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Old 09-25-2019, 09:18 AM
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Using kids as spokespersons for a political cause: Does it really achieve the desired effect?


Ignoring (for this thread) the merits/demerits of Thunberg's speech at the UN, or Thunberg herself specifically:

Does using kids as the spokespeople for a cause really win over an audience? Maybe this is confirmation bias on my part, but ISTM that generally this backfires and causes resentment, because it's seen as an attempt to use youth to browbeat people into supporting a cause, and using kids as "tools". I don't think there has ever been someone with strong views on same-sex marriage or abortion, for instance, who has ever changed their mind because of seeing some kid express opposing views in a public speech - especially if it's apparent that the kid isn't really speaking for himself/herself, but rather, was coached by parents or others into the role. (Not saying that Thunberg herself was, but in general)


TL;DR, it generally comes across as manipulative.

Last edited by Velocity; 09-25-2019 at 09:20 AM.
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Old 09-25-2019, 09:26 AM
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Who is "using" her? Isn't she doing what she is doing of her own accord?

Isn't saying she is being used by someone taking away her agency? What makes you think her words and her actions are not her own choices?

How is the NRA doing since the Parkland kids decided to speak up after their friends were murdered? Were they being "used" too?
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Old 09-25-2019, 09:28 AM
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Who is "using" her? Isn't she doing what she is doing of her own accord?

Isn't saying she is being used by someone taking away her agency? What makes you think her words and her actions are not her own choices?
As mentioned per OP, I am not asking about Thunberg herself - just asking about kids being used in general. Thunberg sounds like someone of her own views. But I've seen instances where kids were speaking out against same-sex marriage, and also being used to criticize presidents in foreign countries, and I can't help but suspect that those kids were coached throughout.
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Old 09-25-2019, 09:34 AM
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As mentioned per OP, I am not asking about Thunberg herself - just asking about kids being used in general. Thunberg sounds like someone of her own views. But I've seen instances where kids were speaking out against same-sex marriage, and also being used to criticize presidents in foreign countries, and I can't help but suspect that those kids were coached throughout.
You can suspect anything you want...but it would be nice if you could show us an example of what you are talking about.
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Old 09-25-2019, 09:38 AM
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As mentioned per OP, I am not asking about Thunberg herself - just asking about kids being used in general. Thunberg sounds like someone of her own views. But I've seen instances where kids were speaking out against same-sex marriage, and also being used to criticize presidents in foreign countries, and I can't help but suspect that those kids were coached throughout.
Right, you don't want to talk about a specific kid, but that means you can say whatever you want about kids in general without having to defend statements about any particular kid. Inoculating yourself from having anyone take issue with your statements because you can just keep saying "well I'm not talking about that kid, that one is ok, it's just all the other ones that are being used and have no agency of their own".

Seems like a problematic condition for the OP if you want to have any kind of meaningful debate here. You are assuming your premise and wanting to force everyone to accept it as a condition of the debate.
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Last edited by Airbeck; 09-25-2019 at 09:39 AM.
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Old 09-25-2019, 09:40 AM
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One problem with kids speaking on political or global matters is that knowledge is limited and their views are simplistic. I'm sure everyone wants to fix the climate, prevent animal extinction, use clean energy, etc. But those kinds of things have significant tradeoffs that make them difficult to achieve. Kids don't necessarily have the life experience to understand that saying something like "stop using oil" has lots of complications that are difficult to overcome.

I find it a turn-off when kids are pushing a political cause--even when it's a cause I agree with. Although I'm sure the kid earnestly believes their position, I feel it's exploitative because the adults around them shape the message. A kid selling cookies to support a politician is okay, but then adults get involved and write articles in the news and start discussing it on social media. The adults use the kid to serve their own needs and push their message.

Speaking for myself, I remember voting when I was 18 and my perspective was very self-serving. I wanted things that an 18-year-old wants without concern for how they were achieved. I wanted free grants for school and I wanted no taxes. As an adult I understand that taxes pay for those free grants, but 18-year-old me wasn't so concerned about how to pay for the grants.
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Old 09-25-2019, 09:41 AM
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Maybe the OP is talking about parents that put accusatory signs in the hands of their children at anti-abortion protests?
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Old 09-25-2019, 09:43 AM
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I find it a turn-off when kids are pushing a political cause--even when it's a cause I agree with. Although I'm sure the kid earnestly believes their position, I feel it's exploitative because the adults around them shape the message.
This is what I meant, but you said it better. Adults are often trying to push their message, but trying to bank on the "innocence/idealism of youth" to add on more appeal points to their message, as if Political Cause X has more merit because it's being preached by a kid instead of an adult.
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Old 09-25-2019, 09:44 AM
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Maybe the OP is talking about parents that put accusatory signs in the hands of their children at anti-abortion protests?
That would be one example, yes. I don't know of any pro-choicer who has ever become persuaded by a kid holding an anti-abortion sign any more than if that sign were held by an adult. It is likelier to induce anger than persuade.

Last edited by Velocity; 09-25-2019 at 09:45 AM.
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Old 09-25-2019, 09:44 AM
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I don't think there has ever been someone with strong views on same-sex marriage or abortion, for instance, who has ever changed their mind because of seeing some kid express opposing views in a public speech - especially if it's apparent that the kid isn't really speaking for himself/herself, but rather, was coached by parents or others into the role.
How is that different from "spokespeople" of any other kind?

Sure it can seem manipulative, but is that much of a factor? Isn't it usually the people with the strongest opinions on the topic already who most strongly see it as manipulative?

But of course there are differences. Thunberg for instance isn't being used unwittingly, she's the head of a movement that her activism created. Not out of thin air, but it's not like environmental groups saw her and thought "we can use her", they heard her and though "we agree with and support her". She also speaks as someone who considers herself directly affected by the issues, similar to, if not as obvious, as the Parkland kids.

Those are different from a kid whose parents have brought up to be "pro-life" reading the kind of talking points you create if you're a kid being fed on a "pro-life" diet about issues you don't really understand the impact of.

And again, the backlash comes from those who dislike feeling that they are wrong, and who would rather blame the messenger than acknowledge that it's the truth of the message that pains them. Does that outweigh all those who were wishywashy and might actually be spurred to action? That depends entirely on the public climate for the issues promoted. A Greta Thunberg 30 years ago would have created more backlash on her movement than she created urgency, because very few people were ready to truly take climate change seriously. Today I think the backlash is insignificant, in part because there's more fertile ground for her message, and in part because the people who the backlash might come from are already doing their damnedest to hold progress back and have been for years.
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Old 09-25-2019, 09:50 AM
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Right, you don't want to talk about a specific kid, but that means you can say whatever you want about kids in general without having to defend statements about any particular kid. Inoculating yourself from having anyone take issue with your statements because you can just keep saying "well I'm not talking about that kid, that one is ok, it's just all the other ones that are being used and have no agency of their own".

Seems like a problematic condition for the OP if you want to have any kind of meaningful debate here. You are assuming your premise and wanting to force everyone to accept it as a condition of the debate.
+1

The well as presented in the OP is poisoned.
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Old 09-25-2019, 09:53 AM
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Another good example-small children holding up disgusting signs at WBC protests:
Warning, definitely not safe for work
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Old 09-25-2019, 09:58 AM
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How is that different from "spokespeople" of any other kind?

Sure it can seem manipulative, but is that much of a factor? Isn't it usually the people with the strongest opinions on the topic already who most strongly see it as manipulative?

But of course there are differences. Thunberg for instance isn't being used unwittingly, she's the head of a movement that her activism created. Not out of thin air, but it's not like environmental groups saw her and thought "we can use her", they heard her and though "we agree with and support her". She also speaks as someone who considers herself directly affected by the issues, similar to, if not as obvious, as the Parkland kids.

Those are different from a kid whose parents have brought up to be "pro-life" reading the kind of talking points you create if you're a kid being fed on a "pro-life" diet about issues you don't really understand the impact of.
I'm sure there are kids who are genuinely pro-life with or without "pro-life coaching." But whether coached or not, they still wouldn't win any pro-choicers over to their cause because the ramifications are unchanged. If you are someone who believes that banning abortion would lead to thousands of women dying in back-alley abortions, that wouldn't change even if it were a photogenic young kid who were holding a microphone preaching the anti-abortion message. That, I think, is what ultimately angers people who are upset about kids being the spokesmen for political causes - the idea that because the kid has the appeal of youth, somehow papers over the implications of Policy X.
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Old 09-25-2019, 10:00 AM
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Another good example-small children holding up disgusting signs at WBC protests
That is a good example of what I am asking about. I can't imagine a single LGBT advocate who would be repelled by an anti-gay message from an adult, but, when seeing an anti-gay message from or worn by a child, would suddenly be won over to the anti-gay cause.
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Old 09-25-2019, 10:03 AM
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Another good example-small children holding up disgusting signs at WBC protests:
Warning, definitely not safe for work
I, for one, picked up on that notion right away.

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Old 09-25-2019, 10:10 AM
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You don't take the kids to the protest as a rhetorical device. You take the kids to the protest to show them how strongly you feel about the topic. To show them what the family stands for.

Some families stand for ugly things, of course.
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Old 09-25-2019, 10:12 AM
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To put it another way:

Suppose that next year, at the 2020 Republican National Convention, the GOP gets some 11-year old kid wearing a MAGA hat to go on stage and give an impassioned pro-Trump speech addressing the nation. Is there anyone (who opposes Trump) who would be persuaded by such a tactic? I don't think so. Nobody would think that a political message becomes more valid just because it's spoken by a kid.



(again, not referring to Thunberg at all)
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Old 09-25-2019, 10:13 AM
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You don't take the kids to the protest as a rhetorical device. You take the kids to the protest to show them how strongly you feel about the topic. To show them what the family stands for.

Some families stand for ugly things, of course.
But once you put a sign in their hands and/or lead them in a chant you've stepped over that line.
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Old 09-25-2019, 10:16 AM
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One problem with kids speaking on political or global matters is that knowledge is limited and their views are simplistic.
We could say this about much of the public in general and all of the Republican party. (on climate change, anyway)
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Old 09-25-2019, 11:00 AM
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Suppose that next year, at the 2020 Republican National Convention, the GOP gets some 11-year old kid wearing a MAGA hat to go on stage and give an impassioned pro-Trump speech addressing the nation. Is there anyone (who opposes Trump) who would be persuaded by such a tactic? I don't think so. Nobody would think that a political message becomes more valid just because it's spoken by a kid.
Whatever purpose is served by giving a pro-Trump speech is likely enhanced by a random 11-year-old giving it as opposed to a random 50-year-old. It will get more coverage, the kid will get more interviews, and it will get talked about more. Whether the effect is to energize the base or convert people to the cause, having a kid in that role is likely an effective marketing technique.

However, the downsides can be that the opposition can use the inexperience of the kid as a way to totally discount the message. Even if the message is 100% correct, the opposition can legitimately say "What do they know. They're only 11." It can also backfire if the kid seems like they're just being used for propaganda. If the kid is asked why he supports Trump and the only thing he can say is "Trump is great and the Dems are evil," then the emptiness of position might be offputting. But if the kid is able to articulate reasonable reasons why they think Trump is the best, it can be effective way to get that message out. The thing that's lacking is that the kid won't be seen as an expert or being as knowledgeable about the subject matter.
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Old 09-25-2019, 11:06 AM
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But once you put a sign in their hands and/or lead them in a chant you've stepped over that line.
What line?
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Old 09-25-2019, 11:12 AM
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I think it's stupid to listen to children's opinions on virtually any political topic, they're children who gives a shit. Maybe their opinion about something regarding the school system would be appropriate at times.
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Old 09-25-2019, 11:21 AM
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I'd have to say it depends on your definition of 'child'.

My oldest is 19. She'll be voting in her first presidential election next year. She and I went to a Pete Buttigieg event before she went back to school and she asked him a question about youth and the future. Fine. He fielded it.

She was interviewed after by local news and when asked about it she replied, "He should pay attention. People my age are going to be voting for a very long time."

Sharp kid.
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Old 09-25-2019, 11:28 AM
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What line?
The line between showing them what you do, and using them as a tool to further your cause.
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Old 09-25-2019, 12:05 PM
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The line between showing them what you do, and using them as a tool to further your cause.
And that's a problem because?
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Old 09-25-2019, 12:17 PM
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One problem with kids speaking on political or global matters is that knowledge is limited and their views are simplistic.
Hardly an issue limited to children. Have you met the president?
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Old 09-25-2019, 12:21 PM
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And that's a problem because?
1. Exploitation of children
2. Pressure and attacks from peers
3. Pressure and attacks from total strangers
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Old 09-25-2019, 12:21 PM
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Adults fill kids' heads with all sorts of nonsense they parrot back unthinkingly. I'm not going to single out political causes as the one area to push back in. I assume, unless there's evidence to the contrary, that any given kid believes their opinion is their own, and deserves to have that opinion respected as much as any adult's would be.

Disregarding children's opinions on the basis of "They're stupid kids" seems like a great way to inculcate a generation of politically disaffected youth.
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Old 09-25-2019, 12:28 PM
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Although the children may hold sincere beliefs on issues it always feels to me as if they are being manipulated by others, for the goals of others. When children are bused in for protests, no mater what they are protesting, whose goals are being met? Not the children's. Who is organizing all this? Not the children. Who is paying? You get the point.

It turns me off and I feel sorry and a little mad about the manipulation of youth for political causes.
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Old 09-25-2019, 12:29 PM
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1. Exploitation of children
2. Pressure and attacks from peers
3. Pressure and attacks from total strangers
I saw a lot of pictures of people with kids at the Women's march, and the March for Science, and lots of them were wearing signs or holding posters. It didn't feel exploitative to me. Now, part of that is because, in my mind, saying "women are important" and "science is right" are so incredibly, obviously TRUE that it seems inarguably positive to take your kids to the event celebrating those things. Also, in my mind, giving your kid a picture of an aborted fetus and telling him those women are whores is terrible--but it's because I think the message is terrible, not because I think parents shouldn't share their beliefs with their kids.
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Old 09-25-2019, 12:34 PM
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In general, I am more annoyed than persuaded by children making political points. I can think of two recent exceptions though.

1. The Parkland students were compelling because of the terrible tragedy that they survived. It wasn't because they were children per se; or because they were great advocates for the cause. It was because you could look at those students and imagine the other students who didn't survive.

2. There were millions of students around the world marching to protest climate policies last week. I expect many of them were there because of the example set by Greta Thunberg. There was an aspect of that with the Parkland kids as well. The target audience was not, directly, the world leaders at the United Nations. The target was the millions of kids around the world who joined the cause. I'd say she was very successful.

Getting kids to speak a political message to the general population is usually counter-productive but kids appealing to kids to join a cause that affects them seems to work very well indeed.
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Old 09-25-2019, 12:35 PM
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If the kids are brought to these events and hold up signs made by their parents or other adults I find it exploitive no matter what the cause is.
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Old 09-25-2019, 12:41 PM
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What age are people allowed to speak about their opinions?

Just want to get the consensus on the magic age that you are allowed to care about the future of your world.
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Old 09-25-2019, 12:43 PM
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So how much political activism do you allow kids to do?
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Old 09-25-2019, 12:43 PM
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I'd have to say it depends on your definition of 'child'.

My oldest is 19. She'll be voting in her first presidential election next year. ....

Sharp kid.
Not a child. A "young adult" if you must.

Back to the OP- Ok, it annoys me, and makes me want to support the other side, even Thunberg. (and yes, I get why the Op wants to exclude her, otherwise that's what this whole thread would be about). Same thing with kids on TV selling adultish stuff. (of course you expect kids for diaper ads)

And I have been at Council meetings where they drag in some kid or senior or person in a wheelchair and trust me, the Politicos behind the dais just roll their eyes (inwardly, of course).

It hurts more than it helps.
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Old 09-25-2019, 12:43 PM
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What age are people allowed to speak about their opinions?

Just want to get the consensus on the magic age that you are allowed to care about the future of your world.
I think this is more about adults exploiting children and not about children speaking for themselves.
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Old 09-25-2019, 12:45 PM
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So how much political activism do you allow kids to do?
Allow, or push them into?
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Old 09-25-2019, 12:50 PM
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Which kids are being exploited and how? Oh, that's right the OP poisoned the well immediately by stating that we can't talk about specific kids.

Makes it hard to counter anyone's vague assertions about kids in general. What kind of debate is this supposed to be? Old men (and women) yelling at clouds and complaining about kids these days, or sorry, parents of kids these days? Not exactly compelling ground for a debate.

Are we just assuming that anyone under say the age 18 was pushed into their views? How convenient to then dismiss everyone under 18 when they say something you disagree with.

Lot of assertions and assumptions about today's youth here, very little to actually debate.
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Old 09-25-2019, 12:53 PM
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Which kids are being exploited and how? Oh, that's right the OP poisoned the well immediately by stating that we can't talk about specific kids.

Makes it hard to counter anyone's vague assertions about kids in general. What kind of debate is this supposed to be? Old men (and women) yelling at clouds and complaining about kids these days, or sorry, parents of kids these days? Not exactly compelling ground for a debate.
Some examples have been given in this thread that the OP says represent what he is saying, so that lets him at least partially off that particular hook in my opinion.
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Old 09-25-2019, 01:06 PM
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Which kids are being exploited and how? Oh, that's right the OP poisoned the well immediately by stating that we can't talk about specific kids.

....
If he allowed it to be about that kid, then there'd be no other discussion.
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Old 09-25-2019, 01:08 PM
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I think this is more about adults exploiting children and not about children speaking for themselves.
How do you make the distinction between one and the other?
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Old 09-25-2019, 01:16 PM
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How do you make the distinction between one and the other?
1. "Here, honey-stand right here and hold this sign...and don't forget to yell "God hates fags!" to everyone that passes by."
2. "Mom, I'm going down to the anti-abortion rally because I want people to know how feel on the subject."

Can you see the distinction?
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Old 09-25-2019, 01:44 PM
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I think it can be both effective and appropriate in cases where the issue is about kids. I brought up Malala Yousafzai in the other thread.

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Old 09-25-2019, 01:48 PM
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If he allowed it to be about that kid, then there'd be no other discussion.
Sure there would, just not one that he crafted in such a way so as to not have to answer any uncomfortable questions about his assertions about generic "kids".

If you'd like to debate an idea, setting parameters that make it difficult to disprove your vague assertions is not the best way to test that idea. Even the title takes away the agency of these kids by starting with "Using kids as spokespersons" as if they can't possibly speak for themselves.
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Old 09-25-2019, 01:53 PM
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1. "Here, honey-stand right here and hold this sign...and don't forget to yell "God hates fags!" to everyone that passes by."
2. "Mom, I'm going down to the anti-abortion rally because I want people to know how feel on the subject."

Can you see the distinction?
How you can know which is which passing by a rally on the street is impressive.
  #46  
Old 09-25-2019, 01:55 PM
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How you can know which is which passing by a rally on the street is impressive.
Exploitation of children is wrong whether you notice it or not.
  #47  
Old 09-25-2019, 02:00 PM
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Ok, so are you arguing that no children should advocate for political causes since you won't be able to divine whether they are being exploited or genuinely believe in the cause?

Can children advocate for non-political causes?

If a 5 year old tells you to get the fruit gushers and not the fruit by the foot, do you scoff and tell them they only prefer said snack on account of their parents?

Last edited by Inner Stickler; 09-25-2019 at 02:01 PM.
  #48  
Old 09-25-2019, 02:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Inner Stickler View Post
Ok, so are you arguing that no children should advocate for political causes since you won't be able to divine whether they are being exploited or genuinely believe in the cause?

Can children advocate for non-political causes?

If a 5 year old tells you to get the fruit gushers and not the fruit by the foot, do you scoff and tell them they only prefer said snack on account of their parents?
I have stated exactly what I mean, and I have given examples of what I believe to be exploitation of children. I cannot stop you of taking what I said and conveniently reinterpreting my words, but I am under no obligation to defend your reinterpretation.

Last edited by Czarcasm; 09-25-2019 at 02:08 PM.
  #49  
Old 09-25-2019, 02:07 PM
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Ok, so are you arguing that no children should advocate for political causes since you won't be able to divine whether they are being exploited or genuinely believe in the cause?

Can children advocate for non-political causes?
No, I'm arguing that children advocates often don't achieve their desired effect, regardless of whether they are sincere or not. (Two exceptions, as mentioned above, would be the kids in NYC rallying over climate change, and the Parkland survivors)


The desired effect is usually: "A kid, speaking for these causes, will shame audiences into converting. The appeal of youth will win the day."

The actual effect is often: "This political cause is using a kid, how manipulative."
  #50  
Old 09-25-2019, 02:12 PM
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One other advantage of using kids is that it makes it harder for the opposition to offer up criticism. If they are too critical, they get blamed for being too mean to the kid.
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