Psychological Warfare

This morning as my eyes fell on a tobacco package covered with gory images, it struck me that they were a form of psychological warfare being directed at smokers.

Thinking further about it, I thought that psychological warfare has actually been being waged against smokers for a very, very long time. Back in my teens, before I started smoking, I can remember reading articles in newspapers and magazines, usually written by some doctor or scientist,  associating smoking with cancer or whatever.

It may account – probably does account – for the placid acceptance by smokers (and everyone else as well) of everything they’re told about smoking. Everyone has been so deeply and thoroughly blitzed with antismoking propaganda that they’re now thoroughly conditioned to think in a certain way.

It also occurred to me that research papers like the Doll and Hill London Hospitals study (1950) and British Doctors study (1954) were actually the beginning of the psychological warfare against smoking. The aim of these studies was not to conduct any research into smoking and disease, but to simply associate smoking and disease in the public mind. The same thing could have been done with alcohol, sugar, meat, cars, or anything else. From CATCH-3:

The British Doctors study ran for 50 years, producing a steady machine-gun fire of papers as the doctors all slowly dropped dead, which ensured that it would continue to link smoking and lung cancer. And this, it seems, was its purpose:

Writing in the December, 2001, issue of the British Medical Journal, Doll explained that the study was “devised by Sir Austin Bradford Hill to achieve maximum publicity for the critical link between smoking and lung cancer”. In short it was never intended as a serious scientific study to test the hypothesis that smoking may cause lung cancer.

“Plain packaging” has been a step change in the amplitude of the psychological warfare on smokers, by making the association between smoking and disease as loud and as graphic as possible.

I also wondered this morning whether this psychological warfare was an outgrowth of WW2, when psychological warfare was being waged against the Nazis, and by the Nazis against the Allies. Perhaps when the war was over, the psy-warriors simply moved on to fresh pastures, where their skills could be re-deployed against a new enemy – much in the way that rocket science and jet aircraft were swiftly adopted.

The use of psychological warfare against an enemy is one thing, but when governments or campaigners wage psychological warfare campaigns against their own people, it is something else altogether. It entails treating one’s own people with the same contempt with which an enemy is treated, in trying to force him to surrender. It entails scaring and stampeding people into submission.

I wrote yesterday that I feel I’ve been fighting a war for the past 10 years. I think of Tobacco Control as the enemy. And if they subject smokers to psychological warfare, why not subject them to the same?

A month or so ago I read in Dick Puddlecote’s blog (I can’t find the post, because the blog doesn’t seem to have a search option)  that, when asked why she didn’t just leave people alone, the Abhorrent Toad Deborah Arnott responded by saying “Why don’t you leave me alone?” Which indicated to me that the mud hurled at her had been beginning to get to her a bit. Good!

The psychological warfare being waged against smokers is being waged against all of them. But the counter-psychological warfare being waged by smokers against antismokers is generally directed at named individuals like Deborah Arnott or Stanton Glantz or Simon Chapman. And it’s a counter-war that seems to have evolved of its own accord.

Perhaps it deserves more thought. In what way are these people best discredited? In what way is Tobacco Control best undermined? To what extent are they actually feeling the heat? In Moscow in 2014, Tobacco Control held a conference from which the general public and the media were excluded. That seemed to me to indicate weakness: these people fear scrutiny. They fear the general public and the media. And how important is it to them to meet up and hold conferences in which they re-enforce each other’s morale? Are they facing mounting resistance on all sides? How much do they need to have a supportive peer group telling them that they’re all doing a Good Thing? What kind of doubts plague them? Which attacks on them hit them hardest?

Tobacco Control may remain in the ascendancy, but its position always seems very weak to me. For although they crow about all the good they do, and how everyone’s health benefits from their smoking bans, they actually do far more harm than good. In fact, I can’t see that they do any good at all. They’re snake oil salesmen whose customers have been slowly realising that they’ve been sold snake oil. As a government-funded programme, Tobacco Control really ought to be first in line for funding cuts. And they probably know it. The UK government dragged its feet for 18 months before producing a new Tobacco Control Plan. And it probably dragged its feet because it didn’t really want one. And it probably only produced one because since the recent election the government is a lot weaker than it was before, and is having to give way to pressures it could otherwise have resisted.

I created a Deborah Arnott dartboard a few weeks ago to help decorate the Smoky Drinky Bar. That was a little bit of psychological warfare. It can’t help her self-image to think of darts raining down on her face. It can’t help her self-image to know that there are people who want to throw darts at her face. Why would people want to throw darts at someone who thinks she’s doing so much good? Was it an effective piece of psychological warfare?



About Frank Davis

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17 Responses to Psychological Warfare

  1. Timothy Goodacre says:

    No one takes any notice of the new PP packets where I live. If anything they are a badge of honour now !

  2. Vlad says:

    Yes, it is Nazi inspired psychological warfare. It’s arguable that it wasn’t like that in the beginning, with small warnings such as the US ‘ Caution: cigarette smoking may be hazardous to your health.’ or the UK ‘Think first – most doctors don’t smoke’ . But now with the medical porn and every side of the pack covered in big, loud variants of ‘smoking kills’ —it’s full blown warfare. And the more extreme the claims, the more stupid a person has to be to swallow them.

    Thing is, just like with other mantras, such as ‘eating fat clogs up your arteries and gives you a heart attack’, people are starting to wake up and smell the BS.

  3. Clicky says:

  4. Oi you says:

    The fact that they tell lies, but dress it up as if it’s the truth, is what really gets me. It’s not the lies themselves as such, just the way that they manipulate the truth for their own ends. Their latest is that being obese causes cancer. They could just stick with the truth, that being obese does have a knock on effect on your health with diseases such as diabetes, but no, they have to tell lies. It’s almost a compulsion with them.


    • Joe L. says:

      They could just stick with the truth, that being obese does have a knock on effect on your health with diseases such as diabetes

      On what basis do you claim this is “the truth?” Much like the pseudoscientific “studies” regarding smoking-related diseases, all studies linking obesity to diabetes are based off the interpretation of data by “experts.” They cherry-pick statistics that suggest correlation, then, though clever wording, imply that correlation equals causation, which is utter garbage. It’s no different than the more recent studies you cite claiming obesity causes cancer.

      I believe there are many genetic factors (not lifestyle factors) that result in the onset of diabetes. For example, my father developed Type 2 diabetes in his late 40s even though he was/is thin as a rail.

      However, obesity is “unsightly” and a sign of “weakness,” exactly the way smoking is viewed by these puritanical ideologues, and it must be painted in a disparaging light in hopes of shaming people into changing their behaviors.

  5. Rose says:

    I also wondered this morning whether this psychological warfare was an outgrowth of WW2, when psychological warfare was being waged against the Nazis, and by the Nazis against the Allies. Perhaps when the war was over, the psy-warriors simply moved on to fresh pastures, where their skills could be re-deployed against a new enemy – much in the way that rocket science and jet aircraft were swiftly adopted

    Yes and no, apparently the public where already wise to that so a new approach was tried.

    Smoking and the New Health Education in Britain 1950s–1970s

    “The idea of outlining specific courses of action to take was anathema to a society that associated “propaganda” with wartime central direction and with earlier Nazi propaganda. Health education placed its faith in the citizenship and responsibility of its recipients.”

    ” The models came from American social psychology. The new breed of educators were to be trained in journalism, publicity, the behavioral sciences, and teaching methods. Health education would involve both imparting knowledge and inculcating self-discipline: part of the role of the new health educator was that of a salesperson, persuading people to take appropriate action. Simply knowing about the risks of cigarette smoking was not enough; the Cohen committee labeled tobacco advertising “propaganda,” and the advertising had to be countered in the same way as propaganda”

    “The advertising agency Saatchi and Saatchi mounted the new-style advertising campaign for the HEC. Saatchi’s campaign emerged from the reconfiguration of advertising in the United Kingdom in the 1960s and under the influence of developments taking place in the United States. ”

    “At first, the work was confined to posters and brochures, but later came full-scale advertising. Saatchi produced a number of advertisements early in 1970 with such content as “The tar and discharge that collect in the lungs of the average smoker” and “You can’t scrub your lungs clean.” These images generated an anti-aesthetic around smoking; visible effects, such as unsightly nicotine stains on fingers, provided a visual cue to deeper, more significant damage. The rest of the media started to become interested. The Sun newspaper wrote about the anti-smoking campaign, noting how dynamic and brutally effective the copywriting was. Earlier hesitations about generating public fears concerning cancer were swept aside. Graphic images of diseased lungs were featured in posters such as one asking “Why learn the truth about lung cancer the hard way?”

    In 1970, the Saatchi brothers formed the Saatchi and Saatchi agency, and Charles Saatchi brought the HEC account with him. For the first time, the anti-smoking campaign was extended to television. Advertisements in 1971 showed smokers crossing London’s Waterloo Bridge intercut with film of lemmings throwing themselves off a cliff.”

    • nisakiman says:

      Good link. Thanks Rose.

      • Rose says:

        On a similar theme.

        Medicine and the Public: The 1962 Report of the Royal College of Physicians and the New Public Health

        “The civil servant Enid Russell Smith, always an incisive analyst of events, commented in 1962 that government could draw in future on two things: parents’ concern for their children, and the changes taking place in the medical profession.
        Publicity would have the authority of the profession.
        So far, she commented, the state had not sought to protect individuals from doing harm to their own health if they were not harming the health of others; alcohol was an exception to the rule, and also drugs of addiction, but for both it was the social consequences rather than individual health that was paramount.
        The new line might be that the costs fell on the state, and so government should stop people from damaging their health—but, she commented presciently, once government took on this role, it would not stop at smoking”

  6. waltc says:

    The psy-war was as much aimed at nonsmokers to get them to change their image of smokers and then to revile (hate, fear) them. The anti-semitic Nazi propaganda films (Jews morphing into rats with implications of pestilence) had the same aim.

    • margo says:

      Hi Walt, I’ve pissed off my visitors by reading Manhattan Roulette all the time – couldn’t put it down. I’ve finished it and now one of them is reading it. Many congratulations – I loved it.

  7. smokingscot says:

    We seem to have been following the NZ template. And after years of excesses as well as the scandal surrounding the money hidden in one tobacco control’s bank accounts, their decision makers have pulled the plug on advocacy.

    I do apologise for including a link to anything written by Chapman, however it is pertinent. His moaning is – perversely – quite pleasurable.

    Perhaps that’s one reason why Ms. Arnott’s just a little bit sensitive. Or maybe she just doesn’t much like taking criticism, though delights in dishing it out.

    Should any of her groupies fancy reading a little more of what tobacco control does do, my latest sheds a light on one aspect of “unintended consequences”.

  8. Smoking Lamp says:

    It is ironic that Ms Arnott is sensitive about being harasses and attacked when she has played a major role in the persecution and denial of liberty of millions of fellow citizens. But then again many of the Nazis actually thought they did anything wrong either. She sounds a lot like Eichmann in Jerusalem.

    Ot seems the lifestyle controllers are obvious to their own hate and bullying. In a parallel case to tobacco control the anti-meat militants (activist Vegans aligned with the animal liberation movement) are using intimidation and direct action to force butchers to adopt ‘humane practices’ and reject meat and shift to selling Vegan products. Recently Vegan extremists in Berkeley have forced a local butcher shop to hang animal rights posters in the shop’s window as the Vegans advocate for a ‘meat-free’ Berkeley. Mob tactics, extortion and coercion are being used to force the anti-meat agenda. See “Berkeley butcher shop puts up animal rights sign after protests” at

    So now lifestyle control is showing its extremist roots. I expect we will see similar moves in the tobacco control and anti-alcohol arms of the prohibitionist project as well.

  9. Lepercolonist says:

    Nice dartboard Frank.

  10. kin_free says:

    I have been away camping with my grand children for a few days. One day I left a cigarette packet on the table in the tent and it was seen by my 6 year old grandson. On seeing the bloody picture of a woman apparently coughing up blood he said “arrrrg, smoking is bad for you – look what it does”. (This was stated as a matter of fact, not as a query) At 6 years old, he has already been indoctrinated into anti-smoker dogma. I suspect that this is the case for all children by age 6 yrs. and have you noticed how most people with apparently innocent minds have become almost experts in the harms of smoking today (but very few are aware of any benefits at all)? While these gory pictures are ignored by myself because I know they are pictorial lies – that is not the case with innocent, trusting minds.

    What immediately came to my mind was the old quote;
    “Give Me the Child Until He is Seven and I will give you the man”

    I came across this blog entry that I thought was very relevant, albeit relating to traditional religion (anti-smoking has become the principal ‘cause célèbre’ in the religion of ‘healthism’);

    “South Pacific is a 1958 musical romance film adaptation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific, and based on James A. Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific.

    You’ve got to be taught
    To hate and fear,
    You’ve got to be taught
    From year to year,
    It’s got to be drummed
    In your dear little ear
    You’ve got to be carefully taught.

    You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
    Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
    And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
    You’ve got to be carefully taught.

    You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
    Before you are six or seven or eight,
    To hate all the people your relatives hate,
    You’ve got to be carefully taught!

    Rogers and Hammerstein. What geniuses they were.

    St. Francis Xavier (1506-1552) is a genius of another kind. He said: “Give me the child until he is seven and I’ll give you the man”.

    Indeed! Nothing underscores the flaw in religion better than this quote from 500 years ago. Back then, St. Francis fully understood that a child’s brain could be contaminated at an early age, and once the seed was planted and nourished with weekly doses of dogma, the child would grow into a man (or woman) unable to rid themselves of the noxious belief system planted in their innocent unsuspecting, unquestioning brains.

    And here’s the thing. Every religious person, whatever delusion they claim as their own, must surely understand this simple idea. “
    Another relevant famous quote;
    “When an opponent declares, ‘I will not come over to your side.’ I calmly say, ‘Your child belongs to us already… What are you? You will pass on. Your descendants, however, now stand in the new camp. In a short time they will know nothing else but this new community.’”
    ~ Adolf Hitler (Speech November 1933, quoted in ‘The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich’ by William Shirer)
    Psychological warfare indeed – and our children are in the vanguard – their main target.

  11. roobeedoo2 says:

    Hi Frank,

    OT but I thought this might interest you with regard to Idle Theory:

  12. slugbop007 says:

    All over the world people should send daily emails, tweets and the like to Débile Arnott, Simple (‘If I only had a brain’) Simon, Maggie C (more Champagne, please), Stan the Sham Glantz and others to test their overall intelligence, or general lack thereof. Nag the heck out of them about nutrition, medical tips the sex life of newts, anything and everything. Serious and absurd. Bug the hell out of them until they end up in the loony bin. Where they belong.


  13. slugbop007 says:

    Might as well send them gory photo stuff as well. See how they like it.


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