CIA for KIDS
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Subject: [patrickcrusade] CIA for KIDS
Sunday, May 30, 2004 2:39 PM
CIA for Kids
The CIA Sets Up a Web Site "Just for Kids";
by Ruffin Prevost
The hottest trend in marketing today is to "hook 'em while they're young." That's because, as they say on Madison Avenue, brands win. If you build brand loyalty among your customers early in life, they'll never stray. If all goes well, they'll keep buying your product for the next 60 years -- even, as with cigarettes, alcohol and possibly Olestra, if it kills 'em.
Time-Warner has courted li'l sports fans 'round the world with its Sports Illustrated for Kids, Ted Turner launched TBS Kids News long before he became the Citizen Kane of the digital age, and now multi-national pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly is rumored to be considering kid-sized doses of Prozac, its soma-like anti-depressant, for nine-year-olds who can't shake off the ennui and angst that inevitably results from a hectic schedule of trading Beanie Babies and slamming pogs.
So is it really such a big surprise that a Central Intelligence Agency home page for kids finally sprang up? The real question is, what took The Company so long to get into the act? No matter. Better late than never, as America's most well-known "secret" intelligence agency is now indoctrinating youngsters across the nation into the exciting world of covert counterinsurgency efforts, puppet dictatorships and electronic mind-control warfare.
CIA Spokesman Bill Harlow told the Associated Press, the CIA for Kids site was created after President Bill Clinton issued an executive order on April 19, 1998, ordering the leaders of various federal agencies to create kid-friendly features on their respective web sites and provide more "educational material" online for children.
The Clinton political machine certainly understands the power of romancing America's youth. It was candidate Bill who angled for the pee-wee vote by blowing a mean sax and disclosing his underwear style to MTV's Kurt Loder and Tabitha Soren, so it only makes sense that his administration would look to "build the American brand" with today's web-surfing moppets. (There's even a White House for Kids page online now, in which Socks the cat guides kids around the executive estate. It's pretty lame, though.)
"We thought a kids' page for the CIA would be a good way [to] encourage kids to learn more about geography and history and about what we do," Harlow said, calling the site "another tool to explain to kids what we do." Which of course begs the question, just how many "other tools" did the agency already have?
While Harlow says the CIA for Kids site was created on a "shoestring budget" and "is not aimed in any way at recruiting anybody," it's chock full o' fun for kids of all ages. In fact, parents concerned that their kids might run into information on the Agency's more "adult" pursuits (such as torture, psychological warfare or assassination) can rest assured that the site is, like, 100% totally awesome, and kid-friendly to the max, dude.
The CIA for Kids site boasts animated agents in trenchcoats who beckon youngsters to a world of fun and intrigue. Those adventurous li'l spooks who are cyber-savvy enough to have a Shockwave-capable browser can put together a virtual disguise for a grateful secret web agent.
But hey, grown-ups can be scary, and as the CIA's publicity flacks and head-shrinkers know all too well, the easiest way to win kids over is with cute, furry animals.
Enter Bogart, the bomb-sniffing dog, and Harry Recon, the Agency's helpful aerial photo-snapping carrier pigeon. Kids can hear Bogart bark at prospective terrorists, see Harry flap his government-funded wings, and read about how even the animals have fun helping the CIA topple uncooperative democracies in favor of fascist military regimes!
But before you stage a protest at the local CIA recruiting office in your hometown mall (did you really think those people made their livings selling pretzels from carts?), consider that, despite the Agency's sophistication in snooping on "bad guys" and relaying secret microfilm messages hidden in fake teeth, their attempts at giving the kids of America a warm fuzzy about covert activities is almost laughable.
There's not a single fart joke, groin injury, Leonardo
DiCaprio picture or sugar-coated snack with an offer of a free prize to
be found anywhere on the site. Sure, you can lead a kid to mindless obedience
in service of corrupt ideals, but you can't make him sign on. Not without
offering a free pair of real-life, fully functional x-ray specs!
Other Agencies Hop on the Kiddie Kart
It isn't just the feds who are targeting kids with government propaganda. The Tennessee Department of Correction, for example, has set up a perfectly dreadful Kid's Fun Zone page, featuring a collection of kid's prison art, prison-related word games, and a macabre list of Kids' Frequently Asked Questions, such as:
Do prisoners have toilets in their cells?
On the Trivia page of the "Kids Fun Zone," children try to answer questions like, "An inmate may reduce the amount of time he/she must serve by: a) keeping his/her cell clean; b) earning credits for good behavior; c) escaping."
And you'd never think steel could look so cold in Crayola, until you check out the kids' prison art gallery, complete with chain gangs and solitary confinement cells. For a "Kids Fun Zone," the whole thing is quite depressing.
But of all the recent "Kids' Pages" to crop up on government web servers recently, none has found more controversy than the Department of Justice's Justice for Kids and Youth page.
The DOJ page is chock full o' so much squeaky-clean, gee-whiz,
goody-goody propaganda that you'd never guess that agents working under
the Department of Justice have frequently carried out illegal wiretaps
and mass surveillance and harassment of political activists --
However, most of the controversy about the DOJ page has centered around the "Hateful Acts" section, in which Attorney General Janet Reno tells America's youth:
In these stories, kids like you have to deal with the prejudice of their family members. We all have relatives and friends that came to this country from other lands. Some chose to come, and some did not. Unfortunately, some people -- even our relatives -- can forget how difficult it is to come to a new country, learn a new language and make new friends.
When someone makes jokes about people, or labels people, because of where they come from, the color of their skin, their religion, or gender, it is both a hurtful act and a hateful act. If this happens in your home, you might try talking to your parents, teacher, religious leader, counselor, or other adult with whom you feel comfortable.
The sentiment is certainly admirable, but the presentation reeks of Big Brother's aftershave. Here's the Attorney General of the United States telling America's children what to think, and instructing them to basically turn in their relatives for speech "crimes."
For instance, the page presents a scenario in which a child's babysitter forbids her from going swimming in the same pool in which a group of Mexican kids is swimming. The page asks, "What do YOU think? What is wrong about the babysitter's statements? How is the babysitter labeling a group of people?"
In another scenario, a child's uncle (from the description of him, you can practically smell Scotch on his breath) speaks disparagingly of the racial diversity of modern television. Kids are presented with three simple-to-choose-from options, one of which includes "talking to an adult you can trust."
Most decent folks would agree that cultural bigotry and racism are serious problems that need to be identified and dealt with. But do we really need Janet Reno framing these issues for our kids, after she approved the final assault on the Branch Davidians at Mt. Carmel which led to the horrible deaths of seventeen innocent children?
As columnist Nat Hentoff pointed out in a Washington Post editorial, "The kids being advised by the Justice Department on how to deal with their family members' bigoted speech range from kindergarten through the fifth grade. Children that young are not necessarily astute evaluators of bigoted remarks, particularly when they are asked to report those comments, secondhand, to people outside the family. Older kids also are not very reliable on this score."
Hentoff asserts that "although privacy is increasingly being curbed by private and governmental organizations, the highest expectation of privacy remains -- or should remain -- in the home." Hentoff recommends that the DOJ cite on its page, for children of all ages, the Supreme Court's decisions regarding privacy. "The section could also underline the need for all of us, including kids, to understand the history of free speech in this country."
In the "Civil Rights" section of the DOJ Kids page, the "internment" of thousands of Japanese-American citizens in concentration camps during World War II is given a cursory overview, and there is a brief section on American Indians as well. However, the page makes no mention of the bloody standoff between the FBI and the American Indian Movement at Wounded Knee in 1973. The FBI's repression of political activists also escapes mention. Apparently, the kids don't need to know about that stuff.
Prominently linked to the DOJ kids' page is the aridly-named FBI Kids and Youth Educational Page, where the Bureau extolls the virtues of fingerprinting ("In earlier civilizations, branding, tattooing, or even maiming was used to mark and identify criminals") and polygraph testing.
Despite the pervasive faults and totalitarian implications of the Orwellian polygraph, the FBI tells the kids, "When used properly by trained examiners, the polygraph can reduce the cost of investigations by saving time and can increase the number of convictions by encouraging suspects to confess if they have been dishonest prior to the exam."
There's also an "FBI Internet Safety Tips" page which advises kids, "Never respond to messages or bulletin board items that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, threatening, [or] make you feel uncomfortable." The "Internet Safety Tips" are followed by a seedy roundup of "Internet law enforcement case studies" to hammer in the point.
Pretty vague Internet guidelines, eh? You'd be lucky to wade through half a day's worth of posts to alt.martha.stewart without encountering a post which is either "suggestive, belligerent, threatening" or apt to make one a bit "uncomfortable." Stay away from that bad, scary information kids! Why, it's... bad and scary!
Even today, the feds and spooks are bound to be developing plenty of new tricks to try on the kids, as well as everyone else. They must create a next generation market for American brand government product. In fact, rumor has it that the National Security Agency's Kids' Page is looking to license Nickelodeon's Rugrats, with extensive cross-marketing support from elusive Bay of Pepsi veteran Ronald "Felix" McDonald.
After all, brands win. Every time.
CIA for Kids
DOJ "Justice for Kids and Youth" Page
FBI Kids and Youth Educational Page
Tennessee Department of Correction Kid's Fun Zone
Sources: Various wire service reports; Nat Hentoff, "Unjust Criticism From Justice," Washington Post, May 30, 1998, Page A19. Special thanks to Jon Elliston, Shea Tisdale and members of the CTRL list for their contributions to this report.
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