Most of us who live in the West like to believe that we enjoy an ever more robust right of free speech. How many things that were unmentionable when we or our parents were children are now broadcast from the roof tops, not to mention the local news stand and computer screen?
In fact, though, about many things speech is far more curtailed now than it was a hundred years ago. I was reminded of this by “Caveat Emptor,” David Warren’s excellent though depressing comparison of how two different advertising campaigns in Canada have fared. On the one hand, there is the billboard advertisement paid for by LifeCanada, a pro-life group, to mark the 20th anniversary of the Canadian Supreme Court’s decision to remove all legal restrictions on abortions in the Maple Leaf republic [correction: monarchy, as several readers have pointed out]. The advertisement read:
“9 months. The length of time an abortion is allowed in Canada. Abortion. Have we gone too far? www.AbortioninCanada.ca.”
You might approve of Canada’s law regarding abortion, or you might disapprove of it. LifeCanada disapproves and exercises its putative right of free speech 1) to remind the public of what the law actually is and 2) to ask whether it is a good thing. The result? Advertising Standards Canada last week ruled that the ad was “deceptive.” Why? Because, explained ASC, the ad did not deal with “access” issues. Meaning–what? As Warren notes, “The feminist red herring about “access” is not something worthy of serious discussion. When a woman wants an abortion in this country, she gets it, pronto. That is indeed a very good reason why abortions in the third trimester are comparatively rare. And yet they do happen, and they are quite legal. The billboard wasn’t discussing numbers, it was discussing law.”
Warren compares what happened to LifeCanada’s ad to the fate of a widely disseminated “public service” advertisement from the feminist Canadian Women’s Foundation meant to “create awareness of domestic violence.” “Under the headline, ‘Shelter from the Storm,'” Warren notes, the advertisement
depicts “a sullen, rather menacing father, staring defiantly at the camera” from one end of a sofa, and “a waifish, stressed-looking mother shielding anxious children’ at the other. (The descriptors are Barbara Kay’s, and I cannot improve on them.) A dotted vertical line divides this father from the rest of his family.
The message of this advertisement is as unambiguously hateful as it is clichéd and slick. Without any further words it communicates a savage denunciation of “white males,” and supports the feminist stereotype that they are violent, abusive, and tyrannical by nature. . . .
It is inconceivable that any “advertising standards” authority would rule such an advertisement “deceptive” at the present day. Even had they the desire, none would have the courage to face down the inevitable feminist wrath. The (typically white male) corporate executives who agree to disseminate such obvious hate literature, do so in an expectation of what would happen if they refused. And yet if the stereotype were true, they would be quivering in fear of all the sullen, menacing, defiant male customers they had mortally offended.
Welcome to the Orwellian realm of political correctness where white is black, night is day, and freedom is slavery.