22 November 2006

To catch a thief

If advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket, then government advertising must represent the ultimate pig’s dinner. Certainly there can be few practitioners who have rattled the bucket louder, thereby embracing another Orwell maxim that “if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought”.

From the same people that turned passengers into customers, patients into service users and spending into investment, the persecution of newly-identified pariahs starts with a subtle linguistic shift. Today I noticed that in the new “no ifs, no buts” anti benefit fraud campaign, “benefit cheat” had been turned into “benefit thief”. This may be a handy way of stating the truth about a form of fraud that is often seen as “victimless”, but I wondered whether this marked a new approach to fighting crime? Instead of trying to shame perpetrators into ceasing, they have opted for simply insulting them.

This Christmas watch out for the government’s new anti drink-driving campaign: “Oi, wanker – pack it in”.

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