Citizens of Shoreditch unite!

Last year, I was one of 420 people who complained to the ASA over an advert which promoted a website facilitating marital infidelity. Now marital infidelity is not illegal; at least insofar as it is not criminal. But it is a breach of contract with the person to whom one has promised to “forsake all others”.

Family life is important. And while marital infidelity is a matter of free will, I feel anything which promotes that (especially without the consent of one’s spouse) cannot be a good thing.

That’s why I took part in a campaign, which began on Facebook, to put a stop to the adverts. Four thousand people had joined the Facebook group (set up by Jon Kuhrt) within just a few days. But a Facebook campaign is of little value on its own. That’s why 420 of us wrote to the Advertising Standards Authority, ranking the advert the fourth most controversial of the year.

The ASA rejected the complaint. Campaigners were disappointed, but we persisted. People power and media pressure persuaded White Label Dating to withdraw the advert within a few days. See the full story in a previous blog post on Uncomplicated Adult Fun and a postscript on Extraordinary Influence.

But why – having blogged twice on this – am I writing again? It’s because, as I read through the BBC article, I thought back to a very successful campaign. And then I was reminded that the ASA had rejected our complaint. But the campaign was successful. The law and ASA rulings are not the only arbiter of success. Persuasion often works.

I was reminded of this as I attended the launch of Shoreditch Citizens last night. This is the latest chapter of Citizens UK and London Citizens. 500 people attended an electric launch event to endorse campaigns on housing and local employment. Neither campaign will lead to legislation (at least they shouldn’t), but by force of persuasion to receptive ears they will have some effect.

This – like so much else – is the Big Society at work.

All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.
(War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy, 1869; or Edmund Burke)

It is so easy to become disheartened by our fallen world. But we can all make a difference. Where we can, let’s do so!

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