Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Good and Bad PSAs...

The idea behind PSAs is to get people to change their behavior. Classic examples of successful PSAs include the crying Indian who got us to stop littering and the “this is your brain on drugs” spot that significantly reduced drug use among the young. But most PSAs fail miserably. Why? In a word, liberalism.

What successful PSAs all have in common is they are promoting ideas we already believe. For example, we know drugs are harmful to our brains, our bodies and our lives. Five minutes with any stoner or methhead will confirm that. So when the PSA told us drugs will mess you up, it confirmed something we already knew and helped to offset the cultural peer pressure that said “drugs are cool.” The Indian ad did the same thing. We knew littering was wrong because it’s disrespectful to other people’s property. That ad reminded us that our littering was not a victimless crime, and it reminded us that just because other people did it didn’t make it right.

Liberal PSAs, however, don’t do this, because their goal is not to reawaken an idea you already believe, but is instead to jam a new idea into your head. But that doesn’t work.

Take for example, the latest PSAs about bullying. They are infuriating. For starters, these ads make use of the liberal racist rainbow, meaning they make sure to include all the right races in the right proportions and with each race playing the “right” role. Right here, these PSAs lose a lot of whites, who will object to being told that all bullies are white. And if you think this is being overly-sensitive, then let me suggest that we make all the bullies into black lesbians and let’s see who objects. Next, they try to sell the idea that being a bully “feels bad.” Oh, so now I’m stupid? Seriously, show me a bully who isn’t getting a kick out of feeling powerful. . . that’s what it’s all about. Finally, despite the fact that the only solution to bullying is to fight back, they tell us to fight bullying by running like a whiny baby to someone in authority. That person will then happily run to the scene and fix everything. Except we’ve all dealt with this in school and we know what really happens. IF you find a teacher and IF they come with you, they will see nothing by the time they get there. Good thinking idiots!

So what you have here is an ad that will offend whites (and will reinforce the victimization theology being beaten into minority kids), which misdiagnoses the problem of bullying, and which gives you a “solution” that every kid on the planet knows won’t work. You’d have to be a fool to think these ads will resonate with kids. The only people this will resonate with are adult liberals.

It’s the same with all the other liberal PSAs of the past. I remember a PSA in the 1970s in which Batgirl demanded equal pay to what Batman got (think ERA). Only Batman never got paid, so I knew right there not to respect anyone who made that ad or to listen to anything they said. Moreover, Batgirl was a useless extra. At best, she was in Robin’s league, not Batman’s. So not only was the whole concept stupid, but it was wildly off the mark in terms of equity. Thus, I knew right there at the tender age of 8 or 9 that this whole ERA thing was bullsh~t and to be very careful of the liars who were pushing it. Ditto on the PSA telling me the kid in the wheelchair would be great at basketball, or telling me to save the polar bear by narc-ing on my parents’ excessive use of electricity. The presentation of nonsensical propaganda will never be effective except to the people who are already true believers.

That bring us to the Foundation for a Better Life (FBL), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. The FBL has been running private PSAs that I think are actually pretty effective. They are responsible for the ad with the kid who chases the bus to return a woman’s purse, the girl who welcomes the new kid, the basketball player who admits to fouling even though the referee didn’t see it, and the guy who helps the old woman get something from the top shelf in the grocery store.

I think these are effective because they involved values that we all recognize as good values. These are things each of us believes to be right already, even though we may not act on our beliefs. Moreover, the way these ads are presented is key. For example, unlike the liberal utopia PSAs where you are told to act because “you have an obligation,” these ads take a different approach. In each instance, the do-gooder gets a moment of flack or suspicion before people realize that they have done the right thing. After that, they get the one thing liberals can never promise you: respect.

In other words, these ads are telling you that if you do the right thing, you will earn the respect of those around you. That’s a truly powerful motivator. And that’s why I think these ads will resonate.

Agree? Disagree?

** To my knowledge FBL is not associated with any religious or political organization. If I am wrong, please let me know.


AndrewPrice said...

FYI, I just heard that Elizabeth Taylor died. R.I.P.

Unknown said...

Andrew: FBL was originally created to bring about a "spirit of unity" after the 9-11 attacks. Its larger purpose was not to point fingers or even denounce the attackers, but to comfort Americans by praising self-sacrifice and helping the helpless. It accepts no public donations, and is funded entirely by the fortune of one very wealthy and successful businessman. Philip Anschutz is known to be religious but he eschews denominational labels and has no public political affiliation. He is, in fact, the embodiment of true altruism. And as you very skillfully pointed out, his PSAs are having an effect because he is reminding people to be aware of doing good things, not about making people feel good about themselves. It's his way of personifying the concept that virtue is its own reward.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, That's my understanding about FBL too. Interesting isn't it? In any event, I'm impressed with the ads they're putting out.

Anonymous said...

Good article, Andrew. I really like those FBL PSA's as well and wondered who put them out.

I assume you heard about the boy in Australia who had finally had enough of being bullied and body slammed one of his tormentors? I was bullied in Jr. High and I say good for him! Of course, he will probably get in trouble for fighting back.


Anonymous said...

Nice to see people finally figuring out this whole bullying thing. Where were these people - oh, I don't know - back in 1994?? [sarcasm off]

You do bring up an interesting point. Back then, the conventional wisdom was, as it is today, "Tell a teacher." I can't entirely disagree with that but there are times when I wish I had fought back. But that's all ancient history.

Two other thoughts:

-Since when did bullying have a racial component? I'm not saying race never plays a part in it but to assume it always does is, I believe, an error.

-Growing up watching TGIF sitcoms, the moral of any bullying story was that the bully always came from a broken home, was beat up by the evil stepfather, etc. I'm sure many do but my bullies all came from stable households but it wasn't until years later did I realize, to quote Michael Caine in The Dark Knight, "Some people just want to watch the world burn."

Tennessee Jed said...

I pretty much agree with your premise and justification. I know for certain the new ones suck and don't work. I honestly don't know about the earlier ones. I was taught not to litter or discard things that could start forest fires, but honestly don't know how effective even those were. Part of it may be the messenger. For example who can quibble with Iron Eyes Cody or Smokey the Bear. Ashton Kutcher or some other liberal actor smack. That is enought to make do something I wouldn't otherwise do

AndrewPrice said...

TJ, Thanks! I'm glad you liked the article.

I really think these are effective PSA. I've found myself still enjoying them even months after I saw them for the first time, which is rare with commercials. Plus, there's just something pleasant about seeing people do the right thing, even if it is on film. And like I say, they really are telling you that this is the way to earn respect. That impresses me in an age when ads are all about "you deserve a break...."

Sorry to hear you were bullied. I have no tolerance for that. But I don't think what they are selling in the PSAs will work. It just doesn't make sense to run for help instead of standing up for yourself because teachers either can't get there in time, can't do anything about it, or will end up punishing everyone involved.

(As a disclaimer, I do think it's important to get adults involved if the conduct is dangerous or continuous.)

I'm not sure if I heard about the kid in Australia or not. In any event, good for the him! I'm sure the school will punish him, but I'll bet it was worth it. And I'll bet no one is going to bully him again!

Joel Farnham said...


I probably have seen these PSA's but I don't recognize them. Now, I will probably see them all the time. I hope they are good as you say they are.

One thing, notice how your description closely follows what Boy Scouts are taught. I wonder if others noticed it too?

I remember the Iron Cody ad.

Tam said...

The pipsqueak bully in Australia is now claiming that his victim actually started it, even though his buddies were egging him on and video-recording the whole thing. Both boys got in trouble, but "Casey the Punisher" is an international sensation, hero to bullied kids everywhere.

And, you know what else happens to kids who tell the teacher? The bullying often gets worse because of the 'snitching.' And you know what happens to kids who find a way to solve their own problems, either by avoiding bullies or standing up for themselves? They learn how to solve their own problems. Bullying and bullies are rotten, but I don't think having some condescending "morally superior" liberal jackass telling us how to behave will have any kind of positive outcome. In fact, it makes me want to punch them in the face, which is not something I would normally consider.

Also, do you remember when Bristol Palin got called out for being a hypocrite when she did a (admitedly lame) PSA about teen pregnancy/abstinence? She responded very well to her critics(probably with some help from her mama) by saying she's the perfect spokesperson for the can learn from her actual experience, instead of some fakey fakerson preaching about something they don't know anything about.

AndrewPrice said...


I think you've missed my point on the race issue. Bullying has no racial component, no gender component and (frankly) no age component. It is about people who try to make themselves feel good by exerting power over others.

The reason I mention race is that the current PSAs, like all the other liberal PSAs conform to this liberal idea that you have to be careful about the race of the characters. Thus, for the same reason that black actors can no longer portray criminals, they cannot be bullies either. The bully must always be white in these ads for fear of "sending the wrong message." Thus, it is the liberals behind the PSAs who are injecting race into this.

That is a huge turn off and frankly pisses a lot of people I know off. And if you think I'm being overly sensitive on this, then I seriously ask: what would happen if it the people making these ads decided that all the bullies would be black? You would have the Al Sharptons and the NAACPs of the world screaming racism and bloody murder. So why is it suddenly ok to make them all white?

In terms of solutions to bullying, the one answer that works is fighting back (or humor if you know how to use it). What you need to do to defuse a bully is the same thing you need to do to defuse a troll -- take away their enjoyment. And that means you need to deny them the sense of power that they get from making you appear helpless.

Running for help only highlights your helplessness and acts like a turn on for the bully, especially if the teacher then can't do anything about it, won't do anything about it, or punishes both sides equally.

In terms of where bullies come from, they do not come from broken homes. This is liberal nonsense. Liberals want to believe that everyone is a perfectly happy liberal until something goes wrong. Thus criminal are forced to commit crimes by economic circumstances and rapists are taught to rape by being molested and bullies are taught to hate by growing up in hateful households.

That's garbage. People do these things for a variety of reasons, and sometimes they just do it because they're assholes. Bullies (like rapists) have a need to feel powerful. There is no economic component to that or any particular parenting requirement. In other words, it can happen with rich kids, poor kids, middle class kids, single kids, kids from big homes, etc. The idea that bullies must come from broken homes is simply liberal stupidity trying to find an explanation for something they can't understand.

Anonymous said...

I understood your point but I was ineloquent in expressing my thoughts (last time I comment and chat on the phone at the same time!).

The racial stuff reminds me of our old Spanish class textbooks. There would be photos featuring a racially-diverse group of kids. Literally, almost everyone was accounted for. We'd be learning sports/athletic terms so the photos would show this group of kids playing basketball and it was always the kid in the wheelchair who was winning!

rlaWTX said...

I have to admit that I appreciated the spotlight on bullying that started 5-6 years ago - and opened up the definition to non-physical-violence. I blame part of my Social Anxiety on always being the butt of the subtle "you aren't good enough" crap that I endured in jr high - the stuff that if you got upset you were a "bad sport".

However, the newest incarnation of bullying baloney is useless. [although there is some eveidence of low self-worth that leads to claiming power through bullying.]

As for PSAs - I loved the frying pan & egg /drugs one. It just seemed such a perfect, "why didn't someone say that before now" analogy. And the later one (after the new wore off of that one) where the person with the frying pan beats the daylights out of everything in the kitchen - liked that one too. But now I just stop listening.

And what's with the network PSA-type anouncements (ex. CBS cares)?? I caught on the other night that had some newsy type talking about important movements in history but that no movement was as important as the one right before your colon exam - What The???? The ones where you think "yeah, right, you are being paid to say these words and you are saying them with less involvement than a frozen carcass" are bad enough - but this "movement" one just caught me off guard!

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I think it's the nature of PSAs that changed. Like you, I recall Smokey the Bear and the crying Indian and the such. And in each instance, we knew that what they were telling us was right.

But then in the late 1970s, early 1980s, they set about social engineering. Suddenly, rather than telling us to do what we knew was right, we were being told to support various controversial political ideas or to believe the impossible in the name of political correctness. Those did not work.

I can say that both from personal experience, as the people I knew in my generation viewed these as laughable and insulting, but also from the fact that no attitudes changed afterwards. By comparison, I clearly recall what the highways used to look like before the anti-littering campaigns and it's clear that this worked (plus, people still remember the ads).

What I like about the FBL ads is that they use the old formula of telling you "hey, you know this is right, and being right isn't always easy, but if you want respect, this is the way to get it." That impresses me. Plus, I think the ads are very well done.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, I have to admit that I do not recall the Iron Cody ads. But I think you make a very astute point about the Boy Scouts. What's great about the Scouts is that they teach you that the only way to become a better person is to do the right things. They don't tell you that you have an obligation, which makes it sound like a job, and they don't praise you for intentions. They tell you straight up, if you want to be respected and respect yourself, then do the things that earn you respect.

AndrewPrice said...

Tam, I agree entirely. Running off to a teacher (1) is unlikely to get you much help, (2) will egg the bully on because you've proven that you can't help yourself, and (3) gets you the dreaded snitch label that kids hate so much.

(Again though, let me point out that there are moments when getting help is essential, like when the bullying crosses becomes dangerous or it becomes persistent.)

Moreover, I agree entirely with your point that solving your own problems teaches you how to handle yourself in life. The sad truth is that bullies will continue to be there all through life. I've run across several as an attorney, I've seen cops who are bullies, judges, etc. And they were doing the same lousy tricks they probably did as kids by picking on people who appeared weak and then riding them mercilessly. If you never learn to handle these people, they will push you around your whole life.

I recall the Palin incident, and she has an excellent point. Usually, the best person to offer advice is the person who have made the mistake in question (and thus can sympathize with why you would make that decision) and then learned from their mistake. That is so much more useful in terms of giving credibility to your arguments than having some celebrity trying to read fakey-sympathy lines.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, That's exactly what I'm talking about!

Don't get me wrong, I'm no fan of picking on kids because of a disability or whatever. BUT, there are certain things that just aren't true. For example, the kid in the wheelchair is not going to dominate the basketball court against kids without a disability.

SO... by constantly making the kid in the wheelchair into the basketball star, all they are doing is sending the message that we can't deal with these people honestly for whatever reason, instead we should accept things we know are not true to keep them from feeling bad.

That is a lesson that is guaranteed to backfire.

Not only does it unfairly imply that there is more wrong with these people than just the disability (i.e. they are intellectually/emotionally fragile and need to be lied to), but it also puts them in the akward spot of constantly being shown expectations that they can't meet.

Truth is always the superior choice.

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, I understand that bullying among girls is typically nonviolent, but is extremely vicious.

This is the exact kind of situation that requires an attitude rethink to fix the problem, rather telling kids to run to the teacher because there's nothing a teacher can do about it. Seriously, how can a teacher tell students to stop looking down on someone else?

The only thing that will stop this kind of bullying is if it becomes generally unacceptable among kids to act that way. And that's where I think PSA like the one in the article (girl welcomes the new kid) will be much more effective than some celebrity saying "bullying isn't cool" and then showing some kid running to get a teach to stop the big dumb kid from shoving the smaller kids.

I recall the follow up to the egg ad where they trashed the kitchen and that was another good one. It's too bad that liberals poo-poo'd those ads because they didn't like Nancy Reagan.

BevfromNYC said...

The Mormons did a series of PSA's about "family dinner" that was great. Just like you say, it's something we all know is important, but we just need to be reminded.

And who can ever forget "Don't Mess With Texas". For those of you who don't know, that was originally an anti-littering campaign which morphed into the unofficial Texas state motto with an entirely different meaning...

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, I liked those too, about the dinner. Again, it's something that we already know, but we just need to be pushed occasionally to remember why it's important.

I love the Don't Mess With Texas slogan! That's one of those absolutely perfect slogans. It's got the perfect attitude for the state (it never would have sounded right in Florida or West Virginia), and it's totally clear what it means, yet it also has so many other subtle meanings. In my opinion, that's really one of the great slogans of all time.

Tennessee Jed said...

Andrew - just an aside and of absolutely no consequence, Iron Eyes Cody was a, no the Sioux Indian of westerns. He did a lot of work for Disney if I recall. Anyway, he did the original crying Indian ads. Now I know westerns aren't exactly your genre, and you are a little young, but my guess is if you check him out on imbd, you will instantly recognize him.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, Ah, I didn't know his name. I know the ads though.

On westerns, I actually am a big fan of westerns, though I prefer more modern westerns to the John Wayne era.

Ironically, I'm preparing a Top 25 for westerns right now and will probably put it up next week. How's that for timing! :-)

Anonymous said...

I was always disturbed by the PSA announcement: It's 10 PM do you know where your children are? How sad that the government feels it has to remind parents about that or that some parents need to be reminded.

Here's a PSA on how to deal with Progressives when debating Obama care.

It's long but worth the watch. It has moments where you get to see prog brainwashing in full effect.

Johnny 5 is alive

AndrewPrice said...

Johnny 5 is alive,

That is kind of sad that the government has to ask that question. It makes you wonder either if there are that many truly bad parents (and would they actually listen?) or does our government just not think much of us?

I remember one PSA that told people "don't forget to wash your hands when leaving the bathroom." Oh boy.

Of course, Team Obama felt they had to tell us how to sneeze last year.

Here's your link: LINK I'll check it out.

LakeLevel said...

Bullying does indeed often have a racial component. I have know several people who told me that in High School, they were told that nothing could be done about their bullying problem because they were white and their bullyers were black. Also, I know many people who, when they called the police in their one party town (Democrat) about numerous bullying type crimes being perpitrated on them, were told to just sit there and take it since they were white and the perpitrators were black, i.e. they were told STFU you racist asshole.

AndrewPrice said...

Lakelevel, Sadly, I am not surprised.

Let me clarify what I meant by there being no race element to bullying. While race can certainly come up when the bullying incident involve people of different races (and it can often be based on race or the response may involve race issues), what I meant was that there is no inherent racial element to bullying generally and you will find bullies in all races.

BevfromNYC said...

Yeah, what was THAT about with the sneezing in your elbow thing? All I could think was, hasn't anyone in the Obama Administration heard of KLEENEX? My grandmother always made sure we had a tissue in our pockets before we left the house...

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, Yep, that struck me as a little bit odd too. . . I guess Kleenex never contributed to his campaign?

CrispyRice said...


Seriously, I can still sing this 30 years later.

AndrewPrice said...

Crispy, Good one.

Here's you're link: LINK

Ed said...

"This is your brain on liberalism."

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