We loved this letter from CCFC member David Banerjee to Fisher-Price Executive Vice President David Allmark so much we wanted to share it with you.
Dear Mr. Allmark,
My name is David Banerjee, and I am a father in Toronto, Canada. I would like to share two thoughts with you regarding your product line.
1) During a class on child development in grad school, my professor related some interesting findings on Baby Einstein. Many parents of infants were thrilled that their children could attend for prolonged periods to the videos and had assumed that their children were absorbing the content. Instead, fMRI research indicated that the children’s threat receptors were activated by the moving images. In short, their stares were a defensive posture against what their developing brains perceived as danger. The product was actually disregulating the child by keeping them on alert.
2) I recently re-read Robert Jackall’s Moral Mazes: The World of Corporate Managers, a neutral, sociological examination of how business decisions are made. Dr. Jackall observed that successful executives are uniquely “alert to expedience”: capable of finding ways to justify their superior’s decisions. Managers did not experience moral dilemmas as dilemmas: the only course of action was to support the boss.
Well, you’re the boss now. And I want you to understand that you should feel deeply ambivalent about the Newborn-to-Toddler Apptivity product. I imagine that you are receiving several such emails, and that you have your justifications: the time and effort, legal-wrangling with Apple, and the fact that your competitors are working on a similar product. I have no doubt that you recommend that the product should be “used properly,” for short periods so parents can do the dishes. Moreover, I know that your shareholders are demanding a strong return this quarter and that you are obligated to them and to the product development team.
I imagine that the good people at Phillip Morris used similar rationalizations to continue fighting legislation against cigarettes. And they are still deeply complicit for creating a highly addictive and damaging product.
As are you.
Don’t submit to expedience. This is a moral dilemma, not a matter of simple pragmatism. Your obligation to your consumers—the babies—outweighs your obligation to your shareholders. This is bad for them and it is better to pull the product and take a stand.
I await a considered reply.
David Banerjee is a father and elementary teacher from Toronto.
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