frank_davis (frank_davis) wrote,

ASH Rattled, Eh?

It seems that the multitude of suggestions made on Your Freedom for the repeal or amendment of the smoking ban has rattled ASH:

Pro-health campaign ASH has accused the tobacco industry of orchestrating pro-smoking comments on a website launched by deputy prime minister Nick Clegg in a move to get ‘unnecessary’ laws and regulations scrapped...

On the first day the site went live at least 18 people called for less restrictive laws on smoking in pubs, tobacco advertising or signage, making it one of the most popular topics...

An ASH spokesperson said: ‘No politician in their right mind would consider advocating overturning the smoke-free legislation.

‘I think this surge of suggestions has probably been put up by the tobacco industry and campaigners, but it is probably a bit of a fad and will all die down.’

I wonder when politicians will realise that, despite ASH and other antismoking organisations declarations that the smoking ban is widely approved of, even by smokers, most smokers hate it in the same way that Jews in Nazi Germany hated the Nuremberg laws. Like them, however, there is little or nothing they can do about it.

I visited Your Freedom, and voted for the various calls to amend or repeal the smoking ban. I didn't even bother to make my own suggestion along the same lines. What I did do, a few days later, when site moderators started closing and deleting many of the anti-smoking-ban suggestions was to suggest that moderators who did this should be fired.

Who am I? Which tobacco companies do I work for? Which pro-smoking activist organisations do I belong to? I don't work from any tobacco company. I've never even had an email from a tobacco company. There's never been a comment in this blog from any tobacco company's representative. In fact I never hear anything from tobacco companies at all, ever, anywhere. And I'm not a member of any campaigning organisation. I'm just someone who used to enjoy going to pubs and having a quiet drink and a smoke, sometimes with friends. I'm someone who has, as a result of the smoking ban, had my social life pretty much entirely destroyed - because after the ban came into force, there was nowhere welcoming and hospitable to meet people any more. I'm very far from being alone in this. It's the experience both of smokers I know personally, and of people who have commented on this blog (see the right margin appeal). And I'm angry. I've been angry for 3 years at this piece of wanton destruction of the culture of this country. I'm particularly angry because the ban has been based on the lie - the outright lie - that passive smoking poses a health threat. What the ban is really is a naked attempt at social engineering, to make people stop smoking by allowing them fewer and fewer places where they can legally do so. The result, in my case, has been a determination to carry on smoking.

I don't know why ASH is so bothered about the plethora of calls (about 300, last I heard) on Your Freedom for the repeal of the smoking ban from people like me. Because Nick Clegg, our Deputy Prime Minister, has already said that there's no more likelihood that the smoking ban will be amended than that capital punishment will be re-introduced - thereby indicating that the Your Freedom website is just a government stunt, a token gesture to show that the government is listening, when in fact it isn't.

So what's bothering ASH? It can only be the very idea that anyone anywhere in Britain might not like the smoking ban, and actually be allowed to say so. According to ASH, absolutely everybody - including smokers - loves the ban. So it's deeply disturbing that anyone in Soviet Socialist Britain should voice any sort of complaint at all about this wonderful new progressive measure. And ASH is the government watchdog that ensures that everyone stays on-message about the smoking ban, and no hint of dissent ever surfaces. But while ASH can control the media and the government and the NHS, the one thing it can't control is what ordinary people on the ground think and say. It can only prevent their voices being heard. Or, in this case, since it's been unable to block calls on Your Freedom for the repeal of the smoking ban, it has sought to dismiss them as the work of the tobacco industry.

It's puzzling that they think that these calls are 'a bit of a fad' which will 'die down'. That doesn't quite square with the parallel suggestion that they've been organised by tobacco companies. Why should it become a 'fad' to protest against the smoking ban 3 years after it has been imposed? 3 weeks afterwards would be more plausible.

My own guess, for what it's worth, is that the calls to repeal the smoking ban are not part of any sort of fad at all, but the expression of a deep underlying anger which isn't going to go away, but will get stronger and stronger, and harder and harder to ignore or dismiss. I know that anger because I feel it. It's not going to go away.

Organisations like ASH can only maintain the appearance of public acceptance of the smoking ban by preventing any expression of dissent in the mass media or in government. ASH is in the business of controlling the media, and manufacturing public opinion. Anyone who steps out of line, I can only suppose, will get demoted or fired. They have considerable power.

I myself saw that power being exerted on air, back in 2007, on Richard and Judy shortly after the smoking ban had come into force. They were interviewing Bob Feal-Martinez, founder of Freedom To Choose. Midway through the interview, Richard put his fingers to his ear-piece. ASH had phoned in the middle of the programme to make sure that it was pointed out that Feal-Martinez was a tobacco company stooge, and that F2C was a front organisation for them. After that, the questions got tougher. The whole tone changed. That's power. Can you imagine phoning up a TV programme while it's on air, and being put directly through to the presenter in the studio while he's talking? Me neither. But that's what ASH can do.

It's possible to control the mass media in this way because there aren't that many newspaper and TV and radio editors that need to be kept in line. While they're kept under a tight leash, the appearance of harmony and public acceptance can be maintained.

It is a complete fraud, of course. It is the most enormous fraud. It is a fraud that strikes at the heart of democracy, because it acts to ensure that the voices of the people pass unheard, and that only the voice of ASH is heard in the corridors of power, speaking 'on behalf of the people'. And it's a crime. It's a terrible crime, to tell so many lies, and to entirely subvert democracy. We send people to prison for life for much, much less. What should the punishment be for doing much, much more?

But the effect of this fraud, this stoppering of the channels of communication between the people and their representatives, is that a back pressure builds up, as people find themselves thwarted and stifled. That pressure can only get stronger and stronger, like water rising behind a dam. At some point it's inevitable that either the dam will burst, or that water will start spilling over the top. Sooner or later what people really think is going to be heard. It can only be bottled up for a little while.

The antismoking fraud carried out by ASH and other well-financed antismoking organisations is not the only vast fraud being perpetrated. All healthist 'lifestyle' campaigns operate in much the same way, and with the same mendacity, and the same contempt for dissent, and for public opinion. The AGW fraud is another even vaster fraud. One wonders where it ends. One wonders what has not been corrupted.

The longer these frauds continue, and the longer that real debate is denied, the angrier ordinary people are going to become, and the more explosive the final dam-burst will be when it comes, as it inevitably will. And by then people won't just be wanting things cleaned up: they'll be wanting vengeance. Real vengeance.

And it may well be that Nick Clegg was right that there's no more likelihood that that the smoking ban will be repealed than of capital punishment being re-introduced. Because I suspect that when the smoking ban is repealed (as one day it will be), it will be when capital punishment is re-introduced, and almost the entire present political class led to the gallows, along with every active member of any antismoking organisation, and all lifestyle health campaigners, and all climate scientists, and the entire medical establishment. And quite a few other people too. It will make the French revolution look like a tea party. And Nick Clegg will be one of them. After all, he voted for the smoking ban.

This is the sort of thing that's always likely to happen when suppressed anger boils over. This is what happens when democracy is subverted, and the voice of ordinary people is suppressed. They just get angrier and angrier. And no amount of CCTV cameras and knife bans and gun laws will stop it. It's something that democratic processes are intended to avoid, by allowing people's opinions to be heard and acted upon before they become a howl of unstoppable rage.

The simplest course of action would be to announce a review of the ban, and call upon interested parties to testify, and adopt appropriate, sensible, pragmatic measures. The other course of action is to keep lying that everyone likes the smoking ban, and keep lying about the threat of passive smoking, and keep lying about everything else, until the pent-up forces finally explode out into the world.

Will the simplest course of action be taken? Will the pragmatic and sensible thing be done? Almost certainly not. And it will take some sort of explosion to remove the obstruction. And then heads will roll. Real heads.
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