Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Annoying Group of People #2: Susan Linn and her supporters

Ho-ly crap. That was my basic response to reading the New York Times headline about refunds being offered to parents who bought Baby Einstein videos. Baby Einstein and its friends, as you may know, were acquired by Disney a while back. Disney will issue refunds for up to four DVDs per household for the videos which - gasp! - may not have been "educational." We'll talk about the lawsuit against deep pockets in a second, but first let's look at the complete and utter stupidity of one Susan Linn.

Susan Linn, you see, is the head of an organization that protests marketing to children. Fair enough. She is quoted in the NY Times article. She sees the refund as an admission that the baby videos are not educational. Of course what the refund really is, as the article goes on to point out, is a product guarantee and a way out of a threatened class-action lawsuit. I am super-proud of Disney for puting a stop to this nonsense before it got to court. I mean sure, it sucks to "have" to settle on somethng like that, because lunatics like Linn will say a lot of crap as they seek more and more publicity, and will say that Disney and Baby Einstein are "admitting" something, when in reality they're just picking the cheaper way to make her go away.

But wait! She said something even more stupid!

You see, when she instigated this nonsense, it was after complaining to the FTC about the word "educational" being used in the marketing of the videos. So, Disney and another company called Brainy Baby dropped "educational" from their marketing. But that wasn't good enough for her (as I'm sure she was frustrated thinking about those deep pockets into which she hadn't yet plunged her hands) so she went to some public health lawyers.

Like the public health lawyer that serves on the board of her organization? Maybe. Public health lawyers? Yeah, I'm sure there's no better issue to take up their time. Health insurance reform? Pollution? WTC 9/11 clean-up claims? H1N1? Nah.... So of course these lawyers threatened a class-action lawsuit -- against Disney! Money, money, money. Oh, but I'm sorry, this was all done on behalf of the children, right? We don't want to market to them, wasn't that the whole point? Although the only marketing I ever saw on a Baby Einstein video was "and we also have these other videos," but that's too logical for Susan Linn. No, she had this to say:

Before the refunds, "Disney was never held accountable and parents were never given any compensation," she said. Oh - right. Because she is all about the children, and yet, let's compensate those parents. Who were apparently dumb enough to think some video was magically going to transform their child into a genius? Ms Thang thinks Disney should be held "accountable" for that not happening. Accountable? Hello! Accountability is for misdeeds. We should be holding the Bush Administration and military accountable for torture. And for stealing Florida's election. We should be holding the media accountable for enthusiastically promoting the war in Iraq. We should be holding our senators accountable for handing over money to Goldman Sachs in a bailout. We do not hold a company "accountable" for selling you a video for your kid.

How dare she? Who does she think she is? Would she have threatened a class-action lawsuit against little ol' Julie Aigner-Clark if the company hadn't been sold to Disney? I doubt it!

And I don't care if there are parents who can't face up to their own addictions to television who bought a video only because they thought it was miraculous and different and it's all their kids ever needed to learn. That just means their kids have far bigger problems than a video that doesn't "work." And for the record? I was totally impressed that my nephew was able to discourse with me about Vincent Van Gogh and "Starry Night" at age three because he had watched the "Vincent Van Goat" character in Baby Van Gogh.

Shame on you, Susan Linn.

Read the truth behind Baby Einstein's refund action!


Anonymous said...

I found your post when googling about Susan Linn. Found your blog very interesting!

Anonymous said...

This post is quite old, and your thoughts may have changed by now. I found the post after looking into this issue of Susan Linn & Baby Einstein, and I couldn't help but to comment.

First of all, I don't want my food to be labeled "natural" or "organic" if it is not. Similarly, I would not want a DVD to be labeled "educational" if it has no educational value. Now, what's "educational" is hard to define. However, the point is that Baby Einstein had no evidence to show that it was influencing infants' cognitive development in a positive way.

Of course I don't expect any "magic" to happen. I don't expect my kids to become suddenly bright & educated after viewing videos. However, it's a matter of principle. If there is no evidence that something is educational, don't put it on the product label. Notice B.E.'s website changed their claims about their products. If they could prove their products were indeed having positive influence, they would have no reason to change their claims.

I mean... with all the money the company has, why don't they spend some in research? Why don't they figure out ways to improve their products rather than to resort to taking out the word "educational" to avoid the conflict?

The topic is very sensitive issue and there are many more factors to take into consideration, but for sake of my time, I want to end with a comment on your nephew talking about Vincent Van Gogh. I suppose it is impressive because he is showing off his factual knowledge that a typical child of age three would not know. However, does that tell you much about the educational value of the DVD? Or does it just demonstrate what a normal three-year-olds these days know/don't know?