Posts tagged ‘WH Smith’

Oh Daddy, you know that eBook you bought for me…*

The morality police achieved another victory in their battle to return us to the days of covered table legs yesterday when high street retailer WH Smith (SMWH) took their entire website offline.

Why the drastic action? Because the Daily Fail (that bastion of the soft-porn click-bait) happened to notice that if you searched for ‘daddy’, the site listed a number of books that could not be considered as suitable for children. I do wonder though how many children are a) going to be using the SMWH website and b) how may are going to be searching for daddy. Heck, I’m an adult whose interests could be considered quite wide-ranging but I don’t think I’ve ever used that term in any search box anywhere on the web.

That SMWH have taken such drastic action isn’t much as a surprise as they have history when it comes to bowing to the whims of special interest groups.

In order to solve the ‘problem’, which is limited to self-published items, SMWH have decided that, once their website returns, they are going to not list any eBooks which fall into this category for the forseeable future – regardless of their content.

Personally I’d suggest that a better approach would be to update their search functionality to include such basic abilities as ‘safe-search’ and ‘include/exclude self-published items’ but that would require knee-jerk puritans not to be knee-jerk puritans…

* With apologies to Christine McVie and Fleetwood Mac

Magazines don’t kill people…

The latest organisation to apparently succumb to the march of the bansturbators was the high street newsagent WH Smith (SMWH) when it announced a change of policy with regards to shooting magazines:

“As part of our commitment to operate our business responsibly, we have a till prompt on shooting titles.

“It asks our store teams to check that the customer is 14 years old or over, based on this being the legal age at which someone can possess a firearms certificate.”

Being a private company they are, of course, entitled to do such barmy things – as is so often demonstrated when it comes to supermarkets and alcohol – and customers are perfectly entitled to take their custom elsewhere.

Strictly speaking the spokesdroid was correct when they said a firearms licence is restricted to those over 14. What they failed however to mention was that it is perfectly legal for under-14s to be in possession of a shotgun licence and to use firearms whilst supervised.

Whilst that should amply demonstrate the stupidity of this rule change, the obvious problem which springs to mind is that what proof of age can a 14 year-old produce? The only ones I can think of are a birth certificate and a passport (children now having to have their own for international travel whereas back in the day they could travel on a parents’ passport pre-16). National Insurance cards aren’t issued until your 16th year, 17th for driving licences and proof of age cards are only for those over 18.

So what then prompted this silliness?

The answer is not government but the animal rights organisation Animal Aid. A poll conducted on their behalf of 1,000 members of the public (less than 1 in 60,000) found that 74% wanted such magazines moved to the ‘top-shelf’ and that 84% thought that they should only be sold to over-18s.

Whilst the sample size is certainly small, those asked demonstrate a worrying level of hoplophobia and illiberalism. Retailers should be allowed to organise their magazine shelves as they like and sell publications to whoever wants them. If you don’t like something then don’t buy it. What someone else buys is none of your business.

Animal Aid appears to be claiming that the glossy covers of these magazines, which allegedly feature pictures of shooters (yes, including children) with the creatures that they have shot, will attract children to shooting. That sounds remarkably like the argument that the tobacco control lobby are using over plain packaging to me…

Why target SMWH for their campaign though?

A major focus of Animal Aid’s ‘top shelf’ campaign will be high street newsagent WHSmith, which has so far rejected the national campaign group’s written request for a ban on gun magazine sales to under-18s. The company claims it operates an ‘age prompt of 14 years or over on our tills for shooting titles’. After receiving that assurance on July 30, Animal Aid sent five young researchers – aged 11 and 12 – into WHSmith branches in different parts of the country. Each bought a copy of Shooting Times without difficulty.

So it appears that SMWH may have already had this policy in place, albeit rather ineffectually. Is their announcement then just a reaffirmation of existing foolishness or statement that they intent to take the matter more seriously?

Says Animal Aid Director Andrew Tyler: ‘Since launching our call for a ban on the sale of gun magazines to children, shooting lobbyists have characterised us as “crazy” and “extremists”. They can see now that the vast majority of the public back our call, and that it is they who are out of touch with rational mainstream opinion.’

Sorry Andy but I think you are a bunch of crazy extremists as well and yet I’ve only once in my life fired a gun and have never been a member of the Countryside Alliance or the British Association for Shooting and Conservation. I’m also not keen on the tyranny of the majority and see nothing wrong with gun ownership, let alone the purchasing of magazines about the subject by people of any age. A bit less hoplophobia is a good thing as the sooner more people realise that a gun is just a tool the better we will all be as a society.