I had a surprise this afternoon: an email arrived from ITV inviting me on some show tomorrow morning to talk about the Lancet report.
Two slight snags. I didn’t know what Lancet report they were talking about, so could hardly be expected to say anything about it. Secondly, I seldom get up much before noon, so any time tomorrow morning was completely out of the question.
A quick online search failed to turn up any recent “Lancet report”. So I remained completely in the dark until this evening, when Dick Puddlecote shed a bit of light on it:
a couple of tobacco control harebrains from New Zealand have a cunning plan to grab attention (and, by extension, grants).
Writing in The Lancet, they will tomorrow predict an end to smoking by 2040. No, not just in New Zealand … but the entire world! Apparently, “the time has come for the world to acknowledge the unacceptability of the damage being done by the tobacco industry and work towards a world essentially free from the sale (legal and illegal) of tobacco products”.
I see. The article will be published in the Lancet tomorrow, and they wanted someone to pass judgement on it without having had the opportunity to even read the damn thing. That really stacks any interview in favour of anyone (e.g. the authors) who may have read the thing in advance. I’m not a bit surprised, of course: This is how Tobacco Control and the media work.
But the real surprise is that I was invited at all. It’s the Simon Clarks and Chris Snowdons of the world who get invited on these shows. Presumably, not having had the opportunity to read the report either, they declined to comment. And so the show’s producers had to look further and further down their list of possible invitees, until right at the bottom they came across… Frank Davis.
“Who’s he?” I can imagine the producer asking.
“Some angry blogger who wants Tobacco Control destroyed. The police get called about him regularly. He may be in prison by now, for all I know.”
“Get hold of him. He could be just the man we want. Do you know which prison he’s in?”
It set me wondering what sort of thing I’d say on air. I somehow or other don’t think I’d be one of those people who comes out with stuff like, “Of course everyone knows that smoking is bad for you, but…” and “Yes, we must think of the chiiiiiildren, yet all the same, in a free country…” In fact I don’t think I’d toe the consensus line on anything. I’d disagree about everything. So I could imagine how the interview might go:
Emily Newsworthy: “Frank Davis is a blogger who bangs on about the smoking ban. He may be in prison by now, for all we know. Nor do we know for what heinous crime either. Frank Davis, what’s your prison’s-eye view of the Lancet report?”
Frank Davis: “Well, I haven’t read it. But I’m sure it’s complete bollocks.”
EN: “How can you say that if you haven’t read it?”
FD: “Because everything that Tobacco Control says is always complete bollocks.”
EN: “Really? It’s a well-established fact that 400,000 people a year die from passive smoking. Are you saying that’s complete bollocks?”
FD: “You took the very words right out of my mouth.”
EN: “Everybody knows that smoking causes lung cancer. Or is that complete bollocks too?”
FD: “Yes. It’s the biggest crock of bollocks of all.”
EN: “Is that really the sort of message you think should be sent to our chiiiildren?”
FD: “Exactly. The sooner they find out that it’s all bollocks, the better.”
EN: “Are you seriously challenging the conclusions drawn by thousands of expert researchers over the past half century about the dangers of tobacco?”
FD: “Of course I am. Just because they call themselves experts or researchers doesn’t mean that they’ve done any real research, or are experts about anything. And bear in mind that all the so-called expert research started life in Nazi Germany.”
EN: “Amanda Sponge, I’d like to bring you back in here. As a representative of Happy Dancing SmokeFree Kids of Dagenham, what do you make of what Frank Davis has just said?”
AS: “Aside from the Godwin-style Nazi slur, well, I’m shocked and dismayed that there are still knuckle-dragging throwbacks like him still around – freely using the b-word, of course – when everybody else knows perfectly well that smoking causes not only lung cancer but most other diseases as well, including ebola fever. He’s worse than Jeremy Clarkson. And we know for a fact that 400,000 people die every year from passive smoking…”
FD: “So where are all the bodies, fish-face?”
AS: “Really!!! Do we have to tolerate this level of abuse? There may be children listening!”
EN: “I agree. Guard! Guard!! Can you please take this man back to his cell right now!!”
AS: “And lock the door behind him!!”
Something like that.
It’s not going to happen, of course. I declined the offer. “Other commitments”, or something.
And, with luck, I’ll never be asked again.