David Jones does a McLibel?

A few months ago I wrote a piece on a discussion paper put out by The Australia Institue which raised the issue of the sexualising of children in advertising and marketing – a concern which I believe definitely merits debate. The major Australian retailer David Jones was named as one of those who engaged in this practice.

It has now been reported that David Jones is now suing The Australia Institute and its Executive Director, Clive Hamilton, for damages under the Trade Practices Act.

I can understand that a company would not like to be accused of ‘corporate paedophilia’, but I am concerned at the practice of using court action to try to silence criticism and debate.

I also wonder whether this action will end up backfiring on David Jones, in a similar way to the defamation case launched by McDonalds food chain against some local activists in London – known as the McLibel case. Even though some of the activists claims were overstated, that case led to mountains of bad publicity for McDonalds as coverage of the allegations and evidence surrounding claims of environmental harm, poor industrial practices and unhealthy food stretched over many months.

This case may not have quite the same David vs Goliath appeal – although The Australia Institute is fairly puny compared to David Jones. But regardless of whether David Jones wins the legal action, I am not sure if regular media reports linking their name to advertising which eroticises children and detailing evidence which seeks to establish such a claim will be very good for them.

Ironically, Clive Hamilton, is speaking at The Brisbane Institute next week about a book he co-edited called ‘Silencing Dissent’. The pre-publicity I’ve seen suggests the book is aimed more at the practices of government, but it might not be unreasonable to also look at how some corporations operate.

ELSEWHERE: There’s a few substantive posts and comment threads on other blogs – Catallaxy, Larvatus Prodeo and Andrew Norton.

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  1. Definitely foolish if you ask me. Although I was aware of the debate of sexualised advertising involving children, I had never really registered David Jones as a perpetrator. Now it will be inextricably linked in my head.

  2. Senator Bartlett has been one to make a number of libellous claims on your site, which is not surprising given his frequent abuse of parliamentary privilege in the Senate chamber.

  3. An interesting, if somewhat unintelligible claim CU. I presume, going on your past record, you are attempting to smear me about something, although of what I’m not quite sure.

    It can be very easily established I haven’t once been found to have breached parliamentary privilege – whether in the Senate chamber or outside of it.

    Really, you throw around lame muck like that, and then have the cheek to complain if I delete one of your comments!

  4. In recent days I happen to comment to my wife (74) that I find it inappropriate that women are appearing on television in their underwear.

    Perhaps the word discreet is not common any longer.

    My eldest daughter proudly announced I could see my granddaughter on a website in family photo’s. I logged in and there she was with mum and day near a swimming-pool shown frontal in the nude. I was furious about this and urged the removal of the photo’s and explained that this is not the kind of photo that should be displayed.

    Advertisers may like to display pictures of children, even so fully dressed, as to sell their wear but no matter how innocent the intentions may be, we must look at how can it be misused in the way society now is.

    Corporate responsible conduct must be applied. I for one see no justification to have children displayed in ways that may attract the wrong attention. Businesses using children for advertising purposes must keep it in mind that others may wish to misuse the publications, hence, be careful how they publish children.

    I take the position there is a time and place for everything. A woman sitting at the beach in a bikini may not be noticed, in the midst of everyone else doing it, however, if she were to parade in such manner in a shopping center then it may be deemed inappropriate, because of different circumstances.
    We cannot expect children to have the kind of knowledge to make judgment if a particular picture of them will be appropriate. Businesses must not exploit this, but must set boundaries as to what is deemed responsible advertising and what is not.

    Shooting the messenger, so to say, isn’t going to resolve the issue. Those who criticize in good faith should be understood not being crucified. As Author of INSPECTOR-RIKATI® book on CD series, I am too much aware that there are standards to be set as to what is appropriate and what is not.
    Was David Jones given an opportunity to have their response published with it?

  5. Hmm – using Section 52 of the Trade Practices Act is certainly a new approach to what would have been previously pursued as libel.
    A quick search on Austlii reveals that ‘conduct’ can be a (multimedia)presentation and its ‘deceptive and misleading’ nature does not have to be intentional.

    This will make a good after dinner game. Who can come up with the best/craziest example of a ‘corporation'(as defined under Australian Law) that is producing material that is unintentionally deceptive or misleading?

    Churches and political parties spring immediately to mind. What about football clubs and codes? PLenty of opportunity there!

  6. Ratehr than an example of an organisation unintentionally or intenionally for that matter, its a better after dinner game to come up with one that isn’t?

    “Silencing Dissent” rings some bells down in Vicotria doesn’t it – I guess its alwasy a caqse of whose dissnet is it alright to silence. It boils down to a qwuestion of intent.

  7. All Australians should enjoy “parliamentary privilege”. How about a bill protecting the right to free speech for everybody and not just for politicians. It is not like we trust politians more than the average aussie.

  8. Mr. Bartlett,

    Why lament the perceived corporate purveyors of child sexualizing advertising and marketing while remaining tight-lipped about the designers of those child sexualizing images and fashions?Why doesn’t AI do a report on the “Fashion Industry Pedophilia?”

    (comment edited)
    Mr. Bartlett, I have refrained from putting your position in my own words so as to allow you to explain whether there are categories of child sexualization that are permissible? Is this the case…? Are some efforts to sexualize children good and righteous? Perhaps your position is nuanced one and I would enjoy an articulation of such position.

  9. Belatedly checked out the thread and then the Larvatus take.
    Seems it’s more than just kiddie porn that is the problem.
    Andrew Bartlett and others discern the present tendency of corporation to seek to censor debate by misusing the law to realign public debate away from the salient factors involved in a “Mactrial”. The victims are blamed and, lacking the financial power of the big companies, these are conveniently further hindered by costs from mounting future campaigns against the offending process.
    As the Gunns case demonstrated, cases can be dragged expensively on for years, over the inclusion or not of just that flippant, flimsy material on which the “case” is based.
    The other problem is more of a “sleeper”, but anugly one in some respects; one that you think should have been of interest to the feminists who blog Andrew Bartlett Web Diary.
    That is, the commodification of a new generation of children themselves, into future consumers regardless of any damage done to their own future life priority choices. They are conditioned before they know it to be helpless, sexualised, consuming little Britneys. And it is this aspect of the issue that I find most disturbing.
    Think. At what time of life are future dysfuctionals like the late Anne Nicole Smith, or even Nicole Kidman and Winona Ryder, who also obviously have had difficulty relating to a real world and with real people, produced.
    When does a
    “Stepford Wife” begin becoming one?

  10. Thordaddy, you repeatedly put my and others’ ‘positions’ in your comments on other posts – or to be more accurate you misput and misrepresent them, as those comment threads show.

    My views are already stated here and on my previous post on the topic. I can’t see any situation where sexualising children is a good idea.

  11. Paul Walter,

    This discernment of corporations seeking to “censor debate” is really just a natural reaction to being blamed for that which is predominately the responsibility of others.

    If corporations such as David Jones are culpable in the sexualization of young girls for selling fashionably sexualized clothing by using sexualized advertising and marketing, what is the culpability of those that design the sexualized clothing and create the sexualized imagery?

    And who is it that designs these clothes and creates these advertisements? Suddenly, the discernment looks like blowing smoke as a diversionary tactic.

  12. Paul – I tried really hasrd to read your post this time.

    The point you make is reasonably valid but is alos an age old question of philosophy and values versus freedom. While I equally have no truck with those you mentioned as vacuous and sad individuals, I have to ask the question as to when can we impose our own set of values on what we percevei to be proper and right.

    Just becasue we disapprove of those sort of peole can we assume a superior set of values that “bells those dammed cats”…lord forbid it may be the case that some people like little britneys and find little environut ferals obnoxious.

    From a practical point of view the most often life expericne of those that turn out to be “dysfunctionals’ (not the celverity ones) but the real ones bumping along in institutions and the sub stratum of society are ones that were subject to real abuse by their own unfortuanet dysfucntional carers, themselevs products of dysfunciotn – thast the real cycle of despair that we should be concenred about.

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