Exerting Small Influences

Smokingscot disagrees with me:

“But to fight back, you have to get nasty. And most people don’t want to be nasty. Most smokers are very nice, friendly, kind, thoughtful people. And so they won’t fight back.”

I really can’t let that one pass Frank. First off I don’t think it’s possible for us to “fight back”; we’re the consumer of a product and our beef is with the smoking ban.

It’s not possible for us to fight back, because we’re just consumers?

I suppose that in many ways we are just consumers. Or – same thing – customers.

We are perhaps no different from customers at a restaurant. We’ve been going there for years, and every time we go we order our same favourite dish – beef and vodka escalopes. And then one day we arrive and find that the restaurant has changed hands, and it no longer serves our favourite dish. Instead it now only offers a variety of crêpes and quiches. Even the old wooden chairs and tables have gone, and been replaced by metal ones. And the new proprietor only speaks French. What can one do?

There’s at least one thing you can do: you can stop going to that restaurant. Just because it’s all completely changed, it doesn’t mean you have to carry on going there and eating whatever’s on the new menu. With luck the old proprietor has simply moved to a newer, larger restaurant, with the same menu as the original restaurant, and maybe the same tables.

Or, if you’re rich enough, you can buy the old restaurant, and the old chairs and tables, and hire the old chef and waitresses, and thereby recreate the old restaurant.

Our circumstance precludes this last possibility, because it’s not just that the restaurant has changed hands, but the laws governing restaurants have been changed: beef and vodka escalopes have been banned. And so have wooden chairs and tables. They’ve all been “de-normalised” by people who are trying to change norms. They’re people who think that they can change society simply by legislating the old society out of existence, and legislating a new one into existence.

But you can protest against the new society simply by refusing to engage with it: you can stop going to the “beef-free” and “vodka-free” restaurants.

But you can do more than that. You can write letters of protest to your local newspaper, or to your local councillor. You can put up wall posters and stickers that say Bring Back The Old Restaurants. Or you can write books about how good the old restaurants used to be. Or you can form a Society For The Restoration Of The Old Restaurants With Proper Wooden Tables. Or found a political party with that aim. And if you’re angry enough, you can deface the new restaurants, or even burn them down.

There are in fact an infinite number of things you can do in order to fight back. And in whatever way you fight back, you exert influence to some greater or lesser extent.

We are all able to exert influence. We exert influence whenever we open our mouths and speak. Or whenever we write a letter or an essay or a book. Or whenever we paint a picture, or sing a song, or write an equation. We even exert influence by not doing things: not buying new products, not frequenting new restaurants, not wearing new clothes.

We seem to be living in a time when some people have decided that we must all live in a different way than that to which we are accustomed. They think they know better than we do what’s good for us. I don’t know where they all came from. But somehow or other they seem to control all our governments, and all our broadcast media, and all our professions, and all our courts. They’re trying to control what we think, and what we say, in the most minute detail. And they act on a global scale. They have instigated a global revolution, in which every country in the world, every culture, every belief system, is to be swept away.

But we can resist. We can refuse to do as they demand. And we can exert influence on them, and on each other.

Over the past few months, by writing to my MP in protest against prison smoking bans, I’ve been exerting a tiny influence on the British government.  And the government has noticed me. They may not have changed their minds about prison smoking bans, but they have at least noticed me. For all these tiny influences add up, just like the tiny forces of gravity or flows of heat in my computer simulation models all add up to cause planets to follow elliptical orbits and ice sheets to melt.

It’s only a tiny little drop in the ocean, but the oceans consist entirely of millions upon millions of such tiny little droplets of water.

It was 17.4 million tiny droplets of paper that caused the earth-shaking Brexit vote.  And in the USA in November 2016, 62,984,828 Americans voted for Donald Trump, with the result that he’s now their President. It may be that Theresa May isn’t going to implement Brexit (she’s showing very little sign of doing anything about it), and maybe Donald Trump will lose the next election, or be impeached, but all those tiny votes have added up to produce two shock results. I’m sure that there will be many more such shocks.

For all of human history is the exertion of tiny influences in one direction or other. Even if we’re soldiers in armies, holding rifles, we are still only exerting tiny influences. The swords and arrows and bullets never go very far. And all our battles are really just loud shouting matches.

We are much, much more powerful than we think we are. If we want to, we can move mountains. And we regularly do move mountains, when we act in concert.

Nope Frank I won’t fight a tsunami, it’s too big, too powerful and it’s way beyond the ability of even the tobacco companies to take them on head on.

It’s not them who’s the tsunami: it’s us. Tobacco Control consists of a few thousand people scattered around the world, while there are hundreds of millions of us. We are far, far more powerful than they are. We hardly need to even lift a finger to sweep them all away.

And we are going to sweep them all away.

About Frank Davis

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13 Responses to Exerting Small Influences

  1. John Watson says:

    The concept of resistance to an ‘occupying’ power is very old, and an occupying power need not be a foreign power that has invaded another nation. Tobacco control is very much an occupying power, it has taken over politics to an amazing degree, to the extent that politicians now fail to represent a part of their constituencies, they endorse taxation without representation since smokers are prohibited from officially arguing their case to politicians nor can they protest the extortion by taxation of smokers. Ask any American about taxation without representation, and where that leads.

    Occupations by their very nature breed resistance, Boadicea resisted the power of Rome, Spartacus also challenged Rome both lost, yet they forced changes deep within the Roman Empire, they showed that limited resistance had an effect far out of proportion to what they actually did!

    If you fast forward to the 20th Century the Activities of the Norwegian Linge, of the French Marquis had an effect far beyond their size and activities, They had an astonishing impact for their size, tying up German troops that badly needed elsewhere on the Eastern Front and the beaches of Normandy. Neither was it all violence, a good deal damage was done from an administrative side too, trains mysteriously, were rerouted, supplies mislaid or sent where they were not required, all manner of ‘peaceful resistance’ were employed and the price was high in terms of collateral damage against the populace of the occupied countries. Was it worth it? Ask the French or any of the nations that actively resisted the occupation, they will unanimously tell you that it was, the debt owed to the Linge, the Marquis, even the White Rose within Germany herself, is incalculable.

    Perhaps we asking the wrong things of our politicians, perhaps we should not even ask at all, perhaps we should remind them of their duty to all of their constituents, not just those who can pay for their services, not just those who live a parasitic lifestyle, taking public money to enforce lifestyles that most people do not want or need.

    We live in a democratic society, and democracy still means the power of the people, by the people, for the people, so give them a choice, represent all their constituents, or be voted out of office, if they continue as they are, it will happen anyway, they cannot deny everyone, everything they enjoy with impunity, those who enjoy alcohol, sugar, meat, tobacco make up their constituencies, it is ultimately they who decide the fate of politicians, not the politicians themselves. It is how the Prohibition was defeated, it is how women achieved voting equality, The House of Commons, the House of Lords, even the Monarchy, has a legal and moral duty to represent smokers as Citizens of this nation, not overburden them with taxes, not make them outcasts in society, and certainly not to make them the 21st Century Jews, which is, where their policies are taking us.

    • Andi says:

      -“The House of Commons, the House of Lords, even the Monarchy, has a legal and moral duty to represent smokers as Citizens of this nation, not overburden them with taxes, not make them outcasts in society, and certainly not to make them the 21st Century Jews, which is, where their policies are taking us.”-

      It’s a shame that no MP has the balls to stand and point this out to the House of Commons.

  2. irocyr says:

    The biggest obstacle towards ”our revolution” is the population itself. Non-smokers and most smokers themselves, have drank the kool-aid. Theophil Goddard has been saying it since day one that the first thing to do is to eucate smokers themselves. To point out to them all the lies and inconsistencies. You can’t fight even the smallest army when even your own soldiers are against you. Just look at many vapers who have bought all the lies and it is the main reason they quit smoking with the vaping alternative. Even the organizations that protect drug addicts will not openly side with smokers. The tobacco industry itself does not stand with their customers. Neither does the hospitaliy industry. That does not mean that we just roll over and play dead but unless millions of dollars come our way all we can do is what we’re doing. Educate smokers and open-minded non-smokers themselves by exposing the lies in forums, websites, open lines, by writing to our politicians. Although I am a little out of steam as of lately, this is what I and many like me have been doing for over a decade. Are we seeing a difference ? We are seeing a difference on the internet. We are no longer discounted as lunatics in forums. An ever increasing number of people are getting more educated but we need a lot of more of us informed people to do it. We are of course dealing with what is now considered a taboo subject. much like when one tries to tell people that Trump is not the monster the ms media portrays him as being.. And although some people believe us and agree they don’t dare speak out at the risk of going against political correctness and discounted as lunatics just like we were at first.

    Will anti-tobacco be defeated ? Unless something drastic happens and tobacco control is totally defunded by not only the governments but when Big Pharma can no longer make a hefty profit out of anti-smoking , I don’t believe we will see any meaningful change in this generation. But let’s keep educating in the meantime.

  3. When people ask me to autograph a copy of Brains, I’ll almost always finish it by going to the lower left corner of the title page and printing:

    Be The Sand.

    Basically I’m saying:

    “We can’t ALL be the guy who stands in front of the tank in Tiennamen Square. We may not have the guts, or we may have obligations to family that prevent us from risking ourselves, or we may feel that the result of an action may not be sufficient to warrant the risk it involves. BUT… we can at least, even if we’re just sitting by the sidelines, throw a few grains of sand into the treads of the tank as it passes by. It may not be much, but if we ALL do it… the tank will eventually break down.”

    – MJM, a bit of sand in the gears…

  4. waltc says:

    On the one hand, keep in mind that the whole international anti-tobacco movement began with a small handful of zealots–so small, one can name them: Banzaf, Repace, Glantz, Wells, Cherner, and, much later, Carmona and Kessler and, still later, Friedman. A few other names escape me at the moment, but the point is: there are few. The trick was, that all but Banzaf and Cherner worked their way into positions within the government– EPA, FDA, DOH, CDC. ( Banzaf lobbied and sued his way to influence while Cherner bought his way into it.) How and why they got the media buy-in continues to amaze me.

    But then otoh, looking at the fate of Enstrom, Kabat, Jenkins and any other researchers who’ve contradicted the agenda set by the “founding fathers,” I don’t know if it’s even possible any more to infiltrate the corridors of power with emissaries of sanity but that’s what it might take to finally unarguably undo the damage, and root it out at the source.

    As for the point about the power of the people within a democracy, May’s betrayal of Brexit, or the NYC council’s nose-thumb at the voters’ twice-voted demand for term-limiting both Bloomberg and them, seem to show the power of the people is an illusion, while the ultimate upshot of the gang-banging of Trump is yet to be revealed.

    Which leaves me to conclude, along with Iro, Frank and Michael, and the first part of John Watson’s analogy, that we’re here on our own which is all the more reason to fight an underground resistance.

    I’d also point out that by instituting very solidly-based law suits that Audrey and CLASH are becoming the legal antidote to Banzaf, playing out the 180 of his game. CLASH is in the process of suing HUD over the public housing ban. She’s got a gofundme. Want to do something? Fund her.
    http://www.nycclash.com

    • Supergran says:

      And of course, EVERYONE cow tows to Big Pharma who, it is becoming more apparent to me, have far too much influence in the great scheme of things.

    • Walt is right: Audrey’s effort is quite worthwhile right now, and it has the potential for gathering a good deal of popular support. The idea of putting resources into enforcing a ban on tobacco smoking in public housing projects that often seem to be practically run by hard drug cartel gangs is insane, and I think a lot of people will recognize that.

      And the description of the Antis’ small scale ancient history is accurate as well. I visited ASH headquarters back in 1979/1980 when it was just a pseudo-office some nut (i.e. Banzhaf) had made in the basement of what was probably his parents’ brownstone type building in D.C. or Georgetown. I remember the guy as being a full-fledged nut-job, and it was almost certainly Banzhaf himself, and all he had was bunch of wild pamphlets/leaflets outlining crazy visions. I believe it was Glantz that made things “real” for the Antis in the late 80s with his support for the passage of a 25 cents/pack cigarette tax in California: a *huge* tax by cigarette standards in those days, with a substantial portion of it (all of it?) going straight into various Antismokers’ pockets and projects. That tax raised their national annual budget overnight from the thousands into the millions of dollars and made the 1992 EPA smoking ban report possible if my memory from various readings is accurate.

      – MJM, who’d also recommend (after visiting Audrey’s Go Fund Me!) getting and reading Don Oakley’s “Slow Burn: The Great American Antismoking Scam” (1999) to get a real feeling for the history of those times. It’s no longer in active print but there are second-hand copies on Amazon.

  5. Rose says:

    As an outsider, I can’t help seeing the similarities between the start of Prohibition and the beginning of the current Anti-tobacco campaign.

    Wayne B. Wheeler: The Man Who Turned Off the Taps

    Prohibition couldn’t have happened without Wheeler, who foisted temperance on a thirsty nation 90 years ago

    “While clerking for a Cleveland lawyer and attending classes at Western Reserve Law School, Wheeler worked full time for the league, riding his bicycle from town to town to speak to more churches, recruit more supporters. After he earned his law degree in 1898 and took over the Ohio ASL’s legal office, his productivity only accelerated. He initiated so many legal cases on the league’s behalf, delivered so many speeches, launched so many telegram campaigns and organized so many demonstrations (“petitions in boots,” he called them) that his boss lamented that “there was not enough Mr. Wheeler to go around.”
    https: //www.smithsonianmag.com/history/wayne-b-wheeler-the-man-who-turned-off-the-taps-14783512/?no-ist

    ASL – ASH

    “Much of Banzhaf’s tobacco work has been done through the non-profit group Action on Smoking and Health, which he founded in 1967

    “In late 1966, John Banzhaf asked a local television station, WCBS-TV, to provide air time for announcements against smoking. The station refused, so Banzhaf filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 1967.

    The FCC’s fairness doctrine required broadcasters to provide free air time to opposing views of matters of public controversy.

    In his complaint, Banzhaf argued that tobacco advertisements were broadcasting only pro-smoking messages; he argued that, as a public service, the broadcasters should be required to show an equal number of anti-smoking messages.”

    “In the late 1960s, Banzhaf and the Action on Smoking and Health worked against passive smoking.

    In 1969, Ralph Nader had petitioned the Federal Aviation Administration to ban smoking on all flights, when Banzhaf petitioned the FAA to require separate smoking and nonsmoking sections on domestic flights. Nader’s petition and Banzhaf’s petition each failed to change FAA policies, because passive smoking had not yet been recognized as a serious health hazard.

    In 1972, both Nader and Banzhaf filed petitions with the Civil Aeronautics Board, which largely granted their petitions. However, many airlines failed fully to comply with the regulations. The Action on Smoking and Health sued the CAB in 1979, claiming that legally mandated enforcement was inadequate.”
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_F._Banzhaf_III

    First Worldwide Conference Calls for Action on Many Fronts Against Cigarettes – 1967

    “A demonstration of the value of conflict and surprise in capturing headlines occurred when a young lawyer, Joseph F. Banzhaf, 111, who was an lnvitee to the Conference, brought a fiery attack on health agencies into the pressroom on the morning before he delivered it in one of the work groups.

    Reporters and TV cameramen were fascinated as he flailed at the health agencies and the National fnteragency Council. Banzhaf had been the plaintiff whose letter to the Federal Communications Commission became the occasion for the ruling that the fairness doctrine be extended to advertising.

    He attacked the health agencies because they did not follow his advice to go to court on behalf of the FCC.
    Health groups argued that their business was education, research, service to patients, not law suits; but the independent young lawyer casting his adjectival rocks at the large health agencies had the headlines that day.

    Generally ignored by the media was the fact that the Federal Communications Commission’s own strong law department and the Department of Justice seem able to defend the fairness ruling without help from voluntary agencies.” – Page 2-3
    https://www.industrydocumentslibrary.ucsf.edu/docs/#id=shhk0056

  6. Rose says:

    Investigations: Banzhaf’s Bandits
    1970

    “Once, ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) was John Banzhaf’s only pressure group. Now he has CAP, PUMP, LASH, TUBE and SOUP. Startled industries and badgered regulatory agencies are suddenly painfully aware that Banzhaf’s Bandits are abroad in Washington.

    John F. Banzhaf III, 29, is the lawyer who staggered the tobacco and television industries with his successful demand that TV stations give free time for antismoking messages. To his amazement, the Federal Communications Commission responded to his “citizen’s complaint,” an action later upheld in the courts.

    The victory prompted Banzhaf to quit his New York law firm and devote his time to ASH, which he had earlier organized as a nonprofit foundation. He moved to Washington, and LASH (Legislative Action on Smoking and Health), an antismoking lobby, was started soon after.

    Last fall Banzhaf taught a course in unfair trade practices at the George Washington University law school. He so inspired his 60 students that they split up into activist groups and fanned out to do battle, a la Nader’s Raiders, as Banzhafs Bandits. Examples:

    CAP (Collection Agency Practices) investigates abuses in poor Washington neighborhoods, collecting affidavits from citizens harassed by bill collectors who pose as lawyers and policemen.

    TUBE (Termination of Unfair Broadcasting Excesses), charging that many television commercials are deceptive, demands that the FCC monitor commercials before they are shown.

    PUMP (Protesting Unfair Marketing Practices) accuses gasoline retailers of selling identical gasoline under a broad spectrum of brand names and ratings.

    SOUP (Students Opposed to Unfair Practices) is pressing the Federal Trade Commission to fine the Campbell Soup Co. for a commercial in which glass marbles allegedly were employed to push soup solids to the top of the bowl for greater visibility.”
    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,904206,00.html

    John Banzhaf: In His Own Litigious Words

    Say what you will about John Banzhaf, George Washington University law professor and leader of the litigious anti-food crusade, at least he makes no attempt to conceal his scurrilous designs. On the contrary, this litigating busy body has clearly articulated his utopian vision: an America in which everyone’s stomach is empty and every lawyer’s wallet is full.

    The notorious professor has apparently reached the conclusion that any profitable industry — excluding the litigation business, of course — must be bled dry. Fast food is his current target. And he has vowed to slay this monster in the name of “public health.”

    In his relentless quest to turn America into a nation of Kate Moss doppelgangers, Banzhaf has fallen head over heels in love with any and every lawsuit that demonizes those who dare to feed us. Fortunately, you don’t have to take our word for it; he’s said so himself:

    “We’re going to sue them and sue them and sue them.”

    — CBS, “CBS Sunday Morning” 8/11/02.

    “You could sue practically anybody under this theory. If this lawsuit gets anywhere, it’ll make the asbestos [litigation] look like a walk in the park.”

    — National Law Journal 12/9/02.

    “Somewhere there is going to be a judge and a jury that will buy this, and once we get the first verdict, as we did with tobacco, it will open the floodgates.”

    — New York Daily News 1/22/03.
    http://www.cfif.org/htdocs/legislative_issues/federal_issues/hot_issues_in_congress/legal_reform/john_banzha.html

    We always seem to follow America without really knowing why, so Is it any wonder that in the UK we now have sugar taxes and an assault on traditional foods?

  7. smokingscot says:

    I should disagree with you more often!

  8. Pingback: The Antismokers | Frank Davis

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