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Subject: ZNet Commentary / Mokhiber and Weissman / Every Nook / May 21
Date: Sun, 20 May 2001 08:58:06 -0400
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Every Nook and Cranny
By Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman
We've heard it said that commercialism will keep
expanding its frontiers until every boundary has
been smashed and non-commercial values are
Let's now admit that we are rapidly approaching
We are friends with a seven-year-old, who has been
sheltered to a large degree from the ravages of
commercialism, who likes baseball, and who likes
to sing that American classic "Take me out to the
We were driving him to see a major league ballgame
the other day, running late, listening to the
first inning on the radio, when a jingle for an
oil company came on -- "Take me Out to Sunoco."
"What's Sunoco?" the seven-year old asked.
"Sun Oil Company," we said in shock.
Slowly, baseball has been giving in to the creep
of commercial culture. Of course, for years, ads
have played a dominant role at the ballparks. But
now things are getting out of control.
Every time the New York Yankees turn a double
play, the Yankees play-by-play announcers are
required, by contract, to say "There's Another
Jiffy Lube Double Play." When Yankee skipper Joe
Torre pulls the starting pitcher and calls for a
relief pitcher, the Yankees announcers must say
there's a "Geico Direct Call to the Bullpen." And
And now, the forces of commercialism have grabbed
onto one of baseball's all-time heroes, The
Ironman, Lou Gehrig.
Alcatel, the French telecommunications firm that
is using Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream"
speech in national television and print ads, has
obtained the rights to Gehrig's famous 1939
farewell speech at Yankee Stadium.
In that speech, despite having a fatal disease
that bears his name -- amyotrophic lateral
sclerosis -- Gehrig told the Yankee stadium crowd
on that day he considered himself "the luckiest
man on the face of the Earth."
We called up Brian Murphy, the U.S. spokesperson
for Alcatel and asked him about the Gehrig ad. He
said that decision on whether to run the ad would
be made with a few weeks.
We made the point that Dr. King was not about
commercialism and would never have allowed his
name to be used for commercial purposes.
We reminded Murphy that there has been strong
criticism from the civil rights community over the
use of Dr. King to sell the French company's
On the Today Show last month, Julian Bond,
chairman of the NAACP and a colleague of Dr.
King's, ripped into Alcatel.
"It just seems to me that some things ought to be
sacrosanct," Bond said. "Some things ought not be
commercialized. Martin Luther King is one of those
icons of the movement. This just strikes me as
leading us further and further down a dangerous
path. I can imagine some day seeing Franklin
Roosevelt saying, 'We have nothing to fear but
headache pain,' or John F. Kennedy saying, 'Ask
not what you can do for your country, but what you
could do for Country Ham.' It just strikes me as a
further intrusion of commercialism into some of
the -- one of the most important icons of the 20th
Murphy admitted that the company has received
"mixed reactions" to the King, but defended the
company's course, reminding us that the King
estate was paid for the rights to the "I Have a
How much? we asked.
"That's proprietary information," he said.
"We worked with the King Foundation, the King
estate throughout the process, they approved the
King ad -- all along we wanted to make sure we
were honoring Dr. King and we feel we did," Murphy
said. "We believe we did the right thing."
But what about the fact that Dr. King would never
have allowed such a thing, that he was
disappointed that our country had failed "to deal
positively and forthrightly with the triple evils
of racism, extreme materialism and militarism."
"I don't know the man," Murphy blurted out.
Clearly you don't.
Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington,
D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter. Robert
Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based
Multinational Monitor. They are co-authors of
Corporate Predators: The Hunt for MegaProfits and
the Attack on Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common
Courage Press, 1999).
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