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Friday, September 26, 2008

Commercial freedom of expression and the war on advertising

Censorship50leaves_3_2 In a Western Standard exclusive, John Luik takes a look a commercial freedom of expression as part of our Free Speech & Expression Week on the Shotgun blog:

Commercial freedom of expression has never been a particularly robust creature in Canada. The country’s courts, except for a few notable exceptions, as well as the chattering class have taken the condescending view that commercial speech deserves a much less protected status than, for instance, political speech, since it touches on interests that are supposedly peripheral rather than central to democratic life.

But what has really tipped the scales against commercial freedom of expression, particularly with the general public, has been the incessant attack on advertising by the public health community and its allied special interest groups opposed to smoking, drinking, gambling, and eating (sorry, only incorrect eating). While skepticism about the aims, methods and reach of advertising is at least as old as Vance Packard’s 1957 “classic” The Hidden Persuaders, worries about the effects of advertising have reached a new level due to the careful efforts of the public health paternalists.

Luik’s column on commercial free speech and advertising restrictions is timely as the Harper Conservatives have promised to further restrict tobacco advertising as well as ban flavoured cigarillos, all for the sake of children, of course.

Luik makes the case, however, that children are less susceptible to advertising than public health advocates would have us believe.

For one thing, the story’s claim about vulnerable children who are insufficiently skeptical about advertising and thus manipulated by it is simply untrue. Several recent studies, including one by David Buckingham for the UK’s regulatory authorities have found that children, even quite young children are surprisingly knowledgeable both about what advertising is about and also how it works. Equally important, there are significantly skeptical about its claims, understanding that it is designed to portray something in the best light in order to get them to buy it.

Luik argues that while the public health case against commercial free speech is weak, we shouldn’t expect politicians to reverse their policies.

But don’t expect those news hour announcements from health ministers about banning advertising for this product or that to stop any time soon. Advertising and commercial speech in general are just too convenient a villain for too many people. After all, without advertising as the bad guy, we might just have to address the real reasons that people and particularly kids did certain things.

Read “Commercial freedom of expression and the war on fun” by John Luik.

And don’t forget to help the Western Standard get free speech and expression on the national televised debate among the major party leaders. Find out how here.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on September 26, 2008 in Current Affairs | Permalink


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So very true. It seems like no matter what a person finds enjoyment in , there is some activist group out there wanting to ban it. (To protect the children of course.)Even a lowly chocolate bar or coke has to go underground at schools now.Don't even think about taking a peanut butter sandwich to school.Don't you dare ride a bike without a helmet.Soon to be "don't you dare ride a horse without a helmet". We are quickly becoming a nation of weenies,whiners and wingnuts. If you enjoy it...stop it or the government will have to intervene.

Posted by: peterj | 2008-09-26 11:21:42 PM

Amen, peterj.

Posted by: Alain | 2008-09-27 12:44:25 PM

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