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.