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Thursday, 30 May 2013

Two Questions You Should Always Ask When Dealing With Professional Anti-Smokers

This will be brief.*

(*No, it won't.)

I'm always a bit disappointed any time I read, watch or listen to a programme that has people arguing for smokers' rights (pro-liberty / pro-MYOFB) and against smokers (e.g. tobacco control / public health prohibitionists).  This is my problem, obviously.  The reason I feel disappointed is that there are only two questions pro-liberty people really need to ask the public health prohibitionists, and I'll come to those shortly.

But what happens during these "debates" is that the pro-liberty folk want to challenge the clearly bogus tobacco control-invented stats and studies with actual facts, and that -- 80% of the time* -- will lead to the pro-liberty person(s) losing the argument in the court of public opinion. (*I just made that up.)

Why? Because most people don't care about facts. Not as much you do. Oh, they say they do, but they truly do not. What they want most is for people to tell them what to think, to tell them what the right answer is, to tell them what to believe.  That is why "propaganda" exists (and hundreds of religions).  It doesn't need to be truthful -- it only needs to sound like it's true. Plausibility is vital for selling your brand of propaganda.  If you give average citizens truly useful information and facts, most of the time they aren't interested. It's too complicated. That's why there are scientists and academics to figure this stuff out, they'll mutter.  The public does not care about facts -- what they and the press are interested in are sound bites. Catchy phrases. Things they can remember easily, so they can repeat them to their friends, family and colleagues to try to sound clever and knowledgeable.
"Hey, Mary," said Bob. "I was just listening to BBC Radio and did you know that smoking kills half of its long-term users?  It's true. I heard it on the radio. Don't ever smoke, because you'll die 'from smoking.' It's like guaranteed at 100%."

"That's great, Bob. I'll remember that," Mary said, and nods appreciatively.  "Did you see Coronation Street last night?"

"Of course. I never miss an episode.  Good show, eh?"
And this is your typical at-the-office conversation. There's no substance, only banter. But the message Bob heard on BBC Radio stuck and he shared it.  "Half of long-term smokers will DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE! THEY WILL ALL DIE from SMOKING!  SOMETHING MUST BE DONE, MARY! OH GOD, THE CHILDREN! WHO WILL THINK OF THE CHILDREN!"

Whilst completely bollocks, as propaganda the "half of long-term smokers" thing is certainly a beautiful piece of work.  You have to admire its simplicity. It exploits everybody's natural fear of death and kindly informs you that 50% of smokers will die. Like flipping a coin. But the subliminal message, or subtext rather, is that ALL smokers will die.

And that's true. All smokers will die. Eventually.  But not "from smoking."  In fact, there is no official cause of death for "From Smoking."  So, truthfully, and scientifically, nobody ever has died "FROM SMOKING tobacco."  Well, maybe someone lit up a cigarette and immediately died from smoking just that one cigarette. But if that ever happened, nobody has a record of it.

Now whether smoking tobacco is a cause for every last disease a human being can suffer from is another matter not worth covering in this post (nor covering in the comments, thank you).  We'll leave that one to the professional anti-smokers.

So, if you're going to challenge the anti-smokers in some debate with a moderator who already doesn't give a shit what you think and doesn't like smoking himself, then you need to be able to propagandise at their level. Because if you don't, you may have won the argument in the technical sense, but you still lost the debate.

That isn't to say that facts are not important or that you shouldn't challenge bogus statements. Absolutely you should. But you have to balance that with your own propaganda.

Now good propaganda isn't that hard to come by, but it takes a lot of work and finesse to come up with something that will stick. That's your job, debaters. You need to come up with something clever and memorable. Something you can repeat often and out-propagandise the propagandists.  It should also be true. Because tobacco control is all about lies and half-truths.  Your propaganda then must be factual.

I aim to help a bit.  And that's where the "Two questions you should always ask when dealing with professional anti-smokers" comes into play.  Ready?

1.  What should I die from?

2.  And when should I die?  (age)

That's it. You need to always ask these questions to Public Health and anyone else who wants to save you from smoking and drinking and gambling for that matter.

Be patient. Wait for the answer.  If they do not answer, if they use the classic evasion technique of asking another question to you instead, or try to spew out more bogus stats and other propaganda to support their hateful bigoted cause, then you have to persist and re-ask those two questions. And if they still do not answer, you then turn to the audience and you ask them the question.  It's important you do this last bit. Because the audience will definitely remember it. They will never forget it. You will have planted that one seed of doubt in their mind that something is amiss. Trust me on this. They won't know what it is at first, but they'll remember the questions. And it will stick.

And you should ask these questions on websites in the comments (expect hateful responses from anti-smoking trolls -- I get "you should die an early death from cancer" all the time. People suck in no large measure -- only anti-smoking, socialist, public health nutters would wish a cancerous death on anyone who doesn't conform to their belief systems. Which is why they're evil fucking bastards).

And you should ask these two questions when family or friends tsk-tsk about your smoking or tell you to quit.  You can also add that if you want to quit, then you will quit smoking. It's your choice.

And you need to remember these two questions, and you must never forget to ask them.  It's important. You might not think it matters, but it does matter a great deal.

Because they are both perfectly legitimate questions to ask the people in Public Health. They talk about premature death. Fine. What isn't premature? When should I die? And what should I die from?

You need to be relentless about this.  Make them answer the questions, if you can.

These are the only two questions you should always remember to ask during a debate.  You can then go back to your stats and facts to your heart's content. These two questions work for almost anything by the way, not just tobacco control. Got an alcohol prohibitionist to deal with? Ask them.

But please ask them. Until it sticks. Don't expect answers. But if you get any, please share them, publicly. Because that will be entertaining.

I asked these two questions again today, for like the billionth time.  This time it was during a tweeted conversation between Ailsa Rutter and me.  It went like this:

Click to enlargify
I'm still waiting for Ailsa Rutter to reply.

And if you've asked the questions and you need to deal with the non-professional anti-smoker joe on-the-street type who likes to do the fake cough thing, then I would suggest something akin to Leg-Iron's witty repartee, which you can read (or reread) over and over again and always laugh hysterically.