer’s previous viewing habits.  If a person has viewed a lot of conspiracy articles, it is presumably then likely that these are more likely to come up again and reinforce the existing views of the viewer.    If the feed is continually biased to a point of view, the viewer is likely to come into contact with more of this view and people who share t, so that they are eventually in a bubble or subculture of people with this belief, and are unaware that their reality has been changed. 

As an example my son went to school with a boy in NZ whose father controlled feral pests for a living, which meant shooting rabbits, ferrets, deer, pigs, cats and possums which are predators on various farms in NZ.  He kept in touch with his friend and they played video games online.  But his friend went shooting quite a lot with his father, joined a gun club and started to receive the literature of this subculture.  His previously non-political, mainstream views are now hugely influenced by the American gun lobby and rabidly right wing.  This is quite unusual in rural NZ.  My son commented, ‘In the end, you think what you get in your feed’.

The algorithms exist to make you happy and to keep you clicking in order to get you to buy things.  But the result might be quite different- a creation of a bubble environment where everyone’s opinion tends to be magnified, sometimes going in a bad direction.

How this can be controlled is a question- if we all got the same feeds, would the sensible people make sensible articles come up first?  Presumably; if most people were well educated.  We had better go there also.  Which Big Brother will tell google how to do its algorithms?

(The longer version of this attached article is available via a link at its end).

https://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/peter-hotez-anti-science-movement-killing-hundreds-of-thousands_n_6014b39ac5b622df90f382ee?ri18n=true&fbclid=IwAR19_qqWuNe9t8ySSTdNU5OjL6jKkxPCT3cDbAP0EhAKXoXrLPod_xVfdKM

Continue Reading

University Cheating Cheapens Degrees 11/1/21

A recent article has university cheating as a million dollar industry and it is hard to to argue with this.  As everything becomes online it becomes ever easier.

When I was in Parliament a University of Wollongong lecturer, Ted Steele, got into problems because he refused to pass a fee-paying foreign student, whose father had been a generous benefactor.   He became a whistle blower.  He was helped by the Union reluctantly as he had been very anti-union in his previous views.  He had a victory and was reinstated as described in the SMH of 29/3/2002, but I think later was forced to resign and settle.

Universities dependent on fee-paying students have a powerful incentive to pass them, and by the same token, less incentive to find cheating ones.

It is one thing to have forged CVs.  It is one step further when the CV is true but the knowledge is absent.  The problem is that everything is for sale, and nothing else is respected.

www.smh.com.au/national/sacked-whistleblower-gets-university-job-back-20020329-gdf5mq.html

Continue Reading

TAFE Merger Fails to Save Money 14/1/21

A report by the NSW Auditor-General shows that NSW TAFE had failed in its social objectives and not made its cost saving from merging 10 institutions into one.
It is significant that these problems are always found by Auditors. One would think that monitoring of costs savings or not would be built into such a major change. Dream on!
The problem with mega-mergers is that it empowers people a long way away, who then make decisions without the facts from those on the ground, who have usually been sacked or depowered.
Speechwriter Martin McKenzie-Murray, writing in the SMH of 28/12/20 opined that the reason that speeches were so unmemorable now was that the content was more about short-term media grabs than any substantial vision, and that since political advisers have replaced public service mandarins as the main source of advice there has been a loss of the sense of past history and future vision. In short the lack of proper thinking is why the speeches are no good.
TAFE was conceived as help up; a technical education for those who could benefit from one, whatever their age, and where good tradespeople were valued and could teach their trade. Interference by those who merely see education as another commodity to compete in a market and who have no concept of equity, justice or a fair go as part of public policy have done immense harm to TAFE, not to mention the rest of the nation.
Policy should have continuity and decisions should be evidence-based. A public service that has expertise and long-term stability is the best guarantee of this, where those giving the advice do not have a financial or ideological commitment to a single option.
The article is important in that it emphasises that ideologues must justify their management pontifications and their failures must be held up to them.
www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/scathing-review-reveals-tafe-s-failure-to-meet-cost-savings-20201217-p56oex.html

Continue Reading

Marketing Obesity to Children 11/10/20

About 37 years ago BUGA UP (Billboard Utilising Graffitists Against Unhealthy Promotions) identified the problem of advertisers marketing to children and produced a guide, ‘AdExpo- A Self-Defence Course for Children’.  It was in black and white as BUGA UP had no money and the ads are a bit dated now, but the text us still relevant.  www.bugaup.org/publications/Ad_Expo.pdf

Advertisers market to children, and are successful with it.  Now there is the internet, which has made things a lot worse.  Kids can be targeted with the parents only dimly aware of what is going on, and before the kids have actually been formally ‘taught’ anything.  The ads are part of the exciting environment that their little heroes show them.  At last attention is being drawn to this.  This article is from the NY Times, with a cut-down version in the SMH of 7-8/11/20.

Are ‘Kidfluencers’ Making Our Kids Fat?

By Anahad O’Connor, NY Times 30/10/20

Popular YouTube channels often bombard young children with thinly veiled ads for junk food, a new study finds.

One of the most popular YouTube videos from Ryan’s World shows its star, Ryan Kaji, pretending to be a cashier at McDonald’s.  “It’s a stealthy and powerful way of getting these unhealthy products in front of kids’ eyeballs,” a public health expert says.Credit…via YouTube

That is the conclusion of a new study published on Monday in the journal Pediatrics. The authors of the study analyzed over 400 YouTube videos featuring so-called kid influencers — children with large social media followings who star in videos that show them excitedly reviewing toys, unwrapping presents and playing games. The study found that videos in this genre, which attract millions of young followers and rack up billions of views, were awash in endorsements and product placements for brands like McDonald’s, Carl’s Jr., Hershey’s, Chuck E. Cheese and Taco Bell.

About 90 percent of the foods featured in the YouTube videos were unhealthy items like milkshakes, French fries, soft drinks and cheeseburgers emblazoned with fast food logos. The researchers said their findings were concerning because YouTube is a popular destination for toddlers and adolescents. Roughly 80 percent of parents with children 11 years old or younger say they let their children watch YouTube, and 35 percent say their children watch it regularly.

A spokeswoman for YouTube, citing the age requirement on its terms of service, said the company has “invested significantly in the creation of the YouTube Kids app, a destination made specifically for kids to explore their imagination and curiosity on a range of topics, such as healthy habits.”  She added, “We don’t allow paid promotional content on YouTube Kids and have clear guidelines which restrict categories like food and beverage from advertising on the app.”

Young children are particularly susceptible to marketing.  Studies show that children are unable to distinguish between commercials and cartoons until they are 8 or 9 years old, and they are more likely to prefer unhealthy foods and beverages after seeing advertisements for them.

Experts say it is not just an advertising issue but a public health concern.  Childhood obesity rates have skyrocketed in recent years: Nearly 20 percent of American children between the ages of 2 and 19 are obese, up from 5.5 percent in the mid 1970s.  Studies have found strong links between junk food marketing and childhood obesity, and experts say that children are now at even greater risk during a pandemic that has led to school closures, lockdowns and increased screen time and sedentary behavior.  The new findings suggest that parents should be especially wary of how children are being targeted by food companies on social media.

  • Thanks for reading The Times.

Subscribe to The Times

“The way these branded products are integrated in everyday life in these videos is pretty creative and unbelievable,” said Marie Bragg, an author of the study and an assistant professor of public health and nutrition at the New York University School of Global Public Health.  “It’s a stealthy and powerful way of getting these unhealthy products in front of kids’ eyeballs.”

Dr. Bragg was prompted to study the phenomenon after one of her co-authors, Amaal Alruwaily, noticed her young nieces and nephews obsessively watching YouTube videos of “kidfluencers” like Ryan Kaji, the 9-year-old star of Ryan’s World, a YouTube channel with 27 million subscribers, formerly named Ryan ToysReview.

The channel, run by Ryan’s parents, features thousands of videos of him excitedly reviewing new toys and games, doing science experiments and going on fun trips to stores and arcades.

Children’s channels like Ryan’s World — which are frequently paid to promote a wide range of products, including toys, video games and food — are among the highest grossing channels on YouTube, raking in millions of dollars from ads, sponsored content, endorsements and more.   According to Forbes, Ryan earned $26 million last year, making him the top YouTube earner of 2019.  Among the brands he has been paid to promote are Chuck E. Cheese, Walmart, Hasbro, Lunchables and Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., the fast food chains.  One of his most popular videos shows him pretending to be a cashier at McDonald’s.  In it, he wears a hat with the McDonald’s logo, serves plastic Chicken McNuggets, cheeseburgers and French fries to one of his toys, and then eats a McDonald’s Happy Meal.  The video has been viewed about 95 million times.

“It looks like a normal child playing with their normal games, but as a researcher who studies childhood obesity, the branded products really stood out to me,” Dr. Bragg said.  “When you watch these videos and the kids are pretending to bake things in the kitchen or unwrapping presents, it looks relatable.  But really it’s just an incredibly diverse landscape of promotion for these unhealthy products

In a statement, Sunlight Entertainment, the production company for Ryan’s World, said the channel “cares deeply about the well-being of our viewers and their health and safety is a top priority for us.  As such, we strictly follow all platforms terms of service, as well as any guidelines set forth by the FTC and laws and regulations at the federal, state, and local levels.”

The statement said that Ryan’s World welcomed the findings of the new study, adding: “As we continue to evolve our content we look forward to ways we might work together in the future to benefit the health and safety of our audience.”

Other popular children’s channels on YouTube show child influencers doing taste tests with Oreo cookies, Pop Tarts and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream or sitting in toy cars and ordering fast food at drive-throughs for Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC and other chains.  “This is basically a dream for advertisers,” said Dr. Bragg.  “These kids are celebrities, and we know from other rigorous studies that younger kids prefer products that are endorsed by celebrities.”

To document the extent of the phenomenon, Dr. Bragg and her colleagues identified five of the top kid influencers on YouTube, including Ryan, and analyzed 418 of their most popular videos.  They found that food or beverages were featured in those videos 271 times, and 90 percent of them were “unhealthy branded items.”  Some of the brands featured most frequently were McDonald’s, Hershey’s, Skittles, Oreo, Coca-Cola, Kinder and Dairy Queen.  The videos featuring junk food have collectively been viewed more than a billion times.

The researchers could not always tell which products the influencers were paid to promote, in part because sponsorships are not always clearly disclosed.  The Federal Trade Commission has said that influencers should “clearly and conspicuously” disclose their financial relationships with brands whose products they endorse on social media.  But critics say the policy is rarely enforced, and that influencers often ignore it.

McDonald’s USA said in a statement that it “does not partner with kid influencers under the age of 12 for paid content across any social media channels, including YouTube, and we did not pay or partner with any of the influencers identified in this study.  We are committed to responsibly marketing to children.”

Last year, several senators called on the F.T.C. to investigate Ryan’s World and accused the channel of running commercials for Carl’s Jr. without disclosing that they were ads.  The Council of Better Business Bureaus, an industry regulatory group, also found that Ryan’s World featured sponsored content from advertisers without proper disclosures.  And a year ago the watchdog group Truth in Advertising filed a complaint with the F.T.C. accusing the channel of deceiving children through “sponsored videos that often have the look and feel of organic content.”

In March, Senators Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut introduced legislation to protect children from potentially harmful content online.  Among other things, the bill would limit what they called “manipulative” advertising, such as influencer marketing aimed at children, and prohibit websites from recommending content that involves nicotine, tobacco or alcohol to children and teenagers.

The F.T.C. has long forbidden certain advertising tactics on children’s television, such as “host selling,” in which characters or hosts sell products in commercials that air during their programs.  Critics say the agency could apply the same rules to children’s programs on the internet but so far has chosen not to.

“It’s beyond absurd that you couldn’t do this on Nickelodeon or ABC but you can do this on YouTube just because the laws were written before we had an internet,” said Josh Golin, the executive director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, an advocacy group.

“These videos are incredibly powerful,” he said.  “Very busy parents may take a look at them and think that it’s just a cute kid talking enthusiastically about some product and not realize that it’s often part of a deliberate strategy to get their children excited about toys, or in the case of this study, unhealthy food.”

Anahad O’Connor is a staff reporter covering health, science, nutrition and other topics. He is also a bestselling author of consumer health books such as “Never Shower in a Thunderstorm” and “The 10 Things You Need to Eat.” 

Continue Reading

The Rise of Ignorance

20 September 2019 I grew up convinced that as knowledge spread humanity would advance. Society would become more secular and decisions would be evidence-based. I studied medicine, which tries to be a science and the people I worked with mostly had a regard for truth and willingness to listen to sensible arguments. Then I found […]

Continue Reading