We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Sound and fury, signifying nothing, fortunately.

The ineffectiveness of modern government is a great blessing. It means that proposals like this – “Cameron-backed report to protect children from commercialisation” – will almost certainly come to very little.

For the record, like Tim Worstall, I think T-shirts for five year olds that read ‘Sexy Tart’ are not the most tasteful of fashion statements. My opinions are rather more hostile than that, as it happens. But my hostility to chav parents is mild compared to my hostility to the governing classes, who first bred the problem (by ensuring that two generations have grown up who had no need to be respectable), and now step forward to “solve” it by giving themselves more power.

Mercifully, the modern Big State is made of fat, not muscle. Listed below are the key proposals of this report, and next to each what will actually happen.

• Retailers to ensure magazines with sexualised images have modesty sleeves. Measurable, enforceable, provides work for council busybodies. Might happen.

• The Advertising Standards Authority to discourage placement of billboards near schools and nurseries. Discouraging noises will be made.

• Music videos to be sold with age ratings. Measurable, enforceable, work for busybodies. Will be about as effective as the age ratings for computer games and films. (I have nothing against manufacturers giving an age rating for a product voluntarily, by the way – but see the final sentence of this post about “voluntary” self-regulation.)

• Procedures to make it easier for parents to block adult and age restricted material on internet. Could be dangerous, since procedures to make it easier for parents to block adult material on the internet are necessarily also procedures to make it easier for governments to block any material on the internet – but fear not, they can’t afford the people who can write the program.

• Code of practice to be issued on child retailing. OMG, a code of practice!

• Define a child as 16 in all types of advertising regulation. Presumably they mean “under 16”. If the current regulation allows scope to define a child as “under 13” this might make a difference. Or it might not. Probably all concerned will work very hard to find all the clauses and sub-clauses in fifteen different laws that refer to this, harmonise them all, then sit back and contemplate the beautiful consistency of the result. No one else will notice.

• Advertising Standards Authority to do more to gauge parent’s views on advertising. Colourful website to be set up. Two comments will be left a week, in Chinese.

• Create a single website for parents to complain to regulators. Colourful website to be set up. 45,000 comments will be left a week, often in something resembling English. Government will promise to clear backlog by 2021.

• Change rules on nine o’clock television watershed to give priority to views of parents. Will be acclaimed by all until someone who is not a parent threatens to sue.

• Government to regulate after 18 months if progress insufficient. Although I do think it most unlikely that the government ever really will send out inspectors to measure the amount of black lace on pre-teen bras, I still find this type of sickly-sweet concealed threat, so common nowadays, nauseating. “Voluntary change is so much nicer, don’t you think? So much more meaningful. But, of course, if you don’t change voluntarily…” It always reminds me of Dolores Umbridge early in her career.

16 comments to Sound and fury, signifying nothing, fortunately.

  • mdc

    ” Define a child as 16…”

    Does this mean they will be reducing the age restrictions on buying cigarettes, alcohol, driving, etc.?

    (Yes I know it doesn’t.)

  • Steven Rockwell

    The thing that I don’t get about the commercialization and sexulization of children isn’t the low-class parents that think it’s a good idea to have shorts with the word “sexy tart” on their 8 year old girl’s behind. Idiot parents are idiot parents.

    What I don’t understand are the manufactuers. I mean, some of the people making these clothes are educated. The graphic designer that designs the shorts went to art school. The marketers all have degrees in marketing, the executives MBAs, and are likley highly successful people with children of their own. Do they really think it’s a good idea to make these products or do they merely shrug their choulders and figure “there’s money in them thar prepubescent asses!”?

    Me personally, I have to look at the man in the mirror every day and I’d find a different job that didn’t require me to exploit little kids with stupid parents for a buck.

  • Music videos to be sold with age ratings

    Hi! I am the internetz and I say “fuck you”! Have a nice day!

    Procedures to make it easier for parents to block adult and age restricted material on internet

    Hi! I am the internetz and I smile at your fuckwit antics! Have a nice day!

  • Linda Morgan

    Define a child as 16 in all types of advertising regulation. Presumably they mean “under 16”.

    The way things are going, don’t bet on it.

  • Roue le Jour

    Steven Rockwell, you are attributing to malice etc. etc. These clothes are made in the the Far East by manufacturers for whom the text “Sexy Tart” is just artwork. From their point of view, it’s just a matter of putting design 23B on shirt 17R, nothing more.

  • Steven Rockwell

    I’m not talking about the slave making those shorts for a nickle a day in China. I’m talking about the guy designing the shorts, the guy approving the design, the guy marketing the shorts to the buyers, the merchandising buyer who buys them for his company to stock, the company who employs the buyer and who signs off on the purchase, the manager of the store the shorts are sold in. All the people involved int he decision making in some office in NYC or Benton, AR or whereever on our side of the Pacific Ocean.

    What kind of an adult thinks putting the words “sexy tart” on a child is a good idea? Why aren’t they objecting before it even becomes an issue of parents buying them in the store?

    When I hear pundits complaining about stuff like “corporate responsibility” and “good corporate citizens” it’s crap like this that end with companies shooting themselves in the foot PR-wise. That kind of clothing shouldn’t even be an issue because any one of those members of management or decision makers in a corproation should be willing to say “this is wrong and we’re not going to do it, sales be damned” but they don’t and end up having to defend against the indefensible.

    I just don’t understand it sometimes.

  • Laird

    Roue, that’s only true for the laborer on the production line. It’s probably not true for the factory bosses, and most certainly not true either for the designer of that “artwork” or the buyer at the western apparel chain who ordered it. Or, for that matter, for the store managers and company executives who permit its continued presence on the racks. I think you are attributing to ignorance what is actually malice or, at best, mendacity.

  • Irresponsibility increases when responsibility is taken away from people by the state.

  • Richard Garner

    Irresponsibility increases when responsibility is taken away from people by the state.

    Quote of the day line there!

  • Kevin B


  • John B

    Irresponsibility increases when responsibility is taken away from people by the state.

    Yes, absolutely. That is what is wrong with Britain in a nutshell.
    Take away responsibility and when the child grows up it is still a child, throwing its food at you from its high chair and slinging toys out of cot.

    It is also probably why it has happened.

    If you create a population of individuals who cannot control themselves or run their own lives, then there’s only one ‘solution’, hey?

  • Roue le Jour

    Well yes, if the offending item is being sold in a major chain, then yes there are designers, buyers, and so on. If on the other hand it is for sale in a street market then it is the result of someone ordering e.g. “500 kilos of small tee shirts, assorted colours and designs’.

    Incidentally, the text “Sexy Tart” does not occur in the Guardian item Tim links to. What is its origin exactly?

  • Roule le jour, it occurs in Tim W’s own commentary. Both he and I were commenting on the same Guardian article.

  • Roue le Jour

    I appreciate that, Natalie, I read Tim myself. The impression I got reading that piece was that Tim was referring to a article he assumed his readers were familiar with, but I don’t recall it. A link would have been helpful, otherwise I’m not quite sure what it is we are discussing.

    Personally, I would prefer Cameron devoted his towering intellect to such problems as the large swathes of the country that can’t survive without London and the South East’s tax revenue rather than how a few chavs dress their daughters.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Roue, on your final sentence, I agree. Remember, though, that for Cameron, the issue of weaning the UK public from the state is too difficult to contemplate. So the Cameroons go for the easy, “nudge” stuff instead.

  • llamas

    Steven Rockwell wrote:

    ‘ . . All the people involved int he decision making in some office in NYC or Benton, AR or whereever on our side of the Pacific Ocean. . . .”

    I think you will find that Bentonville, AR, is probably one of the few places in the US where the decision would most-likely be NOT to sell clothing of this type.

    Bentonville, AR (for those elsewhere) is the home office of Walmart and the place where Every Single Decision about what to sell in Walmart stores is made. Every Single Decision. If you want to sell it in Walmarts nationwide, you must first sell it in Bentonville.

    Walmart has shown itself extraordinarily-responsive to complaints of inappropriate clothing designs for young girls – hardly-surprising, since they do a vast business in the ‘Bible Belt’ – and this must inevitably wash back up to the home office.