It’s funny how sometimes one word, used unexpectedly, or out of context, or in a context that says quite different things to the writer and to the reader, can convey a world of meaning that would otherwise have remained hidden beneath the surface.
The new tube poster designed to raise awareness of the forthcoming Brain Tumour Awareness Day (no, me neither), is a case in point. “Wear A Hat Day”, announces the headline, innocuously enough. But then look at the subhead – ” The UK’s Premier Brain Tumour Awareness Event.” What a clear, sad and damaging story is told by that one word “Premier.”
From this single (and from the consumer point of view entirely unnecessary and pointless) word, it’s not hard to deduce what’s happened. Once upon a time there was only one brain tumour awareness charity. It raised awareness of, and I guess money for, research into this terrible illness as best it could. All the energies of those involved were dedicated to the cause.
Then something happened. There was some kind of bust-up – a disagreement over money, strategy, priorities, could have been anything. One or more of the team broke away, and set up a rival charity of their own. From then on, the whole thing has degenerated into feuding. It’s John Cleese and the Judean People’s Liberation Front and the People’s Front for the Liberation of Judea. At least half the energy formerly spent on promoting the cause is now spent sniping at the enemy. Even when it comes to the most important fund-raising event of the year, the divisions go on: presumably that “premier” tells us that the other lot have an awareness day too, and whoever wrote the headline couldn’t resist the temptation to take a pop at it.
In fact, if you think about it, it’s a bit more than taking a pop. The entire orientation of the headline has been skewed away from delivering any persuasive or constructive message, and entirely towards a meaningless and irrelevant comparison with some other event that no-one seeing their poster in the underground knows of or cares about. The poster is half as effective as it could have been.
I suppose I have to say now that I’ve completely made all this up. It may be that my whole story is wrong, and the word “premier” appears in that headline for some quite different reason. If so, my apologies to those concerned. And on the upside, at least I’ve done a little bit to promote awareness of their day.
But still, what I think has happened here makes me angry. I’m not sure what it would do for both sides’ mental wellbeing, but I’d like to knock their heads together.