I was alerted to these ads by one of my colleagues at Women’s Views on News. A number of people replied that they had found the ads offensive and that they had complained. One tweeter, however, took exception to my taking exception:
“@HazelKLarkin: I find your tweet incredible. Asking people to complain about ads they’re unlikey to come across without you alerting them”
This reaction startled me. What was this person’s point? That if we don’t come across things ourselves we should not be made aware of them? Or that if we’re not likely to see an ad, then we shouldn’t have it pointed out to us? That if we come across advertisements or other information that moves us, we should not share them with our friends? How narrow would our viewpoints be if that were the case?
On Sunday, April 3rd, the Observer published twenty of Amnesty International’s print ads taken from the past 50 years. I don’t routinely get the Observer, but someone on Twitter sent me the link. I was delighted because, left to my own devices, I would never have stumbled across this piece. I retweeted the link and commented on my favourite advertisement. According to the Tweeter who found it ‘incredible’ that I should have brought the Suit Supply ads to the attention of my followers on Twitter, I should have been left in ignorance. Or at least, I should not have had an emotional reaction that I then shared.
Perhaps, however, this man was just objecting to the fact that I encouraged people who were offended by the pictures to complain. So what does that mean? That if you find out about something from someone else, then you have no right to respond to it? In that case, by this tweeter’s logic, I must excise my revulsion at the genocide in Rwanda because I’ve never been there and I’ve never witnessed it first hand. I must also retract my email of congratulations to Bates advertising in Mumbai for their work on the IDBI account because I’d never have known about these ads if a friend hadn’t pointed them out to me.
By far the most worrying thing about the whole episode, however, is that the man who found my tweet ‘incredible’ claims to be a ‘Public Relations and Media Studies lecturer in’ one of Ireland’s third-level institutions. I wonder if he refers his students to any information that they might not otherwise stumble across? Or does he just tell them not to have a reaction that inspires them to put pen to paper or finger to keyboard?