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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Letter to Sir John Caines - ASA Independent reviewer

Dear Sir John,

Thank you for you letter – I am however extremely angry with your decision to uphold the Airbus advert. My anger will be shared by many others. The population is becoming increasingly terrified by the prospects of climate change and angry about the way in which large organisations such as Airbus are continually subverting the debate to protect their short term profit motives. We suffer this terror as we watch organisations such as Airbus receiving protection and support from the state, whilst the self evident rights to the future that we should enjoy are denied us.

Your action to support Airbus’s propaganda and false representations only reaffirms that the systems in place do not protect the individual, but are designed primarily to protect the rights of business to develop irrespective of the environmental damage caused.

Your decision to uphold the Airbus advert is based on several alarming, naïve and dangerous positions.

In your justification letter to me you have said:-

  • “The Council’s view was based upon a judgement that readers of National Geographic would understand that the advertiser was not claiming that the aviation industry had no adverse impact on the environment.” Are you seriously trying to suggest that because the National Geographic is aimed an articulate and intelligent audience they will automatically be able to decipher fact from fantasy? History is full intelligent people who have been lead astray with disastrous consequences. Airbus’s advert is in the National Geographic precisely because it is a prestigious publication. Airbus’s marketing department clearly wanted its name associated with the National Geographic as a way of combating the debate on the impact of aviation on climate change. The fact that it is in the National Geographic gives credence to its claim that it is “working towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
  • “Readers of National Geographic would be unlikely to regard the advertisement as a claim that Airbus was taking actions which would lead to absolute, rather than relative, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.” This a ridiculous position for the Advertising Standards Agency to take. Firstly, you have no way of knowing how this advert is perceived by National Geographic readers. Secondly, the aviation industry this week has been peddling its nonsense about being able to reduce its absolute emissions by 50% by 2050, when it has already failed to meet any of its past environmental targets. The reader will clearly assume that this advert is relating to absolute emissions. This after all, is the intention of the advert.
  • “The Council has to strike a balance between preserving freedom of expression and ensuring that such freedom is not seriously harmful to the interests of others.” Are you saying that an organisation such as Airbus can be allowed to use its massive marketing budget to blatantly lie about its environmental credentials as this is essential to the preservation of freedom of expression? You should know that the combined marketing budgets and publicity machines of the many carbon intensive companies such as Airbus by far exceeds the worlds scientific budget on climate change. Ever since climate change was first highlighted as a serious problem in the late 1970s, big business has successfully subverted the debate to ensure profitability. This is not freedom of expression or open debate. This is manipulation on a grand scale, and this advert is simply part of this.
  • “I know that this decision will be a disappointment to you and for that I am sorry. I realise that you feel very strongly about the impact of the aviation industry on the environment” This is patronising and belittling nonsense that I can do without. To say that I feel strongly is a gross understatement. I am angry at my environment being destroyed and my taxes being diverted to the aviation industry. Not only am I angry, but so are thousands of others. Many of these intelligent people are now sacrificing their own liberty by taking direct action, as there is no other real option to influence decision making. You have demonstrated again that the only way forward is by direct action.

Finally you may want to explain to me what the Advertising Standards Agency is for? This complaint, and the lack of adherence to your own code, clearly demonstrates that it is not to ensure truthful and honest claims to the public. Instead it seems that the ASA’s job is to ensure that the marketing interests of business are allowed to operate, irrespective of the environmental damage that may ensue. You have demonstrated the truth of the Plane Stupid claim that the "ASA are as toothless as a new born."

I will post this correspondence on my blog, and copy to my MP.

Kevin Lister

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