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Saturday 14 April 2012

Portrait of a Tyrant

Make no mistake, Simon Chapman wants to protect you from harm.  A professor at the University of Sydney, he is Australia's premiere public health activist and campaigner.  He has written over a dozen books and hundreds of articles opining on health and tobacco control issues and most anything else that may or may not harm you.  He's a believer.  But it is not his beliefs that should concern anyone; it is his heavy-handed methodology of attacking anyone who challenges those beliefs.  Simon Chapman does not need to debate.  His beliefs are, in his and his followers' minds, unassailable truths. It has taken him a few decades, but through a tireless crusade he has successfully managed to insinuate his tyrannical, let-the-nanny-state-protect-you-from-harm healthcare policies into most of the western democracies.  Your free will does not matter.  Your ability to assess the risks of your activities and make your own informed choices is irrelevant.  All that does matter is that you conform.  Conform or be cast out.  Resistance is futile.  Alone, Chapman cannot protect you.  Backed up by the all-powerful State and its legions of legislators who wish to be seen as doing "good works for the benefit of society," Simon has all the ammunition and weaponry he needs to bend you to his will and keep you safe.

Chapman is a classic cult of personality, comparable to any historical tyrant who used fear and hatred to stir up public sentiment and ultimately to whip up support to eradicate a segment of society that the tyrant believed to be intolerable.  If there is any doubt that his intentions are to destroy rather than heal, then read the end of his opinion on tanning bed use and the solarium industry printed in the Sydney Morning Herald in February 2010 (emphasis mine):

So why do we tolerate solariums? This is a gnat-sized industry that could be squashed with barely a whimper of protest about lost jobs. Have people switch to spray tans to satisfy their tanning fetish.

Like today's employees of the tobacco industry, these are people who entered the cancer promotion trade with their eyes wide open. They went into it cognisant of the risks and should expect no sympathy if they are shut down. They just don't care, and neither should we.

If it became fashionable to wear a lump of uranium yellowcake or flaky blue asbestos around your neck as a sign of some neo-gothic death wish, would this be allowed? If the radiology (x-ray) industry tried to expose young people to vanity-based radiation exposure, the community would be understandably outraged. This is an industry whose time must surely be up.
Look carefully at Chapman's word choices.  "Why do we tolerate?" "Eyes wide open."  "That could be squashed."  "No sympathy."  These are deliberate word choices.  The entire article is inflammatory, absolutely designed to whip up sentiment against an industry that Chapman is unable to tolerate.  Before he wrote the opinion piece, Australia had already enacted legislation to prevent children from using tanning beds.  That wasn't good enough for Chapman, though.  So out he comes and compares solariums to the cigarette industry.  (ed note: So much for tobacco being a unique product, eh guys?)  Do also note the whole article talks about victims of the tanning bed industry, and Chapman deftly weaves in cancer statistics and facts to support his viewpoint.  He begins the article by pointing out the tragic death of a young woman who died from melanoma.  He then uses that as a basis of guilt to convince you of his beliefs.  He is effectively saying:  "Look here, fools, this woman died. And it's their fault!  They are responsible for other people's choices. We must squash them!"

In Chapman's world, you can never go too far and the ends always justify the means.  Nothing is too outrageous. No tactic too terrible.  How far is he willing to go? Perhaps make smokers wear some kind of ID badge (the link is probably parody -- I sure hope it is) or force smokers to wear a scarlet letter?  From the tobacco world web site, we learn that Chapman is advocating for forcing smokers to get a licence to buy tobacco:

Yet some of the government’s key allies, such as the public health lobby, are already hedging their bets on a potentially successful challenge [of the plain-packaging laws] by tobacco companies in the High Court.

This is why over the weekend anti‑tobacco campaigner and University of Sydney academic Simon Chapman turned up the heat with a new proposal to make smoking history, through creating a consumer license to smoke.

Under the proposal, a license would give the smoker a right to a limited quota of tobacco supply, say 10 cigarettes a day or 20 cigarettes a day and so on. There is a fee payable to government to give the consumer the right to use tobacco. The more tobacco the license holder pre‑commits to smoke, the higher the license fee involved.

Under the licensing plan consumers would be asked to pass a test, ‘not dissimilar to a driving test’ Chapman stated, to qualify for a right to receive a license to legally purchase tobacco.

Is it really any stretch to see how easily it could be taken further, such as advocating that tattooing smokers with an ID number would be the best way to enforce a licensing requirement?  Already it is clear that a number of Chapman's supporters would very much like for smokers to die right now.  Their utopian vision of a planet of mindless drones who will all live forever is at stake, of course.  Hurry up, smokers.  Please do hurry it up, they say.

I do not exaggerate when I say I believe he is the root of all evil in modern society.  I do not say it lightly, either. There is no room for freedom of expression, self-choice, civil liberties and tolerance in Simon Chapman's world.  He sees only death and cancer, and he will likely stop at nothing to impose his utopia on the rest of us.  What we all need to take away from the lessons of tobacco control is that if you give a tyrant an inch, he will take a light year.  And it will be a long while before you are able to scratch and claw back even a millimetre.