Quotation from James Joyce’s 'Gas from a Burner' pasted over part of an anti-abortion billboard poster in Dublin this week (via). Fuller story here.
I’m not entirely sure how I feel about complaints on the basis of false or misleading advertising, and the consequent difficulty that only commercial advertisements are held to the official standards. The billboards make political claims which may be patently false (“There is always a better way”) but so did a lot of posters in the Lisbon Treaty referendum (also involving abortion, and conscription). It’s about context, and where we as a liberal society allow free political expression and where we regulate it - as in the case of television and radio broadcasting, on which political advertising is not allowed and probably all the better for our democracy.
While our regular proliferation of lamppost election posters has I believe occasionally spread to large billboard advertisements, I think the very public and dominating position of them should itself preclude their use for politically contentious messages, and indeed emotionally distressing ones, without restricting existing freedom of expression through print and news media. We seem to be stuck with billboards promoting commercial advertisements, often with questionable subtexts, but that is more easily regulated without treading on the toes of political beliefs. In other words, keep the politics off the billboards - just ads. Glorious, materialistic ads.