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Wednesday, 14 November 2012

The Mad Minds of Zealots

"Prohibition goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man's appetite by legislation and makes crimes out of things that are not crimes."
--Abraham Lincoln

"The laws of chess do not permit a free choice: you have to move whether you like it or not."
--Emanuel Lasker

In a game of chess, a good, strategic player considers and plans moves several turns ahead of the current state of play. The chessboard must be prepared properly in order to execute one's strategy. The pieces must be in the right place at the right time. The player aims to free his attacking pieces whilst maintaining a solid defence to protect his King.  Key sacrifices are made to force an opening through his opponent's lines. Bishop takes pawn. Knight takes Bishop. A diagonal is opened, and the Queen slides out to exploit the vulnerability, preventing the opponent from castling the King. Each turn is considered carefully, and the player is always thinking about the potential state of play several moves ahead and trying to make that happen.  The endgame in chess is a series of moves designed to checkmate an opponent's King.  The endgame is vital. Make a wrong move by being too aggressive too early and the game is stalemated, with no winner, no loser. All of the strategic moves previously played were for nought.

For the tobacco control industry, the endgame consists of a series of moves to implement legislative prohibition by tiny degrees, with checkmate being the total abolition of all tobacco products and the annihilation of the tobacco industry. They know that all-out prohibition will fail. So their game plan has been modified. To succeed, a relentless campaign of denormalisation is executed, with a goal of getting people used to the elements of prohibition already in place: public smoking bans, vending machine bans, display bans, plain packaging.  It's conditioning or softening up the public for the final blow of abolition. Indeed a great number of smokers have been conditioned to feel ashamed about their habit, or they can no longer imagine smoking indoors in restaurants or pubs, and many smokers have come to believe in both the second-hand and third-hand smoke fairy tales. This is all part of the endgame for the tobacco control industry.

It is about compliance. It is about control.  It is socially-engineering the public in small moves towards a temperate and sinless world without pleasure. You are only free to do what they tell you to do.

For years, the tobacco control industry has dominated this game. Their endgame strategy has been working for a few decades.  Public smoking bans and liability litigation opened up the Big Tobacco's line of defence. Display bans are akin to preventing Big Tobacco from castling its King to safety. Plain packaging in Australia is equivalent to taking Big Tobacco's Queen from the game.  That was of course a most decisive blow, but it's not the game-winner; it is not a checkmate, although Big Tobacco is considerably weakened and on the back foot. There are many moves left to be played, however, and if the tobacco control industry is too aggressive too soon, it will result in a stalemate. The difference from chess and the reality here is that a stalemate will suit Big Tobacco just fine.  Indeed, one might say a stalemate is a win for Big Tobacco.

Buoyed and exhilarated by their success of implementing plain packaging in Australia, the tobacco control industry has been careless lately. Like peacocks, their quivering tail feathers are fanned out and their true colours displayed for all to see. Their excitement gets the better of them, though. They believe a checkmate is near, but that belief is misguided, a false hope seen through rose-tinted lenses. They have momentum, certainly, but that does not mean that the game is won. The battle continues.  A wise strategist would understand instinctively that it's important not to telegraph your true intent to your opponent -- a feint here, execute a blow there to your unsuspecting opponent. But more importantly, the strategist knows it's foolish to open up a new battle front before securing the territories won in previous campaigns.

But the tobacco control industry is not particularly wise.  It is filled with egotistical zealots who view themselves as god-like prophets and saviours of humanity -- leaders of a quasi-religious cult called Public Health. One wonders what sort of Napoleonic personality disorders afflict some of these people. Do they have genuine mental disorders? Do they suffer from grandiose delusions and believe that they alone are righteous and holy, protectors of the gullible and vulnerable?  What sort of mental illnesses can cause them to invent the most fantastic confabulations to arrogantly deny the truth in order to achieve a most unrealistic fundamental change to human nature, to achieve a perfectly safe world without sin?  Indeed, if Big Tobacco had ever claimed the world was round, the zealots in Public Health would have denounced that claim as a matter of course and preach instead that the world was flat.

There seems to be something wrong with these cults of personality in Public Health. I don't know precisely what it is, nor do I understand why ordinary people can abandon all rational thought processes and truly believe that a shiny trade mark will get anyone to smoke.  My own limitations and lack of knowledge about brain disorders prevent me from understanding what the causes are, although I can certainly see that something is curiously abnormal.  I am not an expert on mental illnesses, nor a psychologist or psychiatrist. I must defer any medical diagnoses to those whom are qualified to do so.

And all of the foregoing leads me to today's article about forcing smokers to have a licence. Naturally, The Root of All Evil is featured. Why wouldn't he be? It's his idea.  Of course, he's deluded in believing that this is even a remotely good idea or that it will even work as prescribed. He must be unable to see that a forcing smokers to get a licence to smoke is exactly like tattooing prisoners in a concentration camp during World War II. The means and technologies are different; the effects and the applications of powerful controls over human beings, however, are precisely the same.  It's an Us versus Them construct. Righteous versus Sinner.  People against People.

It is clearly an enormously bad play for the tobacco control industry at this time.

So I have to wonder if The Root of All Evil is mentally ill in some way to again put forward the idea of licensing smokers so soon after the implementation of plain packaging in Australia. Has he just embarrassed his anti-smoker movement once again?  Because a licence to smoke is not a tiny move of prohibition that is part of the tobacco control industry's endgame plan.  It is a huge, giant leap into tyranny and evil, no different than imprisoning a segment of society for their religious beliefs. What drives The Root of All Evil to desire to inflict these madnesses upon society and to simultaneously belittle anyone who disagrees with him?  What sort of deranged person seeks to control other human beings' choices of how they live their lives by means of a smoker's licence?  These are all questions I seem unable to answer today.

Perhaps you can.

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