Recently Iceland’s anti palm oil advert has received a lot of media attention after it was banned from being broadcast. It has been denied on the grounds that Greenpeace’s involvement in the advert breaks the UK Code Of Broadcast Advertising’s BCAP Code.
“An advertisement contravenes the prohibition on political advertising if it is: An advertisement which is inserted by or on behalf of a body whose objects are wholly or mainly of a political nature.”
I find it useful to re-familiarise myself with the definitions of widely used terms like “political” because it can demystify statements where the words are used. Often terms like nature, politics and religion can be used so often and in such diverse circumstances that the words can become saturated, to the point where their meaning becomes ambiguous. When the meaning of our terms become ambiguous, this opens an opportunity for reality to be manipulated. Words can then become associated with just one particular type of activity, and the full breadth of the words meaning is lost, and with it, the ability to sense the full breadth of our reality is lost.
Reading the BCAP code in light of the Oxford Dictionary’s definition of politics makes sense to a certain extent (excluding all moral responsibility and treating the law as an undeniable code for life). The advert was made in partnership with GreenPeace, who are a political organisation, in the sense that they hold a set of beliefs on how relations between countries should exist. They hold principles relating to activity that is concerned with power, and their activities are associated with the governance of countries, in the manner that they try to influence more environmental governance.
What stares me in the face when I consider the BCAP code in light of the Oxford Dictionary’s definition is the sheer hypocrisy of letting Most corporations broadcast their advertisement at all. Take corporations such as Colgate, Johnson&Johnson and Pepsi (all companies using unsuitable palm oil in their products). Is Pepsi not associated with the governance and relationships between countries? Pepsi imports its cheap unsustainable palm oil from countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia where since the 1960s a forested area the size of New York and California combined has been cleared to make way for palm oil plantations. Pepsi’s decision to import palm oil from unsustainable sources is governing the lives of billions of indigenous people, animals and plants. Stripping their life, home and right to freedom from beneath them. To think that Pepsi doesn’t have a particular set of political beliefs and isn’t almost entirely concerned with power and status is ludicrous.
But companies like Pepsi that govern the lives of so many around the world ARE allowed to show their advertisement on television. Using celebrities, highly skilled creatives and phycological incentives, to create an identity that has nothing to do with the reality of the process that creates their products. The hypocrisy of the ASA defending their decision to not air Icleand’s advert on the basis that It is “intended to shield consumers from being exposed to political messages that are not clearly demarcated as such” is disgusting.
Advert breaks are essentially a “debate between parties having power”. Though the political belief that we are buying into, with our purchase of their product, is concealed well out of sight. By purchasing a companies products we buy into their political vision of the world. In the case of Pepsi we buy into a world where the animals and humans of Indonesia and Malaysia’s forests have no right to freedom, A world where the workers of palm oil plantations are forced into a life of poverty, a world that puts the delicate balance of life into jeopardy.
How did we arrive at a point where Iceland’s advert, that so bravely tried to tell the truth was deemed too political for TV, but the hundreds of adverts that inadvertently promote deforestation, poverty, pollution, climate change and corruption are deemed to be ok?
We are living within a society that allows an Orangutang to feature on the packaging of Crownfield’s cereal box, even though the company Crownfield use unsustainable palm oil within their products. A world in which it is possible for companies to use the same animal mascot that they are actively massacring to advertise their products.
We are being constantly deceived, corporations presenting us one reality whilst another exists. Under the cover of harmless products and brands corporations are governing our lives to a horrific extent. Politics isn’t just what happens in the house of commons or in activist groups and charities, it is the forces and processes that govern how things are.
Once we reclaim our own meaning of politics and stop letting ourselves be told what politics is, the sheer scale of political corruption that exists will become apparent. The ASA’s censorship of Iceland’s advert is a slap in the face wake up call to the state we are in and how deep the political deception of consumer culture runs. Companies are able to carve reality and decide life’s fate whilst not being conceived of as political forces. Only when we understand them for what they are and the implications our support for them has, will we be closer to taking control of our own lives and creating the reality we want to see.