Lost For Words

I was watching Steve Bannon, Laura Ingraham and Dr. Sebastian Gorka making speeches yesterday. Steve Bannon was quite impassioned, angry about freedoms that were being taken away – but not giving examples of such freedoms.

I didn’t watch the whole speech, so for all I know he might well have produced a long list of lost freedoms at the end of his speech. I’ll watch the rest sometime or other.

I’m pretty sure Steve Bannon smokes cigars.

Tallahassee is about as far as you can get in the U.S., geographically and psychically, from the circus of the presidential campaign trail. That’s why Bannon chose to locate the Government Accountability Institute there—that, and the fact that Schweizer had moved down from Washington. “There’s nothing to do in Tallahassee, so I get a lot more work done,” Schweizer jokes, on my recent visit. GAI is housed in a sleepy cul de sac of two-story brick buildings that looks like what you’d get if Scarlett O’Hara designed an office park. The unmarked entrance is framed by palmetto trees and sits beneath a large, second-story veranda with sweeping overhead fans, where the (mostly male) staff gathers every afternoon to smoke cigars and brainstorm.

So why didn’t he cite smoking bans as an example of a freedom that was being lost? If he’s a smoker, he’ll have felt that particular loss of freedom many times. And if he’s an angry smoker, he’ll be particularly angry about that particular lost freedom. And so will a great many of the people who were listening to him.

But as I watched, it occurred to me that Steve Bannon couldn’t mention smoking or smoking bans. After all, Everybody Knows that smoking is bad for you. It’s probably the most unquestionable dogma of out modern era. You can’t question it. Or if you do, it’s a bit like telling people that you think the earth is flat, and babies are brought by storks, and they can tap their heads knowingly, and smile.

Or, to put it another way, Steve Bannon didn’t know how to talk about smoking bans. He wasn’t articulate enough. And as I listened to him I found myself thinking that, for all his passion, he wasn’t really very articulate. Or rather, that he was no more articulate than Donald Trump, for whom he has been a close confidant for the past year. Because Donald Trump is pretty inarticulate too. Although he’s highly articulate in an inarticulate sort of way.

But is anybody articulate? Is anybody very good at putting things into words? In the USA someone like Ron Paul seems to be highly articulate. And Sean Hannity. And Tucker Carlson. And Ann Coulter. And Thomas Sowell. They’re all people who can talk, put things into words, construct criticisms and arguments. And the rest are inarticulate. And so they only sit and listen.

I often complain about the way most smokers never complain about smoking bans. But there may be a very simple reason for this, which I have only just stumbled across, which is that they don’t know how to talk about them. They’re lost for words.

And in fact, everyone is lost for words about smoking bans. Because nobody, including Ron Paul and Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson and Ann Coulter and Thomas Sowell, ever says anything about smoking bans. Even the one single man who perhaps epitomises the smoker – Nigel Farage – hardly ever says anything about them. He’ll talk eloquently and at length about EU and US politics, but says next to nothing about smoking bans, although I know that he feels strongly enough about them to have, as one example, campaigned against the street smoking ban proposed in Stony Stratford. Even the late (and highly articulate) Tony Benn had nothing to say about smoking bans, and only expressed his mute anatagonism to them by smoking a pipe on camera (something few politicians allow themselves to do these days, it seems).

I’m beginning to think that whoever manages to put their finger on the real problem of smoking bans, and express it in simple words, will break a spell that holds everybody – absolutely everybody – presently tongue-tied. Because nobody seems to know how to do it. And that’s why nobody ever speaks about it.

Of course I try. I try every single day. And sometimes I manage to put something or other into words in some new way. I know I succeed because people have printed off and distributed some of my writings for other people to read. Every day, writing this blog, is all about trying to find a way to put things into words in ways I’ve never yet managed.

It’s a bit like playing Doom or Tomb Raider, and fighting your way from room to room, but never managing to get past Level 7, because you haven’t figured out what to do about the fire-breathing dragon that comes out of the shadows there.

A childhood homily comes to mind:

If at first you don’t succeed.
Try, try, and try again.

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27 Responses to Lost For Words

  1. Vlad says:

    I’ll second nightlight’s thoughts on this issue…smokers don’t revolt (or very weakly if they do) against smoking bans because 99% of them have been brainwashed that smoking kills and a majority believe that passive smoking is a health danger to nonsmokers.

    Untill smokers become righteous about smoking, and not apologetic and viewing it as a ‘sin’ as the case has been for decades, I don’t see how things can improve.

    • Vlad says:

      The ‘health experts’ can be easily challenged..people are waking up for instance in the area of nutrition (recommended food pyramid) Ancel Keys, which is the Richard Doll of nutrition epidemiology has been getting a lot of criticism from low carb/paleo people who
      went trough his studies from the 1950s
      – quitting smoking and following ‘experts’ recommendations has lead to a big increase in obesity heart disease/cancers and depression (to mention just a few) with resulting skyrocketing healthcare costs
      – anti-smoking is an industry made up of various factions (zealots, governments interested in taxes, Big Pharma)
      – Big Tobacco (more correctly would be Big Cigarette) is not a friend of smokers, they’ve sold them long ago and are only interested in staying in business….all they say about smoking and health are political statements
      So just like people are realizing eggs or butter aren’t bad because some 3 letter bureaucracies using cherry picked junk science and Big Pharma interested in selling cholesterol drugs told them so, I hope they’ll start realizing it’s the same thing with tobacco, a plant which has been cultivated for 8.000 years and which has been periodically under attack by various fanatics since 1600.

  2. Rose says:

    “I often complain about the way most smokers never complain about smoking bans. But there may be a very simple reason for this, which I have only just stumbled across, which is that they don’t know how to talk about them. They’re lost for words.”

    Goodness knows we’ve passed them enough ammunition to fire back over the last ten years on this blog alone.

    • nisakiman says:

      Unfortunately, Rose, not enough of them read Frank’s blog. If they did, I think we’d be in a very different place now.

      And of course, what most people who smoke are reading is the MSM, which just reinforces the belief of most smokers that they are sinners, as Vlad points out above. And those of us who try to get some facts out into the wider world via comments sections in the MSM are very often censored, so our efforts there are for naught. Papers like the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph must have my name flagged, because my comments always go into moderation, even when they say ‘comments are not moderated’, and rarely see the light of day. Or if they do, it’s usually a day or so later when the item is no longer on the main page.

      It’s a massively powerful machine we’re fighting.

      • Rose says:

        Oh that’s true, but generally speaking, I would have expected a little more curiosity. People must sense there’s something terribly wrong.

    • Dmitri says:

      Pass them more of it, don’t be greedy, sharing is not losing.

  3. Tony says:

    News involving smoking is unremittingly bad. It is always about planned or upcoming new persecution measures. Even health scares seem to be secondary these days (although I don’t watch TV so I can’t be certain). Such news seems deliberately calculated to get smokers angry and depressed.

    People understandably try to avoid getting angry or depressed and so tend to avoid the subject. Even Forest tends, too often, to criticize smokers. They never denounce the WHOLE thing as the fraud that it is. Instead you get comments like ‘there is no serious evidence of danger from passive smoking in the open air’ (not a direct quote). Implying that there is some in regards to indoor smoking. Which there isn’t. Either of the passive or active variety. Of course I realise that they’d never get any air time or print space at all if they stepped out of line.

    There is a corollary though. Which is that I suspect if and when good news happens, smokers will eagerly lap it up and at last begin to talk about the subject. So once the tide begins to turn it will become a raging torrent. The anti-smoking industry must be terrified of this. All that’s protecting them is their vast propaganda budget and their vice like grip on the media.

    • beobrigitte says:

      Of course I realise that they’d never get any air time or print space at all if they stepped out of line.
      This probably is the reason why anybody speaking in the media about smoking starts off with this annoying sentence ‘We all know smoking is bad for you…’

      This puts the person defending the smokers already into a bad position, which is made worse then by trying the obvious: using the very far and few between INDEPENDENT studies to raise (in my view the wrong kind of ) questions about some particular studies.
      The whole thing usually ends with the person defending the smoker looking silly and the anti-smoker gleefully citing one piece after the other of their own fraction financed “research”, winning the argument.

      Wouldn’t it be better to start off raising the subject of transparency in every aspect involved – from research to law making!

    • Dmitri says:

      The tide won’t turn by itself, people like us will turn it.

  4. waltc says:

    Unfortunately, even confronting the jihadis with facts about secondhand smoke has so far proved futile. Case in point was the CLASH lawsuit against NYC’s ban. I’d estimate that about 300 pages of Exhibits–exquisitely documented studies refuting the “proof” of its harm and affidavits from recognized scientists –were included and summarily rejected by the judge who acknowledged that while they might even be valid, a) who were we, as mere amateurs, to present scientific evidence, which, in our hands, was merely a form of hearsay, b) who were we to contradict such unimpeachable personages as the Surgeon General and the EPA, FDA etc, and c) to contradict the will of the august legislature that had relied on the Unimpeachable in reaching its rational conclusion. Case dismissed.

    • beobrigitte says:

      a) who were we, as mere amateurs, to present scientific evidence
      Wouldn’t the case have fared better, presenting to the court a list of which studies were financed by whom, raising the question of were all studies truly INDEPENDENT?

      Walt, it is a time consuming (also costly!) exercise to plough through the most anti-smoker lobby cited research which gave them the smoking ban to find who funded it in the first place. But it is worth it.
      And it raises a lot of questions.

      • Smoking Lamp says:

        There is a large body of literature discussing and documenting conflicts of interest (COI) in medicine (including conflicts at CDC, WHO, FDA and other bodies):

        “THE VAST CONFLICTS OF INTEREST IN MEDICINE” Pacific C Standard, Jan. 17, 2017 https://psmag.com/news/the-vast-conflicts-of-interest-in-medicine

        Rose, SL, eta al “Patient Advocacy Organizations, Industry Funding, and Conflicts of Interest,” JAMA Intern Med. 2017;177(3):344-350. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.8443

        Pham-Kanter G, “Revisiting financial conflicts of interest in FDA advisory committees;” Milbank Q. 2014 Sep;92(3):446-70. doi: 10.1111/1468-0009.12073.

        Then there is the archive (series) of articles on medical COI at ProPublica:

        “Dollars for Doctors: How Industry Money Reaches Physicians,” ProPublica https://www.propublica.org/series/dollars-for-docs

      • waltc says:

        Brigitte: Most of it’s done either within govt agencies themselves (FDA,EPA,CDC etc) or under govt (agenda-driven) grants– or the agenda-driven people w/i the agencies cherry pick the university studies that ostensibly “prove” their case, deleting others from their meta-analyses with transparently lame excuses.. Tho many studies to the contrary (the No Harm studies) have had govt or NGO origins (Roger Jenkins at ORNL for example, or the first phases of Enstrom and Kabat’s or Gio Gori’s work) a lot of them, tho published in journals, have outsider origins or , gasp, big T backing, But one way or another excuses are found to discredit them all p, and only the official govt (ETS kills) studies are honored. IOW, i think what you suggest would backfire.

    • Vlad says:

      Things like this make me wonder when I read news about people harmed or even killed by various FDA approved ‘medicines’…is it really a tragedy or is it karma with an ironic touch? And what makes it to the news in just the very tip of the iceberg…

    • Smoking Lamp says:

      Sounds like a Nazi or Stalinist show trial. Propaganda on the side of the powerful trumps truth on the side of the oppressed. There are powerful memes (supported by ample power and profit) censoring the truth. That’s why the answer must be found in political action rather than in the courts. I like Nisakiman try and counter the antismoker lies everyday (it’s getting harder as an increasing number of sites disallow comments–sometimes only on tobacco articles). Despite that and the inevitable shout down from a pack of rabid astroturf antismokers, I persist. The antismoker hysteria is fueled by ignorance, a quest for power, and I suspect a desire for some to oppress others.

  5. waltc says:

    This is behind a paywall in the London Times. Can anyone here with a subscription c/p it here and/or at Audrey’s?


  6. Dmitri says:

    Looking for simple and proper words is just the thing, and may I humbly remind you about my (our) Smoker’s Manifesto? If I didn’t do it right, let somebody else do it better, and put the proper words into people’s mouths.
    As a related subject (to US, Bannon, etc.), have a look at this interview with Scott Pruitt, the passage about “science” behind the Global Warming. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

    Bluey: Can you describe the shortcomings of the scientific evidence for climate change and the type of data that would be needed to convince you that climate change is happening?

    Pruitt: Well, a couple things. Let me address something a little bit big picture and then I’ll get into the specific question.

    I have advisory boards at my agency. The CASAC, the science advisory board that advises me on air quality issues. I have BOSC and I have the Science Advisory Board.

    The scientists who make up these bodies, and there are dozens and dozens of these folks, over the years those individuals as they’ve served those capacities, guess what has also happened? They’ve received moneys through grants and sometimes substantial moneys through grants.

    I think what’s most important at the agencies is to have scientific advisers who are objective, independent minded, providing transparent recommendations to me as the administrator and to our office on the decisions that we’re making on the efficacy of rules that we’re passing to address environmental issues.

    If we have individuals that are on those boards that are receiving money from the agency, sometimes going back years and years to the tune of literally tens of millions of dollars, over time, that to me causes questions on the independence and the veracity of the transparency of the recommendations that are coming our way.

    Next week, I want you to know something, and I’m not trying to get ahead of myself too much, but next week we are going to fix that. Next week, I am going to issue a directive that addresses just that, that’s much like the sue and settle, to ensure the independence, transparency, and objectivity with respect to the scientific advice that we are getting at the agency.


  7. Joe L. says:

    I don’t recall seeing this mentioned here yet.

    Smoking bans in cars with minors present are slowly creeping into the U.S., currently in Hawaii.

    In typical Antismoking propaganda fashion, this article calls it a ban on smoking in “cars carrying kids.” More of the old “think of the chiiiildren” ploy. The ban extends to cars containing anyone under the age of 18. I wouldn’t call a 17-year old a “kid.” But of course “kids” tugs at the heartstrings more than “minors” even if it isn’t quite accurate. We all know the Antismokers stopped caring about accuracy decades ago, so no surprise here.

    Honolulu City Council bans smoking in cars carrying kids

    • RdM says:

      It’s been going on for years in the US, Joe, as I felt compelled to research when it recently was pushed again here a couple of months before our recent election, which has seen a lurch to the left… so now the results are known it’ll be even more imperative to contradict, argue and provide sensible commentary and evidence against…

      Look here (not sorted by date,so scroll down) (better as is by relevance IMHO)

      The very relevant point is made that if the Government can be fooled, persuaded, to enact a law on what is NOT “child abuse” but merely in a fleeting exposure in a car on a short journey, a theoretical statistical risk on dubious cherry picked tiny studies where larger serious studies show NO ETS risk, a privately owned space – break that (private space) barrier and you have the possibility of State intrusion into the private home, where the effective potential ETS exposure is so much greater for many more hours, on the same flimsy but relentlessly propagandized arguments… so I applaud his sensible consideration of this, even if he is an exiled tobacco control player with some faults.

      And here,the zealots were trying the same trick/angle again, last July, a couple of months before our election and now putative new socialist Prime Minister next week.

      I see comments are still open on couple of articles of that time, so I’m starting to collate facts and compose responses, as it will start to ramp up with the new Government.

      I’ll post links for that later.

      • Joe L. says:

        Thanks, RdM. I was aware of a few states passing laws of the sort, but I hadn’t heard of any recent legislation on the table here in a while. I guess it’s just par for the course with all antismoking legislation these days (at least here in the U.S.): there is practically no mention of it in the media until after it has already passed. I believe this is done by design for most new draconian laws in order to all but eliminate the possibility of debate and/or protest.

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