RIP Lady Liberty

RIP Lady Liberty.

Blair Mulholland has the background to this story. Yesterday, New Zealand’s “freedom of expression”, a right supposedly protected by our Bill of Rights Act, was involuntarily euthanased after a long battle with the big C.

Ruling: Jesus doesn’t heal cancer

A church billboard proclaiming that “Jesus Heals Cancer” has breached advertising standards by suggesting the church can offer something other churches cannot, the Advertising Standards Authority has ruled.

Tributes pour in from around the blogosphere. Here is New Zealand’s #1 libertarian, Lindsay Perigo, true to form.

Jeezy doesn’t cure cancer … I suppose it would be an affront if he were to. Cancer is presumably Gobby’s work? To heal it would be an act of rebellion against one’s father.

“In all seriousness,” said Perigo on an earlier occasion, “who doesn’t value freedom of speech will lose it.” Are we to suppose, then, that denying a church’s right to express the view that Jesus heals cancer is no great loss?

It’s hardly news that New Zealand’s #1 Objectivist thinks that Christians are scoundrels. Has he forgotten that it was such that H. L. Mencken had in mind?

The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.

Freedom of speech is foremost among the “rights and privileges of British subjects” bestowed on all New Zealanders by the Treaty of Waitangi. In the nineteenth century, the British prided themselves on valuing eccentricity over conformity, on untrameled freedom of speech. Thousands of New Zealanders went on to give their lives for this freedom. We should rage, rage and rage again against anything which threatens its demise.

I know. I’m being premature and uncharitable. In fact, I’m confident that Perigo’s imminent press release will blow the Advertising Standards Authority to kingdom come. And, really, I suppose, I should practise what I preach.

49 thoughts on “RIP Lady Liberty”

  1. the ASA is a self-regulatory society, which has no power to enforce its ruling

    Thanks, Deane!

    I didn’t know that. And I’m pleased to hear it. But I think it’s still appropriate to ask, “Who the hell do the ASA board members think they are?”

  2. I was going to lay a complaint with the ASA regarding the ASA misrepresenting themselves as an authority when they were not… but after checking I found this…

    Broadcasting Act 1989, Section 8 (2)
    Subsections (1) to (1D) shall apply in respect of a complaint about an advertising programme only where neither the broadcaster nor the advertiser recognise, in relation to that complaint, the jurisdiction of the Advertising Standards Complaints Board (a board appointed by the Advertising Standards Authority Incorporated).

    It appears that submission to the ASA is voluntary but if you don’t “recognise the jurisdiction” of the ASA then you are, by law, subject to the BSA.

    So it’s true the church can ignore the ASA and it’s true that the ASA has no has no power to enforce its ruling but to refuse their ruling makes them subject to the BSA which can impose fines.

  3. Complaint laid.

    This complaint is made under principle 3 (No advertisement should be misleading or deceptive or likely to mislead or deceive the consumer).

    It has come to my attention that the Advertising Standards Authority is not an authority in any meaningful sense and that the “Advertising Standards Authority” is actually a Society. The name of this Society is misleading. The name would cause members of the public to believe that the Advertising Standards Authority is a government empowered agency.

    The Advertising Standards Society also misleadingly issues members of the public with “rulings” (definition: an authoritative decision or pronouncement, esp. one made by a judge).

    It is reasonable to expect that many people have complied with the Society’s “rulings” because they were misled by the name of the society and thought there was an obligation to comply with “rulings”. It is also reasonable to expect that many members of the public have incurred costs in compliance as a result of the misleading language.

    Can you please investigate?

  4. Dear geniuses,

    Yes, the Advertising Standards Authority is a voluntary industry body, a fact that clearly confuses excitable and ill informed libertarians, such as this other genius.

    The body was formed precisely to avoid the type of governmental intervention in free speech libertarians oppose, and operates a purely self-regulatory code with no legal coercive powers whatsoever. So, the answer to the burning question “who does the ASA think they are?” is that it is an entirely voluntary group trying to protect whatever reputation – yes, reputation as an non-coercive ethical control in a free market, look it up – its particular industry has by entirely voluntary means. In other words, it ticks every ideological box on the libertarian agenda, which of course includes the right to freely advocate or criticise social norms in the name of reducing social evils such as fraud or misrepresentation. Duh!

    Of course, given libertarians’ amusing penchant for own-goals I suppose it was inevitable they’d attack an organisation that actually typified their ideals. Also amusing is that even when confronted with the facts, they pursue their inane criticism instead of doing what they should do: applauding the ASA as a sturdy bulwark against state interference and indeed as an mini-version of the very social institutions they supposedly they want to create.

    Guys, get it right…;-)

  5. Who does Daniel Barnes think he is?

    Daniel started his own agency way back in 1996. After growing to become one of New Zealand’s most respected independent agencies, in 2008 he joined forces with Paul to form Barnes, Catmur & Friends. He’s the founder of the Independent Agencies Group at CAANZ, and currently sits on the Advertising Standards [Society] board.

  6. Daniel, I have no problem with any peaceful voluntary association, and applaud ‘Self-regulation’, yet to pose as an ‘Authority’ that pronounces ‘Rulings’ rather than expressing opinions, is pretentious, deceptive, and patently hypocritical.
    The truth is they/you are no Authority at all!
    And Reeds concern that they/you pose as a Government Agency and as such have probably cost those they/you have deceived money and other injuries does not need to be illegal to be immoral! This issue ought to be investigated by the Police so as to insure no real crime has in fact been committed by this ruse.
    (It is a crime to impersonate a police officer or make false claims of representing the government… that’s serious fraud, and I would assume grounds for legal action.)
    I am also interested in your ‘Religious persuasion’ and that of the rest of this ‘Committee’ so that we may get a handle on whether or not this ‘ruling’ is also a clear cut case of Anti-religious bigotry… which again does not need to be a crime to be dishonest and immoral.

  7. Tim, Daniel’s religious persuasion is that of ARCHNist.

    In view of the fact that I awoke this morning to discover that I’ve been banned (again) from SOLO for allegedly “stealing” the paragraph marked above (with a red dotted line) from Perigo (or was it from Brash?) right now I’m feeling very charitably disposed towards my fellow Randroid-smiters, among whom Daniel ranks as one of the world’s foremost.

    Of course, notwithstanding the above, you and Reed raise points which do need to be addressed.

  8. Ha ha! Thanks Richard. Flocking Pretentious Randoid Anti-Christ’s!
    Why am I not surprised?!!
    Their ‘rulings’ are like that of the Sanhedren!

    So you got banned from Solo! Kudos Sir!
    For ‘Stealing’ you say? … Ha ha! Delusional!
    Everyone knows you don’t commit theft when you quote someone in criticism!
    Rand was the ultimate plagiarizer, second hander, and liar!
    She’s the atheist equivalent of Joseph Smith.

  9. I think Perigo is miffed that I did not provide proper attribution.

    I acknowledge Perigo’s authorship. Of course I do! Perigo’s authorship is the whole reason I copied the paragraph in question in the first place! I wanted Perigo to recognise his own words—and then stand by them.

    We should rage, rage and rage again against anything which threatens its demise.

    So far, it seems the only thing he’s raging against is me. 🙁

  10. Ha ha ha! Come on Richard! Of Course thats how it must be! ‘Hes got an Image to uphold… and a legacy to create!
    You see Atheists seek immortality in ‘Posterity’.
    To be remembered and considered ‘important’ by people whom they never met because they weren’t even born…is their vainglorious idea of ‘Heaven’!
    So much for Soloist ‘indifference’ and self-sufficient Egoism!
    There are all second handers!
    This is why they don’t directly answer you but instead ‘strike poses’ 😉
    That is what Objectivism is all about!
    Nothing to do with being objective or being a pilgrim of truth.
    What they admire is whom can maintain the greatest posturings without blinking!

  11. @Tim,
    Your point is reminiscent of the famous arguments made by this revered political thinker – like, why is there only one Monopolies Commission? Genius…;-) Keep it up and one day you just might get yourself the Big Government solution you fear.

    @Reed,
    Are you saying you haven’t done even the most elementary fact-checking before sallying forth?

    @Richard,
    Lame puns always welcome! Good to hear you’re smiting the good smite in other areas, if not in this particular one.

  12. Are you saying you haven’t done even the most elementary fact-checking before sallying forth?

    I wasn’t saying anything. I was asking a question.

    Does the ASA or the board receive government funding?

    The ASA Annual report indicates most of its funds come from “levies.” I have no idea how a voluntary non coercive society collects levies.

    Can you explain please?

  13. Oh Crapage!
    Exit Stage left!
    I realise now that I too hastily glanced at that Link to Daniels site Richard posted, and mistook it for a Rand worshippers site!
    I confess to my folly.
    I retract my Randoid remark.
    I apollogize for sullying Daniels good name!
    I must visit his site again with a better attitude.
    I stand by everything else I said.

  14. @Reed,
    Actually, you *are* saying that you haven’t done even the most elementary fact-checking before sallying forth.

    As to your question of how a voluntary society might collect levies, I would dearly love to help you unravel this great mystery of the ages but am currently preoccupied with banging my head firmly and repeatedly against my desk. Meantime if you want to continue your investigations into this matter, you might try writing to Investigate magazine, asking your Mother, or perhaps making like Spongebob and using your …..

  15. Daniel
    You think I’m uninformed or misinformed – I thought the reason you came here was to inform us.

    I could accept correction if you were to offer some but, so far, you have only confirmed that the basis of my complaint is correct. Your organisation is falsely asserting that it is an authority and you think we should be pleased with this because the ASS is not a real authority. Perhaps you can explain what you think the difference would be (other than where the money goes) if we had an actual authority doing what the ASA does.

    Supplementary questions…
    Does the ASA or the board receive government funding?
    It shouldn’t take long to answer “no”, if the answer is “no”, and that will be a point in your favour.

    Are ASA “levies” voluntary?
    It shouldn’t take long to answer “yes” or “no” to this question.

  16. Reed, it’s not that I think you are uninformed, it’s that you are uninformed. That’s why you are asking me basic stuff you should have known before boldly sallying forth in this children’s crusade. While you seem to be energised around the idea of your rights, you seem considerably less engaged with your responsibilities; for example, having at least some grasp of the facts of the matter before wasting the scarce resources of a voluntary organisation with vexatious trivia.

    The issue now is whether you are informable, given that most of what you are asking can be answered by simply re-reading my first post. So let’s go through this very slowly, taking the last issue first.

    Are ASA “levies” voluntary? Yes. That is, YES. Is there anything about those three letters you don’t understand? As you claim to have “no idea” how a voluntary levy might work, I suggest you ring your local tennis club or Boy Scout Group for further enlightenment.

    Does the ASA or board receive government funding? No. That is, NO. Given that you did not seem to grok my earlier phrases such as “sturdy bulwark against state interference”, “entirely voluntary” and “avoid…government intervention”, is there anything about those two letters you don’t understand?

    Finally, as to the difference between an “actual authority” and the ASA, perhaps you might consider what the negation of “voluntary” or “non-governmental” is. There are some excellent logicians on this board, they may be able to help out. If your problem is purely terminological rather than actual, and are struggling with the shades of meaning around the word “authority”, here is a sense you might be more comfortable with.

  17. Reed, it’s not that I think you are uninformed, it’s that you are uninformed.

    I appreciate that you are here to correct any misconceptions. Thank you.

    That’s why you are asking me basic stuff you should have known before boldly sallying forth in this children’s crusade.

    No. The questions I have asked you are independent of the complaint. You have actually confirmed that the basis for my complaint is sound.

    … wasting the scarce resources of a voluntary organisation…

    Your language here is ambiguous (misleading?). Are you suggesting that ASA staff are voluntary? The Annual reports indicate that ASA staff are paid and not voluntary.
    Claiming poverty is not a good defense. I doubt the ASA considers “wasting the scarce resources of a voluntary organisation” a sufficient reason not to investigate. (Did you notice the main post above these comments?)

    … with vexatious trivia.

    It is ironic that the ASA doesn’t live up to its own standards but my complaint is serious, not vexatious, and I expect my complaint to be upheld.

    Are ASA “levies” voluntary? Yes. That is, YES. Is there anything about those three letters you don’t understand? As you claim to have “no idea” how a voluntary levy might work, I suggest you ring your local tennis club or Boy Scout Group for further enlightenment.

    In the ASA annual report there are “subscriptions” and “levies” – presumably “levies” are penalties for breaching advertising standards. In normal language a “voluntary levy” is a contradiction in terms – if it’s voluntary calling it a “levy” is misleading.
    The ASA rulings don’t seem to include levy amounts – is there a list somewhere of who paid how much for breaching advertising standards?

    Does the ASA or board receive government funding? No. That is, NO. Given that you did not seem to grok my earlier phrases such as “sturdy bulwark against state interference”, “entirely voluntary” and “avoid…government intervention”, is there anything about those two letters you don’t understand?

    Thank you for the clarification.

  18. Daniel, am I correct in to estimate that you get paid around $1500 per ASA Board meeting? (2010 Annual Report indicates – $184,500 paid to the Board, ten Board members, 12ish meetings)

    You have ten advertising industry representatives on the board already… but if you decide you need a consumer representative I can make myself available. 🙂

  19. No, you are not correct. I get paid nothing, never have, never will. In fact in addition to my unpaid role on the board of directors, I recently contributed free of charge tens of thousands of dollars of my company’s time and resources to helping the ASA. The problem is simply that you are no more capable of reading an annual report than you are understanding the concept of a voluntarily paid levy, or that a voluntarily funded organization might need to employ full time staff. You are simply a buffoon, man. This latest embarrassment demonstrates this beyond a shadow of a doubt.

  20. No, you are not correct. I get paid nothing, never have, never will. In fact in addition to my unpaid role on the board of directors, I recently contributed free of charge tens of thousands of dollars of my company’s time and resources to helping the ASA.

    OK, I’ll accept you at your word that you do not profit from the ASA.
    So, how does 12ish board meetings cost $184,500?

    The problem is simply that you are no more capable of reading an annual report than you are understanding the concept of a voluntarily paid levy,…

    Can you understand the difference between an authority with jurisdiction, that issues rulings and collects levies, and a society without jurisdiction that makes decisions and accepts donations?

    … or that a voluntarily funded organization might need to employ full time staff.

    I have no problem with paid staff in voluntarily funded organisations. This only arose because referring to the ASA as “an entirely voluntary group” was misleading.

    You are simply a buffoon, man. This latest embarrassment demonstrates this beyond a shadow of a doubt.

    In my defense there’s lots I don’t know and I really don’t mind asking stupid questions.

  21. Daniel
    I’ll start a thread on “self-regulation” if you want to discuss it on this site. Just post as a comment what you would like the header post to be and I will put it up.

    I am not convinced “self-regulation” is a good thing – I’d prefer a proper justice system to having independent pseudo-judicial bodies.

  22. Reed:
    >I am not convinced “self-regulation” is a good thing – I’d prefer a proper justice system to having independent pseudo-judicial bodies.

    “A proper justice system…” – you mean a state-administered and taxpayer funded one, one that is fundamentally coercive instead of fundamentally voluntary. Well, ok, but I thought you guys were supposed to be libertarians?

    Or is this just some basically impossible system that is neither self-regulated nor state-regulated? Remember, the price of gliberty is eternal irrelevance…;-)

  23. Well, the church can choose to ignore it, obviously, and continue to make its fraudulent claims. But in doing so it damages its reputation, and, so libertarian theory goes, its credibility in the market and thus its market share. The market imposes the penalty, not the government. This, according to libertarian theory, is a preferable solution to coercive government intervention via the legal system.

    Reed, it really seems you understand about as much about the libertarianism you espouse as you do about the ASA. It is really quite remarkable.

    So are you going to tell us about this “proper justice system” you’re in favour of?

  24. Well, the church can choose to ignore it, obviously, and continue to make its fraudulent claims.

    As far as I understand it the church took down the billboard out of compassion when they realised why the complainant found the billboard distressing. It’s not fraud. You habitually misuse words.

    Reed, it really seems you understand about as much about the libertarianism you espouse as you do about the ASA. It is really quite remarkable.

    Daniel, I am not a libertarian.

    So are you going to tell us about this “proper justice system” you’re in favour of?

    Would you like to change the subject? 🙂
    OK. I’d like the justice system we have fixed. For a start it is too hard, too expensive and takes too long to get justice.

  25. As part of my continuing education course, which now looks to be expanding to incorporate Libertarianism 101, the ASA is the body that represents all major advertising companies and media outlets as well as ANZA, the industry body that represents New Zealand’s major advertisers. Hence, a judgement against you is a judgement that your ad is does not meet the accepted standards of the industry. As the above bodies are all separate, the ASA solves what’s called a co-ordination problem in a non-coercive fashion.

  26. Reed:
    >Daniel, I am not a libertarian.

    Clearly! However, given you are posting at a site called Eternal Vigilance, with the masthead Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death, perhaps you should report yourself to the ASA…;-)

  27. >It’s not fraud. You habitually misuse words.

    And it seems that you habitually defend the indefensible whilst prosecuting those who might criticise it. You’d think the ASA was going around claiming it could cure cancer, the way you go on.

    “Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel” (Matthew 23:24).

  28. >It’s not fraud. You habitually misuse words.
    And it seems that you habitually defend the indefensible whilst prosecuting those who might criticise it.

    Prosecuting? LOL

  29. Matthew 23:23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

    My concern about the ASA is a matter of justice.

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