It's been a over a month now since our little collaborative project with Muckmouth.com hit the streets & interwebs, so here is the long overdue follow up post on all the fun and fallout that ensued.
The first site to pick up in this was scoop.co.nz, but it wasn't until Eshe was featured on Reddit.com and Adsoftheworld.com did it go worldwide. Eshe has now been featured on the likes of Stoppress.co.nz, Deepbluetrees.com, Advertlover.com, Digg.com, Boingboing.com, Thedailywh.at, Examiner.com, Parzyszek.blox.pl and many more blogs & forums including a couple of hilarious Muslim sites calling us “Really rude who created this shirt” and praising Allah for sending earthquakes to punish the infidels. It’s just a shame he got the wrong city and Island. The print medium, not wanting to be left out also featured us in the NZ Herald on Sunday. But I think of all the posts, I am most proud of making onto PZ Myers Pharyngula blog.
Watching the discussions has been hilarious, with a lot of positive comments along with the inevitable negative complaints. From the handful of complaints we received, they were all complaining that we are big mean, old poopy heads. Of course the big babies got a reply politely suggesting they can kiss my ass. Oddly all these emails didn’t come via our firstname.lastname@example.org email address, but rather were sent to my personal address. It seems these nutjobs went out of their way to search for me. Damn we are lucky to live in such an awesome country where our nutjobs are generally harmless, had this been Europe or the USA I would now be under police protection. Speaking of police, I now have a greater respect for the NZ police, who took the initiative to contact me to make sure I was OK and ask if I had received any threats.
We also received the following letter of complaint from the Advertising Standards Authority, an “independent authority that seeks to encourage the media, advertising agencies and advertisers to voluntarily co-operate in the process of self-regulation”.
Following is our reply. Can wait to receive the judgment from the organization, I think I’ll have it framed.
24 September 2010
Advertising Standards Authority
PO Box 10-675
RE: Religion Is Garbage Posters – Complaint 10/488
To whom it may concern,
I am writing in response to the complaints about our recent poster campaign, which ran solely in Auckland and was never placed in Hamilton or Wellington, the cities of the two complaints. I assume then, that no one who saw the posters complained and that these complaints are due to some newspaper coverage.
The posters solely used imagery from our upcoming t-shirt line and as such were an accurate representation of a product. This Eshe campaign was used as a vehicle to challenge the view that some ideas are above criticism and mockery.
Free speech can and must include speech that could cause offence in some portions of society. Freedom of speech must include dissenting speech.
Regarding relevance of the Advertising Codes Of Practice, these posters/t-shirts were designed by myself - Eshe is not affiliated with any industry organization so these presumably do not apply to us, but the following is my defence based on the ASA Code of Practice.
CODE OF ETHICS – Basic Principal 4.
All advertisements should be prepared with a due sense of social responsibility to consumers and to society.
These were prepared with a due sense of socially responsibility.
However, my sense of socially responsibility obviously differs from the complainants.
It is my belief that the right of freedom of speech to express the hypocrisy and danger inherent in fundamentalist religion is a very socially responsible act for the good of society as a whole.
As for consumers – my customers are very happy.
CODE OF ETHICS – RULE 5.
Offensiveness - Advertisements should not contain anything which in the light of generally prevailing community standards is likely to cause serious or widespread offence taking into account the context, medium, audience and product (including services).
As there have only been 2 complaints, I believed the prevailing community standard has been shown overwhelmingly to be approval or indifference.
I do not believe the religious behaviour that these posters are satirizing fit within the “prevailing community standards” - the intuitional cover up of child rape, the use and threat of violence to suppress free speech, the exploitation of vulnerable and gullible by someone in a position of self appointed authority.
If we had been attacked under the following provision:
Fear - Advertisements should not exploit the superstitious, nor without justifiable reason, play on fear. I would by all means apologise for exploiting the superstitious, right after Brian Tamaki does the same.
CODE FOR PEOPLE IN ADVERTISING – BASIC PRINCIPLE 3
Advertisements should not portray people in a manner which, taking into account generally prevailing community standards, is reasonably likely to cause serious or widespread offence on the grounds of their gender; race; colour; ethnic or national origin; age; cultural, religious, political or ethical belief; sexual orientation; marital status; family status; education; disability; occupational or employment status.
Only people have human rights; Ideas and religions don’t. These posters are clearly satirizing & lampooning only organized religions and their leaders, and are not attacking any group of people. As there were only two complaints, from people outside of Auckland’s community, it is clear that these posters did not cause widespread offence.
CODE FOR PEOPLE IN ADVERTISING – BASIC PRINCIPLE 6
6. Humour and satire are natural and accepted features of the relationship between individuals and groups within the community. Humorous and satirical treatment of people and groups of people is acceptable, provided that, taking into account generally prevailing community standards, the portrayal is not likely to cause serious or widespread offence, hostility, contempt, abuse or ridicule.
Some people are offended by the knowledge that some people do not believe as they do, this reason is not good enough to stop the use of humour and satire. When the stakes are as high as the institutional cover-up of systematic child rape, the continued use of violence and threats of violence to stifle free speech and the use of religious doctrine to manipulate the vulnerable out of their money, satire may be the only way of provoking widespread debate, as this poster campaign has done internationally online.
Addressing XXXXXX's complaint specifically,
“Why should the (non) views of an apathetic majority ! carry more weight than the profoundly held views of the minority?” [Sic]
I find this quote deeply offensive in its assumption that the views of atheist are “non-views” – when my rationalist, secular views are very deeply and “profoundly” held - the opinions of the religious legally cannot be worth more than those of the rest of secular New Zealand. This religious prejudice I find both deeply offensive and potentially very dangerous.
Addressing XXXXXX’s complaint specifically, “is this indicating that all Muslims are terrorists”? – no, not at all, but it does address that a small proportion of Muslims use the Koran as justification for terror to completely stifle free speech, debate and secularism, in the same way that the Bible is used as a justification for homophobia.
These complaints are essentially accusing us of blasphemy, which is described as irreverence toward holy personages, religious artifacts, customs and beliefs.
Robert Green Ingersoll, the nineteenth century philosopher wrote, "This crime called blasphemy was invented by priests for the purpose of defending doctrines not able to take care of themselves."
I prefer the more concise: Blasphemy is a victimless crime.