I’m delighted to announce that a new website, TobaccoControl Tactics, has just been launched. Two press releases are here. I’ve only been very peripherally involved, although the idea for the website may have been first suggested here, back at the beginning of June.
It’s another example of people (mostly smokers) getting together purely voluntarily to make something happen – in this case to create a website resource that brings together counterarguments to the Tobacco Control Industry’s talking points, and in particular to respond directly to the CRUK-funded (and therefore taxpayer-funded) TobaccoTactics website that appeared at the beginning of June. It’s a remarkable achievement for it to have been put together in less than four weeks.
In this respect, it’s a close relative of the ISIS International Social Impact Survey, which I’m helping to co-ordinate, and which I first suggested early in May:
What I was wondering was whether we could use the power of the internet to carry out such a study ourselves. I was thinking of drawing up a standard set of questions to ask smokers. Once the questions had been decided (e.g. Do you think the smoking ban is a) wonderful? b) tolerable? c) awful? ), readers of this blog (and maybe other blogs) would print out the questionnaire, and take it with them when they went out, and would ask smokers they encountered if they would care to answer a few questions in a survey about smoking bans, and if they agreed, ask them the standard set of questions, and note their responses (or let them read and fill in the questionnaire themselves).
Within a few days, some twenty or so volunteers had come forward, and a set of questions was agreed, and then translated into 5 different languages to be used in 7 different countries. The survey is now under way, and we have a website in place for it, where it is hoped that results will be published later on this year.
In both cases, the new development has been driven by the spontaneous energy and enthusiasm of a number of people living all over the world, many of whom have never met one another. I think this has been possible because there are a great many smokers who are very angry at what’s being done to them (I’m one of them), and badly want to do something about it, and in the ISIS survey and Tobacco Control Tactics they found a project into which they could simultaneously throw their energies and employ their various skills. The energy was there, and was just waiting to find an outlet, like water behind a dam.
And it seems to me important that both developments have been entirely spontaneous, with both arising in response to some particular event. In the case of ISIS, it was my response to remarks about surveys by Simon Clark the previous day, with me asking whether we could do our own survey. In the case of Tobacco Control Tactics, it was Wiel Maessen’s response to the appearance of the TobaccoTactics website the day before, asking whether we could set up a similar website. At the beginning of May, I had no plans for any survey of any sort at all. And at the beginning of June, I dare say that Wiel didn’t have any plans for a new website either. But once the ideas were aired, and enthusiastically received, plans quickly began to take shape, formed from out of the responses and remarks and suggestions of numerous people.
Both have also essentially been bottom-up developments, created by equals co-operating voluntarily with each other. This would seem to be in complete contrast to the Tobacco Control Industry, in which more or less everyone is paid (mostly with money looted from smokers). Once people are being paid, then someone has to pay them, and a hierarchy emerges (and probably a set of pay scales), and the entire system operates in a top-down fashion, with orders coming down from whoever holds the purse strings to the employees below. In such an industry, there are no equals, no spontaneity, and most likely little energy or enthusiasm either (as Tobacco Control’s leaden prose regularly demonstrates). And within this hierarchical command structure, furthermore, disobedience is met with harsh punishment – so that when Dr Michael Siegel began to dissent slightly from the TC ‘party line’, he was expelled from Tobacco Control, and denied access to its website. None of which should be any surprise: Tobacco Control‘s very name betrays its megalomaniac aspirations.
Another consequence of the hierarchical command structure of Tobacco Control is that it’s likely to be slow to respond to new developments, or to respond to them in any sort of flexible or innovative way. Tobacco Control is probably a bit rigid and musclebound. And when things start going wrong, fingers start getting pointed, and scapegoats found (always somebody else), as Harley discovered a day or so back, now that Tobacco Control seems to have lost California’s Proposition 29, which would have netted their predatory industry another $735 million.
Although disturbing, Big Tobacco’s big spending spree was not surprising. Veteran campaign-watchers predicted it would happen, and noted that the Prop 29 campaign would need to use its limited funds wisely. “Every dollar will be precious in this campaign,” Doug Heller, executive director of Consumer Watchdog, told the Express two years ago.
Yet records show that Perata squandered significant amounts of cash from the campaign account he established in 2009 on expenditures that had no direct link to the passage of the cancer-research initiative. Moreover, Perata’s wasteful spending could have played a role in the razor-thin defeat of the measure — in that the money was not available to help the tobacco-tax initiative pass.
So I’d like to suggest that our strengths lie in our spontaneity and enthusiasm, and our essentially voluntary association, and above all in our open and flexible response to unfolding events. What we need is a widening informal network of like-minded people in which new ideas, new suggestions, can generate spontaneous enthusiasm, and unleash creative energies in surprising and unexpected ways.
“Only the idle can be at the complete disposal of chance.”
And finally, for no particular reason, courtesy of Leg-iron, Captain Beefheart:
Well, it worked last night. I watched the whole frigging thing.