The Need For A Cultural Vacation
"Prize Offered to First Anti-Smoking Group to Apologize for Misleading the Public" - or:
The need for a cultural vacation
by Gian Turci
July 24, 2006 - God, I like Michael Siegel! I used to clash with him in any forum I could years ago, but now I have changed my mind. This is not because the gentleman is saying something that could serve the cause of FORCES - although I understand that this may be the first thing that comes to mind. Michael is still advocating smoking bans, and still believes that exposure to passive smoke is dangerous - so he is still the "enemy". But sometimes one can learn to admire even the enemy.
What I like in Siegel is the representation of an America that, basically, is all but gone - an America once pervaded by the faith that truth eventually does prevail, and there shall be "justice for all". It has always been nothing more than a dream, of course. But it is something society should tend to, although it will never achieve it. That is what made America so great. I compare that dream with the country I am in (Italy) where 25 centuries of history (of which 14 of utter servitude to foreign powers) have made Italians the ultimate cynics. No matter what his political faith is, no Italian believes that there shall be justice for all. In fact, that is seen as a concept too wacko even for a dream. No Italian believes in the honesty of the state, either - or that the state should be honest in the first place. Italians know better: power corrupts - no matter who holds it. So, life becomes an exercise in dodging (or using) that corruption; in kissing the underpants of those who have the power; in stiffening up in the salute to power when it's looking and then mocking it when it isn't - the ultimate vendetta of serfdom. But nobody tries to correct corruption, for power corrupts - it's a given. The best we can do is to make sure that power does not become absolute, so that we won't have absolute corruption.
But that is not the way of Siegel - nor that of a disappearing breed of Americans like him. In an article concerning the false information circulated by antismokers organizations Siegel says (emphasis added):
"As a movement which is based more than anything on the principle of the truth and the premise that we are truthful and the tobacco industry has not been, I agree that there is nothing more important than being truthful - and this certainly holds for our public communications and our scientific and health claims. Protecting kids does not justify not being truthful. The ends of protecting the public's health does not justify the means of being misleading or inaccurate in our communications in order to achieve that goal. A number of anti-smoking groups have recently been made aware of their inaccurate statements. Hopefully, they will recognize and admit their error, correct it, and apologize to the public for providing them with this false information."
... and he offers a symbolic reward of $100. Siegel still believes in the self-correcting mechanism of his system; he believes in his cause. Finally, he believes that others have his kind of coherence. But using one's own metre to measure the world is often the fatal error of the naive. Those antismoking organizations ARE liars; they lied from the beginning and they keep on doing so. They never wanted to speak the truth, but only to advance their interests. And yes, they believe that the (proclaimed) end of protecting the public's health does justify the means. All one has to do is look at the recent position of the SG on passive smoking. These people are teaching hatred in two ways: they are teaching non smokers to hate smokers and smokers to hate themselves, in spite of anti-hate laws. Public health is above the law - in many ways.
False information is a "legitimate" means to suppress smokers, Dr. Siegel, and the powers-that-be have adopted it, too. Why? Because power is corruption. To use Siegel's own words, "We no longer have the tobacco industry as a watchdog to keep us honest". Exactly - as there is no longer the Soviet Union to keep America free. We need our nemesis to use our power wisely. And when our nemesis is gone, we are left with absolute power - and, with it, absolute corruption. We may have won the war, but we surely have lost ourselves.
Keep on hoping for an apology, Dr. Siegel - you will be waiting a very long time. In the meantime, you are invited to a revealing cultural vacation in beautiful Italy as my guest. I will not smoke in your presence - promise. In fact, Siegel is the only "tobacco control advocate" in the world whose face I wouldn't blow smoke in!