One Year On

I started this blog exactly a year ago. Today I’ve been wondering how much has changed in the interval.

Not much, it seems.

I suppose that the most obvious change is that the Labour government has gone. For good I hope. But there’s no sign that the new coalition government is going to repeal or even relax the smoking ban. No change there.

But there are signs of change elsewhere. Global Warming may seem to have nothing to do with smoking bans, but there are many structural similarities. Both entail trace amounts of chemical compounds in the atmosphere, supposedly posing sufficient threat to require radical government measures.

But as far as Global Warming goes, the Climategate scandal has brought a collapse in public belief in the supposed threat of carbon dioxide. And that’s new. Yet there’s little sign so far that governments have also changed their minds. Most seem as determined as ever to press ahead with mad schemes. It’s going to be interesting to see how it plays out.

Climate scepticism has been almost entirely internet-driven. The internet has undermined the concerted Global Warming propaganda of the mainstream media. It seems that it’s no longer possible for the MSM to shape public opinion. The corporate news media have been defeated by a global network of largely unpaid activists.

It’s not the first time this has happened. The internet was largely responsible for revealing in 2003 that Iraq had no WMDs. It took another year or two before the MSM fully took this on board. The MSM used once to lead, but now it follows the internet. And that’s one reason why the MSM is dying.

My hope is that the same thing will happen with smoking bans as with global warming and Iraq’s WMDs. And that it will be through the internet that public awareness of the junk science underlying smoking bans will be raised, and of the destructive effects of smoking bans upon the hospitality industry and ordinary people’s social lives revealed. Because the MSM right now is just repeating the lies of antismoking organisations.

And this does seem to be gradually happening. When I first got involved in the smoking ban issue on blogs and message boards, back in 2005, antismokers seemed to outnumber smokers. Now antismokers seem to dwindling in numbers, and the numbers of smokers multiplying. When I started this blog, I expected to get quite a few critical comments from antismokers. Over the past year, I’ve had hardly any such comments.

In part I suspect that this is because most casual antismokers didn’t gain very much from smoking bans. Many smokers, by contrast, lost a great deal. So smokers have a much stronger incentive to become activists than antismokers. And anyway more and more antismokers can see the iniquity of making no provision whatsoever for smokers.

Increasingly, the only people who are pushing the antismoking message are the hard core of professional antismokers. People like ASH’s Deborah Arnott. And these are people who all have a direct financial interest in keeping up the War on Smokers. They live off it. And many of these people are right now facing the likelihood that their government funding is going to dry up any day now. Because bankrupt governments simply can’t afford such luxuries.

So my hope for the next year is that government funding of antismoking gets slashed to the bone, and most of these professional busybodies just shut up, because nobody’ll be paying them to peddle their lies any more. And if that happens, pretty much the only voices left will be those of determined smokers. And they will be harder and harder to ignore.

I think also that the behaviour of smokers has been changing. In my experience, when the smoking bans came in, smokers joined smokers’ rights groups like Forces and F2C. And in these forums, smokers met with smokers, like persecuted Christians in the catacombs of ancient Rome. But now, increasingly, they’re coming up into the open air, and creating their own blogs and organising meetings. And this seems to me to be a very good development. It puts smokers’ grievances out in public where non-smokers and anti-smokers can read them. And smokers are beginning to network together not just in countries like Britain, but right around the world. A global smokers’ network is beginning to emerge.

Organisation-minded people usually want to try to create a single organisation or umbrella group into which to induct smokers. A sort of global Smokers United, with a president and treasurer and all the rest. But I suspect that the emerging global smokers’ network is self-organising. It has the logic of a swarm. First a few angry wasps take off, and start flying around. And then others join them. They re-inforce each other’s anger. The swarm gets bigger and bigger. And then, without any central guidance, the entire swarm heads off in pursuit of its perceived enemy.

And this seems to be happening. There seem to be quite a few more smokers’ blogs and websites and meetings now than there was a year ago. The swarm is growing. Yet nobody is singing from the same single hymn sheet. Everybody brings their own unique perspective and insight and experience and advice. There isn’t any ‘party line’. Or if there is one, it’s probably something that gradually emerges, entirely spontaneously.

And another thing that’s happening is that angry smokers are meeting up with other angry people. As I’ve pointed out, there seem to be many strong affinities between global warming sceptics and angry smokers. There are even stronger affinities between smokers and drinkers and all the other victims of lifestyle medicine junk science. The growing swarm of angry smokers may well be set to merge with a growing swarm of angry drinkers and fat people. If that happens, then the resulting swarm will be correspondingly larger and more powerful, and not pressing just one single issue, but a whole raft of issues. It’ll be a political movement, possibly with a broadly Libertarian flavour.

At the current growth rate, in a few years time, there’ll be a huge international network of smokers, drinkers, fat people, and other assorted despised misfits that it will be impossible for governments to ignore. They’ll drown out more or less everybody. They’ll be unstoppable.

And the message and goals of the swarm? I can only give my own view. The repeal of all smoking bans will not be enough. There must be a radical reform of the medical establishment, which is largely responsible for the war on smokers and drinkers and fat people. “Lifestyle” medicine, and the junk science underpinning it, must be extirpated. Doctors must go back to treating individual people for their individual maladies, and stop trying to treat entire societies. More generally, the whole of science needs to be reformed, and new standards of probity established, and pseudoscience of every variety evicted from within it. And in the wider political arena it needs to be re-established that it is up to individual people to conduct their lives in the way they choose, and that it is the primary business of government to help them to do this, and not to tell them how they should live their lives.

Something along those lines. It may seem optimistic to be thinking about such long term goals right now, but if the swarm continues to grow, and the voices of smokers and their allies grow louder and louder, such questions will loom larger and larger.

Not much has changed in a year. But things are changing, and the rate of change is rising. And some of the changes will be quite unexpected.

About Frank Davis

smoker
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20 Responses to One Year On

  1. junican says:

    I like your thinking, Frank, and I feel sure that you are right. But, I think that there is a serious hinderence to the reforms that you suggest. The hinderence is the sheer laziness of politicians. I don’t intend to go into detail, but it is clear that these people cannot think beyond the next election. Also, that they want quick fixes. One might reasonably ask why is it that petrol is still a commodity on which duty is levied? One can hardly believe that it is still a luxury, can one? It may be a great producer of revenue, but it must surely be a cost which diminishes our competitiveness in the world. It really ought not to be that difficult to find other things on which to raise a levy (like ‘fashion’), and remove altogether the levy on petrol. As a tightly knit community, our competitiveness in the world can only be improved by getting rid of petrol duty. Unless I have got things seriously wrong.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The Swarm? Glad you got round to giving it a name
    Where do I sign up to be in this swarm?
    I suspect that swarmers might well be on the higher earning end of the scale. Personally I’d be quite happy to take out private medical care if the NATIONAL Health Service won’t treat me – but I fucking strongly object for paying for the NHS that invents drinking rules and then applies them arbitarily.
    That’s the huge problem with the NHS, too many people forget that it is not free, we pay for this incompetent monstrosity (heavily). A lot of the bullshit about the NHS would disappear if the method of payment was directly linked to the use of the system.
    I’d like a website that one would naturally go to, to find the truth about Smoking / Drinking / Eating / AGW / immigration / Poverty / Unemployment stats etc. Things that you might once have trusted the government over, but those days ended somewhere between WW I and WW II (is my guess).
    The individual sites exist, we need a meta-site that roots info requests to reliable sources. The problem is the judgement of the quality of the destination sites. UK News Network is pretty interesting, but suffers from being on the fringes of the nutter mongverse; for every 3-4 news items that you’d be hard pressed to find elsewhere, you get a illuminati story (or some such). I really hope that they evolve to be an authoritative source, but we’ll have to see…
    Anyway, nice post and “Vive le swarm” / “Vive le essaim”
    Gendeau

  3. Frank Davis says:

    Re: The Swarm? Glad you got round to giving it a name
    Where do I sign up to be in this swarm?
    You don’t sign up anywhere. You just take off and fly around, mostly in circles.
    I’d like a website that one would naturally go to, to find the truth about Smoking / Drinking / Eating / AGW / immigration / Poverty / Unemployment stats etc.
    There’ll never be one. Either that, or there will be thousands of them, all telling different truths.
    The individual sites exist, we need a meta-site that roots info requests to reliable sources. The problem is the judgement of the quality of the destination sites.
    The swarm (as I see it) has no centre, no authoritative source. The swarm is made up of individuals who are making their own judgments. Its collective wisdom is simply the sum total, or perhaps the average, of its individual wisdom.
    Ultimately it is the individual himself who is the arbiter of what’s right or wrong, good or bad, true or false.
    I think that’s the way the internet works. It consists of individual people expressing opinions, and other individual people reading those opinions. If they like what they read, they will come back and read some more. They trust some people, and not others. All concerned are making personal judgments all along the line, and subtly adjusting their opinions along the way.
    The MSM model is one of central authority. One reads the Times or Nature or Le Monde to learn the truth. But this authoritative universe is breaking down. The authorities have been showing themselves to be all too frequently corrupt (e.g Climategate). In such circumstances, people can only fall back on their own judgment, and upon the judgment of people whom they trust, for one reason or other.
    At least, that’s what seems to me to be happening. It’s just my individual opinion. I can offer no authoritative support for it.
    Frank

  4. Frank Davis says:

    Petrol duty sounds like a question for the Taxpayers’ Alliance, rather than me. I agree about the politicians. And the next election is quite likely to come sooner than we think.
    Frank

  5. Anonymous says:

    Since the smoking ban is based on crap research, I’d like to see an easily accessible, authoritative and independent site that exposes it. I really, really want the lie of passive smoking rammed down people’s throats and those who perpetrated it publically discredited and humiliated. At the moment I think that only smokers who care about the ban bother to look for critiques of the research.
    Jay

  6. Anonymous says:

    Can’t believe its only a year you have been writing this blog. I feel as though I’ve been reading it for ages but then the smoking ban feels as though it has lasted an eternity. Was there really a time when one could quietly light a cigarette in a cafe, station, pub etc without comment or scrutiny ? What were all those people, who now find it neccessary to make aggressive and offensive comments, doing before? Did the Ash zealots have real jobs back then? Did Liam Donaldson actually treat patients ?
    Anyway Frank, thank you for all your thought provoking pieces and for sharing your thoughts. While perhaps you may wonder if it does any good, it certainly lifts my spirits to know that there are plenty of others out there ready to join your swarm who are as angry as you and me. The sadness you feel over social circles splintered, friendships weakened, isolation increased, I feel too. When did the government get a mandate to enforce universal and eternal health ?
    Please keep writing
    Your firm fan
    Banshee

  7. Frank Davis says:

    Thank you for reading.
    Frank

  8. Anonymous says:

    I think it’s an excellent blog, thoughtful, well-written and passionate. And I try to do my bit to contribute to the “angry swarm”. Change happens in unexpected ways, but happen it inevitably does. At the moment, for example, we are seeing the Euro, one of the greatest shibboleths of the Righteous, slowly and agonisingly fall apart.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Angry Swarm
    Here is one thing I did today as a part of this angry swarm. Perhaps it means something; maybe it does not. Nevertheless, I was so very angry at the headlines for the young woman who died of pneumonia five months after a lung transplant from a smoker that I needed to do something. I wrote this email to several organ donation sites.
    I have been designated an organ donor since I first got my driver’s license at 16. I am also a smoker. Recently, I read of the outrage where a young woman died of pneumonia five months after a lung transplant from a smoker. My reason for being a donor is to offer my healthy organs to anyone who might need them; however, the recent outrage and media attention against smoker donations has me rethinking that. I would not want to be a part of the smoker denormalization movement even in death. If organizations like yours choose to remain silent about the viability of smoker’s organs, I will be forced to end my lifelong membership as an organ donor. The thought of donating life to someone who would then curse me for doing so is atrocious. Do you plan to speak up loudly or will you remain silent and lose a large percentage of possible donors who happen to be smokers or former smokers?

  10. Anonymous says:

    Smoking policy
    Smoke from tobacco in a decently ventilated venue is a statistically insignificant health risk
    http://fightingback.homestead.com

  11. Anonymous says:

    For those wanting scientific sources of information on the tobacco control lies and junk science “Forces” (don’t know the link but there’s one from the Freedom 2 Choose blog, I think) is escellent. As is “Velvet Glove Iron Fist.”
    Both regularly collate all research on tobacco and do thorough, scientifically sound fiskings of whatever tripe the tobacco control lobby come up with.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Whoops. I see both are linked to from Frank’s own site. Whatever, I recommend people who are interested in this sort of thing pay them both a visit. Dr Siegel’s is another blog that is also excellent, and has the added attraction that he is actually an anti and has worked in tobacco control for 20 years. He is also, however, a scientist, so he spends most of his time slagging off the latest anti “studies” in a desperate attempt to try and keep the anti-movement credible and scientifically sound (a losing battle, of course). As such, despite his credentials, the swivel-eyes loons in tobacco control have pretty much declared war on him despite the fact he’s pro-bans and hates fags. They don’t like the fact that he “does” science, you see….

  13. Anonymous says:

    Frank.
    Once again, I have to split this post because of the character restriction.
    I happened upon your blog about six months ago – maybe longer. What struck me about it was that it was logical and detailed. I found this refreshing, as opposed to the generally emotional presentation of events in the MSM and many other blogs. Is it not true that the MSM’s reporting of events is emotional, rather than intellectual?
    I have this little theory in my mind regarding ‘intelligence’. Many people have said that dolphins, for example, are ‘intelligent’. Many people say that their pet cats or dogs are ‘intelligent’. My thinking is that dolphins, cats and dogs do have a basic level of intelligence which was formerly known as ‘instinct’.
    I think that the word ‘instinct’ was a good word to describe animal intelligence. Everyone accepted it, without examining animal intelligence in any minute way.
    However, it has come to pass that there are those who are unwilling to accept the idea of ‘instinct’ They want everyone to believe that animals (dolphins and whales, for example) are as intelligent as we are, although not quite so advanced. But this idea has fundamental faults. The really fundamental fault is that there is a huge difference between learning how best to achieve an objective, and actual THINKING.
    I like to think that animals have ‘emotional’ intelligence. They can learn how to behave so that they acquire food and grooming – pleasurable things. But they can no more think than the moon can think, or a tree can think. They do not have ‘intellectual’ intelligence.
    What we see in the MSM is akin to the ‘emotional’ intelligence of animals. Even in the so-called ‘quality’ newspapers (such as the Telegraph and the Times), the commentaries are more emotionally based than intellectually based.
    I cannot help but feel that the powers that be know this very well, although they may not express it in this way precisely. It certainly seems to be true that the ‘hype’ re global warming is very much emotional. The really sad thing is that there are so many people who are intellectually intelligent who cannot seem to think beyond their emotional intelligence. The smoking ban is very much a case in point. There is no doubt in my opinion that when MPs debated the ban, few of them were using their ‘intellectual’ brains; most were using their ‘emotional’ brains. I read the debate via the on-line report of Hansard. As I recall, not a single MP asked in the debate what the evidence was that smoking causes lung cancer, heart problems, etc. Or, what evidence there was that passive smoking was in any way harmful. They acted like cats and dogs – they used their ‘emotional’ intelligence.
    We have noticed this also in the on-line debates here and there regarding the passive smoking issue. Rarely does one see an ‘intellectual’ argument for the ban. It is almost always the case that the pro smoking ban people talk about ‘stinks’ etc and the possibility that a relative has died as a result of smoking. There is never a rational argument. All the arguments are emotional.
    CONT in next post……..

  14. Anonymous says:

    And a Year Well Done
    I think I’ve read all of your posts over the past year, Frank, and enjoyed all of them. Your blog posts have become an end of the day ritual for me, because I usually find myself sitting at my computer late at night and that seems to be when usually you post a new piece. So, I often read them before I head off to bed.
    Over the past year, I’ve found a few or your pieces to be beyond good, but exceptional. And I don’t just mean exceptional blog pieces, but pieces of really exceptional writing by any standard. (I don’t recall the title, but your nostalgic piece regarding your grandfather’s battles with the television and car, and the grim-reaper implications of a phone ringing comes to mind.)
    In some instances, you’ve written on a topic I wanted to write about, but never got around to, and I realize that what I would have written wouldn’t have turned out nearly as well as what you’d written.
    Many people aspire to write a novel. While it hasn’t been a consistent narrative on a single theme or topic, you now have a book’s worth of writing material. You’ve written a book of short essays, essentially.
    So, my hat’s off.
    -WS.

  15. Frank Davis says:

    That was all going very well. What happened to part 2? It didn’t get ‘lost in space’, did it?
    I do try to be rational. Idle Theory is, I hope, a rational construction. It is, I like to think, almost a piece of theoretical physics. It is, I sometimes think, about freedom of a particular sort. And a freedom – idleness – that the smoking ban negates.
    And yet the smoking ban is, for me at least, also a matter of powerful emotion. I’m angry about it. And coming up to its third anniversary, I’m still angry about it. And I’m trying to understand my anger. Because I think it’s telling me something about fundamental values of mine. And, because I’m nobody special, fundamental values of everybody else.
    Reason and emotion don’t seem to go very well together. But I believe, with Pascal, that the heart has its reasons.
    Frank

  16. Frank Davis says:

    Re: And a Year Well Done
    You’re no mean writer yourself, Winston. I have similarly enjoyed pieces you’ve written. Perhaps because you often write in a similar exploratory manner, exploring what you think.
    Personally I think I write rather unevenly. Sometimes I like what I’ve written a lot. Sometimes I think it’s just passable. If nothing else, my mood shifts from day to day. And my attention shifts from one thing to another. I pick things up and examine them, and then let them drop back onto the beach. I’m not sure I’ve written a book over this past year.
    Frank

  17. junican says:

    From Junican.
    For the life of me, I cannot understand what happened to Part 2. My habit, if I am writing a piece which might develop, is to write it in a word document and then ‘copy and paste’. If I have to split the text, I create a copy of the document for safety’s sake. The only thing that I can think of as an explanation is that, having ‘selected’ the text that I wanted to copy to your blog, I hit the delete button instead of the copy or paste buttons by mistake.
    To make things worse, I cannot remember what was in Part 2! You know how it is……….a thought develops, and then you lose it. It will probably come back to me a week on Tuesday.
    I think that I went on to consider the idea that our emotions can literally affect the way we think, and that is why people come out with phrases like, “Why was it allowed to happen?” In those cases, of which there are many, it is the animal instinct emotions which are driving the mind and not the intellect. This is not dissimilar to saying stupid things when one is pissed. ‘In vino, veritas’? Well, yes, but in an emotional sense rather than an intellectual sense.
    I think that I went on to say that we who enjoy tobacco must always depend upon the rationality of our arguments against the ban and see off the emotional twaddle (like smells) thereby. That does not mean that emotions do not have their place. The idea that an old soldier has to go outside into the wind and rain for a fag, or not bother going out at all and simply stay at home and wait to die, is emotional. But the reasoning that condemns the idea of forcing people like that outside is not emotional; it is eminently reasonable. The reasoning is that this person faced real and imminent danger to life and limb on our behalf. Real and imminent danger, not some putative danger based upon dodgy statistics, junk science, NHS costs and politician’s vanity, to say nothing of the ‘professionals’ who are making a very nice living out of ‘tobacco control’ as you point out.
    When some dickhead appears on our blogs (if you do not mind me saying that!), by all means call him, or as likely as not ‘her’, a dickhead. People who complain about smells should be told to think with their brains and not with their noses – in no uncertain terms.
    However, the ultimate road to success is to constantly worry away at the dodgy statistics and the junk science, as Climategate has shown us.
    Yes, the MSM is very much in the enthral of the medical profession and the climate profession, but we all know just how fickle the MSM is, do we not? A few days ago, Capello could do no wrong – now he is rubbish and should be sacked. What shite! A perfect example of emotional thinking, but, in the case of the MSM, deliberately employed by people who are using the intellectual brains to sell newspapers!
    We ought not to place our hopes in politicians, but I cannot help my emotional brain hoping that the government will in fact cut back on the fake charities and quangos. But we should not be surprised if nothing happens. The Health Dept is very strong.
    Not a bad reconstruction I think (or hope!).

  18. fatbigot says:

    Many Happy Returns Mr Davis, I enjoy your writing enormously.
    I must raise a quibble with Mr Junican. There is nothing unfair or irrational or emotional about someone saying they do not like the smell of cigarette, cigar or pipe smoke. I will not remain in a room that smells of boiled cauliflower or of builders’ armpits or of stale fish because I find such smells repulsive.
    By all means let people argue for a smoking ban based on smell – it is, after all, the only substantive argument they have. We smokers would still bemoan a ban brought in with popular support based on smell but at least there would be a rational basis behind it and it would be based on truth not lies.

  19. Frank Davis says:

    Thank you, Mr Bigot.
    But I don’t agree that a smoking ban based on smell would be any more justifiable than one based on fake science. Should we make laws on the basis of what we do or don’t like? The prospect of that strikes me as rather terrifying.
    Frank

  20. Anonymous says:

    Dear Fatty (oops! that’s out of order, isn’t it? Isn’t there a law about radical hatred?)
    Joking of course.
    You are quite right. I meant using pongs as a raison de’etre for the smoking ban, and I should have said so, although I thought that was clear in the context.
    My apologies.

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