The following transcript of a recent Tobacco Control Industry meeting has come into my possession. I don’t have a list of the participants. It’s incomplete, but is nevertheless informative.
Transcript of Forum on Blogosphere Counter-Measures.
Richard Doll Building 22 Sep 2012.
S.G. Okay, guys. Let’s get started. We’ll be serving coffee shortly, and I’ll be asking you for your opinions preference-wise there soon. But for now I’d like to start out by sketching out the problem we’ve got here. And it’s that over the past few years a number of blogs have appeared on the world wide web that are critical of Tobacco Control. I usually refer to them as “smokers’ rights organisations.” And their numbers have been rising steadily. And they also have growing numbers of readers. They’re becoming quite influential. I’m sure you’re familiar with some of them.
A.S. Like Velvet Trouser, Iron Leg?
S.G. Yeah, that’s one of them… The meeting we’re having today is to discuss a range of possible counter-measures that we might take against these smokers’ rights blogs. Yes, LB?
L.B. What I find shocking – truly shocking – about many of these blogs is their complete lack of respect for authority, and their utter contempt for the efforts of smoke-free campaigners like ourselves. It’s completely unacceptable, in my view.
S.G. I share your opinion. Yes, DA?
D.A. And the inappropriate language they use. Some of them use lots of F-words and C-words.
L.B. And A-words and B-words and D-words and E-words too, quite often. With both English and American spellings of the A-word.
S.G. Yes, I’ve noticed that too. I’m gonna list a few of the suggestions that have been made so far. And the first suggestion is that we just get these blogs closed down by the appropriate authorities. We can discuss these suggestions at greater length later. Another suggestion is that we associate them with the industry by describing them as Tobacco Industry stooges or front organisations. A third suggestion is that we sabotage or disrupt them.
D.A. DD tried doing this in England, with limited success.
S.G. I know. A fourth suggestion is that we set up rival counter-blogs. Those are the four principal suggestions that we’ve got right now. If anyone has any more ideas, I’d like to hear them. This is the forum for such ideas.
R.W. If I may, I’d like to run an idea up the flagpole.
S.G. What flagpole?
R.W. It’s an imaginary flagpole.
S.G. Okay. So run your imaginary idea up your imaginary flagpole.
R.W. I think we should say that there’s a significant health risk from reading pro-smoking blogs.
S.G. I see. Sorta eighth hand smoke or something. Do we have any research that indicates such a risk?
R.W. Not yet. But we could have a new study by next week.
S.G. How come?
R.W. We could just ask a few people whether they think reading pro-smoking blogs is bad for people’s health. And then we say, “9 out of 10 people say pro-smoking blogs pose health risk.”
S.G. I see. But what if 9 out of 10 people don’t say that.
R.W. You have to ask the right people, obviously.
A.S. I’d like to run another imaginary idea up the imaginary flagpole.
S.G. It’s gonna get pretty crowded up top of that flagpole. Go ahead.
A.S. It follows on from RW’s idea. We should have health warnings put on these blogs.
S.G. Like, “Reading stuff like this can cause heart attacks”?
A.S. Something like that. It could be a background image behind the text. Writing behind the writing.
L.B. Why not on top of the text?
S.G. We’d be violating freedom of speech.
L.B. Okay, then why not an audio warning, with someone saying out loud, “Reading this stuff can cause heart attacks.”
A.S. Shouting out loud, not saying out loud.
L.B. Shouting at them might cause heart attacks too.
S.G. I think both of those are good ideas. But let’s go back to the first four suggestions.
K.R. I think that tying them to Big Tobacco and discrediting them that way is the best route. I do it all the time already. And it seems to me that they must have big money behind them. Some of them put out stuff every day. Don’t tell me that these dickwads are…
K.R. My apologies. Don’t tell me that these D-words are doing it for free. I don’t do anything for free. I don’t even tell my children bedtime stories for free.
E.M. Don’t you? I do. Or at least I did when they were little. How much do charge them?
K.R. I charge them credits. They gain credits by eating their greens and getting good grades at school and keeping their weight down. They can spend those credits on bedtime stories and trips to the movies and so on.
E.M. How fascinating!
D.A. I’d like to discuss the idea of counter-blogging. I think it would be a good idea if we had blogs which sang the praises of smoke-free life.
L.B. And fat-free, sugar-free, and salt-free life.
K.R. It’d be damn expensive. And since Prop 29 went down, we’re broke.
B.F. How do you write a blog about how great smoke-free, fat-free, sugar-free, and salt-free life is? Like, “I went to the park today and there was no smoke in it, just like yesterday and the day before.” It’d make pretty dull reading.
D.A. You wouldn’t have to write about the same thing every day.
B.F. So, like, “I went to the supermarket today, and there was no smoke in it, just like yesterday and the day before.”
D.A. I think you have a very negative attitude.
S.G. Okay, guys. Coffee’s ready. What size cups do you want? Small, smaller, or smallest.
B.F. You don’t have large or medium?
B.F. Can I have a small cup then. With cream and sugar. And a chocolate chip doughnut, if you’ve got one.
L.B. Cream! Sugar! Doughnut! You’ll have a heart attack.
S.G. I’m afraid we don’t have any cream or sugar or doughnuts. We’ve been sugar-free and fat-free and milk-free for years.
D.A. I assume the coffee is decaffeinated.
S.G. Yes, it is.
B.F. How the hell am I supposed to wake up with decaffeinated, sugar-free coffee?
D.A. Language! And you should be wide awake by now. It’s nearly 8 a.m.
B.F. I didn’t get to bed until 1 a.m. last night.
D.A. How dreadful. I was in bed by 9 p.m.
B.F. With KR telling you bedtime stories, no doubt.
D.A. What an outrageous and improper suggestion! How dare you!
S.G. Guys, guys! I don’t have any doughnuts. Can we please get back to the the question of what to do about these pesky blogs.
B.F. What’s the point in drinking decaffeinated coffee? I bet it isn’t even coffee.
D.A. It isn’t actually. It’s made with acorns. Sun-dried Californian acorns.
B.F. See! I told you!
S.G. About the counter-blogs, has anyone tried one yet? I th
That’s where it breaks off. I’m hoping to get hold of the rest of it in due course.