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?