Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Branding & "The Unborn Child"

A quick detour before I get into the meat of this post. Possibly not the best choice of words.

I'm working at home at the moment - bliss! Some time away from being wherever I have to be throughout this green and pleasant land. And it meant I got along to The Magic Circle last night for an excellent lecture, followed by a delightful repast with some of my magical chums - all of whom blog, with variable frequency, and all of whose blogs are accessible via links on my blogroll.
I normally eat in Ask after a gathering at TMC, and although I am sometimes not entirely delighted to be eating there, they do a very generous tuna crostini indeed.

I have a load of work to crash through today, before heading off up north for the rest of the week. Still, it means I get to see my family. Yay! However, putting all that to one side, and switching on the serious ...

Back in the days when I was a seminarian, devoutly Catholic (with a capital "C"), prone to singing in tongues, and praising the Lord, I happily accepted that anyone involved in providing abortions was a monster, and any woman seeking a termination was a cold-blooded baby-killer.

If I still thought like that, these days I would probably be delighted that Peter's Chair is now occupied by the German Shepherd, about whom I heard quite a few stories some years ago, I can tell you.

How I delighted in news of Father James Morrow, the renegade Scottish priest who decided to get a little more pro-active on the pro-life front that the Catholic church would normally be.

How I poured scorn on the phrase "pro-choice" when I first heard it, dismissing it with something between disdain and disgust. How evil, I thought, to attempt to rebrand this sickening infanticide by removing the A-word and attempting to downplay the fact that little babies were being murdered.

I won't dwell here on the reasons that I changed my mind, or the long road that brought me from being an ardent pro-lifer to an equally ardent pro-choice supporter. But it was only after making that journey that I looked back and saw the very effective branding that had seduced me.

Those who call themselves pro-life aren't really pro-life at all. They call themselves that in order to avoid using the A-word, and to imply that those in the opposing camp are somehow anti-life. If so-called pro-lifers really are pro-life, then they would probably find that their mission is more readily achievable by encouraging people to shag - all the time, whenever they can, regardless of consequence. No, they're not pro-life. They are simply anti-abortion. The most important thing to them is that there should be no abortions. In some cases even when to continue with the pregnancy would put the mother's life at risk, or the pregnancy was the result of an incident of rape. I'm tempted at this point to launch into a tirade about the evils of male institutions that attempt to control and subjugate women, as indicated by a disregard for the woman and a focus on the bit that the man contributed to ... but I'll control myself.

Those whom I previously described as pro-abortion aren't really pro-abortion at all. They're just not against it. If they were pro-abortion, they would encourage all pregnant woman to seek a termination. Or if they were inclined to behave in the manner of the so-called pro-lifers, they would sneak into the homes of pregnant woman and perform terminations on them whilst they sleep. No, the most important part of the argument for the pro-choice folks (and these days, I count myself in that number) is that it should be the woman's choice.

Having made that realisation, it irks me to hear people described as "pro-life" because I now see it as an undeniably clever but nevertheless dishonest way of attempting to manipulate peoples' emotions into sharing a point of view. It's a branding exercise, in other words. And I'm not keen on those. I don't like being lied to.

And now for an afterthought about other misleading stuff.

30% less fat!

The kind of flash you might see stuck on a packet of crisps any day of the week. This kind of thing bugs me, because I know how easily less sharp-minded folks are seduced and misled by it.

When any kind of comparison is made, it's a good idea to ask for the basis of the comparison.

30% less fat than what? Than there used to be? Than comparable products? Than a block of lard? And even if you get through that bit (yippee - 30% less fat than there used to be) we could still be talking about a total fat content of 80%.

Worse still: 30% less saturated fat!

So same amount of fat, not quite so bad for you, but still unlikely to do you any favours, yet being promoted in a way that suggests it's a healthy option. Bad. Bad!

I used to live in Wimbledon. There was a department store there called Elys. A sign across the road from the main train station proclaimed: "Elys - the store that's closer to you"

Oh, that used to get my goat. (Impressive, I know. Very few department stores offer a goat-getting service.) Closer to me than what? Kuala Lumpur? Tibet? Harrods? My left bollock? Really!

Oh, and give yourself a big pat on the back if you spotted the flagrant hypocrisy in one paragraph of this afterthought.


David said...

A little know fact about me is that I attended some "pro-life" meetings at university. As I am so clearly against what they stand for, then my paradoxical nature says I have to seriously listen to what they have to say and see what truth I can find in it. Disappointingly, I have rarely heard such illogical drivel!

Apparently, the "Vera Drake" method of abortion, involving disinfectant and shavings of carbolic soap, was invariably fatal! However, in the film it seems to works for her!

David said...

The apotheosis of branding was a recent TV advert for "Scottish Gas" (or whoever) which was selling itself as a "low carbon" gas supplier.

So while I know what they are trying to say, does anyone actually buy this ridiculous message?

They might as well be saying "We didn't tell you to burn it".

Qenny said...

I see no paradox. A keen mind will always try to understand fully the reasons for which someone holds an opinion or position that differs from ones own. It gives us a better perspective from which to challenge our own assumptions and conclusions, and if we decide in the end that we will stick with our original opinion, our conviction will be the stronger or the more defensible as a result of having tested it against other peoples' arguments. If indeed those other people had cogent arguments to offer. It sounds as if in this case, they did not.

I have yet to hear a "pro-life" argument that can get itself off the ground without making one rather major assumption, concerning the existence of a big guy with a white beard and a penchant for sitting on clouds. If you have to include that as one of the basic assumptions of your argument, you might as well give up any pretence of logic right there.

Al said...

Re the 30% less saturated fat comment - polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are in fact good for you and essential to many of the body's functions, especially essential fatty acids which are good for your heart and immune system.

The basic rule is if the fat is a solid at room temperature (like the sh*te left in the pan after frying lorne sausage!) then it's bad for you - if it's an oil at room temperature it's generally good for you (not Castrol GTX though!)

So, there's one piece of marketing that really is true - Olive oil based fat spreads really are good for you

Tickersoid said...

Maybe there was a point in my life where I'd thought through all these issues and either come to a conclusion or placed them either in the 'not bovvered either way' or 'needs more information' files.

I don't get annoyed by the marketing people. I just think 'nice try, not falling for it'.

One of my favourites is 80%fat free!
Or if it's full of fat and natural sugar it becomes 'Contains no added sugar or salt.'

My ex mother in law consumes loads of those fatty cerial bars, saying how healthy they are. I've concluded it's like people who talk about soap plots as if they are real. They know it isn't but it suits them to pretend they are.

Qenny said...

Al, I'm not sure I agree. Yes, olive oil based spreads are better for you than butter, or at least not as bad for you. Our bodies need EFAs to function (it's probably the "E" in EFA that gives it away :) But we don't need much of them. And regardless of whether they are saturated, mono or poly, if we have too much of any kind of fat in our diet, our bodies store it. McDonalds fries are cooked in vegetable oil (and these days it isn't hydrogenated, so they avoid the transfat nasties, too). You'll have a hard time convincing me that they're good for you.

tickers, I'd forgotten about the 80% fat free ruse. I love it and hate it in equal measure.