By Marcus Honesta.
Two weeks ago, I wrote a story that has had the keyboard warriors verily frothing at the mouth. The apparent reason for the fracas was my attack on the new censorship rules the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) and their assorted stormtroopers are demanding.
Under the guise of gender stereotyping, good taste and public standards, those unelected busybodies from this shadowy government entity are trying to inflict their narrow-minded views on the public at large.
My exposé of these new, ridiculous rules in the piece “THE NEW LOOK ORWELLIAN CENSORS” drew fierce condemnation from several of the PC-infected, left-wing lovies. Jim Land wrote, “Rambling inept emotive opinions stated as facts.” Stuart Errol Anderson declared, “Who writes this stuff? Private-school, right-wing culture warriors?” Clare Paine said, “Wow. What a sad, angry, little person this author must be.”
However, on the other side, Alex Kuchin said, “It’s an opinion piece, meant to initiate discussion. However, if you feel it needs to be censored or removed due to your tender sensibilities being offended maybe you need to stop getting your knickers in a twist and simply move along.”
What could have stirred such a heightened state of rancour? I was hardly attacking our much beloved and first Australian Saint, “Mother Mary”. The piece celebrated and protected our freedom of speech — the right to say and do what we want when we want. Notwithstanding this, my piece defended the advertising industry’s right to be dull and stereotypical, and to continue trowelling out their less-than-creative, dreary swill. Who could complain about this?
Given the rabid response from the PC Brigade, I decided to investigate just who makes up the august body, The Ad Standards Community Panel. Perhaps a more sinister agenda is afoot. I truly believe that censorship is the last refuge of the politically correct, ignorant and cowardly. Their desire to control our media is what fuels their power and encourages their actions — so, I went digging.
It came as no surprise that the Ad Standards community panel was full of left-wing academics, a smattering of imported and home-grown loonies and Canberra public servants and bureaucrats, few of whom had ever held down a proper, salary-paying position.
So, who are these champions of the people — these barometers of good taste? From their website, it seems like the ASB would have been more comfortably at home in a “Leave it to Beaver” episode (this sitcom defines the golly-gee wholesomeness of 1950s and 60s TV, where dad Ward Cleaver always gets home in time for dinner, mom June cleans the house wearing a dress and pearls, and kids Wally and the Beav always learn a lesson by the end of the episode). The ASB website invites us to understand the people looking after the moral fibre of our little community. To quote directly from some of its more nauseating content:
Andrew Robinson: When he’s not working or studying, Andrew enjoys café hopping with friends and travelling to new places. Oh, by the way, Andrew is a medical doctor completing his specialty training in psychiatry in Perth.
Carly Wallace is a Dulguburra Yidinji woman from the Atherton Tablelands in Far North Queensland who is now based in Brisbane. She currently works in the public sector and is presently employed by the Queensland Government as a communications assistant with the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships.
Catherine Poutasi was born and raised in Aotearoa, New Zealand and moved to Wollongong, Australia in 2013 with her husband and two children. She works in the public health system. Cath has a vision to improve the health, education and social outcomes of Pasifika families.
Craig White is a Queensland copper who likes surfing and spending time with his family.
Karen Haynes is a Queensland Baptist minister, serving the Australian Defence Force as a chaplain. She is a regular patron of coffee shops, libraries and thrift shops. On virtuous weekends, she will manage to make it to her local Park run on a Saturday morning.
Peter Williams is a Fellow of the Dietitians Association of Australia, an Honorary Professorial Fellow at the University of Wollongong and an Adjunct Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Canberra. He enjoys yoga, cycling and bushwalking.
Yet not all the Northbourne Ave residents share the same values as Andy, Carly, Cath, Craig, Kaz, and Pete. There seem to be some other rats in the ranks!
Among the ASB’s flock is a refugee activist who says Aussie pilots should refuse to deport illegal immigrants, a feminist who argues for the erotic potential of breastfeeding and a smattering of other home-grown loony tunes.
First, let’s deal with Mohammad Al-Khafaji. Mohammad is from Adelaide, via Syria. He is the CEO of Welcome to Australia, an Hon. Secretary of FECCA and a member of the SBS Community Advisory Committee. Mohammad believes cultural diversity makes us richer as a society and he is passionate about ensuring the voices of new and emerging communities are heard and represented. He has been actively campaigning for Qantas to stop working for the government by flying illegal immigrants out of the country.
“As a former refugee, I ask you to refuse deporting people seeking asylum back to harm,” he wrote on social media last week. “Virgin Australia, you can show your leadership too. Let’s do this and join a global movement.”
Ad Standards CEO Fiona Jolly said panellists with strong views would recuse themselves from any “conflicts of interest” but declined to provide details. But who is this Ms Jolly? Sadly, Ms Jolly has never had a real job, either. She is and has always been a Canberra career public servant. And doesn’t she hold a balanced view of how things should be done? Do what I say, or you will be humiliated in the media. She is straight out of the pages of Orwell.
Her bio reads:
“Fiona Jolly has been Chief Executive Officer of Ad Standards since October 2005, following an extensive and diverse career with a number of Australian Commonwealth Government departments”.
“She holds a Master of Laws (specialising in communications and international trade law) from the University of Melbourne and is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors”.
“During her career, Fiona has combined her extensive experience in regulatory reform with the determination to balance the rights of industry and consumers in the context of minimal or no government intervention”.
Having never worked outside government, one might wonder how experienced she is in bringing private sector views to the table, but let’s press on.
“Prior to her work with Ad Standards, Ms Jolly worked with the Attorney-General’s Department. She was responsible for developing censorship policies for films, publications and computer games, in conjunction with the Office of Film and Literature Classification. At a policy level, Ms Jolly managed the reform program of the national legal profession”.
Prior to her work at the Attorney General’s Department, Ms Jolly spent nine years as the head legal adviser to Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ). While there, she led the reform of the Australian Food Acts”.
When asked to comment on Mohammad Al-Khafaji’s stand on Qantas and refugees Ms Jolly said: “If someone has a conflict of interest with a particular advertiser or the content of an ad, then they don’t participate in the decision”.
“If it became a situation where a community panel member was having to be declaring a conflict of interest for more ads than not, then obviously that person would not be of any use to the panel going forward … It is very much something we review very regularly”.
“We are very confident that any conflicts of interest are being declared”.
Ms. Jolly declined to reveal the decisions Mr Al-Khafaji had judged.
“When we recruit, one of the most important things is to figure out where each person’s views are on topics,” she said. “If it turns out someone is not fulfilling the role in the way they should be, we move them along.” When pressed, she wouldn’t comment on who or how many good folks have been asked to move on.
Then there is our own real, home-grown loony, Dr. Fiona Giles. She was recruited to the ASB in 2013. In 2008, she wrote a paper linking breastfeeding to sexuality.
“This chapter argues that the acknowledgment of pleasure in relation to lactation liberates breastfeeding from this negative symbolic terrain, enabling an exploration of its erotic potential,” she wrote.
“By beginning to write an ars erotica for breastfeeding, (Michel Foucault used the term ars erotica in The History of Sexuality  to indicate the Eastern perception of sex as an art form, in contrast to scientia sexualis, his term for the Western laboratory and statistical analysis approach to sex) we can further our understanding of the intersections between lactation, sexuality and mothering.”
Only in the unfettered light of freedom, can her sort of idiotic clap-trap exist. The very censorship they (the ASB) seek to impose upon us would prevent Dr. Fiona Giles from publishing her views. But this simple fact does not seem to have occurred to them.
My one-time mentor, that old communist with the mellifluous soothing tones, Phillip Adams, wrote this week in the Weekend Australian Magazine about the proliferation of Political Correctness:
“And yet, and yet. I’m uncomfortable as a writer and broadcaster in this gluten-free, gender-neutral world. Where a slip of the finger or tongue can provoke wrath from the twitterati, where satirists and comedians, as well as the commentariat, can cop it for what are often the slightest infractions”.
“A lifetime ago I opposed turbocharging racial discrimination legislation with criminal sanctions and got booed to the rafters at a multicultural conference. From poster-boy to pariah in one easy lesson. My argument then – as now – is simple. Better to have bigotry out there than bottled up and brewing, temperature rising to [a] boiling point. Let’s hear it loud and clear – and deal with it. Win the argument, don’t suppress it”.
“Such arguments – and censorship itself – have been rendered redundant by new technology, by “social” media that could hardly be more anti-social. Facebook and the others might make token efforts to mute the more monstrous utterances, but the ordinary web will remain dark, open to the winds of madness”.
“The imp, if a threat so huge can be thus described, is out of the bottle. And the bottle is broken. I can no longer be bothered with PC brawls about minor infringements in, for example, gender terminology. These are often distractions. It’s not about bad manners anymore. It’s about survival”.
Unlike the old farmer from Singleton, who cannot be bothered anymore, I can. Let’s have the argument up front for all to see.
Let’s not allow the yoke of censorship to ride roughshod over us under the guise of “Political Correctness”. Let’s stand up for our rights. Enough is enough. Even, indeed, if it is the right to be wrong.