25 November

The UnLoveliness of ‘UnHate’

For People Who Love Colours

From a Guest Blogger: Margaret Thatcher once told the American Bar Association not to give terrorists the ‘oxygen of publicity’. Should we, perhaps, follow her advice and refrain from commenting on Benetton’s latest PR stunt turned advertising campaign? If we ignore it, will it not go away?

There is good reason to think otherwise, for something of this very attitude underlies Benetton’s UnHate campaign in the first place. Manipulated images of various world leaders shown ‘kissing’ one another suggest that if we just stop hating we shall all get along quite nicely. On Benetton’s own website viewers are invited to post their own kissing photographs where images can be assigned to categories showing that x number of people UnHate ‘love’ or ‘Twilight’ or ‘Human’.

Aside from the disconcerting allusion to the double speak of Orwell’s 1984 the campaign has shown little regard (never mind love) for those actually depicted in ‘amorous’ embraces. Yet simultaneously it is also rather short on courage. It is one thing to show Pope Benedict and Mohamed Ahmed al-Tayeb kissing (as the adverts did before legal action was brought by the Holy See) but just imagine the outcry if the company had shown the likes of Peter Tatchell and Richard Dawkins baptising orphaned babies in the Sudan? Benetton cares little about offending the likes of President Obama or Pope Benedict but shrinks from risking offence to any of the more ‘right-on’ public figures.

Benetton’s photographs proclaim something that is both impossible and deeply unloving. Why should we hate others on account of their differing from us in any respect? It is, properly understood, because of the very differences that we can truly love others in the first place. It is because of elements leading to disunity that we can love people who are not like us. To love others simply because we have forgotten the differences between them and us amounts in the end to loving ourselves. One advertising ‘guru’ has suggested that in this campaign ‘all you may lose is your ego’, but such a loss may put an end to the very possibility of loving. We need both ourselves and at least one other in order to engage in anything approaching even to Benetton’s rather nauseating ‘unhate’.

Invective is not pretty, but it is hard to avoid the conclusion that Benetton has, in this campaign, abandoned not only reason but also humanity, and that in a cowardly manner. We are asked to dive into a sea of valueless-ness, in which no one will ever be offended simply because no one takes anyone else seriously any more. Benetton’s campaign would have us abdicate faith in mankind and in reason for a bland, tepid, nihilistic and fear-led individualism. We are to shy away from meaning itself lest it ruffle the feathers of others.

We should certainly never advocate hate but the overcoming of it must never be at the expense of meaning itself. To abandon that is ultimately to undermine the very love that is alone worth striving for.

Do not, therefore, unhate. Love.

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Photograph Used by Permission. No Endorsment Implied.

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