September 12, 2008

The Thought Police Are Watching

Freedom of speech is becoming subordinated to the feelings of special interest groups.

It is getting harder and harder to express unpopular opinions. This is particularly true of commercial speech.

If your message happens to "offend" some vocal special interest group, you are sure to be the target of an effort to silence you (see Super Bowl Vigilantes and Super Bowl Vigilantes Strike Again.)

The latest attack on free speech is aimed at the advertising industry in Europe. According to The Telegraph, the EU's "women's rights committee" wants to ban tv commercials "deemed to portray women as sex objects or reinforce gender stereotypes."

Presumably, the "women's rights committee" would be the "deemers."

I yield to no one in my disdain for the stupidity and
inanity (and ugliness) of women's fashion advertising. As the father of a teenage girl, and a lifelong ad guy, I am often mortified by the way women are portrayed in advertising. Nonetheless, I completely oppose this idea.

Is showing a woman in a skimpy swimsuit portraying her as a sex object? Certainly. How about a woman in a dress -- does that reinforce gender stereotypes? It sure does. Does that mean that women in dresses cannot appear in tv commercials? How about a woman cooking a meal? If the committee "deems" that it reinforces gender stereotypes is that now going to be banned from television?

There is nothing that separates us from Luddite ignorance more unmistakeably than our tolerance of the right of others to express themselves freely -- regardless of the stupidity or foolishness of their utterances.

Attempting to further a political agenda -- no matter how well-intentioned -- by undermining this right is a huge, misguided step.

God help us if the day comes when some "rights committee" can decide what is permissible speech and what isn't.

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