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Saturday, 20 October 2012

My Sincere Request to Simon Chapman

I broke one of my social media rules on Twitter yesterday.  Before I did it, I gave the pros and cons ample consideration.  The "Compose New Tweet" window was open on my screen for about five minutes while I mulled it over -- the tweet had been written and the only choices from there were to either click the Tweet button to send it or click the X button to cancel it.  In the meantime, I rolled a cigarette, lit it, and by the time I had finished smoking I had decided to send the tweet.  Rules are sometimes meant to be broken, when it seems necessary anyway. This rule was "never tweet to the tobacco control industry."

Sometimes people surprise you, but mostly they do precisely what you think they'll do. You do not need to be a learned sociologist to understand human behaviour. Nobody likes to be called a hypocrite, and one can expect that a person's reaction to such a claim will be negative and defensive -- you expect that statement to be challenged and denied. But when the evidence is clearly against you, when it is indefensible, then your choices are limited to admitting your error, or simply ignoring it and hope it goes away mostly unnoticed. 

Few people will admit they were wrong; most will try to brush off their error and ignore it or, worst case but certainly typical of many in the public eye, blame someone else for it.  It takes a certain strength of character to stand up and say, "You know, I really ballsed that up."  Or to say, "This is my fault and I take full responsibility." 

Or in the matter I will cover in a moment, to say, "Yes, I admit we also did the same thing, and we were wrong to do it."

I don't remember who it was that once told me:  "Do not point out the faults of others for the same things you do yourself."  I have never forgotten those words, though.  I honestly try to live by them, but I'm not 100% certain that I always do. I'm not perfect. I make mistakes; I have made a few here on this blog.  When I realise I make an error, I apologise for it. I own up to it and I will accept the consequences of my error, no matter how bad it makes me look. 

At my last job, one of my colleagues used to call me Mr Integrity.  He -- indeed everyone I worked with -- knew that I would always do what I said I'd do, and that I would always say precisely what I honestly believed about something, even if it would not make me popular by saying it.  One day I really ballsed something up. I missed an extremely important deadline. It was the first and only time I had ever done that.  I was mortified.  My error cost my company about £10,000 I think.  People get sacked for lesser offences.  I could have covered up my error. I could have blamed it on someone else.  I could have lied. I could have ignored it and quite possibly no one would have caught it.  But I didn't do any of those things.

I walked right into my boss's office and said, "I really fucked this up. I'm sorry. I don't have any excuse -- I blew it. I may be able fix it, but I'm uncertain that I can.  Even if I can correct it, this will be the costs to do so and we're still going to have further issues down the line."

I didn't get sacked.  My boss nodded, said thank you for letting him know and go fix it.  A few months later, during my performance review, my error was noted on my appraisal, and I did not receive the highest score I could have. This meant that I wasn't going to get the maximum pay rise possible, nor would I receive the highest bonus possible.  I accepted this and did not complain, because this is result I had truly earned.  More important, however, is that I learned from my mistake and changed my working habits to ensure that I would never again miss a deadline.

It would have been so easy to ignore my error, or to blame it on someone else. But the truth is, I would have hated myself for it. It goes against everything I believe in.

So back to the Twitter thing from yesterday.  I saw a tweet from Simon Chapman that said this:

Indeed, if you go to that link, you see that way back in 2008 someone asked for help in responding to a poll to fight an ordinance in Maine, USA. Well, yeah, doing this is wrong, but we also know that it happens all the time -- most groups on any issue whatsoever, tend to do this too.

To imply that only "pro-tobacco" groups would rig polls, that this is a standard for pro-smokers, is disingenuous and dishonest.  Simon Chapman knows this, of course.  We all know that on-line polls will be manipulated by people if it's possible to do it. People will rig general elections if they can get away with it.  It's not right. It's not fair. We should speak out against it when it happens, and the Root of All Evil has every right to point out that someone was manipulating an on-line poll.  I don't fault him for doing so, even though it happened four years ago.

But since the Root of All Evil mentions sanctimony, as if "his side" of the smoking issue is somehow perfect, righteous, truthful and beyond reproach, I had to say something. I could have ignored it.  I mean, this is what Chapman does all the time -- standard practice for him, if you will, to find fault with everyone and everything that is "pro-tobacco" no matter how petty it is.

So after careful deliberation, I tweeted this response:

I thought my tweet to Simon Chapman was polite. Well, I did add a #hypocrisy hashtag -- as you do on Twitter.  I had no intention of tweeting to him further. If it's not clear from my tweet above, back in late April of this year, I discovered that ASH Australia was asking supporters to rig a petition in the Netherlands.  So I tweeted about that with this image:

Source via ASH Australia's Facebook Page
Well, it is clear that ASH Australia was trying to influence another nation's tobacco control policies. Obviously, it's wrong to do that. It seems both sides of the smoking issues debate are capable of asking people to manipulate polls and petitions. 

Now, I knew that by tweeting that to Simon Chapman (note: I think this was the first time I have ever tweeted to him) that he would block me on Twitter or he has somehow protected his tweets.  I knew he would do this because he has done it to a number of other so-called "pro-smoking/tobacco" accounts on Twitter who have called him out in the past.  Certainly, I did not expect any kind of reply, like ""Yes, I admit the people on my side also did the same thing, and we/they were wrong to do it."

I was not surprised, though. Simon Chapman, who I call The Root of All Evil, did precisely what I thought he would do.  Because I know precisely how he operates and people rarely surprise me.

But since I also know that Chapman visits this blog occasionally, I'm going to offer him a chance to make it right.

I would like to know if Chapman is capable of surprising me.

I would like to know if Simon Chapman has any integrity. 

For if he does surprise me and admits that ASH Australia was no better than the people on the Forces forum, I will stop calling him The Root of All Evil.

I will then go through every post on my blog that he's tagged in and remove the label "Simon Chapman is Most Definitely a Hateful Cunt". 

I will stand up and admit "I got it wrong about him in this case."

I don't care where or how Simon Chapman says it -- Twitter, on a blog somewhere -- I would be grateful, however, if Simon would let me know so that I can live up to my end of the deal.  I am on Facebook here if you or someone else would like to message me privately with the location of any response you make.

So what say you, sir?  Are you a man of integrity?  Or will you consider yourself above this request from a guy "who never exaggerates and has the gift," and ignore it?  The choice is yours.