"We are in the playground. We are in the classroom. We are with you at work -- and at play. We are in the neighborhood -- and the community center. We are OHA. Although you may not see us in your everyday lives, OHA's services, programs and advocacy impact you and your 'ohana [family]. We are the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, and we are here to serve you."
Those are the words of a 30-second commercial broadcast hundreds of times on numerous TV stations during at least May, June, and July of 2007. In particular, it was on the KHNL TV News at 10 PM on Sunday July 8, 2007 approximately 6 minutes into the newscast. OHA refuses to disclose how much money it has spent over the years on TV, radio, and newspaper commercials like this, but it's probably several million dollars.
The words in this commercial were spoken slowly and proudly, accompanied by inspirational music, and brief film clips showing auto repair workers hoisting an engine; a park with children playing; a surfer; a backyard family picnic with people hugging enthusiastically; a lineup of laborers who all turned their heads attentively and trustingly toward the camera when "OHA" was mentioned.
Actually, the ad sounds and looks rather ominous for those of us who know what OHA spends most of its time and money doing. Let's rephrase it. "We're everywhere -- including your home and workplace and the school your children attend. [uh-oh!] We're everywhere, even though you don't see us. [Oh my GOD! They're making me paranoic.] Our programs impact you and your family. [And you ain't seen nothin' yet! Just wait 'til the Akaka bill passes!] OHA is here to serve you [that is, the 20% of you who have a drop of the magic blood]. We OHA trustees are using goverment money to pay for this ad to let ethnic Hawaiians know why they should be loyal to us [we want them to think OHA butters their bread] and to persuade everyone else that OHA is benign, friendly, and helpful to businesses, families, and children." In the immortal words of singer Bobby McFerrin: "Don't worry, be happy." To paraphrase the brand-recognition commercial of Allstate Insurance Company: You're in good hands with OHA.
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs has engaged in brand-recognition advertising for many years. These ads are a political response to growing public opposition to race-based government handouts, and to OHA's campaign for the Akaka bill. The idea is to portray OHA as a trustworthy and important part of the community. But looking ahead, OHA is thinking "We've got you where we want you, in the palm of our hands." But don't worry, be happy.
Should a government agency engage in brand-recognition advertising? It's OK to use ads to inform the public about about specific government benefits they can apply for, but is it OK to advertise merely the fact that a government agency exists and we should all feel good about it? That's government propaganda, paid for with money belonging to us all. It's especially outrageous when money belonging to all of us is used to persuade all of us that it's a good thing for a government agency to provide race-based benefits to only 20% of us at the expense of all of us.
Most media commercials have the purpose of advertising a particular product by describing what the product does for a customer. For example, Chevron gasoline has a special additive called "Techron" that (allegedly) cleans engines and delivers improved mileage. Crest Toothpaste allegedly prevents cavities and helps your breath smell sweet.
Some TV commercials do not advertise particular products, but rather have the purpose of getting the public to recognize and trust a company's name or logo. For example, Allstate Insurance Company might broadcast a 5-second ad showing a house being held in the open palms of two hands, accompanied by the spoken words "You're in good hands with Allstate." Presumably sales will increase if the public recognizes and trusts a brand name or logo. Future commercials will have more impact when they show the trusted company name and logo.
It's interesting that OHA's sister agency DHHL quite literally fulfills the image of the well-known Allstate Insurance logo. DHHL grasps in its hands the houses of those living on the Hawaiian Homelands. The home "owners" can never own the land under their houses, and owe lifelong allegiance to the agency that regulates their community and demands their support for political goals. If the Akaka bill passes, then OHA (or its successor, the Akaka tribal council) will take from the people of Hawaii perhaps half of all the lands of this archipelago, plus perhaps Billions of dollars, plus jurisdictional authority appropriate to a sovereign government. They will have all Hawaii's people by the ... oops ... in the palm of their hand, just as DHHL now controls the homes and political activities of the homesteaders.
It's doubtful whether a government agency should spend money on brand-recognition commercials, except perhaps during wartime to promote patriotism or sales of government war bonds. [Actually, Hawaii is already in a low-key civil war, which OHA, DHHL, Kamehameha Schools, and the rest of the Evil Empire are winning. See "Hawaiian Apartheid -- Racial Separatism and Ethnic Nationalism in the Aloha State" at
For example, the U.S. Social Security system might legitimately advertise the fact that everyone who has not yet retired should expect to receive an annual statement showing their lifetime earnings record and including a projection of how much their monthly pension is likely to be -- and if you don't get the statement you should contact Social Security to request one so you can correct any inaccuracies. But it would seem highly improper for Social Security to launch a political campaign of advertising to persuade people what a great idea it is for government to operate a public pension system.
The public school system in a rapidly growing community might legitimately advertise the fact that the registration date for newly-arrived children is August 20, and proof of vaccination is required. But it would seem improper for a public school system to sponsor ads urging parents to pull their kids out of private schools to send them to public schools, or ads showing the local public high school accompanied by the words "Podunk High, proudly providing free education to the children of Podunk for 50 years."
In the upcoming State of Hawaii Constitutional Convention of 2010, we the people should strip OHA of the right to spend our money for political lobbying, political issue-advertising, and self-aggrandizing brand-recognition. In fact, we should strip OHA itself right out of existence.
There are other kinds of commercials run by OHA -- most notably, the "Kau Inoa" ads urging ethnic Hawaiians to sign up on a racial registry expected to serve as the membership roll for the future Akaka tribe. But that's a story for another essay.
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(c) Copyright 2007 Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. All rights reserved