Social Media Memes Confuse Issues

Yesterday, Hartsel (Colorado) suffered through a deadly five-hour siege at a Planned Parenthood center.   The siege left three dead and nine wounded before the shooter surrendered to police.  It was a horrendous and heartbreaking situation.

Today, some people on social media are passing along this meme comparing what happened yesterday to the Syrian refugee situation.

What happened in Colorado yesterday at a Planned Parenthood center cannot be compared to whether Syrian refugees are or are not a threat to the U.S. and Canada.   The only link tying these two incidents to each other have to do with safety.  After that, there is nothing that ties these two issues to each other.

The shooter self-identified on his voter registration as being a female, and the shooter’s voting status was listed as unaffiliated (in other words not a Republican or a Democrat or any other political party).  Based on this information, the meme could easily be about how transgendered people are more dangerous than Syrian refugees … and that would be an incorrect assertion.

A former state attorney general stated to the media that the shooter’s mental health was part of the investigation based on past interactions the shooter has had with law enforcement.  Based on the mental health comment, the meme could easily be about how people suffering from mental health issues are more dangerous than Syrian refugees … and that would be an incorrect assertion.

According to the CBC report, “those who knew Dear said he seemed to have few religious or political leanings.”  Based on the religious comment, the meme could easily be about how people who are agnostics or atheists are more dangerous than Syrian refugees … and that would be an incorrect conclusion.  Based on the political leanings comment, the meme could easily be about how people who don’t have any political convictions are more dangerous than Syrian refugees … and that would be an incorrect assertion.

It’s also alleged that the shooter described himself to the residents of Hartsel as a self-employed art dealer.   Based on this information, the meme could easily be about how those who are self-employed or those who are art dealers are more dangerous than Syrian refugees … and that would be an incorrect assertion.

Mainstream media reported that the shooter was from South Carolina, had lived in North Carolina,  and lived in Colorado for a year.  Based on this information, the meme could easily be about how people from the Carolinas are more dangerous than Syrian refugees … and that would be an incorrect assertion.

According to the New York Times, “law enforcement records and interviews” revealed a “trail of disputes and occasional violent acts toward neighbors and women he knew.”

Dating back to at least 2002, the shooter has been arrested and charged with a number of offences from animal cruelty to being a peeping tom, but the charges against him over the years have either been dismissed or the accused has been found not guilty.  In at least one case, an allegation was made against the shooter for domestic assault but no charges were pressed.

This is why “apples and oranges” comparisons are dangerous.  They are meant to cause knee-jerk reactions to serious situations by juxtaposing two very different situations against each other, and demanding that people choose one situation over the other with the threat that if they choose incorrectly, they will be Internet shamed for being jerks (and other far more abusive, vulgar epithets).

What happened yesterday in Hartsel (Colorado) at the Planned Parenthood center was horrific, but it has nothing to do with Syrian refugees.  What happened in Hartsel (Colorado) certainly doesn’t address any aspect of whether Syrian refugees are or are not sufficiently screened before they are allowed to enter the United States or Canada.

Isn’t it about time that people on social media stopped sharing memes with misinformation, disinformation, and inflammatory messages?

Elyse Bruce









Bugs hits Buffalo and Arkansas

Every once in a while, a friend will post a YouTube video that makes me smile, not just because the song in the video harkens back to a time when musicals were king, but because the heyday of musicals had some hilariously funny songs that reflects the truths of the day.  And that’s what kicked off this blog article:  A song from 1938 by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart.

Listening to the song, it brought to mind the many songs that found their way into cartoons of the day, most especially the Bugs Bunny cartoons.  In fact, it was thanks to Bugs Bunny that I first heard this song.

Before the Bugs Bunny cartoons, other cartoons made good use of popular songs of the day including “A Cup Of Coffee, Sandwich And You.”

Now strangely enough, one song was actually written for a cartoon — a Merry Melodies cartoon from 1932 titled “Freddy the Freshman.”  It was so popular that Harry Roy and RKOlians recorded and released a copy the following year.

Of course, some songs have fallen into disrepute for short periods of time, mostly because they became associated with certain types in a negative way.  The “Arkansas Traveler” which was also known as “Baby Bumble Bee” was one such song that was used in the Bugs Bunny cartoons that showcased a bashful buzzard.

The music was written by American teller of tall tales, fiddle player, and composer of popular fiddle tunes, Colonel Sanford C. ‘Sandy’ Faulkner (1806–1874).  A former Kentuckian who settled in Chicot County, Arkansas where he operated a large cotton plantation.  His wealth (having inherited three moderate sized fortunes) and his business sense was such that in time he purchased another large cotton plantation near Little Rock.

But, the man was a spendthrift who squandered most of his money soon after moving to Little Rock, and after defaulting on bank loans, he surrendered to the banks all of his slaves — 37 in all — along with all of his plantation property.  He did so willingly because he was a man of honor and to do anything less would be to dishonor his family name.

A few short years after declaring bankruptcy, he entered politics and announced his candidacy for Pulaski County representative to the General Assembly.  That career choice ended abysmally, and the Colonel never ventured down the political road again.  That being said, when the Civil War broke out three years later, the Colonel, ever honorable, became the military storekeeper in Little Rock.

These days anime and manga rely on music written specifically for the story arc, with all the humor and pop culture references lacking.  But back in the days of Bugs Bunny and Betty Boop, Merry Melodies and Fleischer Studios, things were different.  Different and intriguing and, dare I say, fun.  Loads of fun.

Elyse Bruce

Those Syrian Refugee Memes On Facebook

Since the horrific events in Paris on Friday the 13th, there’s been a lot of emotional commentary with varying points of view ranging from closing the borders to stem the flow of refugees entering any number of countries to throwing open the doors to allow a flood of refugees to enter any number of countries.  There are as many reasons being bandied about to bring refugees to other countries are there are reasons being bandied about to keep refugees out of other countries.

On Facebook (as well as on other social media), memes are making the rounds.  In particular, these two memes are making the rounds.

Memes Claims

The problem with both these memes is that Danny Thomas’s parents weren’t Christian refugees from Syria and Steve Job’s biological father wasn’t a Syrian refugee either.  Danny Thomas’s parents, like Steve Job’s biological father, were immigrants.

Refugee and Immigrant

Danny Thomas (born Amos Muzyad Jacobs) was the son of Lebanese immigrants, not Syrian refugees.  His mother and father were from two of the seven prominent families in Bsharri:  Sukkar, Kairouz, Chidiac, Geagea, Rahme, Fakhri, and Taouk.   His father was Charles Yakhoob Kairouz and his mother was Margaret Taouk.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE:  Bsharri is in the Kadisha Valley in northern Lebanon.  The town is also famous because this is the birthplace of Khalil Gibran, and it’s in Bsharri that world travelers can find a museum that honors the Lebanese-American artist, poet, and writer of the New York Pen League. 

The family changed their last name to Jacobs (a variation of Yakhoob) and in January 1912, Danny (the fifth of ten children in the family) was born in the Michigan.  He changed his name to Danny Thomas in 1940 for professional reasons.

It’s a fact that a hundred years ago, Lebanese immigrants were identified in North America as Syrians and in South America as Turks.  But regardless of whether they were identified as Lebanese or Syrian or Turks, the bottom line is that Danny Thomas’s parents were immigrants, not refugees.

The meme about Danny Thomas is false and misleading

Steve Jobs’s biological father (a non-practicing Muslim born in 1931) was from a prominent Syrian family, and the youngest of nine children, who moved to New York in 1954.   While in New York, he lived with one of his relatives by the name of Najm Eddin al-Rifai, who was the Syrian ambassador to the United Nations.   He studied at Columbia University before moving on to Wisconsin University.

While working on a Ph.D. in Economics and Political Science at Wisconsin University, he and his girlfriend, Joanne Schieble, found out that they were expecting a baby.  They broke up, and she gave the child — a baby boy born in February 1955 — up for adoption.  The child was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs.

The couple eventually got back together, married, and had another child — American novelist Mona Simpson.  Shortly after their daughter’s birth, Job’s biological father returned to Syria and the couple divorced.

After a year in Syria working as a director in an oil refinery, he decided to return to the U.S. — again as an immigrant, not as a refugee.

The meme about Steve Jobs is false and misleading.

Would you like to know who else isn’t the child or grandchild of Syrian refugees?

Jerry Seinfield, F. Murray Abraham, Paul Anka, and Paula Abdul.  Seinfeld’s maternal grandfather immigrated to America from Syria in 1909, and Murray’s father immigrated to America in the 1920s.   Anka’s father immigrated to Canada from Syria, and Abdul’s father immigrated to America from Syria.

Yes, the situation with the Syrian refugees is one that merits a great deal of attention to detail.  Humanity must play a role in the decisions made that affect the Syrian refugees.  But let’s not muddy the situation up with false and misleading memes intended to cause knee-jerk reactions and fire up emotions for the purpose of vacating logic and sense.

Elyse Bruce

Christmas In The UK

I think the Christmas commercials produced by John Lewis in the UK are among the most heartwarming, touching television advertisements to grace mainstream broadcast media as well as alternative media such as social media and blogs.  I realize that there’s a segment of society that loves to parody the commercials every year, and I know that there’s a segment of society that hates these commercials because they meet the goal they set out to meet each year — to tug at viewers’ heartstrings and, of course, purses and wallets.

Regardless of whether you love them or hate them, there’s no denying that they stick in your mind because, in the end, they’re terribly catchy and memorable.  While it’s true they had Christmas commercials before they made the switch to the heartstring tug commercials, the Christmas commercials produced since 2008 have improved each year, rising above the bar set the previous year.

Now that’s high praise, and one that ought to be taken lightly until the commercials can be screened by readers and visitors to this blog.  And so, to facilitate the process, here are the videos!

Last year’s commercial  was one that spanned more than just one spot.  It began with Monty the Penguin but it didn’t end there.  Rather than share the Monty and Mabel Penguin commercials, I’m sharing the Christmas commercial that started it all last year, and leave it to you to find the others in this story arc.

And just when I thought these Christmas commercials couldn’t possibly get any more heartwarming and touching, John Lewis went all out and outdid themselves with this.

So there you have it, dear readers and visitors — a chronology of the emotion laden Christmas commercials from John Lewis.  Yes, they’re meant to drive customers into their brick-and-mortar stores as well as their online virtual stores, but they do so much more than just that.  They remind their intended audience that Christmas is really about family and caring and compassion.

In the end, isn’t that what resonates with most people when you talk to them about the holidays?

Elyse Bruce

Why I Won’t Change My Facebook Profile Picture

Last night, the world reeled in horror as coordinated attacks by terrorists believed to be with ISIS were successful at six locations in Paris.  It is, without a doubt, horrendous!

This morning, I awoke to many of my Facebook friends having changed their profile pictures to one with an overlay of the French flag.   And because I haven’t, I have been asked by more than a handful why it is that I haven’t followed suit.

My answer is simple:  Because as devastating as yesterday’s events were, if I was to add the French flat overlay on my profile picture, it still wouldn’t address what’s wrong with those who terrorize others.

It wouldn’t show support for the 43 people killed and over 200 people injured in Beirut in a terrorist attack believed to be by ISIS the day before the Paris tragedy.

It wouldn’t show support for the Russian charter Metrojet Airbus (it had just departed Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt) that crashed killing all 224 people aboard which is believed to have been caused by ISIS.

All these attacks happened this month, and ISIS has claimed responsibility for all these attacks.

And it wouldn’t show support for those countries whom ISIS continues to target, and those countries whom ISIS says it will be targeting.

So rather than use peer pressure in trying to force me to use the French flag overlay on my Facebook profile picture, perhaps it’s time that we took a stand and did something about what’s going on.  Instead of expressing shock and horror from a safe distance through armchair advocacy at the click of a button, make your advocacy and outrage count.

Don’t just offer digital condolences.  It’s time to do something about all these ISIS attacks.

Elyse Bruce

Tempest in a Coffee Cup

Friday, the Internet erupted in polarized opinions after Joshua Feuerstein posted a video that went viral. He claimed that Starbucks had declared war on Christianity by having red cups for the holiday season.

While some of you may expect this Business Tuesday article to attack Joshua Feuerstein, you’d be mistaken. This is a man who knows how to make videos go viral (some of which he claims have been viewed 40 MILLION times).  This video has already garnered over 14 MILLION views in the space of five days!

When it comes to his latest stunt, the fact of the matter is, this is a brilliant marketing and promotion campaign, with value added positioning of his brand piggybacking on the back of a large corporation’s brand.

How so, you ask? Let’s take a look at what Joshua Feuerstein did. On November 1st, the traditional annual red cup marketing campaign by Starbucks kicked off. 2015 marks the eighteenth year for this campaign.

18 Years Of Christmas Coffees

Note that Starbucks refers to the coffee line-up for November and December as Christmas coffees. They’re not called holiday coffees. They’re not called Hanukkah coffees. They’re not called Kwanzaa coffees. They’re called Christmas coffees.

Within five days of kicking off the eighteenth annual Starbucks Christmas coffees in red cups, Joshua Feuerstein is calling Starbucks out because their red cups are red.


He created a crisis situation by claiming that Starbucks hated Christians because the red cups are red and, according to him, all hints of Christianity were removed from Starbucks’s cups for this campaign. He seems to be banking on people falling into one of three categories:

  1. People who don’t patronize Starbucks.
  2. People who have incredibly short memories.
  3. People who are willing to believe what they hear without researching what they’re being told.

A quick perusal of Starbucks red cup campaigns from recent years shows that the red cup campaign has used secular representations of the season on their cups.

Previous Red Cup Campaigns

What this shows is that Starbucks has always had festive red cup campaigns but not necessarily Christian themed festive red cup campaigns. After all, pine tree branches, reindeer, singers, Poinsettia, snowflakes, and red, white, and green with smatterings of other colors (such as brown for the reindeer) can hardly be called specifically Christian imagery for the season. But Joshua Feuerstein would have people believe that in previous years, Starbucks’s red cup campaign had Christian imagery and this year, it was removed.

According to the Starbucks website, this year’s red cup campaign launch was amazingly successful.

Annual Red Cup Contest

So how do you capitalize on that success, drive sales up even higher, and get noticed by Starbucks if you’re an everyday person who buys coffee from Starbucks? How do you make it so that the Instagram stat of having the Starbucks holiday cup shared every fourteen seconds become even more impressive?

You make sure that your video goes viral and that your Call-to-Action is one that is going to benefit Starbucks, thereby giving you some street cred with Starbucks. Make sure that you promote their brand in such a way that it benefits your image as well as Starbucks financial bottom line.

Start with reaching out to your Facebook followers (and those of your wife since she’s also posting your video on her Facebook page) regardless of whether they’re legitimate followers or bought followers, and letting them know that there’s a problem at Starbucks that only they can solve. How many people are we talking about in this instance? Over 1.9 million followers.

LIKES to their pages

Then reach out to Twitter followers and Instagram followers, and you’re over the 2 million mark!

Twitter and Instagram

Then direct all your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram followers (I’ve left out his YouTube subscribers and other social media followers) to go to Starbucks, order a coffee, and when they ask for your name, have them write Merry Christmas. Take a photo of your Starbucks coffee marked Merry Christmas and share it on social media with Joshua Feuerstein, all of his followers and all of your followers. If you’re lucky, your Merry Christmas Starbucks coffee selfie could make it on a Joshua Feuerstein montage that will also be shared on social media.

Merry Christmas Starbucks

If all of his 2,017,429 followers follow through on this Call-to-Action just once this season, that’s going to increase Starbucks’s bottom line for the season. Let’s say everyone goes in for a Grande (since that’s what most coffees seem to be in the montage) at a cost of $3.45 USD.   That will generate nearly $7 MILLION USD.

According to Business Insider four years ago, most Starbucks customers bought Starbucks coffee six times per month, and loyal customers bought Starbucks coffee sixteen times per month.  Let say that nothing in terms of Starbucks coffee purchases has changed. If Feuerstein’s 2 million plus followers buy six Starbucks coffees in November, and another Starbucks six coffees in December, the increase in revenues for Starbucks is an eye-popping $84 MILLION USD.

If they bring friends with them, that number will increase dramatically!

SIDE NOTE: In light of the fact that Joshua Feuerstein claims his suicide video garnered 40 MILLION views, his video about Starbucks hating Christians could easily garner at least as many views due to the nature of the video. This means that my numbers are extremely conservative (pardon the pun) at 2 million plus followers buying into his Call-to-Action, and that number could easily triple, quadruple, or even quintuple. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

All right, so Joshua Feuerstein’s $84 MILLION USD won’t be huge beside Starbucks’s 2014 revenue in the U.S. that clocked in at $12.7 BILLION USD, but it’s still an amazing amount of revenue to generate for a company that isn’t paying him to promote their brand.

Unlike his negative marketing and promotion attempts in April 2015 and July 2015, this time he seems to be going with a softer, gentler approach that only looks like his usual approach among his followers.

And even if he doesn’t manage to make a deal with Starbucks after showing them how he can increase their bottom line, he’s made sure he’s got Plan B ready to go.   According to Gabe Hughes, the pastor of First Junction Baptist Church in Junction City (Kansas), the cryptic ACTS238.COM embroidered on the man’s red ball cap is a subconscious advertisement for his soon-to-be-released book called Pentecostal Theology: The Oneness of God (a better idea than his supposed previous book idea of The Feuerstein Bears that other pastors seem to know about).

SIDE NOTE: Joshua Feuerstein’s upcoming book is not to be confused with David K. Bernard’s book published in October 1986 titled, The Oneness of God: Series in Pentecostal Theology, Volume 1.

If he can’t sell Starbucks on his value to their corporation as a pitchman, he’ll have a built-in audience willing to turn him into a best-selling author with over 1 million books in print. If the book sells for a very reasonable ten dollars per book, he and his wife will have more money than they can shake a stick at, even after taxes!  He might even publish a Feuerstein Bears book next if all goes according to either Plan A or Plan B.

Elyse Bruce

P.S. For those who are interested, Starbucks has announced on their website that their Christmas blend is now available online!

Christmas Blend Came Early Online

Emotional Eating Is Killing Us

Over the last few weeks, the online Reddi Wip™ commercial has garnered a respectable amount of attention from captive audiences that watch the ad as they wait for their online games and news articles to load up. However, many are noticing a subtle nuanced juxtaposition of science versus emotional buying.

We know that for generations, science has repeated the message that a balanced diet is imperative to good health. According to a national poll conducted by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, over 80 percent of Americans support healthy school meals consisting of more fruit and vegetables and less high calorie and sodium food choices.

The CDC states that the rate of childhood obesity has doubled and then some over the last 30 years.

The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) states on their website that the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act follows the “latest nutrition science and the real world circumstances of America’s schools.”

So what’s the problem with the Reddi Wip™ commercial and others like it? After all, the Reddi Wip™ commercial shows middle school kids eating lunch at school and enjoying their lunch after the product being sold improves it. Here’s the problem.

Reddi Wip_01
Notice what’s in this child’s lunch box.  He has a medium-sized apple.  He has a large chocolate brownie.  He has a can of Reddi wip™ topping.  There’s a loving note from mom that says, “SMILE CHARLIE.”

The message imparted conflicts with what we know about the need to eat a balanced diet.  The implication is that by providing a skimpy lunch that’s big on empty calories and minimal nutrition, mom is showing how much she loves her child by defaulting to emotional eating habits.

The issue here is that when parents or school districts insist on students eating properly, there are advertisers who are busy undoing the message that a balanced diet is important for physical, intellectual, and emotional reasons.

According to study findings published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal in June 2015, proper nutrition by way of a balanced and high-quality diet is important for maintaining mental health.  Other scientific studies have shown that proper nutrition is vital in managing and preventing certain mental health conditions such as depression, ADHD, and more.

A balanced diet is also imperative to strong emotional health according to medical researchers.  In May 2009, “Preventive Medicine” magazine published the findings of a study that examined the effects of dietary patterns on mental health in two groups of subjects ranging in age from 13 to 15 years old.  The data proved that there was a higher percentage of negative behavior such as depression, aggression, and delinquency in participants who consumed an unhealthy diet.

What follows may seem innocuous at first glance, however, Charlie then decides to impose his diet on the diet of his peers and adults in his environment.  The chocolate pudding in his school mate’s lunch box is first (I hope she had more than just chocolate pudding and an apple for lunch).

Reddi Wip_03
Then he adds the topping to a teacher’s healthier lunch of fruit, presumably without the teacher’s permission (based on the surprised look on her face when she sees what’s been done to her fruit bowl).

Reddi Wip_02
Finally, Charlie returns the favor and seems to have learned the lesson his mother has taught him by packing her lunch for her the next day:  One slice of pie and one can of Reddi Wip™ topping.  He’s even recycled his mom’s note, struck out his name and replacing it with MOM, and striking out MOM and replacing it with his name.

Reddi Wip_04
Even though Reddi Wip™ topping has cream as one of its ingredients, that doesn’t mean that it’s a healthy choice in the amounts shown in the ad with Charlie, and given the lack of other foods needed to create a balanced diet in his lunch box.

As the second most eaten brand of whipped topping in the U.S., there’s a certain balance that Reddi Wip™ ought to strive for, this being one that promotes their product while at the same time promoting healthy eating choices and appropriate behavior.

Maybe then the tagline #ShareTheJoy will ring true with consumers more than it already obviously does.  After all, wouldn’t it be more appropriate to promote healthy eating and good physical, mental, and emotional health over — perhaps unintentionally — promoting emotional eating and bad behavior in kids?

Elyse Bruce


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