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.