The Spontaneous and the Planned

Well, I said that Hillary Clinton would win the debate if she simply showed up, remained standing, and didn’t have a coughing fit. And she did exactly that, so that was a big win for her. More than that, she even came over as quite sprightly.

So what were the opinion polls showing? When I looked this morning Time had it dead even at 50 – 50, MSNBC had Trump winning 60 – 40, and Drudge had Trump ahead 80 – 20. Left wing blogs were calling it a big victory for Hillary.

So maybe the health scare is dead? Maybe she really did just have a bout of pneumonia or flu and now that’s over and she’s just fine, and won’t be dropping out of the race?

If there was any difference between them, it lay in the pre-debate prep. For it seems that Hillary spent pretty much the entire past week practising for the debate, cancelling scheduled appearances. And Trump didn’t practise at all (to the dismay of some of his team), but instead stuck to a gruelling schedule of rallies (4 in 3 days).

Trump is spontaneous. And Hillary is planned. And that’s also the difference between capitalism and communism.

Elsewhere Dick Puddlecote in Hide The Filthy Smoker:

Smoking should be banned in all parks and playgrounds to reduce the chances of children growing up thinking that using cigarettes is normal, environmental health officers have told ministers.

Zoos, theme parks and anywhere else children play should also become no-smoking zones, in a significant proposed expansion of the outdoor areas in which smokers cannot light up.

Nothing to do with health and safety any more, and everything to do with denormalising smoking.

Which had me wondering, not for the first time, how norms get set. The antismokers seem to think that norms can be changed by changing the law. They think that if you ban smoking, you create an environment in which smoking is no longer normal, and people will conform to this new normality: the new normality will become the norm. And this is what they’ve always done: they always use the law. They always use top-down control.

But is that actually the way norms get set? In my experience, there are very often situations where there are no formal rules or laws, and the norms emerge out of a process of negotiation between people.

For instance, when boy meets girl. I’ve never heard of any laws or rules governing what happens in that situation – except maybe when there were chaperones. What actually happens is a kind of negotiation between the two. It’s a learning process.

In fact, it’s what happens when anyone meets anyone, anywhere.

The last time I can remember being under top-down control was when I was at school 50 years ago. Since then, pretty much every social environment I’ve known has had minimal rules, maximum negotiation. That includes shared flats, workplaces, pubs, restaurants, parties, beaches.

50 years on, school rules still seem as arbitrary and pointless as they did back then. No hands in pockets. Why? No running? Why? No talking in the classroom. Why? And if the school rules were supposed to define a normality in which people didn’t smoke or drink, and wore suits and nicely polished shoes, and didn’t speak or run or put their hands in their pockets, it was pretty unsuccessful – at least in my case. Because when I left school I never wore a suit again in my life. And hardly ever wore nicely polished shoes either. And kept my hands in my pockets. And, of course, started smoking and drinking.

It simply didn’t work. If anything, school rules denormalised suits, shiny shoes, silence, and non-smoking. And in the same way, compulsory school games of football, cricket, and rugby, plus compulsory long distance runs, pretty much made sure that I never played any of those games ever again. I think if we’d had compulsory golf and snooker and swimming, I’d have never played those games either.

So I don’t think that the attempt to denormalise smoking is going to work either. In fact, in a few years time, I expect that smoking will become more normal than ever. I expect to see TV newsreaders with lighted cigarettes. Game show hosts with cigarettes. World leaders’ discussions wreathed in smoke in smoke-filled rooms. And you’ll know who the villains are in movies, because they’ll be the ones that don’t smoke.

The antismokers are – like Hillary Clinton – planners and top-down controllers. I suppose that if they currently have such influence in government, it’s because government is essentially planned top-down control. And it all looks fine and dandy until they lose control and their plans don’t work. And that’s what’s going to happen. It’s not going to work, just like school rules only worked while you were in school, and stopped working the moment you left school. They’re not going to be able to de-normalise smoking because they can’t control norms. They may be able to change laws, but norms aren’t laws, so changing a law won’t change any norm, just like school rules didn’t change – couldn’t change – the students’ norms, which they already had when they first came to school. And when it finally becomes painfully obvious to everyone that they’re getting nowhere, and it’s a waste of money, and they haven’t de-normalised anything, all these top-down controlling organisations – governments, the EU, the UN, the WHO, Tobacco Control – will be discredited. And, with luck, in the subsequent absence of top down control, they’ll be replaced by a new spontaneity.

I thought Dick Puddlecote was hyper-ventilating a bit over it all. Chris Snowdon too. The reality is that Tobacco Control is attempting the impossible: they can’t de-normalise smoking. Nor can they de-normalise anything else. They haven’t got the tools to do it. And it’s precisely because de-normalisation doesn’t work that they keep having to dream up new de-normalisation schemes. And the new schemes won’t work either.

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19 Responses to The Spontaneous and the Planned

  1. Danielhammond says:

    You hit it on the head again Frank

  2. Barry Homan says:

    Re your last paragraph, it may be because they’ll never have the right tools. I also think (something I’ve always believed) that their aim is simply misguided. Their aim is to get rid of smoking. But they will never, ever get rid of smokers. Their mission is destined to fail.

  3. Smoking Lamp says:

    The antismoker enterprise relies upon relentless propaganda and suppression of dissent to change norms. That’s why its doomed to fail.

  4. Roobeedoo2 says:

    ‘That is the meaning of Donald Trump, and of Brexit. You’re not going to understand these things without taking a few steps back, and without looking at history, and especially without acknowledging the possibility that, in economics, perpetual growth may indeed be what physics has always said it was: an impossible pipedream.’

  5. waltc says:

    Ah but when boy meets girl , there are now in fact rules about what happens next– today, on campus, tomorrow, the world?

    As for the rest–can they denormalize smoking out of –or nearly out of–existence, I’m not sure of the answer. If you never saw, let alone tasted, chocolate, never saw anyone eating it, didn’t know of its existence, would you crave it? What if they eventually banned the word “chocolate” and therefore, without the word, you couldn’t even think it? No, I’m not entirely sure that would work, but it’s worth thinking about.

    • nisakiman says:

      Interesting that they wish to portray smokers as ‘not normal’ when even if you accept their figures (which I don’t – I think they’re way out), 16.9% is most certainly not a tiny minority. When you compare that figure to the number of gay, bisexual and transexual people in the UK, who make up less than 2% of the population, which group are the ‘less normal’? Yet they push for teaching kids about homosexuality as a ‘normal’ lifestyle, while simultaneously not wanting kids to be exposed to the sight of smokers, who are ‘abnormal’.

      We are currently engaged in a rapid descent down the rabbit hole where the Queen of Hearts awaits.

  6. Rose says:

    Fewer people than ever smoking in England, says new report
    20th September 2016

    “Public Health England (PHE) has revealed smoking rates across the country are the lowest on record, with just 16.9 per cent of the population being smokers.”

    But outside the calm of Public Health England, it’s looking like the Wild West.

    SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: Thousands of illegal cigarettes recovered from Sheffield stores in just… Sheffield Star 18:56 Tue, 27 Sep
    Record 11million Dodgy Cigarettes Seized By Border Force Officers At Busy British Port 15:31 Tue, 27 Sep
    VIDEO: Officers seize 6,000 ‘concealed’ cigarettes from shop in King’s Lynn Lynn News 14:46 Tue, 27 Sep
    llegal cigarettes seized in Hastings and Bexhill Hastings & St Leonards Observer 14:46 Tue, 27 Sep
    Tobacco house: Couple set up cottage industry in their home selling illicit cigarettes Gloucester Citizen 13:28 Tue, 27 Sep
    Masked men steal cigarettes in raid at Co-operative foodstore Gloucester Citizen 12:38 Tue, 27 Sep​
    ‘Largest’ haul of 11m cigarettes seized BBC 11:49 Tue, 27 Sep
    Cigarettes worth thousands stolen in Eston shop burglary Teesside Gazette 11:40 Tue, 27 Sep
    Dodgy cigarettes found at raid in Hailsham shop Eastbourne Herald & Gazette 11:34 Tue, 27 Sep
    Illegal cigarettes seized in Hastings and Bexhill Bexhill Observer 10:43 Tue, 27 Sep
    11million Cigarettes Seized By Customs At Felixstowe Port Daily and Sunday Express 10:33 Tue, 27 Sep
    Thousands of pounds worth of cigarettes stolen from Crazy Prices store The Northern Echo 10:31 Tue, 27 Sep
    Man charged with tax duty evasion of 49,400 cigarettes appears in court Warrington Guardian 10:19 Tue, 27 Sep

    • garyk30 says:

      Fewer smoking could be two less; so, the statement says nothing of real importance.

      Besides, the smoking rate tells you little about the total number of smokers.

      In the US, over the last 50 years, the smoking rate has halved; but, since the population has doubled, the number of smokers has stayed about the same.

      • jaxthefirst says:

        And of course they don’t take into account all those people who, simply for the sake of a quiet life – err – lie about their smoking habits. I know plenty of people who will happily catch a ciggie off me if we’re out somewhere, or who smoke “secretly” (usually so that their kids, who think they’ve given up, don’t know) but who would definitely tick the “non-smoker” or “ex-smoker” box on any questionnaire that came their way.

  7. garyk30 says:

    Top Down Control is the natural order of things such as the military or large businesses.
    Govt regulation is fine; but, not to the point of crushing control.

    Normal means ‘generally accepted by most people’, this says nothing about the goodness or badness of actions and is no reason for govt intervention.

    The ‘Norm’ means the average or 50th percentile of what is being measured.
    A ‘normal BMI’ should be the average; not, that which is deemed preferable by some people.

    Nannyism is the attempt at cultural control in order to satisfy a few egos.

  8. garyk30 says:

    ” everything to do with denormalising smoking.”

    OK, they admit that smoking is seen as ‘normal’; thus, anyone or everyone that is anti smoking is outside the norm or less than normal.

    That makes them ‘abnormal’ and that is almost the same as being weird.

    Sane people should give no credence to the ranting and raving of the self proclaimed abnormals in society!

  9. slugbop007 says:

    garyk30 says: September 28, 2016 at 1:26 pm

    ” everything to do with denormalising smoking.” OK, they admit that smoking is seen as ‘normal’; thus, anyone or everyone that is anti smoking is outside the norm or less than normal. That makes them ‘abnormal’ and that is almost the same as being weird. Sane people should give no credence to the ranting and raving of the self proclaimed abnormals in society!You should change the word they and them to you and send it off to Deb and all the other Nanny Tyrants.That should screw up their minds.slubop007

  10. Quick bit of good news: It was on the German TV news this evening that that OAP in Germany has won the final appeal, his landlord can’t evict him simply because other tenants in the complain of the smell of smoke in the stairways! That’s end of his year long battle, no further appeal allowed.

    The report also reiterated that in Germany you have the express right to smoke in your own four rented walls.
    However a word of caution from me, the court reached it’s verdict because the Landlord and anit-smoker nazis couldn’t prove the smell of smoke in the communal areas came solely from the OAP. So the next case that comes along you can bet the AntiSmokers will do everything in their power to push through a ‘on the balance of probabilities’ verdict.

  11. smokingscot says:

    Next President.

    Should you wish to do so, there’s a worldwide poll on who you’d vote for. Even if you can’t!

  12. mikef317 says:

    Do recall that I’m not a Hillary fan, but….

    Re polls. CNN did a small “normal” poll where people were called and asked their opinion. The others were website buttons where people could vote multiple times if they chose. I’d say it’s best to wait a few days and see what more reliable polls indicate. But most of this won’t be important. The U. S. President is determined by the Electoral College. The only polls that really matter are for a few “swing” states like Florida that might go to either candidate. (A state like New York is already decided, well before the vote; Clinton leads Trump by maybe 20 points.)

    One thing you could only notice by watching the full debate – Trump was extremely rude. He kept interrupting Clinton and making multiple facial grimaces as she spoke. This is red meet for far right Republicans. For other people it just made him look like a bully – but not a very good bully because he couldn’t rattle Clinton. Also typical of Trump, he bashed Rosie O’Donnell (someone he’s been insulting for several decades) and a woman who was a beauty queen 20 years ago. This stuff is petty, not Presidential. It’s also typical Trump.

    Re a President’s health, it’s why the U. S. has a Vice President. Democrat or Republican if a President becomes incapacitated or dies, the VP takes over and you basically get polices that are similar to those the President wanted to enact. Poor VP choices (like Sarah “I can see Russia from my house” Palin) can really hurt a candidate.

    Re Trump’s “grueling schedule of rallies (4 in 3 days),” even assuming a very lengthy 2 hours per rally, that’s 8 hours in front of “friendly” crowds, and Trump is very good at (and enjoys) this type of event. But a Presidential debate is not giving a long speech – it’s about responding to just about any question imaginable. Substitute “problem” for “question” and you have a good description of the President’s job.

    Spontaneous vs. planned, bottom up vs top down. I can’t give this issue the space it deserves. Who is the most top down? Hillary certainly has problems, but Trump acts like he’s running for King rather than President. Build a wall on the Southern border? Only if Congress appropriates the funds. Dramatically increase the number of Border Patrol agents? Again, Congress has to appropriate funds. Tax U. S. corporations who open factories in Mexico? Congress writes the tax laws. Re-negotiate U. S. treaties? It’s possible but very difficult. If ratified by the Senate, a treaty literally becomes U. S. law. It can’t be changed by a President’s whim. (An unratified treaty like Obama’s recent global warming “agreement” only indicates what the President would like to see happen.)

    At any rate, enough Trump bashing for today.

  13. Pingback: A Large, Spacious Ashtray | Frank Davis

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