Freedom 101 from the Freedom Filter




Now that your populist freedom gland has been well-milked by constant coverage of the pro-democracy protests in Egypt, you may be wondering how other countries of the world stack up when it comes to civil liberties. Look no further than the Freedom Filter, which casts a political map of the world in a color-coded arrangement reflecting the status of three social freedoms--speech, religion, and press--in any given country. Though the assessment is based on real data from the watchdog organization Freedom House, you needn’t take it too seriously. The Freedom Filter's freedom of speech map, for instance, divides countries into three categories: Do what you want, Better do what you’re told, and Do what you’re told or die.

Who’s behind the map? The advertising firm Goodby, Silverstein, & Partners, who, for this month’s cover story in Harper’s Magazine was one of four such firms tasked by the magazine’s editors to come up with a Super Bowl advertisement for the federal government. Why does Uncle Sam need a Super Bowl ad? I’ll let Harper’s explain:

Last September, when the pollsters at Gallup asked Americans to “describe the federal government in one word or phrase,” 72 percent of the responses were pejorative. The federal government was a “constipated,” “obese,” “crappy” “bureaucracy” run by a “bunch of yahoos,” or by a “bunch of [profanity deleted].” We may be more politically polarized than ever, but when it comes to the federal government, we stand united in our disgust.

One often hears that we should run government like a business. What would a business do if it saw brand loyalty give way to such brand hostility? Wouldn’t its executives summon the alchemists of advertising?

The Freedom Filter is a spinoff concept based on Goodby, Silverstein, & Partners' hypothetical ad, which is pretty funny, as you can see by their storyboard posted on the Harper's blog. Hitler getting a pie in the face? A streaker interrupting Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei? We’ll keep our fingers crossed that such images grace our televisions at halftime, just before the Puppy Bowl.

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