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Dear Internet…Stop Freaking Out, Pedobear is Nothing But a Meme

This is a letter I just had to send my local radio station, WABB , after they ran with the Pedobear story that is starting to take foot again. Parents, this is nothing but an urban legend, and NOT something new to be terrified about. (Yes, I trust YOU to be able to use Google correctly, but the people the radio station had do it obviously could not).

Hi Guys,

My name is Sara and I am the co-founder of ScrwMedia, a small startup in Mobile that does humor websites on different topics. I was driving to work this morning, and I heard the piece you did on Pedobear, and honestly I’m a little hot under the collar about it. The story that you ran as being completely real and giving parents something new to be terrified over, is nothing but an urban legend, more specifically, an internet meme. Meme’s are jokes that take hold and spread, usually based around a particular picture or phrase, and that’s exactly what happened with the Pedobear image. This is something that has been around for several years, and until an idiot at that news station in New Mexico grabbed it and tried to make a headline out of it, was well known by those in the online world that it’s nothing but an off-taste joke. (Funny enough, we ran their report on Urlybits this morning as a post itself before you did your report on it. http://urlybits.com/2011/11/krqe-news-gets-it-wrong/ )

While I understand that the way news often works is one outlet reporting what another outlet said, with little or no fact-checking done in between, I honestly expected a little better from WABB. The fact that you claimed Heather Bright had researched this and found it to be real speaks volumes about her intelligence. The very first hit on any Google search on this topic is the Wikipedia article which explains very clearly in the very first paragraph that it’s nothing but a meme.

“Pedobear is an Internet meme that became popular through the imageboard 4chan.[1] As the name suggests (“pedo” being short for “pedophile”), it is portrayed as a pedophilic bear,[2] and is used to mock pedophiles. Recently, particularly in America, it has been mistaken by some as a bait used by pedophiles to lure children.”

The ‘concerns’ over this started in California a few years ago, and since that report was issued, there has not been ONE single case where it was actually found that a pedophile of any sort has been using the Pedobear symbol to get to or using it as a mascot for molesting children. As quoted in a Gawker piece last year –

“Gawker confirmed with the police that they are aware that it is an Internet joke, but that they have still considered it a mascot for molestation.”

Clearly I am against pedophilia, so why do I care that this story has taken hold again? Because this is the sort of baseless, idiotic reporting that gets people hurt. You mentioned on your show today that there is a company that makes Pedobear stickers, and how people should watch out for them. What happens the first time someone takes this story seriously, and decides to slash someone’s tires, or worse, shoot someone because they have a Pedobear sticker on their car? A sticker that to most of the internet, just references a series of funny pictures and an off-color joke? You want to be responsible for that happening here?

Please do, gosh I don’t know, 5 seconds of real reading before you decide to push what you yourselves said sounded like screwy news as real reporting, every link on the 1st page of a Google search explains this is NOT real. And for the love of f*ck please don’t rely on Heather Bright to use Google, she clearly isn’t capable.

Harsh? Maybe, but Google is NOT that hard to use, and a few seconds of reading on their part could have made for a very different story which didn’t needlessly scare parents and put people at risk.

When Smart Choices for Businesses Mean Bad Choices for Consumers

I realize with everything going on here in Oblivion lately I’ve not been following a lot of news. In fact I’ll be perfectly honest and tell you if it hasn’t come across my Google reader or my Twitter stream, I probably don’t know about it. All the biggest news hits those places first, so maybe by being behind I’m actually staying ahead of the game?

Either way I was catching up on my Twitter feed when Fiona posted about a New York Times piece describing the new campaign by a program called “Smart Choices”. Smart Choices describes their goal as “designed to help shoppers easily identify smarter food and beverage choices.”  They work with the food and beverage industry and award green checkmark labels to foods that meet certain standards based on federal dietary guidelines.

Sounds pretty innocuous, right?

It would be, right up until you see the actual food lists.

Froot Loops is a ‘Smart Choice’.

Cocoa Puffs are a ‘Smart Choice’.

Pretty much all of the Kid Cuisine frozen meals are a ‘Smart Choice’.

Hellman’s Real Mayonnaise (not the low-fat stuff, the real kind) is a ‘Smart Choice’.

I’m sorry, but..what the fuck planet are these people living on again?

Quite simply, the planet with the money.

A short perusal of their website turns up the fact that half of their Board of Directors are executives for major food and beverage companies, such as Kelloggs and Kraft. Since when does turning out junk food make them qualified to judge the merits of healthy foods?

And while the programs is advertised as non-profit, the companies pay a percentage of sales of those products bearing the logo to the Smart Choices program, up to $100,000 per year. With 10 of the largest companies signed up so far, including Kelloggs, Pepsico, and Unilever, you have to wonder where that first million dollars is going to go.

The money issue aside, I truly wonder about the ethics of the ‘doctors’ endorsing this program. Dr. Eileen Kennedy was quoted in the article as explaining that between a donut and Froot Loops, Froot Loops is the better choice because it has artificially added  vitamins, she fails to explain the logic behind promoting ‘better’ junk food as opposed to actual healthy foods. A banana is both cheaper and healthier than cereal that contains 44% sugar (no, that’s not a typo), so why are they not after promoting things like fruits (as opposed to ‘froots’) and vegetables?

The ‘it’s better than…’ logic just doesn’t work for me. I mean for all that, giving your kids candy for breakfast is better than giving them rat poison, but I don’t consider either of them a viable breakfast option. Giving your kids whiskey is certainly better than giving them bleach, but are either something that you’d consider pouring into their juice cups?

It’s sad to me that by using this ‘it’s better than’ shtick the people behind this program are clearly preying on the poor and uneducated, trying to make them feel like they’ve made a smarter choice, when in reality all this program is doing is lining some already-fat pockets at the expense of our children’s health.

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