It comes from Olivia Maynard - one of the 'scientists' behind 'evidence' for plain packaging (criticised by a real scientist here) - who has written in the Guardian this afternoon.
Just hours after MPs in the UK voted in favour of standardised (or plain) packaging for tobacco products, with a clear majority of 367 to 113, an Independent Online article appeared with the headline “Plain cigarette packaging: One in four MPs who opposed measures have declared links to tobacco industry.”
The clear implication is that these “links” may have influenced the way in which MPs voted on this important piece of tobacco control legislation. However, without a comparator group (that is, knowing how many of the MPs who voted in favour of standardised packaging had these same links), this ‘one in four’ statistic is problematic.Well yes, because 22% is not one in four for a start, but the honesty I'm referring to comes from Maynard's unusual (for a tobacco controller) scepticism towards a tired and fraudulent anti-smoking tactic.
[I]t’s clear that a higher percentage of those MPs who voted against standardised packaging had received hospitality from the tobacco industry as compared with those who either voted in favour of it or abstained from the vote.
What can we conclude from this difference? Perhaps not as much as it might first appear, as these data cannot tell us anything about the direction of causality. We don’t know whether MPs’ voting behaviour was influenced by the hospitality they received from the tobacco industry, or whether those MPs who were already inclined to vote against tobacco control policies were also more likely to accept tobacco industry hospitality. Establishing whether observed associations such as these are causal is notoriously difficult. In addition, we can’t tell from these data whether those MPs who accept hospitality from the tobacco industry are just more likely to accept hospitality from any source.Quite. You'd think, wouldn't you, that the massed ranks of acclaimed 'scientific' 'experts' in the tobacco control industry, with their superhuman grasp of epidemiology and statistics, would be clever enough to work this out too. Instead, to a man and woman, they leapt to spread this article last week in order to deliberately insinuate that MPs who voted against plain packaging had obviously been bought.
Of course, in reality, the idea that a £1,600 trip to the Chelsea Flower Show is enough to buy politicians' votes in perpetuity can only really be believed by those blessed with the intellect of a chimp, as Kristian Niemitz observed back in 2012.
Sure, there are advantages in convincing yourself that your opponents are effectively bribed liars. It absolves you of the need to engage in substantive debates.There's a perfect recent example of this on Twitter.
Why try to rebut what your opponent is saying, when you know for sure that he does not even believe it himself? It is not just convenient, but also irrefutable. Of course Monbiot cannot provide the slightest evidence to back up his accusations, but then, why should he? Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. You can sometimes prove that somebody has fudged their arguments (through hacked e-mails, for example), but there is no way you could prove that somebody has not fudged their arguments. That’s what makes good conspiracy theories. Try to prove that the world is not controlled by super-intelligent space lizards.
The space lizard hypothesis and George Monbiot’s corporate mouthpiece hypothesis have two things in common. Firstly, neither is falsifiable. But secondly, while many real-world observations are fully compatible with them, they are equally compatible with much more mundane explanations. For example, rather than the donors determining the contents of think tank publications, the contents of think tank publications could determine the donors. But that would be boring, wouldn't it?Yes it would. But that's the difference between a scientist and a campaigner. The former wants to look into the intricacies of the human condition and the latter will just spout any old crap if it sways public opinion.
Even worse than being boring, though, is that - as anyone who has ever challenged 'public health' orthodoxy will have experience of - in the absence of slinging mud, issuing baseless smears, and ignoring inconvenient research, those proposing policies such as plain packaging, banning e-cigs, minimum alcohol pricing, fat taxes, sugar taxes etc etc ad infinitum, would have to actually debate the facts in front of them. And that just wouldn't do.
So well done to Maynard for criticising the Indy's lazy journalism. Her calm analysis of fairly irrelevant statistic is a small spark of integrity in an ocean of swill from other morons in her industry.
One in 4 UK politicians who voted against #plainpacks had declared ties to #BigTobacco http://t.co/Q5GGHGPh1N
— Simon Chapman AO (@SimonChapman6) March 15, 2015