Free speech for advertisers, but not for unpopular opinions

I understand why Puma was upset by the brilliant, revolting parody Puma ads that are making their way around the Net.

The real issue isn’t the ads, but that we’re all ready to believe that they’re real. And why not? The recent controversy over a FCUK ad in the Boston Globe shows how plausible it all is. The position of the advertisers and their media enablers is that of a young child caught pooping in the kitchen.

First, deny the obvious:

French Connection UK spokeswoman Laura Bernstein acknowledges that the discovery of the acronym a few years ago sparked a sales boon. She demurs on the meaning of the word. ”It isn’t the play on words people often think it is,” she says. However, a visit to the company’s online store (you can buy T-shirts with such logos as ”fcuk on the beach” or ”too busy to fcuk”) suggest otherwise.

Then, explain to Mom that “Everybody is doing it.”:

Critics, says Bernstein, should note the far more provocative ads produced by other companies. ”I challenge them to look at what other fashion magazines are doing,” she says.

As I said, the media have enabled this behavior and cloaked it in the First Amendment.

‘We believe in freedom of speech, and our inclination is to run ads rather than not run them,” said Mary Jane Patrone, senior vice president for marketing and sales.

It’s unfortunate that this attitude didn’t prevail when MTV refused to accept antiwar advertising, or when PayPal unplugged an antiwar web site.

Corporate media are eager to beat the first amendment drum in support of soft-core pornvertising, witless consolidation, or ugly know-nothingism, but they’re unwilling to permit their channels to be used for the promotion of unpopular points of view.

Today I found a link on MediaGeek to a Washington Post profile of Amy Goodman. I don’t agree with her on most political issues and MediaGeek is right about her humorless earnestness, but she’s the closest thing I have to a media hero these days. She actively defied a renegade board of directors and made huge personal sacrifices to make a difference and tell the truth. That is what the first amendment is about.

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