The UK’s Home Office has released a “dystopian” lockdown public service announcement ripping off the style of the classic “You Wouldn’t Steal a Car” anti-piracy warning that appeared years ago on rental tapes.
The country has been under its third nationwide lockdown since January 6 as it continues to record more than 10,000 new COVID-19 cases per day, with strict stay-at-home orders and business closures in place.
The ad features bodycam footage of police busting up gatherings at a makeshift pub, an illegal rave, and even a baby shower inside what appears to be a private home.
The text font, editing and frenetic background music are nearly identical to the Motion Picture Association’s classic, widely parodied “Piracy. It’s a Crime” ad from the 2000s that played at the start of rental VHS tapes or as an unskippable intro on DVDs.
“You shouldn’t go to parties,” the text reads.
“You shouldn’t make your own pub. You shouldn’t go to raves. You shouldn’t be meeting up. Meeting up is against the law. Stay Home. Protect The NHS. Save Lives.”
Reaction to the ad, which has been viewed more than one million times, has been largely negative.
“Everything about this video is horrific,” talk radio host and newspaper columnist Julia Hartley-Brewer wrote.
“But just stop for a moment and think about the sheer insanity of living in Britain, a free and democratic nation, where ‘meeting up’ is a crime. AN ACTUAL CRIME! Seriously, when are you going to wake up to the madness and say ‘enough’?”
Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage said, “Truly awful.”
Guardian reporter Damien Gayle said, “This looks like some bats**t authoritarian sixth-form media studies project.”
“What would your reaction have been if someone showed you this ad a year ago?” asked technology journalist Mark Sparrow.
Video game developer Dan Hett wrote, “Another very normal transmission from our definitely-in-control government who absolutely have a handle on things.”
Much of the negative reaction came from commentators in the US.
“What in the name of dystopian nightmares is this!?” wrote Raheem Kassam, editor-in-chief of The National Pulse.
Daily Caller columnist Scott Greer referred to the UK as “Cuck Island”, saying: “China is more free.”
Podcast host Paul Miller described its as a “totalitarianism hype reel”.
Conservative campus organisation Young Americans for Liberty tweeted: “‘Meeting up is against the law.’ Someone in government actually produced this video. Then someone else higher up in government approved it. At no point did anyone in the process stop and realise, ‘Oh, we’re the bad guys, aren’t we?’”
Meanwhile, many took issue with the actual content of the ad’s message for being inaccurate.
“Oh my goodness. I’m not sure where to start,” wrote human rights barrister Adam Wagner.
“This is the Home Office, the government department responsible for law and order. This tweet and video grossly misstate the law.”
Mr Wagner stressed that “all gatherings are *not* illegal”.
“There are a huge number gatherings which *are* legal,” he said.
“Meeting up is not ‘against the law’. Some gatherings are prohibited but if you read the law itself there are many exceptions including where reasonably necessary for work, volunteering, accessing social services, assisting vulnerable people, support groups, avoiding harm …”
He continued, “This video is ridiculous (The music! The footage! It’s like something from The Simpsons) but aside from that, it is fearmongering and legally illiterate. It could lead to people misunderstanding and not e.g. leaving home to assist the vulnerable. It should be removed. I have no issue with the Home Office advertising that gatherings indoors for parties are currently illegal – but this isn’t the way to do it.”
Human rights group Liberty simply posted a picture with the same text font reading, “You wouldn’t get your own laws wrong.”