Terrifying Clouds

I thought this was a most remarkable cloud:

It looks to me like the base of it is only about 15 feet above ground, and if you were standing in the field, you could jump up and touch it.

I’ve never seen anything like it.

But if seems they’re quite common.

I think I’d be terrified if I saw something like that in Herefordshire.

But we don’t get clouds like that in Herefordshire, do we?

Do we?

Do we?

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The Great War

I’m a regular watcher of The Great War, which is a series of short – usually 10 minute – videos describing WW1 week by week as it happened exactly 100 years ago. It only has a couple more months to run, given that the war ended in November 1918.

WW1 only lasted 4 years, but to many at the time, and also to me whenever I have watched anything about it, it seemed interminable. And furthermore, many people regard it as just the first half in a two-part war that lasted from 1914 to 1945, with a prolonged half-time uneasy peace between 1918 and 1939.

And in this two-part war, the advantage shifted from one side to the other, and back again. It was almost a toss-up who would end up winning.

The War on Smoking is another great war. And it’s been going on a very long time. In fact, the war on smoking has been raging, off and on, for the past 500 years, ever since Columbus brought back tobacco from the New World. And, as in WW1+2, the advantage has shifted from one side to the other, and back again. It remains far from clear who is going to win.

And in fact, it seems quite reasonable to suppose that, if it has been already fought for 500 years, it is quite likely to last for another 500 years.

The Great War also played a major part in the War on Smoking. For the period 1914-18 was a time when millions of soldiers took up smoking cigarettes, which came in handy cartons, just like bullets. The cigarette is a military innovation, much like the tank or the machine gun. This may also be the origin of its association with death. For no doubt a great many soldiers died lighting cigarettes, their position betrayed by the flaring match they held up to the tip for a second or two – enough time for a sniper to take aim.

There is no leisure in war. There is no time to savour a slow cigar, or ritually fill the bowl of a pipe. The cigarette provided a quick smoke. It stripped the art of smoking down to its minimum. It brought mechanised, production line smoking to a mechanised, production line war.

Millions of smokers returned home at the end of WW1 to continue smoking during the uneasy half-time peace between the wars. And women took up smoking cigarettes during this time. And smoking seems to have become almost universal during WW2. The London Hospitals study of 1950 by Doll and Hill had about 96% of all male patients as smokers. And the British Doctors study which began in 1954 had about 87% of doctors as smokers.

So the period 1914-1945 was one of big victories for tobacco and smoking. Tobacco consumption sky-rocketed. And it remained high after the war ended.

But, as ever in these long wars, the antismokers rallied in response to this defeat. And since the end of WW2 they’ve been gradually winning back the ground that they lost between 1914 and 1945. If back then the antismokers had their backs to the wall, it’s now the turn of the smokers to find themselves with their backs to the wall. In fact, the antismokers think that they have pretty much won the war on smoking: they see themselves as in a winning “endgame.”

But I think they’re premature in declaring victory. For this is a very, very long war. And there is still an army of many hundreds of millions of smokers in the world, many of them (like me) hardened veteran smokers. I certainly think of myself as just such a veteran. We all deserve medals. And I think that one day we will be given medals (perhaps we should design a few?). I’ll certainly get the British Smokers Cross (1 July 2007). Every smoker in Britain will get that gong.

One reason for thinking that the war is going to carry on a lot longer is that, some 100 years after the military innovation of the cigarette, there is now a new military innovation: the e-cigarette. I personally don’t like them much, but mine is the same dislike that cigar and pipe smokers had for new-fangled cigarettes when they first appeared. But I think they have a great future. They’re a further minimization of the art of smoking. And I suspect that they will evolve and proliferate in countless numbers of ways. They are currently larger and heavier than cigarettes, but I expect that as the new technology is refined we’ll be seeing one-puff micro-cigarettes the size of toothpicks, and almost indistinguishable from them, and producing almost invisible smoke. And when those arrive, smoking bans won’t stop them becoming as ubiquitous as cigarettes once were, because no-one will notice them. But that’s just my guess.

Rather like the WW1 tanks that threw soldiers into confusion when they first appeared, e-cigarettes have set the antismokers on their back foot. They’re facing an entirely new and unexpected enemy. They are divided among themselves as to what to do about it.

But I also think that the next few years will start to see the army of veteran smokers in the world becoming much more united and disciplined. For the new technology of the internet is allowing smokers all over the world to meet up in places like the Smoky Drinky Bar, in ways that they never possibly could before. This is a new sort of society. Once again its development will be an evolutionary process. And one never knows where such evolutionary processes will lead, as I was writing only yesterday: they can’t be planned.

The War on Smoking has become the war of a paid, organised, lumbering, centralised, antismoking bureaucracy against a volunteer, dispersed, ubiquitous, guerrilla army of smokers. And it’s one in which Tobacco Control is losing the megaphone mainstream media on which they have relied for the past century to promulgate their doctrines. And it’s also one in which they are losing the moral high ground, as they commit greater and greater atrocities against smokers, and tell bigger and bigger lies. And it’s one in which they have unnecessarily made themselves far too many enemies.

It’s an asymmetric war. And it’s going to go on being fought for a very long time.

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Why Tobacco Control Must Be Destroyed

I was writing yesterday that Tobacco Control was engaged in a eugenic social programme. They have a social goal which they pursue with singular determination: they’re trying to create a “smoke-free” society.

Eugenic breeding programmes are ones in which plants or animals are selectively bred to produce desirable characteristics of one sort or other. For example wheat is selectively bred to produce large ears, or sheep are bred to be covered with lots of wool, and horses are bred to gallop at high speed, and so on. The selection process is one in which only wheat and sheep and horses with more desirable characteristics are permitted to reproduce.

Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species opens with a discussion of such eugenic breeding programmes, before he turns his attention to the variation of plants and animals in the natural world, that he calls Natural Selection.

Without further reference to Darwin, I’d like to consider undirected variation in the natural world. Let’s imagine a world in which initially all cats are black, and the cats reproduce over time to produce successive generations of black cats. And let’s further suppose that from time to time, quite by chance, black cats give birth to red cats or blue cats or green cats. And let’s also suppose that when a red cat appears, it breeds true thereafter, producing subsequent generations of red cats. And blue cats generate blue cats. And green cats generate green cats.

Over time the original black cat would have many descendants. Its family tree would show the different coloured cats branching off from the original black cat.

And then let us suppose that there is an extinction event, such that all the variant cats die off except one particular variant (green cats). And the green cats go on thereafter to reproduce and also generate occasional variant cats. The cause of the extinction event might be absolutely anything. It might, for example, be that the light in which they are living turns from white to green, and all cats except green cats appear to be black cats, and the black cats are all eaten by black-cat-eating dogs. If the light had turned pink, only the pink cats would survive.

The important thing about this is that it’s not possible to know in advance which cats are going to survive a major extinction event like this. Maybe they’ll all be wiped out. Or maybe most of them will survive. But the more different kinds of cats that there are, the more likely that at least some of them will survive. For if there had only been the one kind of cat, an extinction event that killed off that kind of cat would kill off all cats.

Now an eugenic breeding programme operates in the opposite sense. In such a programme, you begin with a wide diversity of different types, and you breed out all those types with undesirable characteristics, leaving only one type. So if you have a population of cats of different colours, and you want only black cats, then you prevent all the red and green and blue cats from breeding, leaving only the black ones. You engage in an extermination programme.

In the natural world, it is not known in advance which plants and animals will survive some future extinction event. But in the case of an eugenic programme, there is a particular sort of plant or animal that is intended to be produced. And in the case of the Tobacco Control eugenic social programme, the desired human type is a non-smoker (and probably also a non-drinker, and a vegetarian, most likely a slim one too).

Now it makes sense to breed plants and animals to improve their characteristics (as seen from a human point of view). Humans want wheat with large ears and grains, sheep with lots of wool, and powerful or fast horses, and so on. But it doesn’t make sense for humans to select or breed humans with desirable characteristics, unless such humans are going to be used in the same way as plants and animals – e.g. as slaves. For if humans are not to be slaves, then one should encourage the widest possible variety of different humans. You’ll want black ones, white ones, yellow ones, green ones. And you’ll want tall ones and short ones. And fat ones and thin ones. And smart ones and stupid ones. And you’ll do this because you don’t know in advance of some future extinction event which ones are going to survive. The one thing you don’t want is one single kind of human, because that way you’ll guarantee the extinction of humanity.

And the attempt by Tobacco Control (and also Public Health) to engage in a social engineering programme that discriminates against smokers, drinkers, and fat people is clearly one which aims at creating a society in which only a very few (perhaps only one) kinds of people will be found. There will be no smokers, no drinkers, no fast food eaters, and no fat people. Their desired world is one in which diversity is minimized. And it’s precisely this sort of monoculture, in which everyone is exactly the same, which is likely to experience sudden and complete extinction. We should not be minimizing variety: we should be maximizing it. So the eugenic goals of Tobacco Control are utterly misguided. They can only lead to disaster.

And furthermore Tobacco Control’s eugenic social programme is inherently murderous in nature. All eugenic programmes are murderous in nature. For they all entail stopping or preventing or suppressing or killing undesirable plants or animals or people. They all entail mass murder. Public Health is essentially engaged in the mass murder of smokers, drinkers, and fat people. They are only concerned with maintaining the health of approved kinds of people, not with public health in its widest possible, all-inclusive sense.

And in addition Tobacco Control clearly regards many people (most people) as their slaves or servants. They wish to have control over them. And they wish to exert a control so complete as to be able to direct them in most personal and intimate ways – in what they eat and drink, and also probably speak and write. Tobacco Control is the enemy of freedom.

And this is why Tobacco Control and Public Health must be destroyed. They are the enemies of all humanity – all humanity in its most widely variegated kinds. They are the enemies of black and white, short and tall, fat and thin. Everyone – and not just smokers – should recognise them as dangerous enemies who must be defeated and utterly suppressed. These eugenicists (and only these eugenicists) must be themselves subjected to the exact same eugenic treatment that they subject everyone else.

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Know Your Enemy

And as far as I’m concerned Tobacco Control and Public Health and the World Health Organisation are my enemies. They’re trying to eradicate smokers like me. They’re also trying to eradicate drinkers and fat people. I think that if they could simply exterminate the lot of us, they would. Because they’re eugenicists who have the goal of creating a particular sort of world, a world in which there are no smokers, no drinkers, and no fat people. And the only way of creating such a world is to exterminate those with these undesirable traits. After all, if you want to breed black-and-white cats, then you’ll pick out from the litter those that are most black-and-white, and dispose of (i.e. kill) all the rest. And by selective breeding, you’ll maybe end up with just black-and-white cats.

I’m not a eugenicist, because I don’t have a goal of any particular ideal world. I don’t even have a vision of a counter-utopia that is exclusively populated by fat, boozy smokers. I think there should be the widest possible diversity in the ways people go about their lives, and the widest possible diversity in the beliefs and opinions they hold. I don’t want a one-size-fits-all society. And it seems to me very important that there should be such diversity, because one-size-fits-all monocultures, where everyone drinks water from the same well, are ones which are likely to face complete extinction when the well becomes poisoned.

In trying to eradicate smoking and drinking and eating, Public Health is trying to create just such a monoculture. Public Health is the enemy of diversity and plurality. And I think that, it’s important to know your enemy. It’s important to find out how he thinks, and what he is likely to do.

I rather had the sense yesterday, listening to Duncan Selbie addressing Public Health England, of attending a Nazi party rally in which his was the role of “leader”. And in so doing, I felt that I was beginning to enter a little bit into the strange wonderland of the Tobacco Control/Public Health mindset. For example:

11:30 “Some people say that Public Health England shouldn’t interfere in the lives of people. I have teenage sons and they tell me this on a regular basis.”

Doesn’t that illustrate the paternalistic attitude of Tobacco Control? Selbie imagines that the relationship of PHE to the people of England is the same as that of a father to his sons. How does such a delusion arise? When did PHE start believing that they were in the business of “keeping the country safe”?

4:40 “At every age people are living longer and healthier than ever before.  It would be quintessentially British to not recognise that that’s good. But of course we know that you have to go a bit deeper to get a real sense of what’s happening with the health of the people. And that the gap between the affluent and the poor, their health, the poor are only where the affluent were 20 years ago. And that the gap between the poor and the affluent is either stable or getting wider. In other words, everybody’s living longer, but longer in poor health. And the reasoning for this, or what’s underlying all this, is of course what’s the contribution that healthcare can make, and we think that’s around 20% of what matters – the treatment of poor health . And then there are the choices people make, the 4 big choices, about whether you smoke, how much and what you eat, whether you take any exercise, and how much you drink. And those are also affected by income. Everybody’s got choices, but the choices are wider dependent on your income. Income and outcome are highly correlated. I think we’re changing. I think people’s understanding is improving all the time. It’s maybe another 5 years, maybe 10 years, before this becomes normal for people to talk about it.”

This “gap” between the poor and the affluent is one that Selbie returns to again and again. It suggests that he’s some sort of socialist who wants a society in which the not just health inequalities have been eradicated, bur also wealth inequalities.

These paternalists think that Public Health is about more than caring for people in poor health. It’s now being extended to the choices that people outside the healthcare system are making, and in particular whether those people smoke, drink, eat, or exercise.  Why are these the 4 Big Choices? Isn’t there anything else that people do that matters? For example, personal hygiene and regular bathing used once to be regarded as vitally important. And so also did regular bowel movements, with constipation being regarded as a terrible affliction. Why has the focus shifted to beer, cigarettes, and fast food? Is it just a medical fad, and in 20 years time it’ll be video games and micro-drones and global cooling that will dominate the Public Health landscape?

8:30 “Muir Gray says the new old age is 90, and if you’re not well before 90 it’s your own fault. I mean this whole idea of 65 is just so sort of not with the program.”

This is a new name: Muir Gray. The new old age is 90? I grew up in a world in which life expectancy was the biblical three-score-years-and-ten, 70 years. I celebrated my arrival there earlier this year.  Now, all of a sudden, we have yet another mad doctor, Muir Gray, telling us that old age is now 90, and if we don’t live that long it’s our own fault. They’ve moved the goalposts. Isn’t it odd that it’s the generation who smoked and drank and ate the most which has been living the longest? Doesn’t that suggest that, if everyone’s living longer, it has very little to do with minimizing the consumption of those things?

Sod 70: Using Research Evidence to Push Problems of Aging to Our 90s

There’s plenty to explore in the camp of the enemy.

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Overpaid, Parasitic Quangocrat

Hat tip to Chris Snowdon, who has denied calling people who work in Public Health England (12:50) “insufferable bastards,” although he wished he had.

I often wonder what sort of things antismokers say to each other in their Tobacco Control conferences, and so I listened withe great interest to Duncan Selbie’s welcome address at a recent Public Health England conference.

It was probably one of the most dispiriting and lacklustre speeches I’ve had the misfortune to listen to. And it was probably one of the most incoherent as well. The speech lasted for almost 30 minutes, but it’s substantive content could have been summarised in 3 minutes. And it was accompanied by long meaningless pauses and curiously lifeless gestures.

I’ve taken the trouble to transcribe parts of it. Exhibit A:

13:50 “In Public Health, if you’re not where others aren’t, you’re in the wrong place. Think about it. We deal in futures that haven’t yet happened, largely with other people’s money. If we’re not annoying somebody concurrently(?) about something, we’re not doing our job. The health of the people is what we’re concerned with, and how we close that outrageous gap. We will not close that gap by doing what we’ve always done, to quote Einstein. We need to take some risks. We need to do some things differently. And I’m not preaching at you about that, because I know that’s what you do. And I’m incredibly proud of what our public health colleagues have done in particular in local government, an extraordinary achievement…”

As he spoke, I kept wondering not only what each sentence meant, but also how one sentence led to the next. Take the first sentence: “if you’re not where others aren’t, you’re in the wrong place.” What the heck does that mean? Does it mean anything? And then the second sentence: “Think about it.” Think about what? Think about the meaningless thing you just said? And the third sentence: “We deal in futures that haven’t yet happened, largely with other people’s money.” Well, the future is by definition something that hasn’t yet happened. How do you “deal” with these futures “using other people’s money”? Why can’t you use your own money?

The entire speech consists of a series of banal. meaningless non-sequiturs.

15:50 “How do we reach and hold and be meaningful to people in the lifes they’re leading.”

I suppose this means that at present you’re not reaching, holding, or being meaningful to people. Why am I not in the least bit surprised? Next time I’m in the Smoky Drinky Bar I must ask Bucko and Ross and Brigitte whether I’m “reaching, holding, or being meaningful” to them. And maybe next time I shop at Tesco I should ask the checkout girl the same question.

19:00 “Four priorities: We need to get smoking out of England. That 15% at the moment is fabulous but of course it belies variation, quite extraordinary variation. And we need the NHS to treat smokers as a medical intervention, when you’re in a bed. One in four people in a hospital bed today smoked. Less than one in thirteen, one in thirteen, has a conversation with a doctor or a nurse or any health care professional.”

I suppose that means that he wants the NHS to bully and browbeat smokers as they’re lying in hospital beds.

22:30 “I spent 11 years in psychiatry. And people are dying about 20 years earlier on average, if you have a severe mental health problem, and that can’t be right. The principal reason for this – I know there are a lot of reasons for this – but they smoke at twice the rate of people who don’t have mental health problems. We’re not addressing the physical health of people with mental health problems. We’re not paying enough attention to helping them to get into work, to have a reason for getting up in the day, enough money to live on, friendship, in their lifes. So everything that we’ve been reflecting on in these few minutes is ex.. erm, erm,.. more … erm, erm… for people who have mental problems. And I think we should be aiming to half the gap for people who have mental health problems in their expectations of life and their expectations of good health”

It seems that for Selbie, physical health includes having a job that gives you a reason to get out of bed in the morning, and lets you earn some money, and make some friends. Is it the job that’s supposed to supply the friends, or is it the money? Or is it just getting out of bed?

Towards the end of this rambling, incoherent speech, he declares:

24:35 “It is my honour to lead.”

With “leaders” like Duncan Selbie, I feel sure that Public Health England will be led nowhere at all. Which is probably – in fact, most certainly – a very good thing.

The speaker who followed Selbie spoke with far greater force and conviction. But he uttered a series of even more densely convoluted banalities, so that within a few sentences I had no idea at all what he was talking about.

And the woman who spoke after him, in a pinched nasal sort of voice, looked forward to (31:36) “productive, healthy ageing.” Is ageing ever “healthy”? Isn’t ageing usually accompanied by a decline in both physical and mental health? And doesn’t it invariably end in death? So what on earth might “healthy ageing” be?

But I at least learned that these conferences are the occasion on which a great many empty platitudes are mouthed at considerable length. So why does anyone go to them? The answer probably lies in the pay these people get: who would turn down the opportunity to earn £220,000 just for spouting a load of meaningless nonsense? And who would turn down the opportunity to listen to a load of meaningless nonsense if they’re being paid to do so? And there seem to have been some 200 people who were listening to this drivel, presumably all PHE employees:

And Selbie assured us that that there were more listening elsewhere – bored, fidgeting, and waiting for the lunch break when they could sneak off somewhere for a pint and a cigarette and a good laugh at what they’d just been listening to.

There can be little doubt that Duncan Selbie is an overpaid, parasitic quangocrat. But did I think he was an “insufferable bastard”? Not really. I ended up feeling rather sorry for the poor, inadequate man on the stage, waving his lifeless arms. I rather wanted some nurse to climb up onto the podium, interrupt his rambling monologue, and lead him by the arm back to the psychiatric institution from which he had escaped, and where he was being treated for suffering from the delusion that he was the leader of Public Health England.


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Civil War in Europe

James Delingpole:

“Civil war is coming to Europe,” a German city politician told me this week.

The gist of his argument:

It is a simple, observable truth that most of our governing class – at every level, from the supranational (UN; EU), the national, to the local (councils, senior police, etc) – have bought into the idea that mass immigration and the formation of parallel communities by unintegrated Muslims is an inevitability which cannot be challenged too hard.

It’s not at all where the people are – hence the Brexit vote, hence Donald Trump, hence the wave of populist upstarts from Matteo Salvini in Italy to Viktor Orban in Hungary – but it’s definitely where most of those in charge of us are.

And this is why there is going to be a civil war.

I’ve been predicting much the same thing, and for much the same reason. Only I’ve tended to see the European situation as more like that of pre-revolutionary France (or even pre-revolutionary America): a revolt by ordinary people against an remote, arrogant, unrepresentative political aristocracy.

What started out as the European Economic Community gradually evolved over half a century into a monolithic European Union. It became, as Mikhail Gorbachev once observed, a replica of the Soviet Union. There were many differences, of course. Industry was not taken into state ownership, and governments were democratically elected, but more and more power became concentrated at the centre, with state control being exerted through innumerable rules and regulations enacted in Brussels. The European Commission is an unelected politburo. And when they meet as they periodically do, they resemble the Soviet politburo atop Lenin’s tomb during MayDay parades.

They are about as remote from the peoples of Europe as Brezhnev and Kosygin were remote from the peoples of the Soviet Union. They are also equally unrepresentative.

And having expanded almost as rapidly as the Soviet Union, the European Union is now trying to prevent member states breaking away from its asphyxiating imperium.

Nobody should be surprised at the emergence of Viktor Orban in Hungary as a powerful critic of the EU. Hungarians have been doing this sort of thing for a very long time. Back in 1956, Hungarians revolted against their communist government, and were suppressed by force. And now they are revolting against the European Union.

Same goes for the Czech Republic. The Prague Spring of 1968 saw another revolt against a communist government. This revolt was also suppressed by force.

And then also there was Solidarity in Poland in 1980.

All these former eastern bloc countries have a history of resistance to domination. Back then they were revolting against the Soviet Union: now they’re revolting against the European Union.

It’s unlikely that the EU will use military force to suppress any revolt, if only for the simple reason that there isn’t a European army yet. It has other economic means of exerting control over member states that attempt to escape (as Greece found out, and as Britain will most likely find out soon as well).

What seems most likely to happen in Europe is that, in one country after another, nationalist anti-EU governments will get elected, and the “civil war” will be largely confined in the corridors of power in Brussels. And the left wing, progressive European political class will be gradually replaced by a right wing, conservative European political class, with power being returned to the constituent nation states of Europe from the over-dominant centre in Brussels. And, who knows, rather than completely disintegrating, maybe Europe will return to being a community of self-governing nation states with their own currencies and borders rather than a union of nation states with a single currency, open borders, and a central government in Brussels.

And when this happens, and the French franc and the German mark are re-issued, and European states become fully self-governing again, I suspect that it is unlikely that all these states will re-enact the smoking bans that were foisted upon them by the previous progressive, globalist, utopian, leftist European political class. For smoking bans are always the result of the exertion of top down control by a political elite who think they know what’s good for the people that they are supposed to represent.

For the growing revolt against the EU is a demand for representation. As a British smoker who has been exiled to the outdoors in his own country, I want political representation that I’m currently not getting from any of the British mainstream political parties: Conservative, Labour, or Liberal Democrat. For these parties are all composed of interchangeable politicians who all share the same progressive, centrist, globalist, top-down-controlling instincts. They don’t want to represent anybody. And that’s why I’ll vote for more or less anyone else (e.g. UKIP) who looks likely to represent people like me. And if one third of Europeans are smokers (and in eastern Europe there are more than that) there are 150 million European smokers like me, waiting for the party that will speak for them, and give them back their pubs and bars and bistros and restaurants.

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Harm, Hurt, Pain, and Grief

I began listening yesterday to a podcast of Chris Snowdon in conversation with James Delingpole. Near the beginning, Snowdon’s new book, Killjoys, got plugged:

Eating sugary food, drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes are legal activities. But politicians still use the law to discourage them. They raise their price, prohibit or limit their advertisement, restrict where they can be sold and consumed, and sometimes ban them outright. These politicians thereby violate John Stuart Mill’s famous principle that people should be free to do whatever they like, provided they harm no one but themselves. Why? What can justify these paternalistic policies? Killjoys reviews the full range of justifications that have been offered: from the idea that people are too irrational to make sensible decisions to the idea that they are effectively compelled by advertising to harm themselves. The author, Christopher Snowdon, exposes the logical or factual errors that undermine each purported justification. He thus provides a comprehensive critique of the health paternalism that has been adopted by governments around the world.

I haven’t read the book, but the comments by Snowdon and Delingpole in the podcast, and the outline description above, were thought-provoking enough to prompt a few questions.

The first is that if “people are too irrational to make sensible decisions”, would that surely not mean that those who wish to compel them to make sensible decisions are equally irrational, because they also are people? Why should we suppose that all rationality resides with the reforming killjoys, and all irrationality with smokers and drinkers and tubbies? Isn’t it more likely that they are all equally irrational, or equally rational?

My second question is: Does advertising actually compel anyone to do anything? Advertisements inform potential buyers of the availability of some product. And they may do so repetitively. But if I repeatedly see an advertisement for, say, Guinness, is it true that after a few months or years I will eventually succumb and go and buy myself a pint of Guinness? Does mere repetition serve to breed conformity? Isn’t it just as likely to breed resistance? There are some people who seem to believe that capitalism is driven by advertising, and that but for advertisements nobody would buy anything. I am not one of those people.

And my third question is: Why is Chris Snowdon appealing to John Stuart Mill and his famous principle that people should be free to do whatever they like, provided they harm no one but themselves? Is this not an appeal to authority? John Stuart Mill died some 150 years ago. He’s a contemporary of Charles Darwin and Karl Marx, both of which are often treated as equally illustrious authorities. Can we please forget about all these Bearded Dead White Men (both Darwin and Marx sported majestic beards, although Mill did not, and this may explain his comparative obscurity) and come up with a few new arguments to counter the army of killjoys invading the world? Or at least rewrite and rephrase the arguments these philosophers employed?

And my fourth question is: What is “harm”?  There used to be an aphorism that was often repeated during my childhood, which went:

Sticks and stones
May break my bones.
But words will
Never hurt me.

But these days, in a world full of snowflakes bent on no-platforming anyone who says anything disagreeable to them, it would seem that words have become the most hurtful things of all. We must all watch what we say lest we offend somebody or other with our words. But I continue to cleave to the aphorism above: Real hurt is broken bones, not hurt feelings.

Or, putting it another way, let us suppose that some man loses his wife in a train crash, and seeks compensation from the railway company for her loss, citing all the cooking and cleaning and general housekeeping she used to do for him, and which he must now do himself. Could he also seek a substantial sum to offset the intense grief and sorrow that he felt (and continues to feel) upon her death? Or, supposing that she never did any cooking or cleaning or housekeeping, could he reasonably seek compensation to offset solely the grief and sorrow and loneliness that attended her death?

If the answer to this question is “Yes, he is entitled to seek compensation for his grief and sorrow”, then when millions of people experience grief and sorrow at the death of celebrities (Michael Jackson comes to mind, for no particular reason) might they also not seek compensation for their grief and sorrow as well?

And to push it a step further, if some people attending the Shakespeare tragedy Romeo and Juliet experience intense grief and sorrow at the deaths of both Romeo and Juliet at the end of the play, and leave the theatre sobbing, should they not be entitled to claim compensation from the theatre management for the suffering that has been caused to them? Should not all those who leave the theatre with tears streaming down their faces be at least be given their money back? And if not their money back, should they not all at least be given complementary handkerchiefs to wipe away their tears?

And if in this last case we deny that theatre-goers deserve any compensation for their grief, shouldn’t we also deny any compensation to Michael Jackson fans and widowers for their grief as well? In fact, should we not disregard all such feelings when counting the real cost of some event.

Does Chris Snowdon address any of these questions in his book? There is only one way to find out. I must buy the book.

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