Give your baby soda pop

Over on Language Log, there’s been a small flurry of postings celebrating April Fool’s Day, including one with a story lifted from the Onion. (Lots of people are taken in by material from the Onion and are astonished to learn that the whole thing is a joke.)

Now, passed on to me a little while ago by Chris Ambidge (not specifically in connection with AFD), this ad in the style of American ads from the ’50s (and earlier):

What’s going on? From the Ice Cream Machine blog, here:


About seven or eight years ago, I made this fake ad, exhorting parents to give soda to their babies. It was done on a bored afternoon when J.D. Ryznar asked for someone to make that very specific thing on his livejournal. I whipped it together, posted it to the web, joke over.

THEN. A couple of years later- it started showing up online, in those weird lists that pop up every so often with a “Oh man, ads sure were strange back then, weren’t they?” theme. Thing is, those ads are largely real and mine is not and very obviously so.

I’ve gotten used to seeing it out of nowhere from time to time, but this latest flare-up is high-larious. Over at the Natural News web-site, it has become the basis for an angry column about evil corporations wanting to put chemicals in your kids’ bodies.

Mr. Adams, the “Health Ranger,” seems very agitated. Also, it appears, after a search, that his column shows up on a great many sites across the internet. Hopefully, their readers will find that an organization named the “Soda Pop Board of America” is as ridiculous and unbelievable as I thought it was when I thought it up in an office in Ann Arbor, MI, all those years ago

The writer of this blog says of himself:

RJ White lives in Philadelphia. His work has appeared on various Web sites and in a couple of books. He hosts the Wasted Words podcast, edits The City Desk and occasionally writes for other sites …

Over on ADS-L, Kari Castor reports:

I’ve spent a couple of days this semester having my freshman comp classes look at materials that profess to be serious and/or scientific in nature and asking the students to evaluate those sources based on certain criteria …

I used the Open Letter to the Kansas School Board from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and we talked about and evaluated the claims being made in the letter.  (It also provided an opportunity for a quick lesson on satire, as many of my students believed that the writer was completely serious.)  I’m not sure this was as successful as I’d hoped, but I think I’ll continue to use it and tweak the discussion to get greater value out of it. (link)

I also had them evaluate the Save the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus website, an activity which I found to be quite successful.  Again, many of my students were completely taken in by this website at first.  I had them work in groups, and there was a great deal of intragroup discussion to the tune of, “I think it’s real, I think the tree octopus really exists.” (link)

I’ve also talked a great deal about bias and credibility with them, and have been encouraging them to use the tools easily available to them to look up authors and sources and find out who and what they are, and what their agendas might be.

I hasten to add that though Castor was dealing with college freshmen, I don’t think that her students are more gullible than the population in general, and might well be less so. Amazing Facts are always attractive.

3 Responses to “Give your baby soda pop”

  1. HortonWhoHeardAWho Says:

    Two or three times now, I’ve presented the “Cola Baby” image to students in my Critical Thinking/Media Studies course. Even though I have stressed how imperative it is for interpretation of “cultural texts” to include (at least) an identification of the text’s producer and the historical & institutional context, students tend to “fall” for this image gag/spoof. Very few take the time to “google” “The Soda Pop Board of America” to verify its existence (or lack thereof). I’ve been very impressed by those students who’ve done this extra work.Of course, it’s only after doing the latter research that one can see the image for what it is. It makes for an interesting and challenging analytical task, that’s just plain fun!! Thanks, Arnold. 😉

  2. Critical thinking « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] a recent comment on “Give your baby soda pop” (from April 2010), HortonWhoHeardAWho reports: Two or three […]

  3. On the octopus watch « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] as figures of fun. Earlier on this blog: in 2010 and 2011, references to the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus; and then in 2012, a Rhymes With Orange […]

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