Monday, July 21, 2008

Buy a pirate DVD and EVERYONE will hate you?

I’ve recently focused my attention onto a campaign called Knockoff or not, which pours scorn onto people who choose to copy films and DVD’s as well as people who generally cheap out of things (although their focus is mainly on DVD’s).

This first came to my attention through their TV campaign which had a funny little bard with a guitar coming into a pub and interrupting a date; claiming that the man was a cheap bastard who couldn’t pay for flowers (he found them on the street apparently, which is oh so common with all those bouquets of flowers just lying around on the road) and buys knock off DVD’s. The end result is the man’s social humiliation as the pub all joins in with the Bard’s chorus of calling him a knock-off Nigel, and he gets dumped. The advert then ends with the subtitle “knock-off Nigel buys knock-off DVDs,” and all seems to suggest you better think twice about trying to save money on overpriced films or everyone will hate you. So pirates beware right?

Wrong I think, all that this is going to do is probably just create ill-feeling towards who-ever fronted the campaign, which I must admit is rather a mystery unto itself. I can’t find anything about who’s launched the campaign or which company is trying to socially ostracize DVD pirates, and I reckon keeping their name off the whole damned mess was the single best idea about the whole thing.

I won’t try to plead innocence here, I have downloaded films in the past and had knock-off DVD’s (and why not as sitting in front of me is a rather ample DVD collection which is official and I paid for myself so I think I can allow myself a bit of a saving here and there on films I wouldn’t otherwise consider buying), but who doesn’t now. Obviously coming from the 20-25 age group I know more people who are savvy enough to know where to find downloads and streaming sites which provide this sort of thing and I’d be hard pressed to find someone who isn’t a ‘knock-off Nigel’ out of my friends and family. Does that then mean that the idea of social humiliation doesn’t really work as the ‘Nigels’ are in the majority?

I just detest the smarmyness of the whole thing which tries to create a profile of a cheapskate, and implying that people should splash their cash needlessly because it’s the cool thing to do. Let’s not forget we’re in the middle of a recession, so what’s wrong with trying to save money? Surely saving money is to be encouraged at the moment, but then if everyone in the pub says it’s not cool then I better do what they say hadn’t I? How could all these people be wrong? Besides just because you buy knockoff DVD’s why would you have to be an all round cheap skate too.

What amused me most about the whole silly campaign was how much hate they seem to be pouring on people like myself who have done this. Go onto the website for the campaign and you can find all sorts of fun and games. For instance you can pelt a knock off Nigel with tomatoes and other such items (how civilised for the 21st century? Why don’t we just have him tarred and feathered next or better yet burn him at the stake?), or you can take a quiz to find out if you are a Nigel yourself. I took the quiz expectantly and was quizzed on such things as whether “I had stolen from my mothers purse?” or “Farted and blamed it on someone else”. However you immediately lose if you admit to buying knock-off DVD’s and downloading films even if you put the right answers for everything else. When you lose it refers to you as “not well, ” so not only are you a sneaky little twat who steals money and doesn’t pay for anything if you knock off DVD’s but you are apparently also mentally ill? Well that’s good to know that me all my friends are criminally insane, I wanted some clarification on that.

All I can say in conclusion is I’m proud to be a knock off Nigel, in spite of this silly reputation the PR campaign is trying to create around the whole debate. After all there’s nothing like dumbing a whole debate down to an argument, which is tantamount of social propaganda. What next a campaign with tagline: “If you buy knock-off DVD’s you’re a paedo?”

Saturday, July 05, 2008

News Abuse

An interesting thing happened recently. For the first time ever I actually heard the results of a survey I took part in published in the news media. The survey in question was about domestic violence and was completed by students in Wales (which of course I am one of). This NUS and Amnesty International survey, which can be found here, seems to show that domestic violence is on the rise and an alarmingly high number of students know of someone who has been subject to abuse in a relationship or has pressured a partner into sex.

This of course seems a horrific thought, that so many young people have seen or know of this level of domestic violence. However there is a key flaw with this survey, which has surprised me the most. As of course I was subject to this survey I got to see what the questions were and with some luck I happened to be studying research methods in the media at the same time. I can say on the record that this survey was highly biased.

It seemed to lead the participant into answering that they knew someone who had been hit, and if you hadn’t then you couldn’t really answer all the questions properly. Me and two of my friends, who are also doing my course, filled out these questions and were quite shocked at how it seemed to lead us into making claims that we knew people who had subjected a woman to an ambiguous level of abuse. As such we decided we didn’t want to contribute to something which distorted reality so we left feedback in the closing comments, which implied that we thought the survey was unnecessarily biased. What then surprised us was that one of the NUS staff who had handed us the survey claimed that they too believed that it was biased and that some of the top level management also wasn’t happy with it, although as Amnesty International had supplied it without their input they had to just deal with it effectively.

The fact that this has now been publicized as hard news makes me wonder how much this happens where a seemingly biased piece of research can be made to serve an agenda and create a moral panic around it. Now this of course is a noble cause to a certain degree as domestic violence is deplorable but why should everyone be shocked into submission with a very biased piece of research into the matter. Surely if the results don’t speak for themselves in a fair test then is the issue such a big problem?

I also don’t like the thought that leading research such as this could easily get the public to believe in something which is morally wrong, after all it only takes an organization with an ill agenda and a newspaper looking for easy news for a survey similar in structure to create a moral panic on something which in reality isn’t really that bigger problem and could have adverse effects on certain people. I don’t agree that we have to be manipulated into taking action on something, rather we should have something which reflects the true picture of things but then I suppose when has the absolute truth been important to news?