Selling Patriotism To Kids
by Kate Donnelly
As ribbon manufactures worked 24-hour shifts to keep up with
the demand for yellow ribbons, and upscale boutiques marketed
rhinestone U.S. flag, the toy manufactures-The most insidious
capitalists-wasted no time in cashing in on the war. Operations
Desert Shield/Storm products hit the shelves so quickly one
wondered who in the toy industry had a direct line to the Pentagon.
Even before the bombing started, manufacturers produced war toys to
excite young ones about war.
The myriad of merchandise was awesome, from cheap weapons in
camouflage packaging to video games set in the Middle East.
Revell/Monogram Inc. tripled production capacity of models of the
Patriot missile. Adult board games were marketed for armchair
generals to strategize war maneuvers. This war made the crossover
with war toys for girls; one evening news broadcast showed a young
girl carrying a rifle and saying that she wanted to be just like
female reservists in Saudi Arabia. Mattel's Barbie dressed in a
variety of military outfits is reportedly moving quickly off the
It was all to be expected. Toy manufacturers have always
jumped on anything that will make money, and with the seal-of-
approval of patriotism it seams a sure proof venture. Stephen
Sandberg, a New England toy distributor who said war toy sales were
up, was quoted in a January 31, 1991, Wall Street Journal article
as saying "Let's not forget the holy crusade against a little
Hitler. Just look at the little American flags waving on TV during
the national anthems at football and hockey games." In the same
article a man was interviewed who was buying a poster of a Grumman
F-14 Tomcat(U.S. Navy Fighter) to "proudly display" in the room of
his ten year old daughter. The real Hitler said it best, "Give me
the first seven years of a child's life...."
The same old arguments against war toys still exist: they
encourage violence and teach kids to resolve problems by fighting.
But what is it about these particular toys that make them even more
dangerous? Desert Storm war play accompanies the patriotism that
can be seen on buildings and tress all across the country. Kids are
being bathed in nationalism and taught to take pride in soldiering
as a profession.
School systems around the country did what they could to
support the war effort from piped in bugle music to letters to the
troops. In most schools support for the war was unequivocal and not
even seen as a political position. Desert Storm buttons and T-
shirts were worn by students and teachers. Many students were
unaware of opposition to the war. When patriotism is viewed only as
supporting the war, and toys are sold to children glamorizing the
weapons of destruction, the long-lasting effects of the war could
Many Vietnam war vets talk about how the John Wayne movies
they viewed as children led them to unquestioningly support the
military. I'm afraid Operation Desert Storm will be with us for
many years to come. Bush and the Pentagon won more than one war.
Children, unhip to the realities of what really happened, see war
as an honorable and successful venture.
Please write Topps Company, Inc., 401 York Ave., Duryea, PA 18642
or call at 717-457-6761 and complain about there new Desert Storm