[sixties-l] Mokhiber and Weissman on Commodified King, etc.

From: Ted Morgan (epm2@lehigh.edu)
Date: Mon May 21 2001 - 11:58:50 EDT

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    Passing this along, of note, from Znet Commentaries:
    Ted Morgan

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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
    completely extinguished.

    Let's now admit that we are rapidly approaching
    that point.

    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
    so on.

    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
    telephone equipment.

    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
    Dream" speech.

    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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