We have previously discussed the alarming rollback on free speech rights in the West, particularly in France (here and here and here and here and here and here) and England ( here and here and here and here and hereand here and here and here and here and here and here). Much of this trend is tied to the expansion of hate speech and non-discrimination laws. Of course, once you start to criminalize and regulate speech, the appetite for more speech controls becomes increasingly insatiable and ultimately absurd. The latest example in the United Kingdom is a ban ordered by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to prevent Costa Coffee from airing a humorous commercial poking fun at avocados.
The ad said the following:
“Oh, there’s a great deal on ripen at home avocados. Sure, they’ll be hard as rock for the first 18 days, three hours and 20 minutes, then they’ll be ready to eat, for about 10 minutes, then they’ll go off. For a better deal, head to Costa Coffee and grab a delicious, piping hot bacon roll or egg muffin for just £2 ($2.60) when you buy any medio or massimo hot drink or flat white before 11 a.m.”
Two humorless viewers filed complaints that accused the company of “discouraging the selection of fresh fruit.” Such a complaint should receive a response of “ok, so what?” But this is the United Kingdom and the ad was claimed to be a breach ASA’s rule banning advertisers from “disparag[ing] good dietary practice.” The ASA did not missed a beat (or show any self-awareness of the absurdity of its position) in proclaiming “We considered that, although the ad was light-hearted, it nevertheless suggested avocados were a poor breakfast choice, and that a bacon roll or egg muffin would be a better alternative, and in doing so discouraged the selection of avocados.”
The key to this ridiculous decision is that the company referred to a “better deal” to describe the breakfast sandwiches. That was deemed as discouraging “good dietary practice.”
For those who embrace speech crimes and regulations, this is where such erosion of free speech takes you. Officials empowered with this authority tend to bar what they deem to be bad speech–like joking about avocados.