Several years ago now, the tobacco industry still had some will to fight. This pre-Master Settlement Agreement video produced by Philips Morris Europe gives an example.
Although made in typical “slick & smooth” tobacco industry formula (invoking rather trite “tolerance & courtesy" messages), this educational video points out the antismoking propaganda technique of the “innocent bystander”, victim of the nonexisting dangers of passive smoke. Psychological tactics are highlighted along with fraudulent epidemiologic methods to achieve political and social control.
The corruption of public health authorities is two-fold: the false representation of dangers that don’t actually exist, and the acceptance of using an epidemiological fraud (that on passive smoking) to pursue another epidemiological fraud, that on the mortality of smoking.
The facts of this video are scientifically rigorous. However, in those times, the tobacco industry failed to avoid the finger-pointing to other “causes” of disease (a useless practice that only creates more victims), while even more importantly, the industry failed to mass-mobilize smokers as a political force and as the most powerful consumer group ever. Instead, the cigarette makers concentrated only on the passive smoking fraud and on the “tolerance and courtesy” formula, “strategically” ignoring the fabricated “scientific proof” that active smoking “kills.” That was because the PR “experts” of the industry had conceded in their own minds that the public believed that smoking "kills.”
Instead of straightening public opinion with massive, direct-to-the-public counter-propaganda and education on the active smoking epidemiological fraud along with the passive smoking fraud, the industry catered to that opinion by omission, concentrating on trying to maintain a “market share” of truth, so to speak, on other issues, such as passive smoking and “tolerance & courtesy.”
The error of catering to already formed public beliefs instead of reforming those beliefs through active defense is also stubbornly repeated by many other target industries today: they just “duck and hide” as they don’t want to “rock the boat” of the health authorities. “After all”, they say, “we are still making money, and this will pass.”
Dead wrong. It will not pass. THEY will pass instead.
Indeed, the political failure of the tobacco industry was based on a series of fundamentally wrong assumptions. Believe it or not, some of those assumptions are still defended today.
a. They thought that the smoking issue was a “dialogue” that could be solved by compromise and common sense. They failed to see the fanatic nature of public health, and the fact that compromise with fanatics is never possible.
b. Because of (a), they though that public health institutions would respect personal choice on the premise that each is free to do what he sees fit with his body. In reality, public health institutions proceed from the opposite premise.
THE MINDLESS PURSUIT OF "COMPROMISE": UTTER STUPIDITY OR BAD FAITH?
The steady progress of abolitionism is due to the constantly shifting position of our side in the search of a "compromise" that cannot be reached, whist abolitionist forces maintain a steady position.
Two extreme and unchanging positions maintain the public opinion (thus politicians and legislators) steady in the middle grounds.
The constant pursuit of compromise to appeal to the "average opinion" in the attempt to seem "reasonable" results only in the public opinion coinciding with the opposite extreme. The futility of such pursuit is simple enough for a child to understand. Utter stupidity or total bad faith? "Reasonable restrictions on smoking" are unattainable, and they are a political deception to collaborate with public health for the gradual extinction of smoking. The situation is still reversible – but not for long.
c. They though that “credibility” would be gained by conceding that active smoking “kills” – thus engaging in an endless series of political concessions to public health.
d. They believed that, by appearing moderate and “civilized”, that would have appealed to the “moderate middle way," which in turn would have branded Tobacco Control as “extremist.”
Big Tobacco, painted like a shrewd monster by antismoking propaganda, was actually a gentle and dumb giant, as it had too much faith in human intelligence and due process, and failed to understand the vicious beast that Tobacco Control/public health really is.
Point (d) was the most tragic error of all. The highly paid (and highly incompetent!) “strategists” of Big Tobacco failed to see that the middle way can only exist in the presence of two opposing extremes. By preaching moderation (and imposing it to the smokers’ rights groups that it financed at the time), Big Tobacco allowed just one extreme to exists – the abolitionist one.
The foolishness of that school of though is best illustrated with an arithmetical example (right). Assuming equality of forces and exposure (a reasonable assumption considering the means of Big Tobacco), if force A (“we want total smoking”) takes position 0 and force B (“we want abolition”) takes position 10, the result is that the public opinion settles in the middle at a value of 5 (smoking in 50% of the cases.) If, in the silly attempt to appear "moderate", force A positions itself already at 5 (“smoking-is-bad-but…”, “tolerance and courtesy”, etc.), the public opinion eventually settles at 7.5 – much closer to abolition. If the mentality is further applied, and a new “appeal to the middle way” is sought, force B continues to demand abolition (thus staying at 10), whilst force A seeks the new “middle way” at position 7.5 – this time, perhaps, demanding only “give us a place to hide.” As a consequence, the new position of the public opinion now shifts to 8.75 (far closer to abolition), and so on. Before you know it, the public opinion is for 100% abolition, which becomes “normality”.
In short, corporate dumbness failed to see that public opinion is fluid – and that demands, principles and rights can never cater to the “middle way,” which keeps on moving. Demands, principles and rights are absolutes, and must form and define the public opinion by standing still.
None of this should be considered astonishing revelation. Since time immemorial parties that wanted a fair price for the goods they traded already knew what the right price had to be. Yet they always started demanding absurd prices to eventually reach the price they both wanted in the first place. That may not be logical, but human nature seldom is. The fool who, in the game of "your gain is my loss," started with the price he really wanted always got short-changed by the greedier contender. He got cheated, and probably ended up broke, but consoled himself by calling himself "honest," thus further demonstrating his own idiocy, as he did not learn from the lesson.
As we already stated, that fundamental error in strategy is now made by other industries as well, it continues to be made by the tobacco industry at large, and unfortunately is even reflected in losing policies of some current smokers’ rights groups. Fortunately, the process is reversible, and by shifting back to more demanding positions (and exerting the appropriate political pressures – such as civil disobedience, increasing bombardment of media and politicians with those demands, legal actions against public health frauds, etc.) it is still possible to correct the situation. But the longer we wait and hesitate, the harder will become and the most difficult will be. Eventually, a point of non-return will be reached — as it happened, in various historical periods, with marijuana, safety belts, and street surveillance cameras.
Giving ground to fanaticism simply does not work – and when the good traded is personal freedom and institutional integrity, there is no room for error.
Enjoy the video.