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Exactly how offensive are trees?

16 Oct 2019 | News Roundup

Some Oakville car dealer decided to promote his business by promising to plant 25 trees if you bought an emission-spewing vehicle. Which might be a cheap conscience-soothing sales gimmick or a sign of deep commitment to the planet. But you get to decide, right? Well no. Not if Facebook has anything to say about it. They let him post the ads but double-banned him from promoting the ads, first for being too political and then for being too wordy. Do we hear the hiss of melting snowflakes? [Read more.]

This absurd story ought to be both happy and not a story. Nissan salesman Greg Carrasco’s daughter was haranguing him about ruining the climate for a living, so he decided to take positive action. He’s happy, his kid is happy, his customers are happy. So where’s the problem? Why are there headlines?

Of course one can debate the impact of trees on the environment given that pesky circle of life thing where they grow and absorb carbon then die and release it. Or whether cars really are a threat to civilization i.e. whether CO2 is, or is not, the “control knob” of the global climate. Or whether socially conscious ad campaigns are just cynicism folded over. But it’s a free country, and if a man wants to sell cars using trees and you want to buy them in consequence, it’s his affair and yours including whether the ad is culpably verbose.

Because it’s a free country and Facebook is a private organization, however large and some think obnoxious, they can ban anything and everything from their platform and if you don’t like it you can shop elsewhere, just as you can go to a car dealership that offers shrubs rather than trees, Fords rather than Nissans, blue curtains not green or anything else. Or nothing, and refuse to own a car. But there’s a weird modern hypersensitivity when you’re told by Facebook that your trees-for-a-car ad can’t be promoted because they deal with “social issues, elections or politics” and then that even if they don’t they just have too many words in them and not enough pictures.

We’re not calling for government action, forcing Facebook to run ads, prohibiting it or anything else. Too many people call for censorship, or increasingly for compelled speech, at the drop of a leaf. What we’re calling for is common sense. Exhibit some and we’ll plant a tree. Or just use a lot of words.

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