There’s an argument that’s been rumbling on for the past week in the comments under Small Acts of Resistance. It’s between Nightlight and Carol2000. Nightlight thinks that people need to discover that Smoking Is Good For You. Carol thinks that people need to learn that most of the diseases blamed on smoking have viral causes (e.g. Human Papillomavirus and cervical cancer).
I’m sympathetic to both. Most likely Carol is right about what causes disease. After all, the great medical strides taken at the beginning of the last century were the discovery of bacterial and viral causes of disease. The idea that tobacco smoke causes disease is really a reversion to older, more primitive ideas of disease being caused by ‘bad air’ (malaria) or ‘drain air’ (the reason why we have U-bends in drains is to stop ‘drain air’ entering our indoor environment).
And I think Nightlight is right too. Once the idea that tobacco smoke causes disease is dispensed with as a mediaeval throwback, it’s perfectly possible to suppose that smoking in moderation actually is good for you, in all sorts of different ways.
And they’re both arguing over the science. And they’re disagreeing over the science.
But I was wondering today whether the science really matters very much. At one point, Nightlight wrote:
We are discussing here in hope of figuring out how to help fellow smokers who are presently suffering under social, psychological and economic oppression and abuses not seen in the western world since 1930s Germany.
That oppression was, of course, of Jews and Gypsies in Nazi Germany, guided by Nazi racial science.
But does anybody anywhere ever look at Nazi racial science these days? Does anyone study Nazi racial science? Are there any magisterial refutations of Nazi racial science in print anywhere?
Not that I know of. In fact, it’s hard to find anything about Nazi racial science online. It’s a dead science. It seems to have completely vanished.
And if it’s dead, it’s not because it was ever refuted as science in learned journals, but because it led to the murder of millions of people. It’s tainted science.
And that’s all you need to know about it. It resulted in the deaths of millions of people, and that was a terrible crime, and Nazi racial science and eugenics were the ideological framework within which the Nazis carried out those crimes. So the Nazis and Nazi racial science were all consumed together in one single inferno. They both became intolerable and unthinkable at one and the same time.
So nobody has ever trawled through a textbook of Nazi racial science to point out the errors on page 76 or page 237 or anywhere else. For everyone knows that it was all garbage, because of what it led to. You don’t even have to open the textbooks to know this.
And we are, as Nightlight more or less said, back in Nazi territory with the current War on Smokers. We’re not being gassed and incinerated yet, but we’re being excluded, demonised, shamed, fired, and evicted. Under the onslaught pubs and cafes are closing, communities are being shattered, and an entire convivial culture dissolved. And it’s being carried out on a global scale that the Nazis never imagined. Because if the Nazis were persecuting tens of millions of Jews and Gypsies, modern antismoking Nazis (and the roots of antismoking zealotry are to be found in Nazi Germany) are now persecuting hundreds and perhaps even thousands of millions of smokers all over the world.
And so isn’t it more likely that the end will come for Tobacco Control when the scale of their crimes becomes apparent, at which point all the antismoking ‘science’ of the past 60 years will go the same way as Nazi racial ‘science’ – consigned to oblivion overnight, and for the exact same reason? That it was used to justify a terrible crime.
The only reason that people can’t see the crime that is being committed is because it’s almost completely invisible. There are no concentration camps, no gas chambers, no sadistic guards, no barbed wire. There are just hundreds of millions of largely mute smokers who are being invisibly excluded, demonised, shamed, fired, and evicted, scattered all over the world.
We seem to only take interest in disasters or crimes when they have a time and a place – like 9/11 or Columbine or Lockerbie. We don’t seem to notice the thousands of little deaths, exclusions, rejections, partings, that are consequent (and which were always inevitably consequent) upon smoking bans everywhere and every day.
So I’d like to suggest tonight that the science is secondary. Antismoking ‘science’ is going to become as discredited as Nazi racial science once its full, awful consequences are recognised. And once it has been thus discredited, the way will be open to rediscover the true causes of disease (Carol’s viruses), and the value of smoking (Nightlight’s Smoking Is Good For You).
And so I suggest that we need to be making visible the enormous (and currently invisible) crime of Tobacco Control against hundreds of millions of people. Everything else will follow from that.