Thursday, 18 September 2014

You're Daft Because You're Not Like Us

Social media has been abuzz in the past week as the public health cabal circles its wagons and makes excuses for John Ashton's recent Twitter train wreck (see here, here and here).

The general consensus seems to be that it's a storm in a teacup, and what has it to do with bloody vapers anyway?

Not quite how their regulator sees it ...
1. Make the health and protection of the public your prime concern 
1.1 The interests of the public are paramount: put them before your own interests and those of any colleague or organisation
... but then public health is about regulating others, isn't it? Regulations on their own behaviour can obviously be ignored at will.

Besides, e-cigs are a silly idea anyway.

Of course. You should either quit. Or die. Or "grow a backbone", in fact.

But doesn't this say quite a lot about the modern 'public health' industry and its arrogant abandonment of empathy, as I've referred to before?

Lots of things are daft ideas to people who don't do them. Recreational fell running and an obsession with cycling, for example. I think TV soaps are pretty daft, and knitting, and water features, and tattoos, and Premiership football, and voting Labour, and wasting a day playing golf amongst a long list of things. I also think placing health above absolutely everything else in life is pretty daft, and view those whose lives are taken over by it as daft in themselves.

The difference is whether you think they're daft but shrug your shoulders and put it down to the marvellous diversity of human behaviour, or whether you think what you don't like is daft and do everything in your power to stop someone else doing it.

I'm in the former category while 'public health' is firmly in the latter. But even if I carried a superiority complex and was antagonistic enough to want to impose my preferences on everyone else in society, I don't believe I could do so without at least investigating what pleasure others take from their chosen activities.

It seems, however, the modern public health movement doesn't even want to do that! It's their way or the prohibition way, and anyone who disagrees can righteously be ignored and/or dismissed as 'daft'.

This is the big disconnect we seem to face from these people. The ones who have never smoked can't understand the pleasure that smoking can bring, nor can they ever understand why smokers who want to quit would prefer to use something which recreates the same habitual action rather than a clinical patch or unnatural tasting gum. The ones who despise alcohol see people merry or drunk and don't understand why some move from childhood squash to enjoying the mood-altering properties of beer and spirits. The ones who enthuse about vegetable smoothies and qinoa salads don't understand - and often profess to feeling physically sick - that others enjoy a hefty piece of minced cow in a sesame seed bun topped with special sauce.

But instead of trying to understand, they pretend that the enjoyment of others isn't possible simply because they don't enjoy it themselves. The hatred thrown at smokers, and now vapers, has been fostered as a result of this total disconnect. I don't smoke so I don't think you should. I think e-cigs are a silly idea (not to mention a silly word), so I'm going to regulate e-cigs to stop you vaping. Fast food doesn't float my boat, so I think the destruction of vastly popular restaurants would be pretty neat. I don't include Coca-Cola in my shopping list, so a 100% tax on fizzy drinks is just fine and dandy.

Nor will the effects of their hatred register, and Ashton is most definitely guilty of that. I think the reaction of his public health buddies proves that his defence will likely be that he was provoked into being an arsehole on Twitter on the 6th September, because it would never occur to him that calling others "addicts" for enjoying something which he, personally, doesn't enjoy is a vindictive, inflammatory and ignorant insult.

He wouldn't care one jot about Lorien Jollye's experience as a result of his previous 'work'.
I am 36 now. This means, that for 2/3rds of my life, I was a ‘dirty smoker’. Something that society was at pains to remind me about on a daily basis, with my freedom to smoke being restricted more and more. I am sure I was not the only smoker to feel utterly sickened to read news articles condemning adoptive parents for smoking, that they should be prevented from giving love and security to a vulnerable child, all because they enjoyed a cigarette. As a parent, this strikes a bit of fear into you. Will they condemn parents that smoke? Will they one day say my children should be taken away from me cos I go into the garden to have a ciggy? 
But it was nastier than that. They ran adverts about horrible tobacco guzzling parents, so that all of society could hate me a little bit more, as the adverts on the tellybox had told them what an appalling mother I was. 
The public at large already sneered at me, customers at my workplace would comment on my habit, tell me it would ruin my skin, age me or how it made me look ugly. Really personal stuff, and insulting too. I did not know these people, who were they to tell me that I was ugly because I smoked? I wish I were kidding, but I used to get these comments with relative frequency. If they could think of nothing particularly personal, they would settle with ‘Bad for you, that’ as though somehow I must just have missed the adverts, posters, flyers, billboards, comments etc and was happily thinking I was replacing one of my 5 a day with some tobacco leaves. So I was stupid, too. 
To recap – I was stupid, ugly, will  be ugly, a bad mother and society thought I stank. 
Then when the smoking ban came into affect, by which time I had switched to rollies, I would stand at work and roll myself a ciggy before going outside for a break. I remember catching a woman looking at me as I fashioned a perfectly cylindrical tube of ‘I am going outside so you lot can stop clicking your damn fingers at me for service’ to see such a look of disgust on her face that it really took me back for a moment. I had never had a stranger look at me like that before. Pure unadulterated loathing for me rolling a ciggie. I probably could have chopped out a line of coke, or rolled up my sleeve to tap for a vein and not been looked at like I was just then.
Post the 2007 ban, things just got worse in terms of how ppl treated me. The adverts got more aggressive, the second hand smoke messages got more aggressive. So now rather than just being ugly, smelly, stupid and a bad parent I was also dangerous. 
If you are not a vaper or smoker and are reading this, imagine for just one second, what that must be like? To spend 2/3rds of your life being treated like this, looked at in this way. Remember that poor woman who ignited her oxygen tube with a lighter? Seek it out – look at the comments and see what the public thinks of smokers. The vitriol and hatred is something to behold. A poor woman made a horrible mistake whilst still under the effects of a general anaesthetic and what did the public say? She deserved it. Why?  
Because she was a smoker.
In Ashton's world, this is perfectly acceptable. And in Ashton's world, when Lorien switched to e-cigs, she is still fair game, just as she is still fair game for all his public health colleagues with their equally closed minds.

They don't want to hear from Lorien, they actively move to ignore her. They think she's 'daft' and want her to just go away and leave them to their ivory tower, their inflated egos and their fat salaries derived from 'denormalising' others while purposely ignoring pleas to consider different viewpoints and insultingly dismissing all objections.

No, we've got it all wrong. Don't you see that Ashton is the victim here? He should be reinstated forthwith because people who enjoy nicotine should have no say; people who enjoy nicotine are just 'daft'. He's an innocent who was provoked by the temerity of people he quite clearly despises trying to challenge him.

There is a different way of looking at the role of a public health professional, of course ...
The public is highly diverse – including elements that are raucous, bawdy, profane, satirical, sarcastic, insulting and so on. To complain about them as a public health professional is like sailors complaining about the weather, or politicians complaining about the electorate. They are the subject of your profession – get used to them, and learn to engage without becoming pompous and aggressive. If you think you can defend your professional failings by finding examples of people being rude to you or about you, then you misunderstand your role.  So please don’t try this as a defence, it will only bring you more shame and further opprobrium ... Public health is a gritty business, not about the provision of happy-clappy advice to a peasantry grateful for wisdom and awed by your status. If that is how you think,  you’re in the wrong job.
... but you won't hear anyone in 'public health' taking heed of it.

This is why I'm pretty certain that Ashton will be returned to his post after a summary whitewash by the Faculty of Public Health, the coordinated efforts of his hypocritical colleagues will make sure of that. You see, he's not an outlier or a loose cannon, he's firmly in the centre ground and not anything particularly unusual in his profession. He holds us in the same contempt as his peers routinely do.

Smoking stinks? Public health should look in the mirror someday and notice that their methods and attitude do too.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Policy-Based Evidence-Making - A Video Guide

An item from July popped up on one of my Twitter search streams yesterday which is quite revealing about the methods of the tobacco control industry and how they are applied to the pursuit of plain packs legislation.

You see, when it comes to smoking, tobacco controllers have descended into a comfort zone whereby they feel confident in saying just about anything amongst themselves, while politicians are being fed something completely different.

Note, for example, Debs Arnott's comments in the video below:
"At least 13, 14 times a day [an average smoker] gets their pack out; they put it on the table; and the pack symbolises something. It's really important, it's about the smoker's identity"
Smokers can't be allowed to enjoy an identity, now can they? This is the whole point of plain packaging which tobacco control will make sure politicians hear little of. Instead the entire campaign has said nothing else but children, children, children. But when boasting amongst themselves on the ESRC YouTube channel (comments banned, natch), and elsewhere (see a preening rundown of dirty tricks prior to the smoking ban here) we get something more truthful.
"At the time that the last government - Labour government - was in power, and they were consulting on the next steps in tobacco control, at that time there was a big fightback from the industry and so the government sort of said "well, we're interested in this but we want more evidence". And that's where research like Olivia's became so crucial, because they needed the evidence to take that next step"
While it's very kind of Arnott to admit what we all know, that plain packs was a rent-seeking policy promoted to government before evidence had been produced to justify it, do you - for even a twinkling moment - believe that this 'evidence'-gathering exercise was ever going to come back to government and say, "you know what, we've found that plain packs isn't useful at all, so forget we ever mentioned it".

Of course not.

It doesn't even matter to tobacco control that the study being lauded in the video is not very good. A dedicated expert in eye-tracking technology describes here and here why he thinks that Maynard's 'science' has failings, this part being the most damning.
Well, I'm not the first to research this topic, and given the results I will be presenting, I could have chosen to go directly to some high profile publication relating to marketing and packaging, health psychology or tobacco control, where the research would almost certainly not have been reviewed by those with any expertise in eye-movements and visual attention.  And here’s the point, submitting research to peer review, when you know that the “peers” reviewing are not equipped to detect errors or omissions from the submission is, in my opinion, second only to the falsification of data
But not only is Maynard's research held up as the pinnacle of integrity and scrupulous scientific standards in tobacco control circles, it also gets a gong. The true eye-tracking expert however - who came to a different conclusion to Maynard - will, of course, be entirely ignored and get nothing.

This is how tobacco control works. They put their heads together to think up some pointless idea which will gain them taxpayer funds for another couple of years, then go about lobbying politicians for it with your money and using institutions paid for by you. In the meantime they will carry out 'research' which has only one purpose - to make the conclusion fit the policy they are pursuing. Then, when the legislation is passed by woodentop MPs, the same tobacco control industry trousers even more of our cash to 'prove' that it works. And guess what? It always does. Fancy that!

Then it's back to square one and the whole process starts again.

Now, if you can see where democracy, fairness, objectivity, integrity, transparency, or public engagement fits into any of this, do let us know.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Aghast From The Past

It's been a tough old day at Puddlecote Inc and in Puddlecote Towers. Had our HR consultants in for a very long chat - and will soon be having their monthly direct debit out of our bank account for good (long story) - before being on the road for the rest of the day due to staff shortages. Whilst back home I've spent the evening setting up our new wireless printer - vital for the little Ps' homework in years 9 & 10 - to replace the one which had decided to be as reliable a piece of electronics as Yul Brynner in Westworld, only to find that the boy's PC has since come out on strike too. Only rains when it pours, eh?

So I'm grateful to Snowdon for helping me get another airing for one of my personal favourite pieces of surreal prodnosery from these pages.

If you haven't seen the news at the weekend about a Barnsley school's decision to ban the 'filth' that is the school packed lunch, do so now before reading his well-argued article at the Telegraph by way of response.

This part in particular.
None of this concerns the head of Milefield Primary School, who self-righteously proclaims that "We have got to work towards what's best for our children". The clear implication is that parents have not got their children’s best interests at heart, that they are unfit to feed their own offspring, and that schools exist to protect kids from their parents. Her use of the proprietorial term "our children" – rather than "the children" or "our pupils" – is telling. She uses the term to imply ownership by her institution, perhaps even by the nation, but when Adam and Claire Martin, who have moved their three kids to a different school as a result of the ban, say that they "don't need somebody to tell us what our children should be eating", the word "our" is literal, meaningful and should be deserving of respect.
It is strongly reminiscent of this shrill and unhinged performance by Sonia Poulton - broadcast to the nation in the summer of 2012 on Radio 5 Live - as she laid down her plans for requisitioning the nation's children to justify why she is entitled to interfere in the lives of other parents.

If you listen carefully, you can just make out Nicky Campbell suppressing his laughter as her extremist ranting is calmly dismantled by Sean Gabb.

As I said at the time:
We used to have a few of these prodnoses dotted around, but they're everywhere now. Self-aggrandising, aloof, condescending of others, and entirely dismissive of choices different from their own. 
Put this latest over-wrought moral panic to one side for a minute. Let's instead try to investigate why we have an army of shrieking curtain-twitchers who insist on getting involved in everyone else's life as well as their own. 
Now that's something that government should be doing if it cared for society, instead of encouraging the most objectionable to forcibly dictate their own personal gripes on the rest of us ... as they seem to do at every turn nowadays.
The same can safely be said of the lunatics at Milefield Primary School in Barnsley, and I reckon my illustration from back then works very well for their nasty policy too.

Or, as Snowdon puts it.
The fact remains that a ham sandwich at lunchtime is not, and never will be, a child protection issue.

Friday, 12 September 2014

An Investigation Into Whom?

So here we are, 6 days after Professor John Ashton's bout of Saturday night Twitter rage (see here, here and here for background), and the Faculty of Public Health has today posted a statement on their website.

Click to enlarge
Interesting to see that they're continuing to describe it as a Twitter "exchange" rather than a sinister trawling of vaper Twitter timelines followed by a series of insulting stand-alone tweets. The exchange of words only happened well after Ashton had begun his spiteful tirade. Still, at least they are taking it seriously.

But by "investigation", I'm wondering who exactly is being investigated. You see, one of the many vapers to have complained to the FPH is good friend of this blog Dr Steve W, who runs a sole trader e-cig shop in Bury.

Shortly after he sent off his complaint - and well before the FPH announced their investigation - his LinkedIn account had an unusual visitor.

Now, why do you reckon the Media and PR Officer at the FPH would be looking up Dr Steve on the internet, eh? I do hope it's not an attempt to dig dirt on their detractors and dismiss the whole thing as a conspiracy by big bad 'industry', because that would be a trifle naughty.

Unfortunately, it can't be ruled out owing to the nature of modern public health activists, as I described earlier in the week.
Additionally, there is the widespread public health annoyance that anyone is allowed to be anonymous online and that - as such - they must surely be paid shills. This not only further emphasises that they really don't understand how this internet thing has naturally developed since the 90s but also reveals the underlying tyrannical modern public health mindset. 
It's a facet of the tyrant for centuries that anonymity unnerves the dictatorial. If you have a solid case that can be backed up with unshakeable evidence, anonymity is nothing to be scared of, but public health haven't enjoyed that position for over a decade now. 
Instead, as Ashton has shown, the modus operandum for public health now solely consists of attacking the man not the ball. How on Earth can they do that if those opposing them can't be investigated and intimidated, eh?
And, indeed, dismissed as complainants thus avoiding the need to address the matter properly. It is a tactic that has always helped them avoid debate, so why not to deflect attention from a PR disaster too? Why should it matter to the FPH who is complaining? Surely the only thing that they should be addressing is the content of the complaint.

If you complained too, I'm sure you'll be thrilled that FPH Liz wants to get to know you better.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Gratitude, WHO Style

As mentioned before, the documents being place online by the World Health Organisation in advance of their working holiday in Putin's Russia are very revealing.
51. The budget approved by the COP at its fourth session was US$ 14 902 000 (of which VAC accounted for US$ 9 107 000). This amount, however, should be adjusted by US$ 1 188 000, the amount that was identified as the extrabudgetary component of funds necessary  or convening the fifth session of the INB4 and which was met by the in-kind contribution of  the European Union (by covering the travel and conference service costs of the session). 
That's $1.188 million of your taxes being spent to prop up a movement which - as I've mentioned before - is incapable of living within its means.

Were they grateful? Of course not! Instead, after leeching that $1.188 million, they proceeded to accuse the EU of showing a "lack of respect" - at the very conference the EU had spent a lot of our money to facilitate - and 'thanked' the EU with their 'Dirty Ashtray Award'.

Meanwhile, in today's news.
New EU sanctions against Russia will take effect on Friday, blocking loans for five big state banks and curbing EU business with oil and defence firms. 
The aim is to keep pressure on Russia over its role in the Ukraine crisis.
Pah! What do the massed ranks of the tobacco control industry care about that, eh? It pales into insignificance when there's an exciting and free sightseeing tour of Moscow on offer for delegates.

Banning e-cigs and demanding the world listen to the unelected WHO's tantrums is far more important than some irrelevant sideshow in Ukraine, eh?