Remember Public Information films? They used to pop up on TV once every few months and, in terms of their ability to startle the viewer, fell somewhere between the BBC’s ‘Interlude’ and everyone’s switch-off trigger, the Party Political Broadcast.
A squirrel named Tufty told me how best to cross a road; ‘At the kerb STOP. Look right, look left, look right again and if all’s clear then cross the road, looking and listening as you go’. A cat called Charley used to warn a young boy of the dangers of playing with matches, swimming in rivers, going off to see puppies with a stranger or the risk of being scalded if he ran round the kitchen table when Mummy had just placed a pot of freshly brewed tea upon it. I particularly admired the gormless Reginald Molehusband who, by listening to the sombre instructions of the voiceover man, managed to perfect his reverse-parking technique. My real favourites were Joe and Petunia who advised me that I should ‘Always Follow The Country Code’ and that I should avoid getting myself into silly difficulties at sea because it would bother the Coastguard.
Aah. Fond memories. I was informed but I wasn’t intimidated and I certainly wasn’t brainwashed.
Can the same be said for the 8-year olds of today who are being subjected to what I can only call Public Intimidation films? Whereas I watched the annual anti-Drink/Driving campaign at Christmas, today’s youngsters can expect to be rattled by a grim bedtime story involving the death of our planet because of bad grown-ups and their CO2 emissions. Whereas I went to the flicks and sat entranced through Lionel Bart’s ‘Oliver!’, today’s youngsters will always associate the jolly ditty ‘I’d Do Anything’ with the selfish smoking of evil parents.
Today’s youngsters no doubt nag their way through each and every 4×4 school-run because there’s an advert telling them that bad grown-ups should drive 5 miles fewer each week in order to save the world. If today’s youngsters can find a spare minute before they retire to their laptops to blast gangstas and ‘ho’s to kingdom come, they can also shop their parents to the bin-police with proof that Mummy isn’t recycling in a globally responsible fashion. Then, just as Evil Mummy and Daddy are calming their shredded nerves with a G&T, today’s youngsters can point out that they know all about the unseen damage alcohol can do because they’ve seen the advert.
Today’s youngsters are well aware that the State knows if car tax hasn’t been renewed and will hunt down and prosecute a Benefit Cheat (sublime irony there I feel given the MPs’ Expenses fiddle). All in all, today’s youngsters are as likely to see a televised State Diktat as they are to see an advert for a KitKat.
The State is really going to town with these guilt-inducing infomercials, punctuating almost every advert-break with one or the other. The emphasis is on the viewer to listen to, and behave responsibly in the light of, the information so kindly dished out. ‘Enjoy Alcohol Responsibly’. ‘Why won’t you give up smoking for them?’ ‘Act on CO2.’ ‘Get an IUD fitted.’ Etc., etc., etc.
We have been warned.
The supermarkets already log everything we put in our shopping trolleys and send us vouchers with money off if we buy more of the same; now we’re encouraged to ‘godirect.gov’ and identify ourselves on the Government’s caring database rather than cherry-picking our searches from the big bad internet at large.
After all, the Government only has our GPS co-ordinates, our mug-shots, our tax details and our DNA, why wouldn’t it want to keep track of whether we wish to earn up to £30K/annum by retraining as a driving instructor?
Well if you ask me (and I realise that you don’t) the Government is missing a couple of tricks here.
If the Nanny State wants to run so many of these finger-wagging adverts telling us what we’re doing wrong and why it’ll be our own fault if The State doesn’t help us out in the future, then why doesn’t it go the whole hog and tackle obesity and the World’s overpopulation? Why doesn’t it just come out and run a couple of these Public Intimidation films which say: “We know you are sitting in front of the telly smoking and eating chips. You’ll end up as an obese lung cancer patient if you continue to be a lazy, smoking, chip-guzzling slob and when you do, it’ll be YOUR FAULT. Stop watching telly, smoking and eating chips or the NHS won’t treat you. So there..” ….
Or: “The world is overcrowded. Stop breeding. The State can’t afford to keep paying for your house and your chips. If you have another child now you’ve seen this film, we will take away your house and your benefits. So there. And stop eating chips, fatso.”
While they’re at it, why don’t they install weighbridges at the checkouts and announce to the rest of the store not only the weight of the shopper but also the fat/calorie/alcohol breakdown of each transaction before e-mailing the information straight off to the shopper’s GP?
If non-stop information-gathering and subsequently informed advice from The Government is truly for the benefit of the ignorant and unwashed British Public, then surely … every little would help?