When my Mum was in her eighties, her mind was still good, but she couldn’t look after herself anymore.
I didn’t want to send her to a care home.
So I used to pay for carers to come and live with her and look after her at home.
Generally these were older ladies, they’d chat with Mum and help her out.
One of these was a very nice German lady.
I got talking to her and it turned out, when she was a teenager, she’d been in The Hitler Youth.
I was quite surprised and I asked her how she could support the Nazi party.
She said she didn’t, but at the time it didn’t seem much different to joining the Boy Scouts or Girl Guides.
I could understand this.
If there’d been a Churchill Youth, most of the children in England would have joined.
Then, if Germany had won the war, Churchill would have been painted as a war criminal, and support for him unthinkable.
The winners always write the rules.
So it isn’t so much a matter of being right or wrong, as it is winning or losing.
I feel the same way about the controversy over ‘scam’ advertising.
Over the years we’ve done several dozen anti Third World Debt films.
Plus posters and press ads.
Anywhere we could find the media.
Everyone from directors to photographers, editors to tea-ladies, working for free.
Studios, camera equipment, stock footage, even space in the media, all supplied for free.
Sometimes, where it wasn’t supplied for free, I paid.
Because there wasn’t a client.
The titles at the end of each ad just said: “Write to your MP”.
Now by all definitions, that was ‘scam’ advertising.
We entered those ads for awards schemes, and won silvers and golds.
This meant opinion-formers worldwide got to hear about the Third World Debt crisis.
Between us, we helped get it on the radar.
Advertising used as a force for good: giving instead of just taking.
But it still qualifies as ‘scam’ advertising.
None of the charities would put their name to it, so we didn’t have a client.
If ‘scam’ advertising is inherently bad, was it bad that we did that?
Would it have been better to obey the rules about ‘scam’ advertising and ignore the Third World Debt crisis?
I don’t think so.
Even if we only saved a few lives, I think the end justifies the means.
Sure ‘scam’ advertising done for purely small, selfish, greedy motives is bad.
But then anything done for purely small, selfish, greedy motives is bad.
The rules are there as a guideline.
They’re not there to help us evade personal responsibility.
That was the defence used at the Nuremburg War Trials.
When the death camp guards said they couldn’t be blamed, because they were “just following orders”.
Consequently they said it wasn’t their fault.
They were just being good soldiers.
I don’t buy that argument.
I was always brought up to obey, “The spirit of the law. Not the letter of the law.”
In other words, do what you know is right.
Don’t just unthinkingly hide behind the rules.
So don’t blame scam advertising.
Blame the person.
And blame them for being stupid.
Because the rule still applies, that you can’t be in the wrong unless you get found out.
And if you get found out you’re stupid.