If you want to know what the future holds if speech becomes too regulated, take a look at an article in the Times of London, titled “Bottom line gets Dutch Courage advert banned.”

When I read the article, I had to check the date to make sure it was not an April Fools’ Day prank. It’s not; it just shows how absurd speech regulation gets once you open the door.

The article concerns a ruling by the Advertising Standards Authority in Britain, banning a beer advertisement (photo) for the dutch beer-brand Courage. The ad depicts a woman in a short skirt about to walk up stairs, and a man sitting on a couch with a beer. The ad says “take Courage my friend.”

Now I’m no advertising genius, but it’s a pretty good ad. Not dissimilar to what we see all the time, and a lot more tame. So what’s the problem?

Apparently not just the subtle sexual innuendo, that the man should have courage to follow her up the stairs. That’s the innuendo I saw. Where can I get me some of that?

No, the Authority is afraid that someone might interpret the ad as suggesting that the man should “give a truthful answer to the implied question about how the garment reflected the size of the woman’s derrière.” As in, you have a big butt. This would constitute anti-big buttism. Or the man might comment negatively on the dress, which would be fashionistic. Here is the ruling:

Three members of the public believed the poster implied that the beer would give the man confidence to either make negative comments on the woman’s appearance or take advantage of her.

We considered that the combination of the text and the image of the man with an open beer can and half-empty glass of beer was likely to be understood by consumers to carry the clear implication that the beer would give the man enough confidence to tell the woman that the dress was unflattering.

Although we understood the humorous intention of the scenario, we concluded that the poster breached the code by suggesting that the beer could increase confidence.

This is not the only lunatic ruling by the Authority. A 2007 TV commercial for Miller beer was banned because it was thought likely to appeal to children and portrayed an unacceptable “effortless cool.” It’s a good thing the Authority didn’t get to vote on whether Obama could visit; Obama is the epitome of “effortless cool.”

The first victim of bureaucracy is sense of humor. When you let government decide free speech standards, idiocy and loss of freedom are inevitable. And it works both ways. The bureaucracy is an equal-opportunity spoil sport.

So liberals should not cheer too loudly over the ridiculous Homeland Security report which treats normal political speech as a threat. The bureaucracy you love today may be the bureaucracy you hate tomorrow. (Uh oh, I said “hate”)

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