frank_davis (frank_davis) wrote,
frank_davis
frank_davis

Fighting Them on the Sandwell

Anna Raccoon has taken up the cause of 70-year-old Sheila Martin,

CAMPAIGNERS have vowed to raise funds to help an elderly widow who has been threatened with a £2,500 fine for dropping cigarette ash on the pavement.

Sheila Martin, 70, was smoking at a bus stop when a Sandwell Council warden pounced and handed her the £75 fixed penalty for littering.

The frail granny, from Oldbury, has refused to pay – and now faces a £2,500 penalty or even prison.

But on-line campaigners who freed a pub landlord from jail for a similar offence earlier this year have now come forward to lend their support.

Lots of people have pledged to help. Anna writes in the comments:

I am not raising money to pay her fine – I’m raising a fine body of legal minds to stick this fine right back where it belongs.

You would not credit the number of e-mails I have had today offering assistance on that score, nor the amount of information and useful legal points that the collective brain of the blogosphere can conjure up in a few hours when it throbs as one. Quite incredible – believe me, the comments you see on screen are only a small part of the response.

Further down the comments, somebody else has written:

The person responsible for writing the enforcement strategy is L J Kominiak, probable full name Leslie John Kominiak.

And still further down sombody else wrote:

I looked up Mr. Kominiak and found his home postcode – NG18 4TH.

Isn't that interesting? Within hours Anna Raccoon has assembled an army that includes legal minds exploring possible lines of defence for Sheila Martin, as well as people who are already bombarding Sandwell council with emails, and people planning a smoke-in, and sleuths finding out who is the author of its policy and where he lives. The volunteers even include people who hate smoking. All put together in an afternoon, and set to build over coming days.

Leg-iron has an perceptive overview:

When we organise, we do so in small and temporary groups. Trips abroad to stock up. Appeals for help for one of the smokophobes' victims. We come together for one specific task and when it's done, we disperse back into the crowd.

We have no uniforms. When we're not actually smoking, you can't tell who we are...

Nor do we have any hierarchy. No local organisation, no national organisation. No funding.

It's called asymmetric warfare. They're up against a phantom army. They're up against people who are prepared to put their own time and money and effort into fighting the antis in whatever way they can. Many of them are anonymous even to those they fight alongside. They have no names and no addresses. They might live in Sandwell, but they might just as easily live in Sardinia.

By contrast, the antis are usually well-paid professionals. They have names. They have offices. They have job titles. They have a chain of command. They hold conferences and publish magazines. They're sitting targets. They may as well all have targets drawn on their chests with 'Aim Here' written on the bullseyes over their hearts.

And these stupid people have launched a war on the 15 million smokers in Britain, and the 2 billion smokers all around the world.

They don't know what they're up against. They persist in thinking that they're up against the tobacco companies, who they think are organising the growing resistance. They think this because they are themselves organised and paid and supplied with talking points and slogans, and that's the only way that they can understand how to do things. And they're only deluding themselves. But they're pretty good at deluding themselves with all the garbage they write about smoking.

I don't know how many people Anna has in the army she's raising. She probably has no idea herself. But tomorrow morning Sandwell council is going to find itself under siege, as emails and phone calls and letters start piling in. With luck it might even bring the council to a halt. They'll wonder what hit them. And Les Kominiak will be wondering what hit him. They'll quite probably all be shell-shocked by nightfall.

And the bad news is that it's only going to get worse. Because each time one of these campaigns is successful, it makes it easier to raise a bigger army the next time. And their ever-more-numerous foot-soldiers will become more and more inventive and ambitious.

Essentially, all that is being done is to supply those foot-soldiers with information. Who the enemy is. Where he is. What organisation he belongs to. What he's done, and who he did it to. And so on. The more information the better. What the foot-soldier does with this information is his own decision. There might be one or two recommended courses of action. But they're only recommendations, not orders.

And the simpler and more straightforward the cause, the bigger the army. Anna's appeal on behalf of Nick Hogan earlier this year worked because it was manifestly unjust to send a pub landlord to prison for failing to prevent his customers from smoking. And so also now it's manifestly unjust to fine an old lady for dropping ash. Anyone can see that. Anyone except dyed-in-the-wool antismokers, that is.

And the bigger and more popular a blogger, the bigger the army. Anna Raccoon is listed on wikio as the 15th most influential UK political blogger. And (I believe) first among the Libertarian bloggers.

I suspect that, as time passes, people like Anna Raccoon will be able to raise larger and larger armies. And they will achieve greater and greater things. It's a new kind of politics. And it may well replace the old politics of the megaphone media.


P.S. Totally O.T., but I like cats, so this shocked me.
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