Comment writer Daniella Murinas criticises the government’s ‘Rethink, Re-skill and Reboot’ campaign, arguing that it promotes a demeaning hierarchy of career achievement which places jobs in the arts at the bottom of the pile
‘Rethink. Reskill. Reboot.’ More like ‘Rude. Ruthless. Regressive.’ That is what is to be taken from the recently resurfaced government backed campaign, which promotes a career in cyber. The advertising campaign appeared widely on social media platforms, and sparked national outrage over the underlying message about the lesser nature of artistic careers, with the central image featuring a ballet dancer. Some made memes with the same message, using governmental figures as the actors, while others pointed out the various artistic careers that would have contributed to its creation as an advertising campaign, including copywriters and graphic designers; all who would be classed as arts sector jobs Although the individual posters have appeared online recently, they were part of a 2019 campaign led by the National Cyber Security centre which was backed by the British government. Though it is debatable whether they were also intended for use in 2020, the campaign has now been pulled, but the damage to public opinion has already been done.
One specific poster of the ‘Rethink. Reskill. Reboot.’ campaign features a ballet dancer with the message, ‘Fatima’s next job could be in cyber. (She just doesn’t know it yet).’ People took to twitter shortly after, with celebrities involved in the arts calling the campaign ‘soul-crushing’ and a creation of a ‘Hopes and Dreams Crushing Department.’ Through promoting one career path, they simultaneously put down another, presenting a hierarchical structure of career achievement. The individual called ‘Fatima’ is in fact Desire’e Kelly, a ballet dancer from Atlanta. The photo was not taken specifically for the Cyber First campaign and was originally uploaded to Instagram several years ago by photographer Krys Alex. Both Kelly and Alex were unaware this photo would be used for this campaign, meaning there was an underlying deceit from its inception.
This comes at a time when the arts sector is facing increasing financial trouble due to the coronavirus pandemic. Art establishments have been forced to close their doors to stop the spread of COVID-19, meaning thousands of peoples jobs are at risk with loss of revenue totalling £7 billion. Instead of putting their name to campaigns which undermine people’s livelihoods, they should be working towards extra measures and supports to help industries which are facing such a cultural catastrophe.Though it could be said that due its foundations being before the pandemic it is unfair to make such claims, it does however highlight the government attitude towards certain careers. Reports in 2019 highlight how underfunded arts education in England is, and how this is one way cultural life in England is under threat. In many ways it does not matter whether the campaign’s foundation was in 2019, as it still highlights the degrading attitude which institutions associate with the arts sector, which have been increasingly manifested in the time of the pandemic.
There has been some defence of this campaign however, with individuals noting that the original campaign included photographs of different professions, such as a shopworker, barista and a barber, meaning the arts sector was not solely being targeted. Though some may see this as an excuse, I do not. This furthers a belief that some professions are untalented, unworthy, and thus should swiftly be put aside to focus on ones deemed more prosperous. By choosing jobs the government sees as demeaning, they are alienating a huge demographic of people and insulting those individual’s livelihood. It also perpetuates a wrongful assumption that a lesser value can be placed on one profession, and that there exists a hierarchical structure in the minds of the government, which they wish to promote to the wider public. The sinister message of the posters almost acts as a warning, that jobs such as this are most at risk from underfunding and undervalue. Although it is not just the arts sector, it still encourages an insulting message to those deemed less on the professional hierarchy.
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