So you can’t buy any Lego figures with your UKDivvie after all. Lego has written to the UK Government to tell them to remove all images of their product from the Treasury’s daft political adverts. The most iconic brand name from a successful independent northern European country of 5 million people does not want to be associated with a campaign to prevent another northern European country of 5 million people from becoming successful and independent too. Lego has complained to the UK Government that its figures were used without permission and without its knowledge, and their use runs contrary to the company’s policy of political neutrality. Lego has pointed out that they make toys for kids to help them learn through imagination and play, not political propaganda. The Treasury has difficulty seeing why this is a problem, since all the adverts were doing was playing political games with imaginary money.
Unlike real Lego adverts, the Treasury Lego adverts are paid for by the very people who are being advertised to. They’re taking your money, and spending it so they can persuade you to keep on giving them your money. You might say that’s exactly the same as real Lego adverts, which are funded by the profits made by the company which in turn come from people buying Lego. But at least Lego buyers get tiny plastic people who appeal to children in return for their money … Oh … I see what you mean …
Commercial advertising is legally prohibited from making claims which are untrue, which is why they’re so often hedged about with statements like “visibly reduces the appearance of wrinkles” which is what you put in an advert when you want to say “reduces wrinkles” but the sciencey bit won’t back you up. “Visibly reduces the appearance of” doesn’t actually mean anything specific. You can visibly reduce the appearance of wrinkles by putting a paper bag over your head. It’s a lot cheaper too. They could just as equally say “visibly reduces the appearance of Danny Alexander”, which would probably do much more to guarantee increased sales although it still wouldn’t get him off the telly talking pish about non-existent UKDividends. Mind you, in Danny’s case we’d all prefer the paper bag over his head. That’s a look that would definitely work for him.
But really unlike real Lego adverts, political adverts are not bound by the advertising standards code. They can say any auld bollocks that they like – as long as it’s not defamatory or incitement to commit a criminal offence. It doesn’t matter whether they’re produced by a Government department, a political party, or an astroturf campaign funded by rich Tories outside Scotland and designed by a marketing and branding specialist which was clueless about the market in question. Adverts produced by parties and campaigning groups during an election or referendum campaign are not regulated by the Advertising Standards Authority. You can complain to them all you like, but they’ll act like your appearance has been visibly reduced and you’ve got a paper bag over your head.
This is not actually a bad thing. We live in a democracy and it’s a fundamental human right to make a clown out of yourself in a public place. You can’t legislate against vanity and shortsightedness, and you can’t legislate against vain and shortsighted people voting. Or standing for office, as a quick perusal of most elected politicians will demonstrate. When you combine vanity, shortsightedness, and a whopping great dose of self-interest, you produce a situation where even theoretically intelligent people will come out with the most stupid of claims. Claims whose relationship to reality started off as tangential, before corkscrewing out of control into some fantasy land inhabited by people who say they believe in a federal Britain and are prepared to vote for a pig in a poke. Which brings us back to Danny.
Danny Alexander, and the rest of Project Fear, are under no obligation to tell the truth. And in a functioning democracy there can be no obligations put on them to tell the truth. Otherwise it threatens our own right to make clowns out of ourselves in public places. But the UK isn’t a functioning democracy because there’s no one doing the sciencey bit. A healthy media sector ought to be broadly representative of the society it serves. The media is supposed to investigate the claims made by political parties and campaign groups, to uncover inconsistencies and highlight falsehoods, and where it the media sector as a whole is representative of the entire population, that happens successfully. That’s the sciencey bit in political advertising. And it can even be done without resorting to made up words that you’ve trademarked.
But instead the traditional UK media is a campaigning group themselves. The problem arises because almost all the media outlets have the same stance. Positive news for the Yes campaign is sidelined or ignored, while there is little or no investigation into the inconsistencies and falsehoods of the No campaign. It’s perfectly fine for an individual publication to have a stance. Dante Alighieri said that the darkest places in Hell are reserved for those who stayed neutral during a time of moral crisis. Having a open and publicly stated stance is in many ways more honest than attempting to be neutral, whose only saving grace is that it’s more honest than pretending to be neutral. State broadcasters hadn’t been invented in Dante’s day, and he hadn’t considered the possibility that the darkest places in Hell might have a sub-basement with a BBC Scotland studio.
But on further investigation it wasn’t Dante who said that the darkest places were reserved for the neutral. It was JFK misquoting Dante. This is precisely the sort of investigative reporting that’s not being done in the UK media. Youshould always investigate what a politican tells you, even when it’s JFK or Barack Obama – never mind Danny with a paper bag over his heid. The only investigation the UK media likes to do is to investigate ways it can be spun into a blow for Alicsammin.
The missing check to the missing balance is the sheer impossibility of holding politicians to account. When they belong to the established UK parties, voting them out of office doesn’t work. They just get a seat in the Lords as a consolation prize. You’d imagine that after pissing off the electorate to the extent that the voters kick them out of office would mean it’s the voters who are in need of consolation, but in the UK it works the other way about. He’ll just become Baron Danny of Paper Bag.
Danny Alexander is so dumb even his imaginary friends want to play with other kids. Even Westminster’s imaginary Lego friends don’t want to play with them any more. And these are the people who want to make all the rules for the rest of us. These are the people who are quite happy with a media that doesn’t investigate their idiocies and ensure that’s all we get.
Let’s vote yes in September and take Danny’s toys away from him. It’s the scientifically guaranteed method of not only visibly reducing the appearance of Danny Alexander and the rest of the plastic figure princes and princesses of Westminster, but giving them them sack for good.