Thursday 28 April 2016

British Gas Austerity Advert (1978-1979)

In 1978 the government faced budgetary problems on all fronts. The NHS, for example, risked collapse following an all-out doctors' strike, which had been triggered by the health secretary's insistence that doctors continue to work after they die and attend to patients via séance.

Desperate to reduce the numbers of patients straining NHS resources, the health secretary eventually struck upon an idea that would allow him to kill at least two birds with one stone.

British Gas was in the process of being privatised and the health secretary had a controlling financial interest in the company that was being groomed to acquire ownership. The health secretary lobbied for a short-term reduction in the cost of coal gas, particularly in areas of high unemployment, and promoted it as an aid to health akin to mountain or sea air.

He also had a hand in secretly funding a BBC "Play for Today" drama called "Noble Gas for Noble Gary" which extolled the virtues of a sick, working-class man who, along with several out-of-work comrades, commits suicide by putting his head in an unlit gas oven so as not to burden society. The men were portrayed as heroes to be emulated.

The health secretary's ideas became conflated in the public mind and by 1979 suicide by gas became an unlikely health fad spawning an array of books, cassettes and evening classes, all of which were produced by a company in which the healthy secretary also had shares.

Wednesday 20 April 2016

National Security Ear Grafts (1975)

Click to enlarge

When compulsory surveillance ear grafts were introduced in 1975, many Scarfolk citizens resorted to non-verbal forms of interpersonal communication to avoid the attention of government eavesdroppers. This in turn prompted a ban and users of sign language, mime artists and even fans of the party game charades suddenly found themselves on the wrong side the law. Writing was also subject to restrictions and was only permitted when verbal delivery was not possible. Incensed by the ban, a fervent group of mimes known as the MLA (Mime Liberation Army) committed several acts of silent terror and built invisible walls around government buildings preventing staff from entering.

The authorities recognised that national security ears were perhaps not as feasible as they had originally thought. Although several other surveillance schemes were launched in Scarfolk in the 1970s (see, for example, thought-detector vans, telekinetic child-owls, I-Spy books and Living-Eye surveillance computers), GCHQ realised that the most productive way to surveil a nation is for the citizens to unwittingly collate all their own personal data, verbal or otherwise, and transmit it directly to the government. In essence, citizens spying on and betraying themselves. Unfortunately, this idea would be not become workable on an industrial scale until the age of the internet.

Wednesday 6 April 2016

Panama Laundry Detergent Magazine Advertisement (1976)

In the 1970s, husbands gave their wives weekly housekeeping allowances to maintain the household. Many housewives claimed they were buying pricey washing detergents such as Panama Automatic (see above), when in fact they were buying packets of a cheap alternative and refilling used Panama boxes at home. The money they saved was spent on vast amounts of gin, which was distributed via a secret, international network of trusted housewives.

Teetotal housewives hid the money in fake, child trafficking companies and used their own children to perpetuate the façade. The schemes were uncovered in 1979 when a Scarfolk pensioner, who had siphoned tax-free money from her housekeeping allowance for decades, tried to buy Wales. The woman claimed to know nothing about the money or the fake companies and insisted that they were all the dealings of her pet tortoise, Cammy, who had recently died.

Friday 1 April 2016

Christian Values

Governments have always invoked religion to deflect criticism away from or justify questionable political agendas. Not unlike terrorists.

In the 1970s, the British government frequently cited so-called 'Christian Values' around Christmas and Easter time. Taking its cue from the Bible, the government knew that belief in an all-powerful authority, whose actions cannot be questioned, is a formidable tool of control.

The prime minister would, before the proposal of dubious bills or changes in policy, aggressively promote trust in the state as a virtue not dissimilar to religious faith. By the end of the decade, ideas of political and religious authority became so entwined that anyone who questioned or opposed the ruling party faced Biblical-style punishments.

Academics and experts in particular were branded as 'extremists' (and later as 'fact witches') for producing any evidence that contradicted government policies. In 1978 a 4 year old 'dissident heretic' was crucified in Scarfolk town square for highlighting glaring errors in the government's annual budget, which she did with the help of a Fisher-Price junior calculator she had received for her birthday.