It’s really not a thing

J. Walter Thompson, Maureen Lipman and BT famously exclaimed “You’ve got an ‘ology; you’re a scientist”.

That’s got our ‘ologies sorted.  Now what about our ‘isms?

Racism is a bad thing, right? It means that black people (or whatever you choose to call people who aren’t white, this season) get a bad deal.  That often means they are under-represented in the most privileged places in society and their voice is not heard.  They don’t earn as much as white folks, their health outcomes are worse, they are more likely to be victims of crime, they stand the highest chance of dying in custody etc.etc.  You know the kind of thing.

Sexism is a bad thing right?  I could reel off a similar list of ways in which women are disadvantaged in society, by virtue only of the accident of birth that made them female.

There’s another dimension too – isms often overlap with ‘phobias‘ like the ‘hate’ issues – homophobia, islamophobia and so on.

Which brings me (by a questionable logical twist) to the issues facing the British Labour Party right now.  And anti-semitism.  According to The Jewish Chronicle, Jewish News and Jewish Telegraph, the prospect of a government led by Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn would be “an existential threat to Jewish life in this country”. Various Labour figures are up in arms about Corbyn, and the British press has perpetuated a picture of his behaviour, his past and his associations as somehow anti-semitic.

Please can we be absolutely clear about one thing here:

Racism in the UK is a thing.  Sexism in the UK is a thing.  Homophobia is a thing.

Anti-semitism is not a thing.

Run down the earlier list of the ways in which non-white people are disadvantaged in the UK and try substituting the word Jewish for non-white (or black or whatever is your preference).

Under-represented in privileged positions in society?  Nope. Voice not heard?  Nope.  Earn less money?  Nope?  Worse health outcomes?  Nope?  Deaths in police custody?  Nope?  Is anti-semitism more like sexism then?  Are Jewish people subject to domestic abuse?  Nope.  Is there a kind of weird Jewish glass ceiling?  Nope.

It’s simply a cheap and spurious attack on this particular Labour leader.  I’m not a massive Corbyn fan either, but all this anti-semitism rhetoric is clearly nonsense.

Anti-semitism not a thing in the UK today.

Please stop talking as though it was.

Worse that that.  One of my favourite authors recently wrote that saying something is a thing’ is no longer a thing. So this post may look quite badly dated in the not-too-distant future.

Sorry about that.

And to my Jewish reader(s). No offence.


Should we protest against Trump?


Today Donald Trump is visiting Britain and the shit has well and truly hit the fan.  In an interview with The Sun newspaper (don’t get me started) published this morning, he launches a scathing attack on Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan for Brexit negotiations and appears to back Boris Johnson to replace her as PM.  Wow.  Special relationship huh?

I’m writing this from Windsor, literally a few yards from where Donald will be meeting the Queen later today.  Elsewhere across the country, there are protests planned.  Is this a futile act of fist-shaking or a valid democratic protest?  The Trump Baby has attracted particular attention – it’s a Trump-shaped blimp in a nappy, due to be floated over Westminster.  ‘Isn’t that a bit childish” some have asked.

I’m a big fan of the protests for three reasons:

  1. When it comes to outrageous and childish – yes, ok, guilty as charged – but he started it.
  2. The intervention this morning has overstepped the mark in terms of diplomatic conventions – frankly anything goes.
  3. Being a bit more sensible, if we banned protests from legitimate complainers, it’s more likely that the more extreme malcontents (let’s shorthand them ‘the nutters’) will do something seriously dangerous or threatening.  I’m going to be all grown up and conclude that would be a bad thing.  You can make your own judgement.


Is advertising really full of sh*ts?

Following the exit of Martin Sorrell “under a cloud”, there seems to have been something of a purge in adland (did I really use that expression? Sorry).

This week Ogilvy fired its longstanding global creative chief Tham Kai Meng after a misconduct investigation.

The company-wide memo from CEO John Seifert read: “After carefully reviewing the investigation’s findings with several of my partners, we concluded that Khai’s behavior was a clear breach of our company values and code of conduct,”  “I have decided to terminate Khai’s employment with the company with immediate effect.” Splat.

Now McCann Health has shown the door to its creative lead Jeremy Perrott.  “We received a complaint about a violation of our Code of Conduct by McCann Health’s Jeremy Perrott,” read a company statement. “As a result, following an investigation, he is no longer with the company.” Wham.

Further investigation suggests the root of the Perrott complaint was “offensive and inappropriate” language.

Really?  Is that it?  Inappropriate language provokes a big network to fire its top creative talent?  Has the agency world become so politically correct, all of a sudden?

Or have we been working with evil tyrants or monsters all this time, without realising it?

An industry populated by total bastards. That seems to be the implication.

WPP creative veteran Neil French certainly doesn’t think so.  He paints the ousted individuals as the victims:  “The ‘me-too’ get-out is a boon to moribund organizations, is it not? Find a turbulent priest, throw up your Trumplike little hands in mock horror, and the pc mob will do the rest.”

Is it because big networks have become terrified of law suits (remember JWT and L’affaire Martinez?) and will go to inordinate lengths to cover their arses, even at the expense of jettisoning their top people?  It’s often said an agency’s greatest assets are its people.  Yet we’re increasingly quick to drop them.  Is that wise?

Or are we barking up the wrong tree?  Maybe these were just people whose time had come or whose faces no longer fitted?  The “internal investigation” simply saves face, where the reality was a night of the long knives?