Learning To Be Nobody

I’ve been trying to put my finger on just exactly why I don’t agree with Stephen Helfer (and a whole bunch of other people, up to and including the illustrious Audrey Silk).

And the nearest I’ve managed to get to it is something like this:

I used to believe I was living in a (parliamentary) democracy here in the UK. I stopped believing that on 1 July 2007 – the start of the UK smoking ban -, when someone came up to me outside the River pub and said, “It’s not a free country any more.” He was right, and 10 years later I still think he’s as right today as he was back then.

I think that, here in the UK (and in the EU) we’re now living in a sort of Soviet Union. All the power has gone upstairs to the Politburo at the top. We’re living under a tyranny in which ordinary people have no voice. All the decisions are being taken at the top by “experts” of one sort or other, for our own good. The smoking ban is the prime example of this. Smoking bans, which are nearly always imposed top down, are the principal symptom of loss of democratic (bottom up) control, in much the same way as buboes are the principal symptom of bubonic plague.

The important point in this is that I have no voice. I have no influence whatsoever in government, or in the Politburo, or in the media, or anywhere else. Yes, I can still vote, and my vote will be counted. Yes, I can write letters to my MP, and to anyone else I care to. But, once I’ve had my say, I’ll just be ignored. For the people who govern us now don’t see themselves as being “public servants”: they see themselves as our masters. And furthermore they actually are our masters.

The response of Stephen Helfer and Audrey Silk and others like them to this circumstance (it’s pretty much the same in the USA as it is in the UK) has been to try to regain lost influence, by mounting campaigns, distributing leaflets, lobbying politicians, getting themselves on TV, and so on. They want to get heard in the corridors of power, 100 floors above them. They want to kick up a fuss.

But my response has been different. I’m not trying to get politicians or pundits to hear me. I’m not trying to get myself on TV. Because I know that none of them have any interest in what I have to say. They don’t want to know. I’m one of the “little people” who don’t count. So why even bother trying. I have no voice, and that is where I must begin: voiceless.

But we voiceless people, who don’t count, can talk to each other. We can build up links and ties between ourselves. We can exchange information and news. We can create a separate community of the voiceless and the powerless.

In this respect we can be much like the Polish Solidarity movement in the shipyards of Gdansk, Poland, back in the 1980s. Or the samizdat writers in the Soviet Union – like Alexander Solzhenitsyn -, laboriously writing and copying books for each other’s consumption. Or Vaclav Havel in Czechoslovakia. Nobody in government would listen to them, but they listened to each other.

For if we are now living in some sort of new Soviet Union, we should respond in the same way as dissidents in the Soviet Union responded. They didn’t make placards and demonstrate in Red Square against the Communist tyrants in the Politburo. Or if they did, they just got arrested, and shipped off to the gulags. No, they busied themselves writing and talking to each other. And in this manner, they gradually became influential. Vaclav Havel eventually became President of Czechoslovakia, and Lech Walesa became President of Poland.

If we are to learn lessons from anybody, it should be from the likes of Solzhenitsyn and Havel and Walesa, rather than from US radicals like Saul Alinsky  and the like.

The powerless must recognise their powerlessness, and act in accordance with it, and not seek to immediately re-empower themselves. If the river has been dammed, and prevented from flowing in one direction, then it must just flow in some other direction.

As an aside, I can’t help but think that the situation of the Democrat Left in the USA is that they also have been dis-empowered. They’ve been Trumped. They have become powerless and voiceless. And that’s why they’re so angry, and want to impeach or assassinate Donald Trump. And have even formed “a resistance”. They’re just like us smokers, who used to be somebodies, but have all become nobodies, and want to be somebodies again. They’re almost beside themselves with rage and disbelief. But if they could accept what has happened to them, and recognise their objective situation, they may begin to be able to see what they can do, rather than rail against what they can’t do.

That is to say: If they are going to become somebodies again one day, they’re going to have to first learn to be nobodies.

 

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About Frank Davis

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61 Responses to Learning To Be Nobody

  1. No Frank – this is simply not true – “So why even bother trying. I have no voice, and that is where I must begin: voiceless.” – you have a huge voice – you speak with your words on your blog. Words, words, words, that spread all around the world. Nowadays, if you are computer literate and do social networking, youtube etc, the voiceless are heard. The cost is dealing with those who don’t like your words and the personal violation it feels like. You already have an “army” of followers. How many followers do you have? (rhetoric only) but wordpress gives you a list of them all. They HEAR you.Your best posts, for me, are about the pain you have felt at your discrimination. It’s the pain of all of us. They COMFORT us. We need that.

    I have several presences online – they do different jobs. The followers of one presence might not necessarily follow my other presences. These presences are all aspects of myself – the comforter, the old person, the vaper/smoker, the wise woman, the activist etc.

    Please don’t become an activist on your current blog. We need you for our comfort!

    I think there should be an “activist” blog for the UK. Audry Silk is fighting different situations – that is not to say we can’t follow CLASH too. Is there ANY activist blog in the UK? (leave out Forest) Is there any rally-point?

    Well, that’s just me thinking.

    I just wrote an smoker “activist” letter to Theresa May – mmm – I usually get a template letter back from the politicians I write to. But drip, drip, drip – I do NOT believe ” I have no voice, and that is where I must begin: voiceless.” I will NOT believe that! Every action I take in my various personas is another drip. Many drips make rain!

    I do a lot of smoker activism, because I’m a smoker that vapes instead. But my head is “smoker” through and through.

    Love you Frank.

    • Frank Davis says:

      Oh yes, I have a voice online for my readers. But I don’t have a voice in the corridors of power in the UK. I don’t have a voice in the NHS or the BMA or the WHO or anywhere else. It is in that sense that I am voiceless, and powerless. I don’t count. They don’t want to know what I think.

      And so I long ago took my own advice and learned to be nobody. And I write for all the ignored and silenced and powerless people like me. And yes, they listen to me. And I have a very loud voice. But only for them.

      By chance today I came across Vaclav Havel’s The power of the powerless, which I read 5 or 6 years ago. Clearly he thought about these things too. And I mentioned him today. Perhaps I will re-read it.

      A SPECTER is haunting Eastern Europe: the specter of what in the West is called “dissent.” This specter has not appeared out of thin air. It is a natural and inevitable consequence of the present historical phase of the system it is haunting. It was born at a time when this system, for a thousand reasons, can no longer base itself on the unadulterated, brutal, and arbitrary application of power, eliminating all expressions of nonconformity. What is more, the system has become so ossified politically that there is practically no way for such nonconformity to be implemented within its official structures.

      Who are these so-called dissidents? Where does their point of view come from, and what importance does it have? What is the significance of the “independent initiatives” in which “dissidents” collaborate, and what real chances do such initiatives have of success? Is it appropriate to refer to “dissidents” as an opposition? If so, what exactly is such an opposition within the framework of this system? What does it do? What role does it play in society? What are its hopes and on what are they based? Is it within the power of the “dissidents”—as a category of subcitizen outside the power establishment—to have any influence at all on society and the social system? Can they actually change anything?

    • Supergran says:

      Ahh here here Thelast furlong!!!! Good reply. I fully agree with you. Love you too Frank.

  2. Mark Jarratt, Sydney, Australia says:

    I’m in two minds, like Steve Martin (not Helfer), about the best strategy or strategies to fight and win against the ‘we know best’ neo- prohibitionist dictators and their willful contempt for personal responsibility and free choice.

    It’s obviously correct to state those holding views which differ from prevailing orthodoxy are ignored, suppressed, and may even end up in the smoker’s graveyard, so what’s the benefit in arguing, but it’s also true that failing to challenge the outright lies and propaganda is likely to reinforce their arrogant unilateral beliefs of infallibility.

    On balance, the elitist puritans should be continually challenged to justify their unethical marginalization of any despised minority. That doesn’t mean the ‘samizdat’ network shouldn’t continue and grow.

  3. irocyr says:

    The way I see it, Audrey and Stephen and others like Sheila Martin, Pam Parker, Nick Hogan and even myself some years back, even if they don’t gain much with their ”to their face” demonstrations, they represent the voice of dissent and encourage other people to stand up to the bullies, at least in theory. If nobody speaks up publicly it only drives in the bullies’ mantra that everyone (even smokers) agree with the bullying ”for their own good” of course.

    When I first started fighting this issue 13 years ago, hardly anyone dared stand up to the bullying even online. It was too politically incorrect and shameful to speak against ”the greater good of all” But this has drastically changed over the years and this thanks to us and many others like us. There are more anti-bully posters than pro-bully ones in forums now, but if nobody dared question their tactics and decry the lies and injustices,many would still be hiding under a rock in shame. So actions like Audrey’s and Steven’s are certainly not futile and are direly needed by those who are voiceless and need someone else to do it on their behalf….at least for now.

    When I embarked in this fight, I knew I was in for the long run and that I might never live long enough to see change, Because of all the reasons you mentionned Frank, unless something unexpected happens, we are not about to reverse these laws, but each baby-step counts and I am willing to make these steps and encourage everyone to make them too any way they possible choose.

  4. petesquiz says:

    You are absolutely correct in your analysis. Our so-called democracy consists of typically 4 – 5 year periods of dictatorship with one chance for the people to vote to change the government.

    Increasingly, the major political parties seem to be agreed on certain issues (smoking, obesity, climate change, etc) so that it doesn’t matter who you vote for, the same old dictatorial rules will apply (or be further strengthened).

    The EU Referendum was the first time that the British people have been asked to decide what direction the nation should take and look at how the political classes are trying to get out of doing what the British people wanted. The nobodies have spoken and the somebodies (or should that be busybodies?) don’t like it.

    Your final line, “If they are going to become somebodies again one day, they’re going to have to first learn to be nobodies.” is one of the most profound statements I’ve read in a long while. From the replies so far, I’m not sure how many get it. I’ve long realised that I am a nobody, that we are almost all nobodies, but if enough of us get together we can become something powerful. (I don’t want to be a somebody, but I do want to be part of something.)

  5. Clicky says:

  6. garyk30 says:

    Frank,
    Am trying to post a picture here.
    just a test, to be deleted at your pleasure.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temperature_record_of_the_past_1000_years#/media/File:2000_Year_Temperature_Comparison.png

    Frank: I couldn’t make it work for you.

  7. garyk30 says:

    Individuals have no voice; but,as a group, individuals can speak loudly.
    What is needed is cohesion and a spokesperson.

    The 4 million members of the NRA, as individuals, have little power to be heard; but,when the President of the NRA speaks, he speaks with the loudness of 4 million voices combined and lawmakers pay close attention.

    No one cares what an individual says.
    That is why those with an agenda to push always use these(or similar) statements:
    “Everyone agrees with me when I say…”
    “Anyone with a child will agree with me when I say….”
    “All people with good sense think and will say that……..”
    “The consensus of people’s opinion is that…..”
    “The scientific consensus is that….”

    Soooo, Frank; all that you have to tell Parliament is “The 10 million smokers in the UK will agree with me when I say that the smoking ban is a disgraceful piece of discrimination.”

  8. beobrigitte says:

    I used to believe I was living in a (parliamentary) democracy here in the UK. I stopped believing that on 1 July 2007 – the start of the UK smoking ban -, when someone came up to me outside the River pub and said, “It’s not a free country any more.” He was right, and 10 years later I still think he’s as right today as he was back then.
    Freedom….. How well I remember it!!! I do keep telling twenty – thirty year olds how much I took freedom for granted in the early 70s. And how much I miss it NOW!!!
    They look at me like I’m an alien. They have never KNOWN REAL freedom – and that you could spent day laughing, being silly, having a great day with your colleagues/friends with NO WORRY about ANYTHING.
    I do remember having an emergency op to remove my appendix when I was 15. My friends smuggled my ciggies into hospital (getting past my mum was the problem!) and I had such a laugh there that I burst 2 of the 5 stitches. I had to stay a week…. Even in hospital no-one was worried. The ‘soooooo old’ lady (60-ish) in our room was upbeat, too, and up for silly stuff!
    The youngsters I tell this – again – look at me like I am an alien. Maybe I am, because I want to love life again – without being told to fear this, that and some other cr*p that the scared people of this world fear.

    But my response has been different. I’m not trying to get politicians or pundits to hear me. I’m not trying to get myself on TV. Because I know that none of them have any interest in what I have to say. They don’t want to know. I’m one of the “little people” who don’t count. So why even bother trying. I have no voice, and that is where I must begin: voiceless.
    Politicians or pundits will not listen, anyway. You have no Rich Projects to offer. To go on TV and dispute the anti-smokers&friends financed science is anti-smoker planned homicide. They are brazen enough to argue with the so-called research they have financed as ‘the-science-is-settled’ and publicly get the concession I-know-smoking-is-bad at the beginning of the “discussion” – which is what they want the public to see. Yes, they have made us voiceless publicly, but not in our own surroundings.
    I am looking forward to my first cigarette in FREEDOM. Never mind how long it will take.

    • Joe L. says:

      The youngsters I tell this – again – look at me like I am an alien. Maybe I am, because I want to love life again – without being told to fear this, that and some other cr*p that the scared people of this world fear.

      I’m in my mid-late 30s, and as Emily posted yesterday, she and I, who are only a couple years apart in age, are on the tail-end of the last generation who actually got a taste of a far more free society. I miss it immensely.

      Like you, I don’t enjoy life the way I did 10 years ago. I am also fed up with being told multiple times a day what I should fear and how I should and shouldn’t live my life. I also yearn to love life again. I feel sorry for the younger generations who never got to experience an alternative to the fear-mongering world they’ve grown up in. Most of them are apathetic to our cause because they have nothing concrete to contrast it with.

  9. Smoking Lamp says:

    Frank, There are many paths to successful insurgency and effective political action. Combatting the antismoker movement will likely require concerted action involving multiple forms of resistance and action. Since this is effectively a global movement (more global than communism at the height of the COMINTERN) with local/national arms the form of action in each place will likely share common elements but also have distinctly local attributes. We’ll have to see which tactics are most effect I’ve in given situations and hopefully share them on line.

    I do think your blog (along with other personal efforts like Junican’s Bolton Smokers Clubs) are essential since few formal efforts like FOREST are still active. W whatever action are taken, it is important to remember that the tobacco control regime rejects democratic [process and transparency believing they are above such trivial concerns.

    Tobacco control (more properly lifestyle control) seeks to dictate policy and shape perception through propaganda and coercion. Perhaps an effective first step in growing a countermovement is forming that recognition among the masses and politicians that still strive to perserve liberty. SL

  10. beobrigitte says:

    GaryK.
    Individuals have no voice; but,as a group, individuals can speak loudly.
    What is needed is cohesion and a spokesperson.

    I agree on cohesion. I do not agree on a spokesperson. We all need to speak loudly about OUR grievance individually and work together from that.
    We (few) forming a solid group is what the anti-smokers expected and they are prepared for that. Ants work together but they only have a queen to add ants to the hive.
    You find little groups of ants working together whilst others scout individually. All together work wonders as a “family”.

    I did miss the opportunity to meet up with Stephen Helfer the last time I was in the States (the rest of the family didn’t go to New York and therefore there was no way I could disappear for a day to travel via public transport to the other end of the city).
    I believe we are a world wide hive of ants. Partially well organized, partially individuals but all working towards one single aim: to become VALUED people again! We are adults and are perfectly capable to keep smoke(r) haters happy by separating the areas PERFECTLY so everyone will be happy and does not have to live in individual perceived fear.

    Right now we are either much despised tax payers or, even worse, even more despised for still being happily alive, pensioners. That raises another question: HOW on earth did we make it to pension age (in my case, after 48 years of being a passive and active smoker) so healthily that our governments increased pension age for the baby-boomers?

    Food for thought.

    • beobrigitte says:

      On second thought, perhaps we should see ourselves as a big termite family. Eroding that big house tobacco control worked so hard to build. It has too may wooden foundations.

    • Joe L. says:

      I do not agree on a spokesperson

      I’m not sure of your reasons to so quickly discredit the idea of a spokesman, or preferably, a handful of recognizable spokespeople.

      A big part of our effort is to motivate the apathetic smokers (and compassionate nonsmokers). They currently feel alone and disenfranchised, and rightfully so. There is power in having a familiar face (or faces) of someone that these folks can relate to.

      • beobrigitte says:

        I’m not sure of your reasons to so quickly discredit the idea of a spokesman, or preferably, a handful of recognizable spokespeople.
        TC spent many years planning this attack on smokers. Best example is the extortionate fine for pub land lords if they would ignore the ban.
        I think the anti-smokers anticipate by now an organised smoker revolt. Groups of ‘co-ordinated lose canons’ who address multiple issues about smoking, smoking ban etc. at the same time are harder to deal with. There will be multiple spokespersons.

  11. smokingscot says:

    “But we voiceless people, who don’t count, can talk to each other. We can build up links and ties between ourselves. We can exchange information and news.”

    Agreed. And from what I’ve seen on online comments, the thrust of what’s been a royal pain in the butt to us, has spread. Charities, pressure groups, wanton waste, fake experts and so on has been picked up by many people who are prepared to say so on every outlet available.

    “We can create a separate community”

    Maybe want to rethink that. We have created a separate community. It’s a first for me because it’s just one aspect of our persona; our thoughts and feelings. And in many ways that’s what’s so good about it, just drop in and pick up, or contribute to, a thread.

    But I’d argue that us lot (peed off smokers) got shot of Labour in Scotland in 2007 and helped get rid of Labour in England. And we helped elevate UKIP that in turn contributed to Brexit. And apparently we’re “internet vermin” to one twat in Australia and we’re a righteous nuisance to some medical journal in the UK. And those are just the quickies off the top of my head.

    Oh and just to cheer y’all up, things are stirring in Austria.

    http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/803179/austria-government-vice-chancellor-resign-Reinhold-Mitterlehner-peoples-party

    On the one hand I had hoped to say their smoking ban caused this, but no that’s sort of if, perhaps, maybe in 2018.

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-32919408

  12. audreysilk says:

    First, I appreciate the special mention even if it’s followed by disagreement. So I thank you Frank for that. As for the meat of the matter it’s my opinion — one that has evolved over the years — that change has less to do with convincing lawmakers by going to them directly and more to do with building public consensus which in turn influences the lawmakers. I’ve said it many times that the lesson can be found in the pages of the antis’ playbook itself. They didn’t go directly to lawmakers. They first preyed on the public, then played up the perception — grounded on a bit of truth — that “this” is what “most” people want. Lawmakers care about being reelected. Because it’s not public service for them after a while but a paying job. Most do what gets them the votes in order to remain employed. I even find my own state governor — the one you think would hold the most sway — asking for PEOPLE to call their local lawmaker to get something he wants passed. If that’s not just one more indication of how this really works then I don’t know what is.

    So, in essence, I agree that “an army needs to be built.” But it need not be an army of smokers (thought it would help if it could be done too). Rather, it needs to be an army of people whose attitudes have been changed. The elephant in the room has been the question how to get that done. And I think this is where the great divide begins among those most involved.

    The advent of the internet, on-line news resources, social media, etc. has been the greatest thing that could have happened for us. There are all sorts of forums where our voices at least have an opportunity to compete and to be on the record without begging someone else to allow it. BUT — and this is where I think reality needs to be slapped into some heads — regardless of all the talk by the world that more people today get their information on-line than anywhere else, it is STILL the mainstream news media (MSM) that rules. Our dissent on the internet is only as good as those who LOOK for it. It has to be FOUND. MSM, on the other hand, is put under people’s noses. They RECEIVE news and ideas from the MSM. It is the MSM that makes something that’s on the internet newsworthy. The Huffington Post or Breitbart News would have gone nowhere if they didn’t make an impact that was first reported by the MSM.

    And so doing things to get the attention of the MSM is crucial. It’s THEY who get your name/business/issue out there that then leads to followers that then leads to more relevancy. Talking among ourselves provides motivation and strength to fight but doesn’t make us relevant. I don’t do interviews to convince lawmakers or the host of anything (except that hopefully I appear articulate and personable so that they will welcome me back). No, my audience are the LISTENERS — the ones we need to build so that in turn they will influence the agenda and the lawmakers. This army cannot be built just by being on the internet. Even viral videos — ones that make the MSM at that — have a very short shelf life. If something is not sustained it dies out. Keeping yourself in front of the MSM until the steam built there is enough to power you without them is part of the formula for success. How many times did I come home from an interview on a major cable news station to find emails saying, “I didn’t know you existed. I’m so glad you do!” Because they happened to be watching for the sheer sake of watching a news channel and it was put under their nose.

    Also I earlier spoke about perception. PERCEPTION is also everything! Once deemed relevant then it doesn’t matter if there are one million smokers signed up. Once recognized any perception can be created. Perception itself builds members too.

    In the end we’re actually in a form of agreement because the interviews, leaflets, etc. to “kick up a fuss” is indeed to ultimately “get heard in the corridors of power” but by bringing ourselves in front of the people to build them into the influence that will get to the “100 floors above.” Actions that get the attention of the MSM is what gets that job done. We agree it’s the people we need. Where we disagree is how to do it. Talking among ourselves and waiting for the drip of newcomers that comes from it because they searched for us just gets us talking among ourselves. Use of and a presence on the internet alone is not yet the platform everyone believes it to be. The MSM must come first.

    However — and here is the most bottom line of it all — creating a news story for the MSM to report on or simply being included because it happens to be the topic of the news day doesn’t meet the sustainability factor that’s imperative. We can have a protest and invite the news. It’s a free stunt. But it’s a one-and-done. So news has to be “bought.” Or what the antis call Paid Media Advocacy. Yes, I’m talking about money. To be out in front, in a sustained campaign under people’s noses to create perception, relevancy and ultimately influence MUST BE FUNDED.

    All else — the army — flows from all of the above.

    None of this will come to fruition relying solely on the internet. It’s a great tool for many things associated with the effort but it’s where this ends up, not where it starts. And no more hundreds of people saying “we should…” but someone who says, “I will…” when it comes to what to do. And those who have joined in to either pony up the money or to actually do what is asked of them. The money will always be needed but the work of many will eventually give way to simple perception. It will only take one person to say or do something and will come across as if it’s an army.

    • Jay says:

      “It will only take one person to say or do something and will come across as if it’s an army.”
      So true.
      A few years ago a politician was being interviewed on BBC radio on 2nd January. He was talking about safe drinking levels and he said something along the lines of “The 10 units in a bottle of wine….”. I’d never before heard that the six units in a bottle of wine had become 10 units; for years a bottle had been presented as containing six units. The interviewee didn’t explain how the change had come about (eg we didn’t realise that we’d misunderstood the concept of one unit etc) he simply dropped the 10 units into a sentence as if it had always been 10 units and it was accepted as a given. It was an extremely effective trick to change the behaviour of those who’d taken the whole unit thing on board and were worrying and measuring their alcohol intake by units.
      When I used to comment on MSM boards I used to frame my comments as if ‘everyone knew’ that the passive smoking info was a scam eg “Few people still think that there’s a danger from passive smoking – everybody knows that it’s a scam” , the implication being that the reader who takes it seriously is behind the curve.

    • nisakiman says:

      Our dissent on the internet is only as good as those who LOOK for it. It has to be FOUND. MSM, on the other hand, is put under people’s noses. They RECEIVE news and ideas from the MSM. It is the MSM that makes something that’s on the internet newsworthy. The Huffington Post or Breitbart News would have gone nowhere if they didn’t make an impact that was first reported by the MSM.

      This.

      Most people get their information from the TV and the major newspapers. And that’s where TobCon has a stranglehold, which is why most people have been indoctrinated with so much tosh. Well, ‘experts have said’, innit? And it was on the telly, so it must be true.

      We can have a protest and invite the news. It’s a free stunt. But it’s a one-and-done. So news has to be “bought.” Or what the antis call Paid Media Advocacy. Yes, I’m talking about money. To be out in front, in a sustained campaign under people’s noses to create perception, relevancy and ultimately influence MUST BE FUNDED.

      Again, right. I touched on this in yesterday’s comments. Without funding it will really be an uphill struggle to make any headway. But where that funding is going to come from is another matter. The tobacco companies are the ones who should really be funding this kind of stuff, but they won’t touch it with a barge-pole. They’re running scared, and just want to keep their heads down and the profits coming in. Fuck the customers who are getting screwed.

      However, on the bright side, lots of other single-issue groups are jumping on the anti-smoker bandwagon (alcohol, sugar, fast-food, salt, fizzy pop etc etc) and are doing a great job of diluting the TC message.

      People who had been convinced that the drive against tobacco was a good thing (because they didn’t smoke) are now starting to find the same methods being applied to things that they like, and as a result the scales are starting to fall from their eyes. They are starting to realise that ‘experts’ are not necessarily anything of the sort, and they are starting to resent the intrusion of the state into their private lives.

      This can only be a good thing, because it makes them much more likely to listen to us when we speak. Rose’s link below to the Daily Express is a case in point. Under a standard-issue anti-smoking article, the comments are without exception critical, pointing out the basic flaws in the presumption of the article. A few years ago, the comments would have been full of people clamouring to be one of the self-righteous, on-message smoker haters with God on their side.

      Slowly, the worm is turning. And it’s turning because the busybodies and the finger-waggers who hate people doing what they personally don’t like just can’t help themselves wanting some of the anti-tobacco action. And that’s something we need to capitalise on. When I’m commenting on articles in various publications, where pertinent I will always make reference to the slippery slope that we are now on thanks to the lies of anti-tobacco. Suddenly, tobacco is no longer a ‘special case’ which won’t be applied to other products. Everything which someone doesn’t like is up for grabs.

    • Frank Davis says:

      In the end we’re actually in a form of agreement

      I entirely agree. Our disagreements are so minimal as to be almost non-existent.

      But I disagree with you about the MSM and the internet. Perhaps I should explore this a bit. You wrote:

      How many times did I come home from an interview on a major cable news station to find emails saying, “I didn’t know you existed. I’m so glad you do!”

      I can safely say that no-one has ever written such an email to me, because I have never appeared on the MSM, except once holding a placard saying “Enough Is Enough” in Stony Stratford (I hadn’t even written my blog url at the bottom of it). If I have any readers at all, they are people who discovered me online in one way or other. That’s how the internet works: ideas propagate across it. It’s a high speed bush telegraph, where communication is person-to-person.

      Furthermore, I don’t watch the MSM. I don’t have a TV set. I never listen to the radio. I don’t buy any newspaper. I get all my news online. And I actually get quite a lot from the comments under my blog.

      As I see it, the one-way megaphone MSM is in process of being replaced by the two-way internet bush telegraph. The MSM, as it has existed in one form or other for the past 200 years, is a product of multiple technological innovations: the printing press, the telegraph, radio, television, satellites, optical cables. And the modern internet, which is barely 30 years old, is the latest (and most astonishing) technological innovation of all.

      The growing power of the internet is something that could be seen most clearly in the US presidential election last year, in which the winner (Donald Trump) used the internet much more effectively than the loser (Hillary Clinton) who ran a classical MSM campaign, on which she spent twice as much money as the winner. Donald Trump barely bought any TV or newspaper ads. He used Twitter and Facebook and Infowars and Breitbart.

      There’s a war going on right now between the MSM and what’s called the “alt-right” online media. Each calls the other “fake news”. Figures like Infowars’ Alex Jones and Roger Stone are currently under daily attack in the MSM. Because they’re upstart nobodies who have won a hearing for themselves outside the established MSM. According to Alex Jones, the numbers of his viewers rivals that of the major US TV companies. And I can believe it (I watch him almost every day).

      And just yesterday, Alex Jones was saying that Trump should stop having press conferences in the White House for the MSM to use to distort what he says and tell lies about him. He should, he said, just release statements online. Maybe just on Twitter. There was simply no need any more for these press conferences with all the reporters at them. I think he’s quite right. But it would mark another nail in the coffin of the MSM.

      We’re living in a time of transition. And I think it’s one in which the MSM is becoming less and less important, and the internet more and more important. And I think that trend is going to continue. And the internet isn’t driven by money, like the MSM, but by time. It’s driven by people who have enough time on their hands to be able to write or comment or tweet.

      In short, we have a very different perception of the media surrounding us. You think the MSM is the most powerful (and right now you’re almost certainly right, but only just) And I think the MSM is a dinosaur on the brink of extinction.

      • audreysilk says:

        I think you’re missing two large points:

        1. Trump (as the prime example but not the only one) was/is already famous. Once fame is achieved then, yes, you can live on the internet. That’s what I said.

        2. If was the MSM first reporting Trump’s use of Twitter and how he’s sidestepping the MSM that came first. Just the news of his USE of Twitter (and social media) was launched by MSM.

        Hillary didn’t lose because of any difference in mediums used. And Alex Jones is not a household name. When close to 50 percent of the electorate don’t vote it indicates that many of them don’t follow politics — thus don’t follow and aren’t familiar with all these pundits and news shows — so they certainly don’t go looking for it. They have to have it put under their nose to know of it. How many times have talk show hosts like Jay Leno or Sean Hannity gone out on the street and picked people at random to show pictures of high profile people (e.g. the U.S. vice president) and the vast majority of people have no clue who they’re looking at? Because they barely see them in their every day lives. But show them a celeb they see on TV or in the movies all the time and they can name them.

        Visibility without reliance of being voluntarily (by the seeker) found is demonstrated as key all around us.

        • Frank Davis says:

          I completely understood your earlier comment, but I can’t really understand this one at all.

          Are you saying that Trump was elected because he was a famous celebrity whose face people recognised? And that Hillary wasn’t elected because a lot of people hadn’t a clue who she was (just like they haven’t a clue who the US vice president is)?

          Anyway I think it’s true that on the internet people have to go looking for stuff, while with TV or radio it’s put under their nose. It’s much easier to just get spoon-fed by TV or radio than it is to select your own food items in the internet cafeteria, and eat them with your own knife and fork. And maybe that’s why lots of people watch TV or listen to radio.

          But, assuming that the US president and vice president appear regularly in news and current affairs TV programmes, shouldn’t most people who watch them know quite well who these people are? Or is it that they only ever watch quiz shows and Westerns, and never watch news and current affairs programmes?

        • audreysilk says:

          Frank, as your responding example of the power of the internet versus MSM, you said:

          “The growing power of the internet is something that could be seen most clearly in the US presidential election last year, in which the winner (Donald Trump) used the internet much more effectively than the loser (Hillary Clinton) who ran a classical MSM campaign, on which she spent twice as much money as the winner. Donald Trump barely bought any TV or newspaper ads. He used Twitter and Facebook and Infowars and Breitbart.”

          My reply wasn’t much about Trump or Hillary themselves. Like you, my point was about internet versus MSM using the people you included in your example for your rebuttal. But comparing an already famous person like Trump and his success through the internet to how WE, the unknown, can enjoy the same success through the internet is apples an oranges as to how the power of the internet works for us.

          Then, on what you have turned into a separate note, YOU asserted (implied) that it was the effective use of the internet that made a difference in who won, Trump or Clinton. To which I say that too is weak proof of how the internet plays a more important role than MSM. Hillary didn’t lose because she relied on MSM more than the internet. That part of my reply had nothing to do with recognition.

          The recognition part is the comparison between a person like Trump and US. The internet works well for those already recognized. WE are not recognized.

        • Frank Davis says:

          Audrey, I agree that Trump was already famous (and also that he gained that fame in the MSM – mostly via the Apprentice(?) TV show) but he’s far more famous now than he was 2 years ago. He’s famous all over the world. And a lot of that increased fame has come via the internet (most people can’t watch the US MSM).

          But I think there’s something else going on here, which is that Trump spoke directly and personally to people in ways that Hillary Clinton never was able to do. People didn’t flock to hear her speak like they came from miles around to hear him speak. She’d get maybe 200 people at a rally, and he got 20,000. Rallies aren’t MSM events. People have to do something – often drive 100 miles – to get to them.

          And I think that the internet is much more direct and personal than the MSM. The internet is two-way. The MSM is one-way megaphone. In our online communities, both here and on Facebook and elsewhere, it’s all much more direct and personal. People come to be trusted. And the MSM isn’t direct and personal. It’s all ‘mediated’ through editors and producers. And it’s correspondingly inauthentic.

          You’re right that WE aren’t recognised all around the world like Donald Trump is. But we are recognised among a growing community of smokers around the world. And isn’t that how people always start – by being famous to just a few people. Before the Beatles were famous all around the world, they were famous in Liverpool. Or maybe in just one club in Liverpool. And when their fame grew, it wasn’t initially because of the MSM, but because of things like pirate radio stations, and a bush telegraph of people playing Beatles records on Dansette record players to each other. That was how it was done back then.

          P.S. I don’t want to be famous! Nor, I suspect, do you. I think we both just want to be able to sit in a pub and drink a beer and smoke a cigarette like we used to love to do, in England and in NYC.

        • audreysilk says:

          Everything you keep saying just keeps making my point (in my humble opinion). It was MSM that made Trump a known name. It started there. That is the whole point of our discussion. Not what comes after.

          As for “increased fame” outside the U.S. is that he is the leader of the most powerful country in the world. All global politics flow from and around what the U.S. will do. That’s plain old news — MSM, internet, or whatever. It has nothing to do with medium. Since you don’t watch TV or read hard print newspapers doesn’t mean that’s not where the news is first or too.

          But again, our whole discussion hinges on what it takes to GAIN a voice, not how far and by what means it can be carried once gained. We’re discussing getting the voice at all. And the use of the internet solely will not do it. Speaking only amongst ourselves will not do it.

          Your Beatles analogy also makes my point. They got things out of their garage to gain recognition. For us to just rely on the internet — hopefully pulling drips and drabs of fellow smokers who somehow find us — is like staying in the garage with our instruments and hoping someone hears the music and comes in. Sure, our friends might help spread the word and get others to join in as well, but how does that make it a force — a voice — to be reckoned with?

          We need more than “fellow smokers” to have the voice you seek. We have to actively seek ways outside our garage to gain notoriety that will in turn influence the much-needed opinions of people who are NOT (or only) our fellow smokers.

          This whole discussion was about having a voice. That is what every word I’ve written is intended to answer.

  13. Rose says:

    OT

    A smoking ban in UK prisons could lead to months or even years of rioting
    13 May 2017

    “A leaked document from inside the Prison Service is raising fears of more serious prison riots by the end of the summer.
    An internal memo circulated at HMP Frankland, the category-A (high security) prison in Durham, revealed that a complete ban on tobacco is to be enforced in all high security jails from August 31.

    At present, prisoners are permitted to purchase tobacco products from jail canteens and to smoke in their own cells.
    Some prisons also allow smoking in open-air exercise yards.
    An estimated 80% of adult prisoners currently smoke tobacco.”

    “Last year, the Prison Service launched a pilot project by prohibiting smoking in jails in Wales and the south-west of England.
    So far, the results have not been encouraging even though inmates have been offered smoking cessation support in the form of nicotine patches and chewing gum.

    Tobacco was banned at HMP Erlestoke, near Devizes in Wiltshire, at the end of May 2016.
    Within three weeks, there was a major riot resulting in two cell blocks being severely damaged and 130 protesting prisoners transferred to other jails.”

    “Recent monitors’ reports from HMP Channings Wood in Devon state that since the smoking ban, there has been a marked rise in violence against staff and between inmates, while incidents of self-harm have also increased.”

    “At HMP Exeter, another prison where tobacco has been banned since 2016, HM Inspectorate of Prisons has noted a rise in the number of suicides, as well as increased violence against staff and inmates.”

    “Other prisons where smoking is prohibited are reporting that desperate inmates are smoking or even eating nicotine patches, while many are finding alternative substances to satisfy their cravings for tobacco and using the thin paper pages of Bibles to make roll ups”

    “If the results of the pilot project are anything to go by, our overcrowded and understaffed prison system may face months or even years of trouble ahead”
    http://metro.co.uk/2017/05/13/a-smoking-ban-in-uk-prisons-could-lead-to-months-or-even-years-of-rioting-6628526/

    Deborah Arnott
    I don’t predict a riot: jail smoking ban need not spell unrest
    23 July 2015

    “A letter from a non-smoking prisoner with lung cancer, distraught because he was forced to share his cell with smokers, convinced me that smoking in prisons is an issue of human rights. If anything, more so than in public places such as pubs and bars because prisoners have no choice about whether to be there or not.
    Yet every time the idea of a ban is raised in the media, the headlines inevitably focus on fears of unrest and riots, rather than the health and wellbeing of inmates and staff.

    The hypothesis that depriving smokers of tobacco could destabilise prisons may sound plausible, but there is little evidence to back it up. In fact, many prisons around the world have gone smoke-free with few problems, particularly if, as in New Zealand, this is accompanied by measures such as nicotine replacement therapy to support those who quit.”

    “The cultural change that has taken place everywhere else in society needs to be extended to prisons so that inmates and staff no longer have to put up with the harm caused by second-hand smoke. After it happens, just as with pubs and bars going smoke-free, we’ll all wonder what the fuss was about.”
    https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn27942-i-dont-predict-a-riot-jail-smoking-ban-need-not-spell-unrest/

    When will our government realise that they should never listen to a word Deborah Arnott says?

  14. Rose says:

    Yesterday’s Express, see the comments,

    Quit smoking to save the NHS:
    http://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/803414/quit-smoking-treatment-disease-NHS

    It’s very heartening to see such good information passed on.

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