Interesting discussion in the comments today, kicked off by Walt:
I think of blogs like this as the equivalent of samizdat but, yo, John Watson, we’ve tried writing Letters to Editors and op eds and articles and they don’t get published.
Of course they don’t get published. The mainstream media is more or less completely one-sided and corrupt. And it’s corrupt for the exact same reasons that institutionalised science is corrupt. Everything has more or less the same kind of life cycle, of initial rapid growth from almost nothing, to full and expansive maturity, and then final decay and death.
I never write anything for the mainstream media. I don’t want to write anything for them. I wish they’d just all hurry up and die. Because they are slowly dying now. I think of newspapers (and even TV) as much like relics of a steam age.
We’re currently living in what is perhaps the era of the greatest communications revolution of all time, with ‘nation speaking unto nation’. The Gutenberg printing revolution allowed books to be published and circulated by people who had the money to do so. A newspaper is a sort of book that gets printed very quickly (overnight) and sold the next day, much like hot cakes from a bakery. But both books and newspapers were one-way megaphones. There were the writers who wrote, and the readers who read their writings. They were the teachers and the taught. Books and newspapers, radio and TV, are all one-directional megaphone media, excellent for propagandising people.
But the internet is essentially two-way, maybe even multi-way. It’s conversational. The writer no longer has priority or precedence over the reader. He’s no longer a lecturer or teacher. And the readers are no longer students or disciples. It’s not a propaganda medium. The internet has brought (or is bringing) an end to the propaganda era.
It’s not perfect. A blog like mine retains many of the features of a book or newspaper. I’m the writer-in-residence. But I think of myself as being a bit like the sort of dinner party host who periodically says something just to keep the conversation alive, and prevent silence descending (and equally to prevent tempers rising too high). And following the same analogy, I serve up small morsels of food (for thought) at regular intervals (daily). I don’t mind if people talk among themselves. I don’t mind if they don’t listen to me, and talk about something that I’m not talking about. I don’t even mind if they entirely disagree with me. I don’t mind if they hold forth at considerable length about some belief of theirs.
And I primarily want to talk to smokers. I want to hear their opinions. I don’t want to talk to the antismokers. I don’t wish to immediately engage that enemy in hand-to-hand combat.
I suppose that what I believe is that, before you can successfully engage and defeat an enemy, you first need to build an army. And it must be an army of volunteers, rather than the hirelings of Tobacco Control. And an army that believes that it has a just cause. And an army that believes it can win. And it’s an army that must be equipped with a powerful set of weapons (data, arguments).
There are some 1,500 million smokers in the world (and probably a lot more). If they could coalesce into an army, they would win back their pubs and cafes very rapidly. In fact, they’d do so overnight. And those 1,500 million smokers share a lot. They all share the pastime of smoking. And they are almost all of them under powerful attack for that pastime. They really ought to be building an army.
And given our current amazing global communications revolution, it ought to be possible for smokers all over the world to unite in an army.
The main problem with smokers, it seems to me, is that most of them believe that they’ve lost the war that has been launched on them. What a gift for Tobacco Control, to be met with so many people holding up their hands in surrender! Furthermore, most of them believe that smoking is bad for them. Which is another gift for Tobacco Control! Or they feel powerless. Or they feel that they’re on the wrong side of history. Or that nobody will listen to them. And so on. Smokers are pretty thoroughly demoralised.
Morale, I think, is everything. An army without morale is bound to be defeated, even if it has the best weapons and the highest ground and the strongest walls.
So I’m oriented towards smokers, not towards their enemies, or the mainstream media, or the politicians. They can come later. I think the first task is to rebuild the morale of smokers. How may this be done?
I don’t pretend to have all the answers, of course. Or perhaps any of the answers. I don’t even pretend to have the right questions either. I am open to debate.