Saturday, 14 April 2012
Now gentle reader it is not often that the Cheerful Fairy wades into the murk of politics. Very much an armchair fairy about that sort of thing. Usually.
But that is of course never the end of it. A counter campaign has been formulated: “not gay, ex gay, post gay and proud. Get over it!”. These were also due to be plastered on our shiny buses, right up until yesterday the Mayor had the campaign stopped.
Over the last few months Stonewall has been running ads on the side of Strumpetville’s shiney red buses “some people are gay: get over it!”. A very simple and effective message, and part of a campaign that is complemented with posters and leaflets and T-shirts etc.
Ensue much hullabaloo and stroking of beards, oh yes indeed.A group called the Core Issues Trust, supported by Anglican Mainstream, The largely unsought battle between religious faith and sexual orientation continues apace, it appears.
So what’s the issue? Well, the nominal reason is the suggestion the ad promotes gay cures. We know, I think, that such ‘cures’ are utter rubbish, and if anything actively cause a lot of harm.
Does the advertisement itself claim to offer, or support, “gay cures”? No, not really. But I think the man in the street would reasonably infer that such a thing were possible, or at least that sexual orientation is mutable. And we cannot ignore both Core Issues trust and Anglican Mainstream focus on offering gay cures. Certainly the advertisement goes further than arguing, as this article in the Daily Mail suggests, that homosexuality as an aberration and as such we gayers need to “get over” our 'agenda'.
The Advertising Standards Authority, the regulator of advertisements in the UK, has come in for much criticism for not banning the ads itself. But should it? I used to work for the ASA and grapple with issues such as these. It is implausible to ban advertisements because you disagree with their content or message in principle; but on the other hand you can be so offensive that in limited instances freedom of speech can, and should, be restricted.
The ASA cannot arbitrate on this before an advertisement is run. Such a thing is censorship. If after seeing an advertisement someone has grounds for complaint, that complaint should be fully considered and a decision made in favour of one party or the other. That is what regulators do; they are in the business of disappointing people. Not protecting them, on the grounds of some moral code nobody agreed, from things they might not like.
The timing of the advertisement, and the decision to ban it, can also not be ignored. The Mayor is running for re-election on 3 May, and up to now the campaign has been a mud-slinging vileathon with no debate about real issues. Of the party (right of centre) that is the main partner in the unpopular national coalition government, and one that is consistently considered to be sleazy and nasty, and in an incredibly diverse and largely left leaning city… I strongly suspect he’ll have swung some of those swing votes. Being sued by people who are to me clearly a hate group (although I’m sure they sincerely don’t see themselves as such, take out the words gay or homosexual in what they write and replace them with black of Jewish and see how it reads then) won’t hurt either, methinks.
Cynical? Perhaps. But should then the advert be run? Well, freedom of speech is a right for those who understand, as all sane adult men and women do, their responsibilities. We must think before we speak, and sometimes consider whether we need to speak at all. So it can’t always be absolute.
If I were Mayor of Strumpetville – or better still, king and tyrant – then I would let the advert run, but publicly and loudly voice my disagreement with its message and my view of those behind it. I would use it as a reason to keep equality, rights (and obligations), tackling hatred, and proper education about sexual health sand orientation high on the list of social priorities
In the meantime we have to accept that there are those who disagree with, or simply hate, homosexuality, and this must be tackled through open and honest debate. It creates climate of fear that stops people freely living their lives. Those, like the Anglican Mainstream or the Daily Mail, who clearly have an agenda all their own that is closer to something far more right wing and pernicious than sleaziness or nastiness must not be driven underground or simply banned. They have to be shown to be wrong.