[OPINION] The one thing that society should have learnt from Apartheid, the Nazis and other failed *coprocracies, to which the US is heading, is that banning things is a simple, often politically correct procedure, that initially appeases the masses but which ultimately leads to political self-destruction.
Throughout history, despotic leaders have tried to maintain social equanimity by banning all sorts of things from public gatherings to books, liquor, movies and in the case of the early days of apartheid – television.
Only this week, a lot of things the ANC-led government banned under COVID-19 regulations were found to be unconstitutional. And notice too, how those ministers in their daily ‘media briefings’ have sounded more arrogant by the day and very much like strict, almost abusive parents laying down the law for their children?
There are a number of big problems with banning things. The first is that it is so easy and politically correct that it becomes difficult to know when to stop. Secondly, there is a big danger that by banning something unnecessarily, governments are able to convince do-gooders, lobbyists and activists that they have actually done something about the problem. Only to find out years down the line, when it is far too late, that the ban in question had no effect whatsoever on the problem.
Like banning the purchase of flip flops and T-shirts. Which sounded funny art first but became more ominous once it was found that this appeared to be the thin end of a control-wedge.
I remember when tobacco advertising was banned in South Africa, the CEO of one of South Africa’s biggest media companies told me that the marketing and advertising industries should not fight the ban because “tobacco is a completely separate case and in any event (the government) won’t ban anything else because they have learnt from apartheid”.
He was wrong, of course, because that very same government is still seriously considering banning alcohol advertising and sponsorship. .
Which is appeasing the many minority interest groups calling for this ban. A dangerous situation because the overwhelming evidence against advertising being a direct cause alcohol abuse will lead these well-meaning people to believe that government is actually doing something about curbing it when in fact all that is happening is a token and very hollow gesture.
In spite of many elements of lockdown level three and four having been declared unconstitutional, it worries me that our government has got used to the idea of deciding what society should and should not be doing. Because once you get on this sort of control roll it’s very difficult to stop.
With banning being so politically correct and so appeasing to activists, the temptation to use this as a form of governance is very real. It also gets votes. Just ask Trump. And Jacob Zuma.
Apart from alcohol and tobacco ad bans, there have been for quite some time in South Africa, growing calls from some frustrated sections of society to ban advertising for fast food, dairy products, high performance motor cars, extreme sports, sugar and high-sugar content products, slimming products and a whole host of other goods and services that some interest group or other is convinced is ruining our lives.
And then, what next? Books? Magazines? Newspapers?
Of course, one has to ask oneself why governments don’t just ban tobacco, alcohol, fast foods, fast motor cars, dairy products and everything else that seems to be leading us astray? Quite simply, they can’t afford to. Banning tobacco would lead to huge job losses and even bigger loses in tax revenue for government. It’s actually all about money.
And one has to ask whether the banning of the sale of tobacco products during lockdown isn’t also just about money? Certainly not the loss of tax revenue. Other money. Going somewhere else.
*Coprocracy – The Penguin Dictionary of Curious and Interesting Words, meaning “rule by the shits”.
Chris Moerdyk (@chrismoerdyk ) is a marketing analyst and advisor and owner of Moerdyk Marketing with many years of experience in marketing and the media as well as serving as non-executive director and chairman of companies.
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