Maisto International Inc.’s model Predator drones are selling out on Amazon.com Inc.’s website as parody reviews highlight how the toys can help children hone killing skills, mocking a controversial U.S. practice.
Only one of the $49.99 military-style toy jets is available for purchase on Amazon’s site, which is brimming with assessments laced with dark humor. “You can’t spell slaughter without laughter,” one pithy joker wrote.
President Barack Obama’s targeted use of drones to kill suspected terrorists has come under fire from both Democrats and Republicans who view the practice as inhumane. While Obama didn’t mention drones in his State of the Union address this week, he said he will continue a policy of “direct action” and vowed to make the anti-terrorism program more transparent.
“Nothing teaches my child about how to murder enemy combatants silently and invisibly from the sky with no risk,” one review on Amazon begins. “Teaching our children to be familiar with a silent, faceless killing machine is the way to educate our children about the importance that is war.”
As protest movements adapt to the digital age, Amazon is just one of many vociferous anti-drone forums on the Internet. Groups on Facebook Inc.’s social network such as Question Your Government, while protesting the policy, are also posting links to the critiques on Amazon’s site. Posts on Twitter Inc.’s micro-blogging service, including one from TechCrunch Inc. founder Michael Arrington, are also drawing attention to the reviews.
Change.org, a grass-roots community activism website that rose to prominence during Obama’s first presidential campaign, is gathering signatures on a petition asking Maisto, a maker of die-cast replicas, to discontinue the Fresh Metal Tailwinds Predator Drone toy.
“I will not buy this shameful toy, nor teach children to hate,” the petition says. “There is no glory in murder.”
Rick Berman, a director of product development at Maisto, declined to comment. Craig Berman, an Amazon spokesman, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Amazon’s conditions of use posted on its website say that the Seattle-based company reserves the right to remove or edit reviews, which it doesn’t regularly examine.
Consumers have flocked to Amazon’s review section as a forum for political satire before. In October, the user comment section of an Avery Dennison Corp (AVY:US). binder listed on the e- commerce site became the subject of a similar outbreak. Reviewers used Amazon to make light of a comment made by then- Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney during a debate. Romney had said he drew upon “binders full of women” to help fill cabinet seats as governor of Massachusetts.
The following month, Occupy Sandy, an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street encampment in lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park during the financial crisis, created wedding registries on Amazon to solicit gifts of everything from blankets to batteries to aid victims of Hurricane Sandy.
This time around, Amazon users are addressing the drone controversy with sarcasm. Notes one review rating Maisto’s toy five out of five stars:
“A must for every American child. I only wish this toy came with small appendages to scatter about the back yard to make it more life-like.”
Recommended on Amazon for children age 3 and older, Maisto’s model military drone has a 6-inch wingspan, and would scale up to an aircraft with wings stretching 48.5 feet. The toy is a replica of the RQ-1 Predator, an unmanned aircraft that the U.S. Air Force has used in combat over Afghanistan, Pakistan, Serbia, Iraq and Yemen, according to the product description on Amazon.
“It’s like I’m sitting in the White House with my very own kill list,” another five-star review reads.
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