Getting Irate So That You Don't Have To

Getting Irate So That You Don't Have To

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Nice People Don't Ban Adverts

There are many different types of censorship operating in this country. I've only just come to realise how many different tools are at the disposal of our rulers, and how many they use on a day-to-day basis.

For starters there’s the very obvious type of censorship, increasingly regularly used by the Government; quite simple, straightforward and in your face - the “Say-that-and-we’ll-lock-up”-type thing. Examples of this are specific laws against inciting mass murder and so on. This is Censorship By Decree.

Towards the other end of the scale there is censorship on the basis of social acceptability – the “Everyone-will-look-very-shocked-and-uncomfortable-and-say-‘Oooo-you-can’t-say-that’” form. Irish jokes probably fall into this category (although maybe you could be thrown into prison for telling one these days, who knows ?) This category of censorship usually originates from government or from the Establishment more generally, because they set the tone, but they don't actually impose it on us formally. Instead they seek – usually over a period of time - to create an atmosphere in which certain opinions are deemed "unacceptable". This, in which the Government try to get us to do their dirty work for them - is altogether a more subtle form of censorship than the type that ends up in criminal convictions; I’d call this Censorship By Indoctrination.

Somewhere on the middle is something I’m going to call Censorship by Quango; it’s an ever-expanding method to silence people who, in the eyes or our rulers, are off-message, and to my mind it’s the most insidious form of censorship of the lot. It's harder to pin on the Government, and may peopel don't even realise it happens. A pressure group (the Guardian calls it a "charity" but frankly that's bollocks) called Release has just fallen victim to it.

Release put an advert on London buses, bearing the slogan "Nice People Take Drugs". The aim was to point out over a third of adults in England have used illicit drugs, and to generate some debate about the fact that the law is not working. Release believes that there has to be some liberalisation of drugs laws if drug usage is going to be managed. A completely legimimate point of view...or so you might think.

Well, you've guessed it, Release has been told that the adverts have to be taken down. The bus company has taken fright, because they fear controversy and a rap over the knuckles from the authorities. They suspect, and I bet they're right, that if the ads were not taken down, they would be banned anyway. In short they have saved the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) a job.

The bus company are even blaming themselves for the ads' appearance in the first place: "We should have run it past the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP)". CAP, for those who are unaware of its existence, is administered by the ASA. In other words, these ads were taken down before they were a quango.

We now live in an era where unelected quangos such as the Advertising Standards Authority have a phenomenal degree of power over the way companies and organisations communicate with people. I've complained before about their banning of an advert featuring women dressed as schoolgirls and another one plugging a film about shooting people. Make no mistake, these guys are powerful. Without many people realising it, bodies like the CAP and the ASA are vetting what we are allowed to see. When it comes to free speech, they are the Government's secret police force.

So, to all intents and purposes, overnight, and courtesy of an unelected, unaccountable group of government-funded administrators, it's illegal to state the bleeding obvious, namely that not all drug users are thugs and hooligans. Except I'm going to say it anyway. If this blog disappears in a few days' time, you'll know why:


It's been nice knowing you.


Sue said...

They certainly do. I have a joint and occasionally a drink in the evening.. and I'm nice :)

bravely anonymous said...

Q. How many feminists does it take to tell a joke ?

A. 1 to tell the joke and a 2nd to reply " Actually I don't think that is very funny."

And you just watch it Womble guy, the Apostrophe Police are looking at you very carefully.