Yesterday in the comments of his own blog, under a piece by him about a bash that had been held at the Jolly Brewer, Simon Clark wrote:
Truth is, I am delighted that there is another group actively opposed to the smoking ban. It has always been my hope that we can create the same "swarm effect" that ASH boasted about in the infamous "Smoke and mirrors" article that appeared in the Guardian shortly after MPs voted for the smoking ban. To achieve that we need a number of mutually supportive groups all battling together and in the same direction.
The Guardian piece by Deborah Arnott was this one. It gleefully described how relatively small numbers of antismoking activists had managed to split the opposition and create the illusion of strong public support for a smoking ban.
It is essential that campaigners create the impression of inevitable success. Campaigning of this kind is literally a confidence trick: the appearance of confidence both creates confidence and demoralises the opposition. The week before the free vote we made sure the government got the message that we "knew" we were going to win and it would be better for them to be on the winning side.
But campaigning organisations of any sort only need to create a "swarm effect" if they belong to a small minority. They need to make themselves look bigger than they actually are. And to give the antismokers credit, they were very successful at doing this. By getting their members to write in to MPs in parliament, bombarding them with leaflets and letters and appeals and favourable opinion polls, they were able to dupe many MPs into believing that a complete smoking ban was what more or less everybody in the country wanted. What do you do as an MP, when sitting in your Westminster office, you read emails and letters from any number of people calling for a ban, and hardly any protesting against such a ban? You must surely conclude that it’s what the country wants. Even though you spent all your life going to pubs and clubs in which nobody ever complained about smoking. Even though you have never seen any street marches by irate pub-goers demanding a smoking ban.
The truth of the matter is that the 15 million smokers in this country do not need to create a "swarm effect", because they already exist in more than sufficient numbers to create a very real swarm. They constitute a gigantic sleeping wasps’ nest which has begun to awaken from its slumbers in response to the assault that has been launched upon it. The task for smoking activists is not one of creating the impression a "swarm effect", but one of awakening the already-existing swarm. They already have plenty of wasps. It’s just a matter of getting them angrily into the air.
Consider what happens when a sleeping wasps’ nest turns into a whirling cloud of enraged wasps. One angry wasp communicates its anger to other wasps, one at a time. First there’s one angry wasp, and then there are two, and then there are four, and then eight, sixteen, thirty-two, sixty-four, one hundred and twenty-eight, two hundred and fifty six, five hundred and twelve. On and on, until the entire swarm is in the air.
And consider also this. The wasps don’t organise. They don’t meet up at wasp seminars and town hall meetings and pass resolutions. They just get into the air, and sting anything that gets in their way. The cloud of angry wasps is a self-organising attack force. Its overall logic is the logic of its individual members.
This is how the natural world works. It isn’t planned. The rivers that flow through our countryside were not laid out in advance, with posts indicating the future course of the Thames. They are the consequence of the logic of individual molecules of water, which flow downhill, and bind with other molecules of water to create streams, and brooks, that finally unite into mighty rivers, all without any planning whatsoever.
All over this country (and all over the world) there are millions and millions of bullied, resentful smokers who just haven’t got angry enough yet. They should be made angry. They are the wasps that haven’t reached that tipping point where they unsheathe their barbs, fire up the motors of their wings, and angrily take off. But they’re not far off that tipping point.
And when they do take off, it doesn’t really matter what they do. They’ll find something.
Communicate anger. Communicate it to the people around you. Communicate it all around the world. Awaken the swarm.