French law would jail those who “incite thinness”

The French parliament’s lower house adopted a groundbreaking bill Tuesday that would make it illegal for anyone — including fashion magazines, advertisers and Web sites — to publicly incite extreme thinness. … It would give judges the power to imprison and fine offenders up to $47,000 if found guilty of “inciting others to deprive themselves of food” to an “excessive” degree, said [Valery Boyer, a Conservative!!! lawmaker and author of the law].

  • Let’s just hope that it makes more sense in the original French. But somehow, I doubt it.
  • Who gets to decide what’s excessive? Jenny Craig?
  • Can you incite mental illness? The law seems to posit that ads can cause or trigger or exacerbate anorexia. Can they do the same with alcoholism or obsessive-compulsive disorder? Where’s the line here? Anorexia is a very real problem and this is a very real PR move that won’t actually help the issue. “Her bill has mainly brought focus to pro-anorexic Web sites that give advice on how to eat an apple a day — and nothing else.
  • It seems that in France Conservative = Democrat.

4 thoughts on “French law would jail those who “incite thinness”

  1. Tough one. In the US we have outlawed tobacco advertising on TV and radio. The target audience to be avoided is, in large measure, kids and since kids don’t read…

    Seems to me the target audience for advocating these unhealthy behaviors around food is also kids. Get ’em started early and you’ve got them.

    Which bad behavior is learned and which one is acquired at birth? Perhaps all addictions are acquired at birth, but for some, I think you have to be trained to turn them on.

    Where is the boundary? I don’t know. The regulated market will figure it out I think.

  2. There’s a whole discussion tangential to this about writers and the influence of ideas. If you as a writer (or marketer) promote an idea like “Steal This Book,” and someone breaks the law because of your idea, to what extent are you responsible for their felony? What if someone takes your idea in a way you hadn’t intended and breaks the law? What if you’re not that good a writer and everyone takes your writing in a way you hadn’t intended?

    The problem with the above is that it requires a bunch of people to decide intention, because the punishment is for an effect, but you’re only guilty if you were “inciting” others, which implies the intention to create that effect. So what if your perfectly innocent ad for “Slimline Pencils” is judged to incite people to deprive themselves of food? How can anyone reliably judge a link between intention and effect?

  3. “The regulated market will figure it out I think.”

    Would that be the same regulated market that brought us the mortgage implosion or the one that brought us US carmakers trying to sell SUVs with gas at $3.50+ a gallon? It’s not that I don’t believe in the invisible hand of the market place, it’s more that I don’t trust it.

    I wish I had a clear or even logical answer to this dispute of intent/effect. I am a big fan of the Dove “Real Beauty” campaign that shows normal sized women. Its very existence is an indictment of the narrow view of beauty that most of the media/marketers/public adheres to. That said, is Real Beauty inciting anyone to over eat? Here in the US inciting people to overeat is about as difficult as getting a teen to think about sex.

    It is true that there aren’t nearly as many images of people who are normal-sized and larger as there are of the fashionably too skinny. Yet no one will argue that obesity is a bigger threat to the US population’s health than anorexia or bulimia.

    The counter argument — and its not an unreasonable one at all — is that we have made a fetish of consumption. All the media carry images and programs devoted to food and eating huge portions of it. Is that why we have an obesity problem? Is it because we have industries that make huge amounts of money by shooting foods full of high-fructose corn sugar? Is it because a lot of us would rather eat than think?

    I’d say the answer is yes to all of the above. Corporate responsibility is certainly part of the solution to this — and many other — issues. Some how companies have to be forced to consider the impact of their actions. They must not be allowed to pursue profit at any cost. Until the early 1980s Americans thought that government should be responsible for doing that. Then we — collectively — decided that big government was scarier than big business. Given the dismantling of the regulatory function of government over the last quarter century it is difficult to believe that government will ever again be allowed to take on this role. That doesn’t mean it isn’t still needed.

    I certainly respect the impulse behind this legislation — however wacky the law itself is. But, as my man Mr. Mencken put it, “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”

  4. “Would that be the same regulated market that brought us the mortgage implosion…”

    No! That market was unregulated, as I understand it. These big unregulated financial institutions that quacked like banks, smelled like banks, loaned money like banks (buying these bundled sub-prime loans), but weren’t banks. They were better, smarter than banks. Right?

    “… or the one that brought us US carmakers trying to sell SUVs with gas at $3.50+ a gallon?” I could argue either this is an under-regulated market or incorrectly regulated.

    Regulation should be based the idea that we should “promote the general welfare”. In this regard, how does regulating SUVs achieve this? It doesn’t. Regulating vehicular carbon emissions does. If we taxed vehicles (registration fees?) based on carbon emission levels, we become, essentially, neutral about the vehicle type.

    With regards to the French law, my concern is not adults but kids. I have little doubt that the marketing companies always have kids/teens in mind. They are unlikely to move a 30-something but a 15 year old?

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