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Channel Four in the UK has launched this controversial ad campaign for a new series of ‘My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.’ Image by Ross McCullough.

This post has nothing to do with prisons, but as you know I’m appalled when imagery is not used responsibly.

In the past 24 hours I’ve come across two advertisement campaigns that are beyond indecent. I am incensed.

The situation is more galling given the fact that both advertisers are groups that I’d expect to have an enlightened approach to the politics of representation.

CHANNEL FOUR

In the UK, the usually responsible Channel Four has launched a controversial ad campaign for a new series of ‘My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.’ Emblazoned across image of gypsy youth are the words: BIGGER. FATTER. GYPSIER.

Matt Daw, Projects Manager at PhotoVoice today said:

The first two words just seem inappropriate. The last is inconceivable in today’s world. In short, the advert presents a boy’s recognisable face and asks us to make a huge number of assumptions about him based on his being a member of an ethnic minority. No other context is offered.

Members of the Hackney Traveller community have said:

These adverts are stigmatising us by the words and pictures they use. This programme is turning us into something that we are not’.

Manchester-based journalist and photographer, Ciara Leeming who has worked extensively with Roma (European travellers in the UK) groups tweeted that the campaign was “downright racist.”

Photovoice will be picketing Channel 4 today.

PETA

Meanwhile, the animal rights group PETA wants to fight cruelty against animals by making light of violence against women.

The premise of their latest TV campaign is ludicrous: If your boyfriend becomes vegan, he’ll immediate be such a “stud” that you should be ready for sex marathons so violent, he’ll put your head through the wall … resulting in a neck brace. After that he’ll send you down the road – in your underwear – to buy post-coitus vegetables.

Unbelievable.

This is the latest of PETA’s “ads” produced for web distribution with the intention to shock and no hope of making it on to TV. But still.

What is wrong with you people? Oh yeah, you’re single minded advertisers with dollar signs obscuring your view of the sensible and right.

Matt Bors, my favourite Portland-based cartoonist batters PETA with his post, PETA Targets No One Ever With Its Latest Campaign: “I’m big into not injuring the women I have sex with or bashing their heads into walls.”

THE BACKGROUND

In one of modern politics’ most outrageous adoptions of Doublespeak, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger – in 2004 – renamed the California Department of Corrections the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.* You can see videos – here and here and here – of the press conference announcing not only a change in name, but a supposed change in the management philosophy of the CDCr.

At that time, legal challenges were being made over the adequacy of healthcare. Following the 2004 criticisms and despite the 2004 promises, consistent constitutional healthcare was not provided to the prison population of California.

The CDCr failed to deliver on both medical care and meaningful rehabilitation. To prove the emptiness of the rhetoric we can look to John Gramlich’s report for the PEW Center’s Stateline last month. Gramlich made the point, that shortly after Schwarzenegger’s rebranding the “administration cut funding for prison rehabilitation programs by about 40 percent.”

THE PUSHBACK

It’s just as well for you and I, a diligent group of California citizens have for 17 years challenged the claim on the CDC acronym and since 2004 reclaimed entirely the discarded California Department of Corrections name. The CDC works to put right misleading messages, empty words and muddy communication.

Founded in 1994, the California Department of Corrections (CDC) describes itself as “a private correctional facility that protects the public through the secure management, discipline, and rehabilitation of California’s advertising.

Above is the CDC’s latest correction of fact and assault on complacency. From their website:

The California Department of Corrections (CDC) has unveiled a new campaign of bus shelter ads to celebrate America’s assassination of Osama bin Laden.

Released prior to July 4th, a total of ten ads in MUNI bus shelters throughout San Francisco were apprehended, rehabilitated and discharged without incident. The ten liberated ads represent each year in the long decade spanning the declaration of the War on Terror by President Bush and the eventual demise of al-Qaeda’s elusive leader.

Joining in celebration with millions of US civilians after the demise of bin Laden, the red, white and blue advertisements not only pay patriotic tribute to our country, but also celebrate the unsung history of American assassinations.

The rehabilitated advertisements are currently at liberty and seem to have successfully readjusted to public life. However, these ads will remain under surveillance by department staff to prevent recidivism and any potential lapse into prior criminal behavior.

You gotta love direct action. View more works here.

* You may have noticed I always refer to the Golden State’s prison system as CDCr; using a lowercase “r” is an simple text-based slight but it makes the point.

(Via the ever-wonderful Just Seeds Blog.)

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