Tobacco has been thoroughly demonised over the past century or so. And the tobacco companies that sell it have been thoroughly demonised as well. And so have countless millions of smokers who buy tobacco.
Does a point ever come when it becomes impossible to demonise something any more than it already has been? Once you’ve stuck a knife into something or someone, how many more knives can be stuck in it? Ten? Twenty? One hundred? At what point does it become overkill? Julius Caesar:
According to Eutropius, sixty or more men participated in the assassination. Caesar was stabbed 23 times.
The death of Caesar was overkill. There was even a wax figure erected in the Roman forum, which showed all 23 of his wounds.
It used to be asserted that smoking cigarettes (and cigarettes alone) caused lung cancer (and lung cancer alone). But now smoking anything (including e-cigarettes) is said to cause more or less all disease. I have in my growing collection of tobacco health warnings ones which now assert that smoking causes blindness, impotence, infertility, as well as stroke, heart disease, cancer, and more or less any other disease you may care to mention. This also is overkill.
And I’m beginning to wonder that when this happens it has the reverse effect to that intended. For once something becomes the cause of everything, it becomes the cause of nothing. And the extreme of demonisation of something ends up sanctifying it. And most likely, if Julius Caesar was not regarded as a saintly man the day before the ides of March, in 44 BC, those 23 stab wounds would elevate him to sanctity (and perhaps even divinity) the day after.
So the extreme demonisation of something or someone is very likely to end up strengthening them. And at that same moment that it becomes sanctified, its persecutors become demonised. They swap places. There is no better example of this than the Holocaust: once the evidence of it became available, the Nazis came to be regarded as demons, and the Jews as a saintly people who at very least deserved their own homeland. But for Hitler’s extreme persecution of the Jews, there probably would not now be a state of Israel.
And the same applies to Christianity. But for the extremely brutal execution of Jesus, and the persecution and murder of many of his followers by Nero and other Roman emperors, Christianity may well not have become the state religion of Rome.
Carbon dioxide is another pretty thoroughly demonised substance these days. It’s supposed to be killing us all. And the oil and coal companies who sell it have become almost as thoroughly demonised as tobacco companies. At this rate, come the reversal, carbon dioxide is likely to be found to be entirely blameless and benign. And its enemies and persecutors are likely to be seen as utterly satanic.
And one person who is being thoroughly demonised these days is Donald Trump. He is identified with Hitler and Nazism. He’s said to be racist, antisemitic, islamophobic, misogynistic. He’s become the embodiment of pure evil. And his “deplorable” political base are seen as no better than him.
Up until June 16 2015, Donald Trump was a highly regarded property developer and TV star. But once he announced his candidature for the presidency that day, a hail of abuse descended on him, and has never let up for a single day for the past 3½ years. And it meant that far more attention was directed towards him than to any of the other 16 candidates in the Republican race for nomination. Nobody was much interested in them. Everyone wanted to see him, and listen to him, if only to loudly condemn him afterwards.
There’s a good case to be made that, if the US mainstream media had ignored him, he would never have been elected. And it was only because he was so thoroughly demonised by them that all eyes were fixed upon him, magnifying him into a titan beside whom all the other candidates looked like pygmies. And because they were as thoroughly demonised as he was, he attracted an adoring band of “deplorable” followers.
In sum, extreme persecution is very likely to have the exact opposite effect to that intended. And overkill may often end up killing the overkillers. And the war on tobacco would seem to have gone far past overkill. And so, after decades of abuse, tobacco may be on the brink of being seen once again as something entirely harmless, and in fact highly benign. Much like carbon dioxide.