Mark Frauenfelder @ Boing Boing Blog
U.N. landmine commerical won't air in US.


A U.N. commercial depicts American girls playing in a soccer match. A girl steps on a landmine and there's a big explosion. Kids get blown apart. CNN and other networks don't want to air the ad.

 Images2 Landmines2The explosion appears to kill and injure some girls, sparking panic and chaos among parents and other children. Shrieks of horror are heard through much of the spot, and a father is shown cradling his daughter's lifeless body, moments after celebrating a goal she had scored.

It closes with a tag line reading: "If there were landmines here, would you stand for them anywhere? Help the U.N. eradicate landmines everywhere."


You can view the ad here. (Here's a torrent file). Link and another Link
First, there was news that:
But on Monday, the Americans created turmoil by announcing that the United States would not join an otherwise universal consensus unless the document was amended to say that it did not create "any new international human rights" or "include the right to abortion."
(via Jonas)

Now this.

I remember at a recent meeting, a senior diplomat we were meeting with said that the U.N. Personnel Landmine Treaty would not have happened if it weren't for Internet and email. He talked about how the Net opened many of these previously closed treaty making processes to NGOs and individuals. It appears that the US is doing what it can to marginalize these multilateral processes. This also reminds me of how important video is. You can say landmine all you want, but a video has impact beyond words. I really think that video blogging will evolve into an important part of our dialog. I wish more news agencies would provide us with material to use to create citizen video commentary. Maybe CNN can ban it, but we can still distribute it on the Internet.

22 Comments

" . . .would not have happened if it weren't for Internet and email. He talked about how the Net opened many of these previously closed treaty making processes to NGOs and individuals..."

Yes! This is exactly what empowered us in Brazil to be able to use bamboo as a renewable sustainable resource, FINALLY, after Academia and Universities had kept expensive books, research, and solutions looked in cases.

Now, after a few years, we have a thriving bambubrasil yahoogroups, an NGO inspired from a meeting (Inbambu.org.br), another one in Rio dedicated to Bio-Architecture (ebiobambu), and hopefully more will come.

Yesterday, I met a documentary filmmaker who was at the G8 Summit and had filmed there. He told me how the Secret Service was following him and prohibiting from filming, asking him questions and telling him to get lost...

VLogging is definitely a way to break the surface tension on simulated democracy...

No one is "for" landmines. On the other hand, if there's actual war they do serve a purpose - they can stop/slow down an enemy advance and channel it to where you want it.

Quick - why don't you ask the South Koreans about removing all the landmine fields between them and North Korea? I suspect you would get a big "No".

The problem is what to do with landmines after a conflict ends - and there's no easy answer to that - other than spreading consensual government in order to reduce the kinds of conflicts that put landmines into play.

Joi, it's a larger issue than vlogging that you have brought up here, particularly how content is classsified not by their importance to society, but by viewership response, in particular, minority but power wielding response. Soccer mums are a powerful lot, and pretentious ones. The Frank Zappa vs. Tipper Gore case is a reflection of the unrealities of this landscape and I feel this issue needs widespread exposure. Kudos for what you are doing.

Reminds me a bit of a story I heard a long time ago where Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters placed an ad in a newspaper that to protest the use of Napalm and educate the public on its effects, they would be using Napalm on some puppies.

People of course protested vehemently as being inhuman, but the use of Napalm on people continued without any sort of protest, until that famous photo of Kim Phuc, a girl then about the same age as the girl in the soccer video was published.

What companies make landmines? Who owns those companies? What other companies are they affiliated with? Do they make any products that I can knowingly avoid?

I had a thought about land mines a while back - assign each mine an RFID chip with a unique number. This would be readable and detectable later. During the course of the conflict, thousands of dummy RFID chips could be scattered in the area so that the "enemy" could not easily detect the mines merely because it has a chip. When the conflict is over, publish the list of RFID numbers that correspond to a mine, so that they can be (more) safely identified and removed. This would neither alter the design of the bomb nor impair its function and would cost probably less than 25¢ per mine. What is a leg or a foot or a life worth?

From Foreign Affairs Canada:
http://www.mines.gc.ca/I/I_C-en.asp

"""The major producers of anti-personnel landmines in the last 25 years have included the United States, Italy, the former Soviet Union, Sweden, Vietnam, Germany, Austria, the former Yugoslavia, France, China and the United Kingdom. The most commonly found mines around the world were from China, Italy and the former Soviet Union.

According to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, 14 countries had not banned the production of anti-personnel landmines. These were Burma, China, Cuba, Egypt, India, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, South Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Singapore, United States and Vietnam. Some of these countries have not actually produced AP mines in recent years, but refuse to ban production officially."""

Here is how I see it:

Landmines: Bad
Selling of landmines to 3rd party conflicts: Worse
UN trying to end landmines: Good
CNN (others) refusing to air landmine cm: Neutral - its up to them

UN producing TV commercials to influence US public: Not sure

I can see why CNN and others would refuse to air this. Many of their viewers would complain that an ad which targets the US but not other landmine producing countries, is biased. Of the countries listed in Karl's post, such an ad would be blocked at a government level by probably all of them. Maybe Russia and Egypt would all the commercial but I doubt it. So I think they are not totally out of line in refusing to air the commercial.

While I agree with the UNs objectives, something seems strange about them making an anti landmine commercial for the US audience. I am sure the Chinese, North Koreans and the rest would just laugh at them if they tried to produce the same commercial for those countries.

>While I agree with the UNs objectives, something seems strange about them making >an anti landmine commercial for the US audience. I am sure the Chinese, North >Koreans and the rest would just laugh at them if they tried to produce the same >commercial for those countries.

The US is supposed to be the sort of place where you can do that, though. Americans are supposed to have some say in that sort of thing, so it seems perfectly appropriate that the UN produce such a commercial.
Sure, it would make Americans uncomfortable to see such a thing, but I think that is exactly the point. There needs to be an international ban on these weapons and billions of dollars spent on their eradication. Before any of that can happen, there needs to be some outrage among members of the public. For that to happen, people need to actually think about the sorts of things that their taxes finance.

I hope this reaches even more people because CNN turned them away.

To get a sense of the problem, consider this:
The French Department du Deminage has been working since 1945 to clear the millions and millions of tons of unexploded ordinance from its forests and fields. People are still being killed by bombs from World War One. (For the most part, these are big dumb bombs that didn't go off when they were fired almost a hundred years ago. Not the small, well-designed, waterproof, camouflaged devices designed to explode when someone as small as a child steps on them.)
They estimate that it will take another seven hundred years to completely clear France of these bombs.

Bombs and landmines can and do last for decades and purposely hiding them in places where people will try to live and work is not just shortsighted, it's evil.

James: "No one is "for" landmines. On the other hand, if there's actual war they do serve a purpose - they can stop/slow down an enemy advance and channel it to where you want it."

Do you have any data on this? Landmines were largely deployed in days before heat activation technology and other advances in military technology. Even the DMZ today is largely secured despite of, rather than instead, landmines.

Secondly, there's more than one brand of landmine. APED (anti-personnel explosive device) are small, hard to detect, and even harder to extract. During the course of a war, both sides happily navigate their APCs through APED fields, secure in the knowledge, that nothing can and will happen. Heck, Somali Technicals are sufficient to offset most APED. Drag-bars aren't, though. Which makes extraction even harder.

Soldiers of all ranks have a DUTY to civilians. We must ensure, at all times, not to impact them more than we absolutely must. No, I don't think that's the case, but depleted uranium and APED are much, much, more than just a violation of our duties - they continue to violate for years and decades to come.

Jim,

The reason it seems strange to me is that the UN is treating the member states very differently. Pushing for a treaty is one thing, getting governement officials, NGOs and citizens involved to help bring change is one thing, but making commercials to propagate to the citizens of a nation while not doing so to other nations is not balanced. In my mind, one of the principles of the UN is that it is fair and treats its member states equally. You could argue that this has never been the case, but I certainly think it is a goal.

Well, I guess the UN felt that they needed to raise awareness in the US. After all, the US still has a *lot* of influence when it comes to these sorts of policy decisions. Where would they suggest that they run such an ad? Some country where they intimately know the effects of landmines?

Americans are exactly the ones that need to see this ad.

Regardless of how one stands on the landmine issue, my view is that for the UN to unilaterally support such a blatantly insidious, political, and simplistic ad is reprehensible. Instead of educating people on the pros and cons of the issue, backed with hard data, the ads simply point to websites that are mere propaganda.

And then to attack a single nation with it, when to my knowledge they've not donea similar thing against any other member nation is extraordinarily arrogant.

This after corruption scandals involving billions of dollars go a long way to undermining confidence in an organization once so full of promise.

Reading the cited sources, it sounds like they were asking networks to show the ad for free, as a public service ad. This sounds like a publicity stunt; I think they did this expecting to be rejected.

There's a procedure to getting public service ads aired. You general go through the Ad Council. If they were serious about trying to get it aired, they could have hired a publicist with experience in this area to help them navigate the process. They still might have had a hard time, as public service ads usually have a community tie-in or connection to the broadcaster's constituency.

If they are really serious about getting it on TV, how about ponying up some money, like real advertisers do?

Michael Parekh (11) writes:

"And then to attack a single nation with it, when to my knowledge they've not donea similar thing against any other member nation is extraordinarily arrogant."

To claim that the United States - or any other country that has been in a major war this century - has not used landmines is a somewhat bizarre claim. Of course they have. Here's an example:

http://www.banminesusa.org/qa/vvaf.html

Apart from actual use, there also the exporting and stockpiling of landmines that must be considered. I quote from this article: http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/27a/073.html

QUOTE
"The U.S. bears a special responsibility for the landmines crisis," said Stephen Goose, program director of the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch. "Washington is one of the largest producers and exporters of mines in the past, and one of the largest stockpilers today. President Bush should make joining the Mine Ban Treaty a high priority so that the U.S. can fully wield its influence and power to achieve a truly global ban on antipersonnel mines."
UNQUOTE

Of course, it is true that the US is by no means the only country guilty of using, exporting and stockpiling landmines. But as self-proclaimed 'moral leaders' of the world, it is expected of them to conform to certain standards of morality by signing the Ottawa treaty on the banning of landmine usage! Instead, they've done another Kyoto on this one too. Here the list of current non-signatories:
http://www.landminesurvivors.org/library_nonsignatories.php

In the US's defence, there are a number of other important and influential countries in that list. China probably among the current leaders in exporting and stockpiling landmines. But that's no reason for the US to point fingers and say "What about them? Why just me?" Instead, they should get sensitized to the issue themselves, move towards eliminating these sick remnants of war and use their influence to make others follow suit.

To quote from anotherwise forgettable movie - with great power comes great responsibility.

pepleuali wrote:
"[..] making commercials to propagate to the citizens of a nation while not doing so to other nations is not balanced."

Michael Parekh wrote:
"[..] to attack a single nation with it, when to my knowledge they've not donea similar thing against any other member nation is extraordinarily arrogant"

Well, consider this:

- The US is the only G7 country that hasn't banned the use of anti-personnel landmines

- Of all the countries that are NOT signatories to the anti-personnel landmine ban treaty, the US are one of the most likely to deploy mines outside their borders, e.g. in Asia, Africa or South America.

Objection to the fact that the US might see fit to implement a modern version of salting fields in other people's countries is quite understandable, IMHO. The use of American girls in the ad might perhaps make some people in the US perceive the human impact — about 500 persons killed or maimed by mines every day — of what's happening outside their borders...

Oops. Make the statistic above "500 people killed or maimed by mines every week". Still a significant number, as it involves tens of thousands of victims per year...

This ad probably shouldn't be aired in the States because it will irk many parents at a gut level. For one thing, the commercial is almost like a snuff film for people who would like to see American kids die, for a change.

"See? How do you like it? Your children can suffer miserably too. Perhaps they should. And by the way, here's what it looks like when they die. Again, how do you like it?"

Nobody here is in favor of little children getting limbs blown off and people don't like to be made to feel punished or guilty for problems such as this. The commercial is powerful and reckless. Poorly thought out.

[Mike] (16) : "This ad probably shouldn't be aired in the States because it will irk many parents at a gut level."

On the contrary, the commercial should be aired for precisely those reasons. This instigation will undoubtedly lead to some level of debate, and that alone will justify the airing of the ad.

The intent of the ad is merely to spread awareness. To widen people spheres of perception. It is clear that this ad sparks much debate, as we can see on this blog. If this sort of debate can take place in more households across the nation, that will increase public awareness.

Of course nobody likes to see kids being blown up, but are you saying that it's alright when stuff like that actually happens as long as we don't actually *know* about it at a visceral level? Does detaching one's self from reality solve the problem??

I don't think the ad is aimed at blaming the US - that would be a useless angle to pursue. It's an appeal to Americans to begin caring about the issue because Americans have the weight to get things done.

Instead of looking at it as a pointed finger, look at it as hands folded in a plea.

Nev- I definitely see your point. Maybe you're right, but I just think that showing kids getting killed is kind of poor taste, even when it's to get across a message that I agree with.

It is children who are routinely maimed and killed by landmines. In rural areas children are often responsible for herding the family's animals and when the animals in theor charge stray it is the children who go looking for them. If a sheep or goat that strays into a mined area doesn't set off an explosion the child has no reason to suspect the danger he or she is in.

The reality of anti-personnel landmines is that they are indiscriminate weapons. They kill many more civilians than they do military personnel and they are more likely to kill a child who steps on a mine than they are an adult, who may escape with "just" an amputated limb. The US is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. When a piece of paper proves ineffective then a more direct form of communication may be necessary.

I can see why CNN and others would refuse to air this. Many of their viewers would complain that an ad which targets the US but not other landmine producing countries, is biased.

'airing in the US' is completely different than 'targetting the US' in my eyes. the only thing this ad is targeting is landmines themselves. to everyone who feels uncomfortable about the ad - good. you should. we've kept ourselves far further away from the evil our warmongers do than is good for us.

I am sure the Chinese, North Koreans and the rest would just laugh at them if they tried to produce the same commercial for those countries.

maybe they would, but the reaction would be a measure of how civilised and humane a particular country was.

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i honestly think that we really need to inform people all over the world about what the land mines are doing to people all over the world! I honestly think that the commercial should be aired. If the commercial is aired then it would inform many and maybe we would get people from the US and Russia and other countries to help remove to landmines that are still laid down all around the world. If we want to inform people then we need to find a way to air the commercial or make a short show about what is going on with landmines around the world!

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