Mark Frauenfelder at 1:41 pm Mon, Jun 21, 2010
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Companies who use use fear to sell products are the most dangerous insect known. They are born in filth, live on filth and carry filth.
A Fly in the Milk May Mean a Baby in the Grave
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His latest book is Made by Hand: My Adventures in the World of DIY
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When I saw the headline in my RSS feed I figured it was a modern ad for Thermos’ FOOGO line:
There’s still fear-for-baby’s-safety tucked in their current campaign. But I don’t begrudge them for it now or for the funny-in-hindsight one posted here. Does you average consumer react to anything else?
ggirod @17 is absolutely correct.
I’m old enough to know what it was like in the pre Salk vaccine days. I knew several kids who were polio victims. My father had polio when he was a kid. Believe me, a fly in the house would send parents into panic mode.
I can remember standing in line at school for my polio shot (1st or 2nd grade). Some of the volunteer moms who were there to help out were crying with relief as the kids filed by. It was a very emotional day for everyone.
Flies in many areas, particularly in rural areas, carry bacteria from decomposing dead critters, fecal matter, and sewage. Infecting milk that then stays at 50 degrees without a thermos ™ was a serious risk for babies. Sorry to tell you, but milk is a fantastic medium for culturing bacteria and viruses. Remember, antibiotics mostly came after WWII.
The germ theory of disease (yes, it was a *theory* back then) was fairly new, ice boxes (yes, *ice*, not freon) kept stuff cool at 40 something temperatures if people didn’t open them too often, and diptheria, whooping cough, and polio pruned the family tree each year and sometimes took all the children in a season. Now when Junior gets sick, it’s off to the emergency room when the fever hits 102+ or whatever. Back then it was off to the mortician after failing with an ice bath and tearful prayers. There was little to do for the little tyke.
A friend of mine almost died in spite of the most heroic intensive care medicine after he encountered an unknown infection that had waited well over a century in an attic for him to be the lucky one who inhaled dust from bird feces. Imagine the people in the latter 1800s who encountered it the first time!
As we contemplate what life will be like if the economy crashes from peak oil, overpopulation, and other disasters, it would do all of us well to seek and understand the wisdom that came from our ancestors. Antibiotics, if available, may not work for new resistant cooties, the world may not always be the technological cornucopia we now inhabit, and survival may depend on knowledge, wisdom, and circumspect caution much more than medicine and drug stores. My advice, get and keep a thermos :-) and other stuff too.
I’m with those who do not find this ad shocking or, for that matter, misleading.
I’ll ask you, Mark Frauenfelder, do you keep your food in a refrigerator? If so, why?
Yes, I do keep my food in a refrigerator and I have a photorealistic painting taped to the door depicting my family members in freshly dug graves along with the warning, “Pay the electricity bill on time or you will die.”
“Bacteria cannot develop in cold, pure milk. Ask your doctor.”
COME ON! I DARE YOU! ASK YOUR F***ING DOCTOR!
Settle down Mr. Fantasy. It’ll be alright.
This cartoon might put things in perspective for you:
Way to shoot yourself in the foot Thermos… dead babies are delicious.
I haven’t found that particular ad on line, but a similar one was published nearly a century ago: April 20, 1912 in the Literary Digest. http://preview.tinyurl.com/2ed6kr2
Some historical context might help. Milk pasteurization, first adopted in Chicago, had just begun in 1908. Approximately 10% of American babies died before their first birthday. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm4838a2.htm
“Companies who use use fear to sell products are the most dangerous insect known. They are born in filth, live on filth and carry filth. ”
I disagree. Fear can be legitimate. I assume you mean using “illegitimate” fear to sell a product… but the same can be said of using desire for gain/joy/pleasure.
A more accurate statement would be “Companies who LIE to sell products…”
Ah! This is crazy! But it’s just one example of many where products incited fear to many people buy them.
Wow. At least back in the day they didn’t hide their fear-mongering with fancy words and slick narratives.
They just went for the jugular.
For (fake) advertising jollies today I’m digging on Alex Varanese’s ALT/1977: WE ARE NOT TIME TRAVELERS that is making the rounds.
ggirod is right.
Corporate sales via unfounded fear mongering is a hateful thing. But sometimes commercial advertising is the local Health Department’s best friend.
We’re spoiled these days. We still have herd immunity from our (slim) majority of vaccinated people protecting those who opt out of vaccines, our antibiotics are (barely) protecting our children and elderly from infection, and the municiple water plants have relieved us from the yearly cholera and diphtheria outbreaks that used to bring on death, quarantine and public warnings to boil all drinking/cooking/washing water before use during the hot summer months.
I agree with your ire, but if you want to go after some smug self-interested bastards these days, try those quacks who launch scientifically unfounded campaigns against vaccines, scaring parents away from protecting their children.
(BTW- I have a Masters in Public Health and I research this stuff. So, I’m actually pretty qualified to have an opinion on the matter. :-).
That’s pretty extreme.
There was an old ad once that tried to scare housewives (I cannot remember the specific context).
It depicted a man coming home from work to find his wife dead from a fall to the ground from cleaning curtains on a ladder, she left the stove on and the gas killed her while she was out.
ahahha pretty amazing love old stuff like this…kind of reminds me of lady and the tramp and the way the parents are with the baby
what year is this ad from????
I never used a thermos when I was a kid. I remember that they had a glass lining, which would often get broken, so then the contents would be contaminated with broken glass and the thermos would have to be replaced. This left me with a childhood impression of danger from thermoses. I think I’d rather take my chances with a fly.
Come on, we all know the song!
There was an old lady who swallowed a fly…
And she died immediately. The End.
(Â©1910 American Thermos Bottle Co.)
Yeah… they may have been overstating things, and it’s not like this one product was the only thing standing between your baby and death, but infant mortality was a real problem back in the day (and still is for much of the world), and keeping food sealed and at the right temperature was part of keeping your kids from dying. It really wasn’t that long ago that families would regularly have many many children without any expectation that they’d all live to see adulthood.
You know how you hear people say that it’s a horrible thing for parents to bury their children? Well, it’s true, but it also used to be very commonplace. Still is for much of the world.
It really wasn’t that long ago that families would regularly have many many children without any expectation that they’d all live to see adulthood.
My governess lost three out of ten in infancy. That was in New England in the 20th century.
What about modern day fearmingering in adverts? Has it gotten tamer? Relevant link–>
I’m very glad this advert didn’t single out specific types of flies, such as the Black Fly, or worse… Spanish Fly, because that would be racist, condemning them all as filthy carriers of microscopic death.
Just give the baby his BHP-laden plastic bottle, and a chipping lead-paint coated soother and be that better parent.
No the fear mongering advertising hasn’t gone away…
This campaign has been going on in Sacramento in the past month with billboards, radio & full-page newspaper ads,
“If you cut the budget of the sherrif’s department just because of a little $180 million budget shortfall, your children will die!”
The radio ad was a 911 recording of a little girl saying something along the line of “I don’t know where my parents are and there are men in the house and they have guns”
and went on to say that if the budget is cut, they won’t be able to respond to calls like these.
The website is at:
I’m writing my congressman and finding out why we aren’t spending more money on wiping out this fly threat! Think of the children!
It makes me smile a little to know that a non-trivial number of people who mock this would have been dead of some preventable child disease 100 years ago. Keeping food from spoiling is still an issue in many parts of the world.
Yeah, but the diseases are more likely carried by people and cattle than flies. If you want an accurate scare-mongering ad, show Mom not washing her hands or Dad licking the spoon and sticking it back in the bowl.
Say what you will, but I knew an old lady who swallowed a fly . . .
. . . long story short, she died.
When does this ad date from? Looks like maybe the 1930s. If so, infant mortality was far higher then than it is now. Death, dealing with it and knowing it, was not nearly as shocking as it is today. Seen in that context, this ad isn’t perhaps has amazing as it seems.
thank, you Ernunnos (#10). I was just about to post the same remark. much as this ad seems like scare-mongering to us in the “refrigerated” north and west, too many babies still die from unsafe food and water around the world.
I’m thankful that the worst infection my kids have ever picked up from flies is our annual pinworm infestation.
ALL HAIL THERMOS!
Personally my favorite part is the production values. Most of that ad appears to have been produced on a typewriter, and judging by the blotches all over the page, not a very good one. I see they added some spaces here and there to get the full justification effect, but I think those were added manually. I’d hate to have been the typist, this must have been the 80th draft to get it as neat as it is.
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