Six years ago Anita went to battle against Google when the company suspended the advertising campaign she had purchased for this weblog. The details of the dust-up can be found here. She noted that the most dangerous form of censorship is that of the timid and unimaginative. Now, add to that list the notoriously conservative Times of London, which refused to run an advert against expansion of air traffic at London's Heathrow airport. Read on for the gory details.
Enough's Enough is an organisation dedicated to peace, justice and the environment. It's latest campaign is focussed on fighting global climate change as it relates to the spectacular pollution caused by airliners. Its most recent ad, a mock-blockbuster movie poster, "Flightmare on Drowning Street" depicts Prime Minister Gordon Brown as in the pockets of the airline industry to the detriment of the environment.
Both The Evening Standard and The Independent ran the ad, but The Times refused. Enough is Enough offered to amend the ad, but The Times continued to refuse. Eventually representatives at The Times allowed that their reasoning was based on their impression that the Brown figure was too "Hitleresque." So Enough's Enough offered to change the imagery. And were still met with rejection.
Curiously, The Times ran another ad from Enough's Enough earlier which featured the exact same image of Gordon Brown.
The Government consultation period for the proposed expansion ends in a month, and public awareness is crucial at this point in the campaign. Many environmental and public policy organisations are in agreement that such an expansion cold have catastrophic impacts not only on local air quality and noise pollution, but also contribute to global fouling of the atmosphere now known to contribute to the acceleration of global warming.
The Times' refusal to print the ad may be well within its rights, but this is a matter of principle and responsibility to the free exchange of ideas on an issue affecting The Times reading public. Censoring an idea is a dangerous precedent for a publication whose mission is the edification of the citizenry.
Said Peter Myers, director of Enough's Enough: "Given The Times' current editor James Harding, is a close colleague of James Murdoch, who is considered to be one of the leading lights in the growing green-business-scene, enoughsenough.org would expect to see a more balanced approach to The Times' editorial and advertising policy. At least one as good as The Evening Standard's or The Independent's."
For its part, Greenpeace has declared the consultation on the proposed airport expansion "fixed," citing remarkable internal documents showing that the British Airports Authority (which stands to profit from the expansion) was largely allowed to write the proposal itself, which groups opposing the plan were shut out of the process.
So this is a case of silencing upon silencing; the Government silencing the voices of environmental groups and even those who live in the flight paths of Heathrow, and then The Times silencing an organization's campaign to give these voiceless groups a hearing.
"Tyranny of he unimaginative," is what Anita used to say about abominations like these.
But of course, you can do something. Tell the government what you think about the proposed expansion by emailing the consultation committee at firstname.lastname@example.org