I know how difficult it is to get media coverage these days, especially for worthy but unsexy causes such as hearing impairment. So when the RNID staged the photo opportunity above, I was at first prepared to be tolerant. I mean, at least it wasn't one of those bodged-together, statistically nonsensical 'surveys' to publicise a new brand of lager or car or no-fee legal assistance. (You know, the type that asks a sample of ordinary Brits: "If you'd just crashed your car after drinking 10 pints of lager, which sexy celebrity would you like to represent you in court?" The answer is always Angelina Jolie.)
But back to the picture. The fact that the subjects are in the vicinity of red phone boxes might suggest some tangential reference to hearing loss, but is probably more likely to trigger thoughts of English Heritage. I mean, when was the last time you used one of these things, unless you're a Japanese tourist? And look at the people themselves. We have a man who doesn't look very much like Albert Einstein, another man who doesn't look in the slightest bit like Del Boy, and people whose resemblance to Madonna, Winston Churchill and Elvis Presley is, to put it gently, fleeting. If there's any implied message or meaning here, it's probably more related to blindness, since only someone with severely restricted sight would associate these people with the figures they are puported to represent. Baudrillard appropriated the word simulacrum to describe a representation that continues to have currency, even when its link to the thing it represented is severed. So, to stick with the public telephone idea, Dr Who's Tardis is now better known than the police box it hijacked. I've got a horrible feeling that these gurning parasites will continue to appear even after we've forgotten what Elvis sounded like.
There's a tired old line trotted out by desperate PR hacks when something's gone utterly tits-up: "There is no such thing as bad publicity." It's utter bollocks, I'm afraid; look at John Prescott, or DFS commercials. It's not polite to say it, but desperate, naff, lame, cheap, bland, banal, amateurish stunts like the one above make me want to follow Basil Fawlty's lead. The next time I meet a deaf person, I'll move my lips as if I'm speaking, and when she adjusts her hearing aid, I'll just scream "POSTMODERNISM" into it.
And, while we're in the goods yard of prevailing mediocrity: Miss Prism, in her Capacious Handbag blog, elegantly sums up the whole, fraught issue of 'dumbing down':
"It's simply not feasible to explain complex issues to the public one soundbite at a time - the general level of background knowledge is far too low. I'm no defeatist, but I think the problem should not be 'How do we explain this in 100 words or less?' but 'How do we make people want to read 10,000 words?'"
Couldn't have said it better myself (which is why I nicked it).