The Game Blame Game

Meanwhile, in a parallel universe… my local supermarket has started selling enormous Toblerones (made with triangular almonds from triangular trees, and triangular honey from triangular bees – just in case you didn’t know). I see an advert for them on TV and realise I’d forgotten just how much I like eating them. I go to the store on Monday morning and buy six of them. I come home and eat the lot; lovely. I then go back and buy ten more and by the end of the day they’re all gone.
Tuesday and Wednesday it’s much the same story, ditto Thursday and Friday. Weeks pass by and I repeat this pattern, spending more and more money on Toblerone (did you know they do a version with salted almonds now!) After several months of this I haven’t got a penny to my name and inevitably get caught stealing to fund my triangular addiction. I receive an 18-month sentence.
Now let me ask you this: who’s to blame. Could it be the EVIL that is television advertising for LURING me to this FILTHY scrumptious chocolate? Or is it the CONNIVING shop-bastards who sold it to me. I mean… they made it SO EASY; they just put it on their shelves and I bought it. I mean… I didn’t stand a chance did I? Like I was ever NOT going to buy it! Or was it that Swiss sod Theodor Tobler, who should be dug up, reanimated and then buried alive for UNLEASHING this fiendish delicious DIRTY splendid treat upon us? Well I can tell you one thing: it’s certainly not my fault.

Now what I’ve done here (and I have to apologise for being so clever) is that I’ve made you react to something ‘made-up’ so that I can now introduce something ‘real’ and force you to see the light (specifically the light I want you to see. I’m like a magician in that way.)
I am, of course, referring to what The Independent on Sunday referred to as “the dark side of new technology” aka Online Gambling. In a ‘massive investigation’ the IOS told us how “bookies seek to lure in new punters” and that “the number of Britons at risk of becoming addicted is growing.” Notice that it was bookies ‘seeking to lure’ rather than simply advertising their product, and Britons ‘AT RISK of becoming’ addicted rather than Britons actual becoming addicted? (I mean we’re all ‘at risk’ of becoming addicted to anything if you want to get anal about it. That’s how addictive things work. Duh).
But here’s Jack Keylock, 22, who resorted to burglary to fund his online gambling. The Judge who sent him down said: “Gambling is all too easy to embark upon these days, probably because of the advertising on TV”. Now I’m sorry but that’s ridiculous. There are lots of things that are ‘all too easy’ to do – like eating too much chocolate or punching doors – but we, as civilised humans, choose not to do so every day.
British actor/comedian/dandy Russell Brand often talks about his addiction. Whereas you or I could choose to try drugs (just say no kids) he has to choose – every day – NOT to do drugs; for an addict it’s that way round. For many years he chose not to choose to not do drugs, but at some point he decided to join the civilised world where mostly we don’t spend all day sitting around doing heroine.
If you punch a door you can’t then blame that door because punching it was ‘all too easy’. “It was just sitting there all closed and sexy – m’lud – looking at me in a ‘come on, punch me’ way.” Most of us aren’t simpletons that go around punching doors, but if you were one I’m pretty sure it’d be your fault and your fault alone. I don’t smoke, but I could take it up by the end of today and I could blame Benson & Hedges for making them or Tesco for selling them to me, but ultimately it’s down to me.
The Independent on Sunday also told the story of a 48-year-old woman who started online gambling after bereavement. A TV advert for online bingo caught her eye promising an online community to chat to while playing bingo. “Before long I’m pumping more money than I can afford into this new friend,” she says, explaining that chat is only available for paying customers. Now it strikes me that this woman’s problem not an online gambling addiction but loneliness. She’s not addicted to online gambling, she’s addicted to companionship and has sadly chosen a place where you have to be a paying customer to talk to the other paying customers (exactly like it said in the advert). She now says she is getting help “to quit this addiction, because that is what gambling is: an addiction that is promoted on TV as harmless fun.” Now I’m sorry, but who on this planet doesn’t know that bingo is a random number-matching game where you pay to play? I don’t think I’ve ever seen an advert for gambling that pretends it’s free ‘harmless fun’. Even the lottery – the simplest gamble there is – pretty much screams the prize and the cost from start to end.
Fortunately for you I’ve run out of space, but smokers make an educated decision to smoke, people trying out drugs know it’s a bad idea, serial door-punching maniac know it’s not the way to go, and I know I should limit myself to two (maybe three) pieces of Toblerone every day. We all know what we should and shouldn’t do, it’s just down to how civilised you choose to want to be.

* PLEASE NOTE: No Toblerones were hurt during the writing of this column. Matt Broughton is in no way endorsed by Toblerone (but is happy to take their call if they’d like to discuss terms). Other triangular chocolates are available.