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Diluting the message: Why the 10:23 campaign is a bad idea

Water droplet

Homeopathy: A drop in the ocean

At 10:23 am on January 30th, several hundred sceptics across the country are planning on taking part in a staged homeopathic ‘overdose’ to prove the ineffectiveness of homeopathic remedies and try and stop Boots selling them. Unfortunately, it will do nothing of the sort.

Now, I’m obviously not saying that there’s anything special about homeopathic treatments. There’s no decent evidence that taking infinitely diluted amounts of a substance which may cause effects similar to the symptoms you’re trying to treat is going to have any specific medical benefits over a placebo and no particularly logical reason to imagine that it should, but trying to show that in this sort of stunt is unlikely to to actually change anyone’s mind. Let’s look at some reasons why:

A homeopathic ‘straw man’

Homeopaths can simply say that a test of this sort proves nothing. It’s not the volume of tablets you take, it’s the frequency of the dosage.
To quote one homeopathic site

A homeopathic remedy acts as a signal which energizes or stimulates the body’s healing power… a sick person (is)very much in tune or sensitive to the correct remedy and only a minute stimulus from the correct signal (or remedy) is required…For the same reason, it is not possible to take an overdose of homeopathic remedies.

So, an overdose isn’t going to do you any harm (well, obviously), but the failure of everyone to collapse isn’t going to change any homeopath believers minds as you’re not doing it properly. They’ll probably just use it as an example of how safe homeopathic remedies are, compared to conventional treatments. Neither are claims like ‘it’s been proven not to work‘ on the front page of the 1023 organisation’s site going to help.. The real position is contained in their open letter to Boots ‘the best and most rigorous scientific research concludes that homeopathy offers no therapeutic effect beyond placebo’.  The placebo effect is a powerful one, so to someone who has seen benefits from homeopathy, they aren’t going to care if they would have got the same benefits from a properly presented Smartie, they just care that they got better. It’s no good telling them ‘it’s been proven not to work‘, they have direct experiences to the contrary.

Why Boots?

Boots are a business. They sell homeopathic pills because some people want to buy them. It’s as simple as that. They make no claims as to whether they work or not. You’d be better off looking harshly about the claims they do make about anti-wrinkle creams but they’re very good at ducking press on that subject too. They’ll be quite happy to sit on the fence on this one. They might even be getting more stock in to fulfill the needs of overdosing sceptics.  There are far more deserving targets out there and singling out a single high-street supplier doesn’t make sense to me.  I have heard the claims that they are the main source of pharmaceutical advice for many people, but it’s been a long time since Boots was just a chemist.

Playing with medicines is a bad idea – even ‘alternative’ ones

Obviously the worst that’s going to happen to the 1023 volunteers is a potential head rush from the sugar in the pills, but not all alternative medicines are harmless. Some Chinese remedies involve potentially toxic ingredients and shouldn’t be misused.  Again, it’s highly unlikely that someone is going to read about this stunt and take an overdose of something which can actually do them harm, but if they do, you can rely on the Daily Mail to find them and establish that all sceptics are evil.

It’s just a media stunt

Now this is something I’m sure even the 1023 organisers would agree with. They’ve already managed to get a fair bit of press attention but it’s going to be of the Blue Monday type, in the news briefly for a day or so and then fade into the obscurity of other such wacky popular science stories. The trouble is by over simplifying an issue, particularly over simplifying the views of your opponents, you make your arguments easy to dismiss.  I appreciate that sometimes a media show is what it takes to get your story covered, but is just getting yourselves in the paper for the day before you’re replaced by a cow on a roof the sole aim of the campaign?

I would have preferred any homeopathic campaign to concentrate on educating people that they shouldn’t be used to treat serious conditions, such as malaria or cancer, rather than Boots who make no such claims, and if you want to actually try and change people’s minds, organise your own double-blind study of homeopathy. That surely would have been a better use of the publicity, to gain possible volunteers. Get Ben Goldacre to tell us how to do it properly and then you have firm evidence to base your opinions on, not just show-boating.

[Edit: Just as a quick follow up, judging by the following quote it looks like they are even buying the stuff at Boots. Ah, blessed irony..

Secured most of what we need for #ten23. Unbelievable, some remedies are sold out at Boots online & instore...

]

Image credit: Snap® CC Licenced

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The Sun hits a new low

It’s interesting that in a week where allegations of phone-tapping have been dogging the tabloid press, one of their members is quite happy to transcribe the results from one on their front page. I’m referring of course to the Sun’s current cynical attempts to exploit a mother’s grief for their own political and monetary gain.

For those who have missed the story, we discovered yesterday that the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, personally writes a letter of condolence to the families of all those soldiers who die in combat. A generous and caring act you’d think, particularly in the past many grieving families would have merely received a type-written letter from the service concerned. Apparently however, the letter received by mother of serviceman Jamie Janes last week was an ‘insult‘ to her son’s memory as the PM’s handwriting leaves something to be desired. Gordon Brown as is well reported does suffer with problems with his eyesight which affects his handwriting. The fact that he still wanted to write personally to the families of servicemen should be to his credit, not used to criticize him.

Now, before I go any further, Mrs Janes has my every sympathy and nothing that anyone can say is going to mitigate her sadness at the loss of her son. When you are grieving there is a natural instinct to try and find someone to blame but it’s normally left to your friends and relations to comfort you, not for your statements to be broadcast across the nation. Mrs Janes is clearly very upset and angry, but it does neither her, her son, or the rest of the country any benefit to base policies on the feelings of one upset woman. To exploit her grief to sell newspapers and to attack the Prime Minister is, in my opinion, low, even by the standards of the Sun. To then extend the story over two days and take an illegally recorded telephone conversation and host it on their website is cynical and manipulative in the extreme.

Servicemen enter the armed forces knowing that there is a risk of injury or death in what they do. The fact that they still sign-up willingly to serve is to their great credit, but sadly in any war there will always be casualties. It does seem in this particular case that Guardsman Janes was picked up by a helicopter, but died on the way to hospital from his wounds. Tragic, but it does seem that in this particular case, all that could have been done, was done.

I am also disappointed that Gordon Brown feels that he has to schedule an enquiry to investigate the circumstances around Guardsman Janes’ death. Unless this is routinely done for the deaths of any British servicemen, scheduling one to try and deflect the attentions of the Sun is yet another knee-jerk reaction. Representational democracy exists to provide a stabilizing influence on the fickle wishes of the mob. If all they do is respond to the demagoguery of the tabloid press, then you wonder why there are there at all.

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The Arrogant Gods of Certainty

That sage of our times, Homer Simpson, once remarked, “Facts are meaningless – you could use facts to prove anything that’s even remotely true“. Advice which would seem to have been taken to heart by the current UK Home Secretary Alan Johnson, who in the last few days dismissed Professor David Nutt from his position in the government drugs advisory board for stating that alcohol or tobacco are more dangerous than cannabis.

Politicians have always been slightly schizophrenic on drugs; coming down hard on illegal drugs such as cannabis, ecstasy and marijuana, while continuing the status quo when it comes to legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco, irrespective of the actual risk factors involved with each, but they are seldom forced to acknowledge publicly that their policies are often based purely on personal hunches rather than any sort of investigative study. In the last few weeks they’ve not only chosen to ignore advice from their own advisory body on drugs, but also an education study which recommended that formal learning in school should be put back till children are six.

Now, I wouldn’t claim to say that politicians should be forced to accept the recommendations of their advisers, but if these groups are set up to contain the people who are the experts in their particular fields, it would seem prudent to at least consider their recommendations and have a well reasoned argument why they shouldn’t be accepted. Governments are more than happy to point to advisory decisions which they happen to agree with, but if you’re just going to dismiss the ones you don’t, then why have them at all? I don’t believe that it is asking too much for us to expect our leaders to allow us to take educated decisions with evidence and for the media to present that evidence to us.

At the heart of this discussion is a complicated balance between assessing the physical harm that an individual drug can cause to an individual, the wider social harm which can result from use of the drug and the ‘Daily Mail’ factor – how likely is changing your view on the issue to upset the tabloid press. This is clearly a difficult equation to resolve, but it does no-one any favours to try and pretend that all of those issues aren’t there.
Politicians currently like to emphasize the personal danger of drug taking, but they’re actually more worried about the social harms which can result. That’s why, when someone like David Nutt stands up and points out valid inconsistencies in their policies, they get very edgy as they don’t trust us, the public, to weigh up the evidence and take what they think is the right decision.

This isn’t a trial of the ‘reputation of science‘ as AN Wilson in the Daily Mail would like us to believe. It’s also not a battle between rationality and political thought. What it is, is yet another call for our politicians to be more open about why they are making decisions. If you have made a personal choice to ignore scientific recommendations on a particular issue then say so, but admit that it is a personal choice, not one based on evidence. People may agree with you, they may not and ultimately they will decide on election day.
Once you’ve made that decision however, don’t blame scientists for doing what they are trained to do and certainly don’t claim, as AN Wilson does, that they cannot abide being contradicted. Scientists are happy to be contradicted, providing you have evidence to back up your claims and will even be known to change their minds.
The same doesn’t generally apply to politicians.

[Footnote: I can't be alone in thinking that Professor Nutt should immediately add 'Arrogant God of Certainty' to his business cards]

[Footnote 2: AN Wilson once published a biography of John Betjeman, including a letter supposedly written by Betjeman to a mistress of which the first letter of each sentence spelt out "AN Wilson is a shit". I'm just saying.]

[Footnote 3: Any media-savvy politician should realise immediately that headlines which can feature the words 'Professor' Nutt' and 'Sack' are going to hit the front page of any paper, irrespective of the story]

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The man who invented Frankenstein’s Monster’s Bolt

Frankenstein. Never was a name more unfairly associated with a shambling re-animated corpse.

Frankenstein's Monster

Frankenstein's Monster

If only Mary Shelley had given the monster a name then we would have been spared the horrible linguistic circumlocution we’re forced into just to refer to him, pedants would have a smug cause for complaint removed and overall the world would be a happier place.
Still, the nomenclature of the monster isn’t what I want to talk about today, but how did he become the square faced, green skinned, bolt necked monstrosity that we’ve all come to know and love?

The construction of Mary Shelley’s original monster is left to the imagination. The materials used unspecified, save a mention of the ‘dissecting room and the slaughter-house’ and he is large only because ‘the minuteness of the parts formed a great hindrance to my speed. There is no mention of the now standard elements of the tale; lightning storms, graveyard robbery, brain implants (from Mr Abi Normal) and certainly no neck bolts. Shelley’s monster is also perfectly capable of speech, far from the grunting in-erudite beast we have come to expect and gives long speeches in an attempt to win over his creator.

So, moving on from the novel, we turn to Hollywood. The first film production of Frankenstein was as early as 1910. Edison Studios produced a 12 minute film starring Charles Ogle as the monster. Ogle also apparently designed his own make-up, but his efforts bare little resemblance to what we would expect today.

For the modern look, we have to head forward to 1931 and the classic Universal studios adaptation. Boris Karloff starred, but credit for creating the classic monster look goes largely to the king of monster make-up, Jack Pierce. HIs monster has all the classic features: square head, brain insertion scar on the forehead and, most importantly, the bolts through the neck (actually electrodes used to conduct the electricity used to bring the monster to life). It is Jack Pierce who puts the pieces together to give us the monster’s iconic look.

Not content with creating one of the most enduring Halloween monster masks, Jack Pierce also gave us The Mummy, the first time we saw Imhotep, 67 years before the one who kidnapped Rachel Weisz and Universal’s 1941 Wolf Man, sticking yak hair onto Lou Chaney’s face to give us another Halloween classic.

Jack’s films were in black and white of course, so we can’t hang Frankenstein’s colour onto him. The first Frankenstein film to be made in colour was Hammer’s 1957 classic, The Curse of Frankenstein but the first time he seems to pick up a greenish tinge is in the 1970 Spanish film Los monstruos del terror. Watch the trailer and judge for yourself:

However, it’s more likely that his colour comes from the TV Show, The Munsters. While that was broadcast in black and white, many publicity photos were taken in colour, and Herman Munster has that expected green hue. It might not have even been intentional, different colours of make-up would have been used to achieve different shades of gray on screen and perhaps green just gave that corpse-like pallor they were after.

Still, much of the credit for our freakish favourites must stay with Jack. His star was to eventually fade at Universal, as modern latex masks which were cheaper and quicker to use gradually took the place of more traditional techniques, but this Halloween, while you’re getting dressed up, remember Jack Pierce, the man who gave us the Mummy’s bandages, the Wolf-Man’s facial hair and Frankenstein’s Monster’s bolt.

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Vaccine or flu – Sophie’s choice?

I received the following email yesterday.

It’s obviously a fairly standard chain warning of the type which many of us see far too many of every day, but I found it interesting as it’s a good example of how reports are often a mixture of truth and fallacies, rarely black and white.

Before I go to the email itself, I should point out that I am nowhere near being a doctor, having no chemical or medical knowledge whatsoever and any research I have done is limited purely to the power of Google and a bit of background reading. I also believe that the email below takes a far too simplistic view of a complicated issue. The decision on whether or not to get vaccinated should balance the very real risks involved in contracting the disease against any risks which might result from vaccination. As usual, your GP is going to be the best person to get advice from.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s the email. I’ve added my own comments inline.

Hello
You are in my address book (no apologies for that) and this is a one time email with important information you may not know.
Today, 21st October, the swine flu vaccine will be rolled out in mass across the UK. Here is the declared ingredient list for the UK version of the vaccine, Pandermix.

You can view an official view of the ingredients online. The listing below seems to be broadly correct – ignoring the commentary on their consequences.

THE INGREDIENTS (PANDEMRIX VACCINE)

THE RECIPE
Adjuvent: Squalene 10.68mg (Linked to Guillane Barre (Gulf War) syndrome and illegal in the UK)

As far as I can see Squalene isn’t illegal in the UK. It’s been used in vaccines given to over 40 million people in Europe as of 2009. It has been linked to Guillane Barre syndrome in a single study (although even that only found an increased level of Squalene antibodies), but larger and better designed studies have found no such link.

Alpha-Tocopherol 11.86mg
Polysorbate 80 (Tween)4.86mg

OTHER INGREDIENTS

Octoxinol 10 (this is a contraceptive)

It could well be, it also seems to be in face-cream and lots of other things too. I think it’s just an emulsifier.

Sodium Chloride
Disodium Phospate
Potassium dihydrogen Phospate
Potassium Chloride
Magnesium Chloride
Thiomersol (MERCURY) (strongly linked to autistim spectrum neurological disorders, and removed from all other vaccines in the UK since 2003)

Thiomersol has not been removed from all other vaccines in the UK since 2003 (as far as I can see). It’s being phased out of childhood vaccines but the World Health Organisation has concluded that there is no evidence of toxicity from thiomersal in vaccines. Yes, it does contain mercury, but it’s not just mercury. There’s also not very much there. Each dose contains 5 ?grams. That’s 0.000001 grams, about 0.002% of the dose.

Water for Injections

SAFETY CONCERNS

Neurodegenerative and Autoimmune Illness

There is much resistance in the scientific community to its use at this stage, not least as it has been rushed into production amidst accusations of carelessness if not downright negligence. Baxter International, one of the companies supplying the UK, are themselves currently the subject criminal charges after having distributed 72 kgs of swine flu vaccine tainted with Live H5N1 or Avian Flu.

There do seem to be concerns on the speed of the testing process. On the other hand, the argument is that is isn’t different in any material way from normal flu vaccines. Baxter did distribute contaminated vaccine earlier this year. I can’t find anything which says they are subject to criminal charges though. Also, Baxter manufacture Celvapan, one of the alternative vaccines. Pandemrix is made by GSK, so I don’t even know that Baxter are involved in Pandemrix distribution.

Currently, more than 60% of UK medical professionals have said they will not be taking it.

There was a poll which showed that, but that was for a variety of reasons. Many health professionals also don’t take the standard annual flu jabs.
It was also not 60% saying they wouldn’t take it: 29% said they would not choose to have the vaccine and 29% said they were unsure whether or not they would. 71.3% said they were “concerned that the vaccine has not yet been through sufficient trials to guarantee safety”. Half – 50.4% – said they “believe that swine flu is too mild to justify taking the vaccine”.

In Germany, chancellor Merkl last week announced that although the ordinary population will get a version similar to ours, the cabinet and other high ranking officials will get a very different one.

True – but your opinion of ‘very different’ may differ. She did announce that essential workers would receive the Celvapan vaccine, rather than Pandemrix. Celvapan apparently has fewer side-effects than Pandemrix as it contains an entire dead virus, as opposed to sections of the virus boosted by an Adjuvent which is contained within Pandemrix. The presence of the adjuvent stimulates a stronger response in the patient, hence the increased side-effects. Both vaccines are approved for use in the EU however and subsequently Chancellor Merkl has stated that she will also receive Pandemrix.

Incidentally, Celvapan is manufactured by Baxter (see above).

The government has granted companies supplying the vaccines, immunity from prosecution for any adverse reactions.
And people in those companies have said that they will not be taking the vaccine.

True? No idea. There are no references in the email and I can’t find any independent source for those statements.

The swine flu vaccine programme represents a gigantic financial opportunity for these companies.
In these times of financial hardship, is it perhaps an opportunity that could outweigh issues of safety and efficacy?

I’d say that an outbreak would represent more of a financial opportunity personally. I’m not quite sure how news reporting of dangerous vaccines causing lots of problems once used would help those companies either.

Before agreeing to an untested and potentially dangerous substance being put into your body, or those of your children, do some research.

Now, that bit I’d agree with. The general advice from medical professionals is in favour of vaccination for those in danger and people have been dying from the virus, but there are some valid points hidden within the one-sided view presented above. Incidentally, the standard flu shot has been shown to prevent influenza in about 70%-90% of healthy persons younger than age 65 years.

Know more about the issue? Able to identify sources for some of the claims I haven’t been able to track down? Please comment!

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My advice to Trafigura – just wait it out

“Twitter can’t be gagged” is the headline from the Guardian digital content blog today and they are right to celebrate (if you missed the details of the story, there’s more information in the Guardian). Social media applications such as Twitter, Facebook and blogs do make it much harder for organisations to make gagging orders stick. The lesson, as many have found to their cost in many different cases, is that censorship is often self-defeating. Try to censor something and you just draw attention to it, largely from people who wouldn’t have even noticed if you kept quiet. There’s nothing like a good bit of righteous indignation to catapult a film to box office success or a legal injunction to do the same to a book.

However, before everyone gets too self-congratulatory, does any of this brief flirtation with online interest ever actually change anything? True, right now, lots of people who had probably never even heard of Trifigura will now be reading up on the dumping story, but, come tomorrow or next week, how many will still remember much about it? The bloggers will chalk up a victory and in this case the gagging order was actually lifted, but this is still an on-going case and nothing will have actually changed. Still, it’s early, so perhaps I’m just being a killjoy. Let’s look at the last big Twitter victory.

Search for Iran Elections Twitter on Google and you’ll get over three and a half million hits. Back in June the media was awash with stories of new media driven change. The Washington Post were talking about A Twitter Revolution and the US state department even asked that Twitter server maintenance was postponed to allow the tweets to keep flowing. For a week or so, the eyes of the world were on Iran. People coloured their avatars green to show solidarity with the Iranian protesters. Everyone was an expert in Iranian politics and sneering disapprovingly at Iranian election statistics with suspicious eyes. Twitter had spoken. The election was fraudulent and President Ahmadinejad, seeing his follower count dropping wildly and hardly anyone ‘Digg’ing him, did the decent thing and resigned.

Oh wait, no he didn’t. In fact nothing really changed in Iran as a result of all the Tweeting. There are still protests, many of the leading reformists are still in jail, but we’ve moved on.

Still, that’s a large complicated issue. Surely Twitter could have an affect in it’s own technical back yard?

Back in February, the New Zealand government proposed a new law which allowed ISPs to remove Internet connectivity from any user if they were believed to be infringing copyright, purely on accusation. The internet again was up in arms and many users blacked-out their Twitter avatars and MySpace pages in protest. Amazingly, that may have even had an effect and the law was scrapped. Chalk one up to Twitter? Well no, all that was actually agreed was the law would be looked at again and it seems like the new version may still contain the controversial Internet Termination Clause. Whether or not the rewrite is any better than the original and is protested once more remains to be seen, but it’s difficult to see the cause as job done quite yet.

Sites like Twitter are excellent for catching a wave and occasionally rallying a large number of people behind a cause, but it’s yet to become the force for social change that it’s being made out to be. Real issues sadly aren’t resolved in an afternoon and a normally more complicated than 140 characters. If social media is really going to make the impact that it could, then we all need to keep an eye on the issues which we find important and persue them, not just jump on while it’s in the news and let it quietly die. Nag your MP, pester the mainstream media and ask the annoying questions, not just when the issue is in the news, but repeatedly. It’s only by proving that we can stay interested in an issue that change happens, otherwise people will just wait till the dust settles and everything will stay the same.

Am I wrong? Has Twitter really changed the world? Leave a comment and let me know where it’s made a lasting difference.

Posted in news.


The Neil Gaiman effect..

Spot the Graveyard Book post..

Spot the Graveyard Book post..

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The Graveyard Book (Subterranean Press) edition

I was very excited yesterday as the postman delivered my long awaited limited edition copy of Neil Gaiman’s Graveyard Book, with artwork by Dave McKean.  Ive been a fan of Neil Gaiman’s books for ages and, unknowingly till recently, a fan of Dave McKean too, as I found a number of comics he’d illustrated that I’d already read once I picked up that he was the artist.

The new Subterranean Press edition is gorgeous so I couldn’t resist posting a few pictures:

An intriguing black cover

An intriguing black cover

Oh, ok, it was the wrong way up..

Oh, ok, it was the wrong way up..

Inside the slipcase

Inside the slipcase (Jungle Book style)

Photographic fold-out art

Photographic fold-out art

Signed by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean

Signed by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean

Gorgeous title page

Gorgeous title page

Rejected Covers

Rejected Covers

Rejected Wrap-around cover

Rejected Wrap-around cover

Spooky artwork

Spooky artwork

People who bought the book had the chance for their names to appear in the back to join the ghostly protectors of Bod in the graveyard..

Hey!  Thats me!

Hey! That's me!

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When freedom of speech doesn’t apply

I’ve been reading lots of complaints lately about Amazon changing their policy of ranking certain books within their searches and best seller lists.  Specifically, they have began excluding certain ‘adult’ material from appearing in their basic searches and recommendations.  The main objection, which I have some sympathy with, is they are  excluding gay and lesbian literature but including more mainstream heterosexual titles, making their policy inconsistent.

Freedom of speech issue?  In my opinion, no.  Amazon is a private company and so are perfectly entitled to list titles in any way they see fit.  They can discriminate against whoever they like if they want to.  In any case, they are still selling gay and lesbian literature and they’re certainly not the only online book retailer.  If you don’t like their listing policy, shop somewhere else.

If you want something to get upset about, get upset about internet censorship, over zealous government legislation of pornography or just about Jacqui Smith, but online, non-taxpayer funded organisations can do what they like.  If they lose custom, chances are they’ll change their policy back, but please, online petitions?

If you really want to tackle this issue, go watch This Film is Not Yet Rated and then go and complain to the MPAA about their policy of rating equivalent gay and lesbian sexual scenes more strictly than their heterosexual equivalents.  Unlike Amazon, they do impose an effective monopoly on movie screenings in the US and so are far more deserving of your condemnation.  That looks like censorship to me.  Not showing book selections to people who probably aren’t going to buy them anyway just isn’t.

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ASA refuse to settle whether God exists (at least in advertising claims)

I mentioned in a previous post that three Christian organisations have launched their own versions of the atheist bus advert.  They’re all pretty unoriginal, which I suppose you might expect from organisations which haven’t changed their views much in the last two thousand years and clearly blatant copies of the original atheist campaign.

To remind you, the new slogans are:

From the Christian Party:

“There definitely is a God. So join the Christian Party and enjoy your life.”

The Russian Orthodox Church have:

There IS a God, BELIEVE. Don’t worry and enjoy your life.

And, the Trinitarian Bible Society go with:

“The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God – Psalm 53.1?

I hadn’t seen occurrences of the Russian Orthodox advert in the wild in the UK and I knew from previous investigation that quotes in adverts don’t fall foul of the ASA’s requirements that:

Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove all claims, whether direct or implied, that are capable of objective substantiation.

as the quote is a genuine quote from the Bible no matter how insulting.

However, to me, the Christian Party message seemed to completely fall foul of the above clause.  They are making a definate statement that God exists, without even hiding behind a weaselly ‘probably’ so that means they need documentary evidence right?

Apparently not.  I wrote a letter of complaint about the advert to the ASA and got the following letter back:

ASA Letter

ASA Letter

Dear Mr Brookland,

YOUR COMPLAINT: THE CHRISTIAN PARTY

It turns out that The Christian Party is a political party so I’m sorry to tell you that we’re unable to deal with the specific issues you raise:  we’re unable to investigate complaints about advertising which aims to influence voters in elections or referendums.  To do so would be to interfere with the democratic process.  (The relevant clauses in our Code are 12.1 and 12.2 and you can find the Code at www.cap.org.uk).

The ASA Council has already seen the ad and confirmed that because its primary purpose is to  promote The Christian Party, it is electioneering material and therefore exempt from our Code.

You may be aware that there were similar bus ads appearing for the Trinitarian Bible Society (which stated ”The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Psalm 53.1”) and the Russian Orthodox Church (which stated ”There IS a God, BELIEVE. Don’t worry and enjoy your life”).  The ASA Council assessed these ads but concluded that both were likely to be seen as simply reflecting the opinions of the advertisers and were unlikely to mislead readers.  Although we will not be pursuing your complaint, thank you for taking the time to contact us.

Yours sincerely,

Jodie Parsons

Complaints Executive

I know what the slogan for my new political party’s going to be:

There ARE Gods, so do what I say or Ammit will eat you!

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