The Ministry of Silly Walks

A couple of says back, Junican wrote:

There is something seriously, seriously wrong when TV dramas dare not show someone committing the criminal act of smoking in ‘an enclosed public place’ but can show the criminal act of stabbing someone, or shooting someone, or beating someone.

I wouldn’t know whether TV dramas do or don’t show people smoking, for the simple reason that I don’t watch TV. And I have a very powerful incentive not to watch TV, because if I do, I’ll be liable to pay a TV licence fee of £155 or maybe more.

Why don’t I watch TV? Because TV no longer shows people smoking. It hasn’t done for a very long time, in fact. People stopped smoking on TV long before they were forced to stop smoking in the real world.

I think that the idea is that if you don’t see people smoking on TV, you won’t do it yourself. And in this manner TV can be used to shape people’s behaviour, and gradually make them behave like the people on TV do.

But it doesn’t seem to work with me. I just stop watching TV. And I stop watching because TV no longer reflects my reality. It becomes a fictional world.

For example, for all I know, nobody on TV eats meat any more. And in TV dramas when they’re all sitting around a table having dinner, they’ll say things like “Pass the parsley please,” and “May I have another glass of your wonderful sparkling water,” and “Do you have any more dry bread crusts?”

And maybe, in those same TV drama dinners where everyone is eating bread and water, they only ever talk about Global Warming and what a terrible threat it is. And maybe all the women wear trousers, and all the men wear skirts.

But who cares? TV is essentially always a fictional construct. It’s an imaginary world. All the TV dramas are fictions. And these days all the news and current affairs programmes are fictions as well.

Is it possible to change the real world using a fictional one? If you construct an imaginary world on TV, is it likely that the real world will gradually come to resemble it? If nobody smokes on TV, will the result be that nobody will smoke in the real world?

The Monty Python TV comedy had a Ministry of Silly Walks. If everyone on TV walked in silly ways, would ordinary people start walking that way too? If everyone on TV only hopped around on one leg, would real people start hopping around on one leg too?

No, of course they wouldn’t. And they wouldn’t because hopping around on one leg is a very slow and difficult way to move around. It’s much easier to walk, using both legs rather than just one. So even if some people started hopping around on one leg, most people wouldn’t. And when the hoppers found themselves facing an emergency – for example, being hunted by wolves – they’d pretty soon remember how to use both legs. They’d learn how to run.

It’s the same with smoking. The smoking life is an easier, more relaxed life than the non-smoking life. It’s easier in the exact same way that it’s easier to walk than to hop. And in the same way as it’s also easier to walk than to run. Sometimes – as when pursued by wolves – it’s necessary to run. And sometimes it’s necessary to hop. But for the most part it’s easier to walk.

Smoking may have been “de-normalised” on TV, but TV isn’t normality. TV is fiction. And in fiction, absolutely anything is possible. But in the real world, not everything is possible. A fictional Superman can fly and lift mountains unaided, but real people can’t fly or lift mountains.

But back to Junican. He’s pointing out that while smoking has been de-normalised on TV, assault and murder are not being de-normalised. But once again, this reflects the fictional nature of TV. In the real world, assault and murder isn’t normal behaviour. And no amount of attempts to normalise assault and murder will ever succeed in making it normal behaviour. Why? Because assault and murder are hard work. It’s easier to not engage in such activities. Peace is easier than war.

What’s seriously wrong is that there are people who believe that if they show fictional people doing things and saying things on TV, this will somehow get real people to do and say the same things in real life. Theirs is the belief that the tail can wag the dog.

But in fact, the tail can’t wag the dog. And what’s much more likely to happen is that, rather than fiction invading reality, real life will eventually invade the fictional world of TV. And smoking will re-appear on TV. And people on TV will stop hopping around on one leg, attacking and killing each other.

TV reflects reality. Reality doesn’t reflect TV. The real world doesn’t change place with the mirror.

And speaking of silly walks:

Why do the palace guards all look down their noses at Putin as he walks past?

About Frank Davis

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14 Responses to The Ministry of Silly Walks

  1. Mark Jarratt, Adem, Bali, Indonesia says:

    The lobbying by rabid anti smoking zealots to ban the depiction of tobacco consumption on television (also in movies and theatre) seems connected to their ‘magical thinking’ on the persuasive and behavioural modification powers of any kind of advertising.
    The general citizenry is viewed as so weak minded, ignorant and susceptible to advertising that even the mere sight of a ‘non propaganda pack’ of cigarettes will convince them to become rabid addicts. Given that tobacco advertising has been banned by the Bully State for decades, replaced by relentless government sanctioned Quit or Die propaganda, their theory is demonstrably false, as about 20% of adults still choose to smoke. Advertising responds to market demand, it does not create it (illicit drugs are ‘plain packaged’ with precisely no effect on demand or consumption). Real world evidence yet again proving prohibitionist bullies are not exponents of reality… More anti ANTZ ranting shall follow when I am on the grid again, after sailing to Lombok to harass komodo dragons and teaching them to smoke clove cigarettes.🐉

  2. Timothy Goodacre says:

    The Welsh drama ‘Hidden’ which has just finished on BBC4 had plenty of smoking in it as do plenty of other dramas.

    • Some TV dramas may have smoking, but I watch a fair amount of TV here in the U.S. and although there is plenty of drinking, assaults, murders, reckless driving, &c., there is almost no smoking. These days I watch the British detective drama, “Endeavor,” set in the sixties when smoking rates were at their highest, and there is almost no smoking. In the popular Briitsh drama, “Downton Abbey,” the only persons who smoked were the two who were unsavory and connived and stole from their employers.

  3. Rose says:

    Ooh, someone has done a study on smoking substitutes in prisons at last.
    We already knew the recipes and methods of construction in 2008 just from reading the newspapers, but nevermind, better late than never.

    ‘Teabacco’: Smoking of nicotine-infused tea as an unintended consequence of prison smoking bans.
    Jul 26 2018

    Abstract
    INTRODUCTION AND AIMS:

    Following the introduction of smoke-free policies in prisons in several countries, there have been anecdotal reports of prisoners creating cigarettes by mixing nicotine patches or lozenges with tea leaves (‘teabacco’). Among a sample of people recently released from smoke-free prisons in Queensland, Australia, the aims of this study were to explore the perceived popularity of teabacco use, motivations for its use and describe the process of creating teabacco to identify potential associated health risks.
    DESIGN AND METHODS:

    This study used a mixed-methods design. Eighty-two people recently released from prison in Queensland, Australia completed surveys at parole offices measuring teabacco use while incarcerated. Twenty-one teabacco smokers took part in follow-up, qualitative interviews to explore survey responses in greater depth.
    RESULTS:

    The majority of survey participants (57%) reported smoking teabacco while incarcerated, with 37% smoking teabacco frequently (once per week). Teabacco use was primarily motivated by cigarette cravings. Participants described the perceived inevitability of prisoners finding substitutes for tobacco. Multivariate analyses found that self-rated poor physical health, having been incarcerated five or more times, experiencing cigarette cravings while incarcerated, and use of illicit drugs while incarcerated were positively associated with frequent teabacco use in prison.
    DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS:

    Our findings suggest that teabacco use has become common practice in Queensland’s smoke-free prisons. Correctional smoking bans are an important public health initiative but should be complemented with demand and harm reduction measures cognisant of the risk environment.”
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30051520

    Apparently it hasn’t been published in full yet, so until then we’ll just have to make do with some of the notes I took at the time.

    The links are ancient and some no longer work but you get the gist.

    Isle of Man prisoners go on hunger strike over smoking ban
    4 May 2008

    “The woman, who asked not to be named, claimed 16 of 32 inmates on A wing had been on hunger strike for three days.
    She claimed the introduction of the ban was a ‘shambles’ and that in the weeks leading up to it prisoners were able to stockpile tobacco and smoke until they ran out.

    She said: ‘Tobacco in the jail is worth more than heroin – that’s how bad it is.’

    It is understood nicotine craving prisoners have resorted to smoking dried out teabags wrapped in pages of the Bible.”
    http://www.iomtoday.co.im/news/isle-of-man-news/isle-of-man-prisoners-go-on-hunger-strike-over-smoking-ban-1-1773172

    Teabags Banned from Jurby Prison
    January 4th, 2010
    “There are reports that what some of us see as a daily essential household item – teabags have been banned from the Isle of Man Prison.

    Tea bags have been forbidden at Jurby.

    Prison Guards have taken the harsh action after crafty inmates were caught using the contents to make their own cigarettes.

    Smoking is banned at the prison, the only one in Europe to have a smoking ban, so inmates have been forced the kick the habit.

    It’s alleged that prison guards caught inmates smoking in the cells and were forced to seize the remaining teabags.”
    http://www.three.fm/news/isle-of-man-news/teabags-banned-from-jurby-prison/

    Prison has “lost control” of smoking ban according to chief prison inspector
    5-10-2011

    “THE Isle of Man Prison has lost control of the no-smoking ban.
    That’s according to the chief inspector of prisons Nick Hardwick who inspected the prison in March.
    Along with a team from the HM Inspectorate of Prisons he visited the prison in Jurby and found that prisoners were flouting the smoking ban – often in full view of prison staff.

    The Isle of Man Prison is Europe’s only completely non-smoking prison. The ban was introduced in 2008 following the prison’s move from Douglas to the north of the Island.
    The report, which has been published today, found that the total ban had resulted in a “large number of negative outcomes”.

    Nick explained: “Many prisoners appeared to be intensively and creatively engaged in circumventing the smoking ban.
    “We saw this happening in full view of staff and were satisfied it was a wide spread and long standing occurrence.”
    Prisoners were also found to be using lint from tumble dryers and pubic hair to make their homemade cigarettes.

    “They boiled up nicotine patches, soaked fruit peel or other substances in it and then rolled cigarettes from the resulting ‘tobacco’ in pages from dictionaries and bibles held together with toothpaste. Lights were obtained from kettle elements and electrical wiring.”

    “Although Nicotine Replacement Therapy is offered this was also criticised after investigators found nicotine patches were being given out with other medication and did not have to be applied under supervision.
    Nick continued: “Quite apart from the unknown health risks of what prisoners were smoking there was bullying to obtain nicotine patches, the good order of the prison was undermined by a widely flouted rule and many prisoners resented its inconsistent enforcement.”
    http://isleofman.com/News/details/16728/prison-has-lost-control-of-smoking-ban-according-to-chief-prison-inspector

    Ex-prisoners speak out on smoking ban
    23 October 2013

    “The Isle of Man’s prison authorities remain adamant the prison smoking ban is working, despite a number of claims to the contrary from ex prisoners.

    The prison’s deputy governor Nigel Fisher recently told the Isle of Man Newspapers the smoking ban was effectively enforced and a report two years ago claiming the situation was out of control with the ban routinely flouted was ‘somewhat exaggerated’.

    But following that statement a number of former inmates have contacted the paper to dispute this.

    ‘The lads make up their own cigarettes which is obviously 10 times more harmful – so it’s obviously not working,’ said Aaron Roberts from Anagh Coar who served a couple of weeks two years ago.

    He said cigarettes were often fashioned using Bible pages as cigarette papers stuck together using wood glue.

    ‘That’s using pages with ink on and glue so there are chemicals in there.’

    All former prisoners who contacted Isle of Man Newspapers said prisoners were using nicotine patches, issued to them to help them stop smoking, to make cigarettes. This was done by boiling them in water to extract the nicotine then soaking anything from tea bags to dried fruit peel or even fluff from the tumble drier – whatever was available – in the fluid. The substances were then dried out, shredded and used in place of tobacco.

    Another former prisoner, John Joyce accused the authorities of lying when they claimed the situation was under control. He said he could see no reason why a compromise couldn’t be reached whereby prisoners were allowed to smoke outside during exercise periods.

    Proposals to introduce a similar smoking ban in UK prisons wouldn’t work he added: ‘Some people would do anything for a smoke, and some of them are never getting out anyway: there would be murder.”
    http://www.iomtoday.co.im/news/isle-of-man-news/ex-prisoners-speak-out-on-smoking-ban-1-6171572

    Previously in Canada

    Guards fall ill as inmates puff on nicotine patches
    April 12, 2006

    “CALGARY — Innovative inmates craving tobacco are smoking nicotine patches despite a smoking ban in Alberta jails and guards say the fumes are making them sick.

    When tobacco was banished from correctional facilities 19 months ago, prisoners started making homemade cigarettes from Nicoderm patches, according to documents obtained by the Calgary Herald.

    The recipe, recorded in Alberta Correctional Service documents, is simple.

    Peel the adhesive nicotine strip from the patch, boil in water, place toilet paper in solution and stir. Dry, add small pieces of hardened orange peels if desired, then roll in paper ripped out of Bibles.

    No matches? No problem.

    Inmates light up with sparks from tubes on fluorescent lights or electrical outlets by turning two pieces of wire or lead from pencils into prongs, or by using wicks made from toilet paper.

    Sometimes retail lighters are “suitcased” into jail they’re smuggled in by concealing them in a body cavity.

    “The smoking ban has created brand-new problems we didn’t anticipate and plan for,” said Dan MacLennan, president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees.

    Inmates have suffered burns and injuries from electric shock, there’s a constant fire hazard from the smoldering toilet paper wicks, and 21 corrections officers are on sick leave or workers’ compensation because of contaminants from the patch cigarettes.

    Breathing problems have started to affect one guard so badly his doctor placed him on two inhalers, says a Nov. 15 internal report.

    AUPE has appealed for a complete ban of Nicoderm patches in all Alberta jails. The patches replaced cigarettes when smoking was banned in October 2004.”
    http://www.canada.com/story.html?id=35cd8214-ca39-4364-a41b-58d34dec1115

    • waltc says:

      They smoke tea? Ban tea. They smoke patches? Ban patches. Do anything but don’t change the fucking “policy” which is working so well and making everyone immortal.

    • smokingscot says:

      IOM prisoners are now allowed to use e-cigarettes. It was a very successful trial that will most likely be extended indefinitely.

      https://www.gov.im/news/2018/feb/05/stand-out-success-of-electronic-cigarette-scheme-at-prison/

      Similar situation in Guernsey, where e-fags were allowed from day one of the ban on smoking.

      That doesn’t mean they’re all nice compliant budgies. All that’s happened is there’s less need to make as much of their own stuff, so less in the way of power cuts by using kettle elements, or rudimentary heating elements (wire wrapped round a pencil, then pencil removed) to light the things.

      • Rose says:

        It’s a sensible compromise other countries would be wise to copy, there’s no point in causing added suffering just for the sake of it.

    • Since the word “teabags” already appears 7 times on today’s The Ministry of Silly Walks thread, someone should have mentioned that in the original Monty Python sketch, John Cleese plays a characeter called Mr. Teabag.

  4. Smoking Lamp says:

    And the public housing smoking ban starts to unravel? The first refusal to enforce the ban in Nashville, Tennessee… “Nashville Public Housing Authority Won’t Enforce Smoking Ban” https://www.newschannel5.com/news/nashville-public-housing-authority-wont-enforce-smoking-ban

  5. Rose says:

    I’ve been waiting for someone to do this, I wonder why it took so long, I suppose Mandelson sudden reappearance was the final straw.

    REVEALED: How Lord Mandelson MUST remain loyal to EU to receive £35K gold-plated pension
    Aug 2, 2018

    “The peer is entitled to an estimated £35,000 a year when he reaches 65 but must follow the strict EU rulebook if he wants to keep his gold-plated retirement fund.
    Lord Mandelson, an influential figure in Tony Blair’s New Labour, is entitled to his pension from Brussels after serving as a British commissioner from November 2004 to October 2008, before making a return to domestic politics.
    This week, he made disparaging remarks about the 17.4 million Britons who voted Leave, branding them nationalists.

    Under the terms of his EU pension, Lord Mandelson must abide by its strict loyalty clause or face being stripped of his pay-out altogether.”

    “The same rules apply to Tory peer Lord Patten and former Labour leader Lord Kinnock who were also European commissioners and have been campaigning strongly to stop Brexit.
    “Former European commissioners in office before May 1, 2004, are entitled to a pension worth 4.5 percent of the salary they last received for each year of service.

    The Remainer’s index-linked EU pension is subject to preferential tax rates devised for Brussels officials and is stacked on top of his entitlement as an MP and income as a Labour peer.

    Former MEPs and EU officials sitting in the House of Lords are receiving an estimated £500,000 a year in pensions, with their combined pot said to be worth around £10million.”
    https://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/997647/Lord-Mandelson-brexit-EU-loyalty-pension-retirement-fund

    Which explains a great deal.

  6. Pingback: The Bullies In Tobacco Control | Frank Davis

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