We present perspective, amidst late reports, on the Minnesota movement which takes advantage of a smoking ban exemption for theatrical productions, such productions now occurring nightly in bars across the state, with all patrons thus free to smoke as designated actors in a play.
The "Theatre Night" movement, going into its sixth or seventh week now, appears to take effective advantage of the vaguely written exemption. The prohibitionists have been slow to move in shutting down the "bar plays" since they know the weakness of their legal ground. The first ticket from a police department was written last week. There have been three such tickets written as of now.
Apart from that there has been a lot of threatening. The very latest is that the Health Department is calling or visiting bar owners telling them to sign a document pledging allegiance to uphold the smoker pogrom. The tone of the Department in employing this con is reportedly characteristically brusque. This document ploy is a refinement of the general threatening campaign that has been going on for a couple of weeks. No one has reportedly been dumb enough to sign the thing.
Any Minnesotan who gets such a call or visit should contact an attorney. Attorney Mark Benjamin would take an interest. By no means sign anything. The Health henchman may also ask, on the phone or in person if you refuse to sign the paper, for a "verbal commitment" to abide by Health Department demands. Tell him your only verbal commitment is to call your lawyer. On Saturday 29 March Attorney Benjamin issued a press release including (via web link) a specimen of the bully letter. You may note that the letter suggests the bar owner gave agreement over the phone although he did no such thing.
The evident intention — in light of the fact that the ban is unenforceable as written — is to trick business owners into signing or at least verbally committing to what could be called a stipulation agreement (i.e. contract.) The Health thugs apparently believe such stipulated agreements could be enforceable where the ban, simply as it stands, is not.
The Gestapo is making coercive threats of punishment which may or could ensue in the future in its recent calls and visits. When the thugs are asked directly if they are making a specific citation for a specific violation they simply and immediately evade by again saying punishment in the future could be harsh. So it has gone. Wise business owners are reacting prudently with the advice of competent counsel.
The Health Department goons know they stand on legal quicksand so are trying to scare people into compliance quickly, while praying they can put a fix into normal legal channels in the long term, about which more below. Nasty threats and dirty tricks shall keep coming. Attempted intimidation has not halted ban defiance. It keeps spreading.
Attorney Benjamin, leader of the Theatre Night movement, will get the chance to test the enforceability of the smoking ban formally, if the prohibitionists cannot find an underhanded way to circumvent the courtroom test in the next few weeks. They have tried. So far they have seemingly been unsuccessful.
They had hopes that their scare tactics might induce compliance and that the pending court cases could be dismissed under those conditions, thereby achieving rule by fear, effectively placing the Health Department apart from and above the law. They hoped foolish business owners might "pledge allegiance" to tyranny but that’s not panning out. Their efforts do appear increasingly desperate. They will keep trying in the weeks, months, and years ahead. They will employ all their power and influence and any fix they can contrive.
Theoretically, antitobacco could of course go back to the Legislature immediately, with petition to redefine or else remove the theatrical production exemption. However Theatre Night has spotlighted widespread popular indignation over the smoking ban. Thus antitobacco fears that re-opening debate in the Legislature at this time could bring about more exemptions rather than eradicating the one. There is indeed some growing sentiment amongst legislators in both houses for outright repeal. Hence antitobacco’s recent pratfalls, all the contrivances to intimidation, and the growing air of desperation.
This all sounds promising. Perhaps it is. It bears watching. We have noted Mark Benjamin’s enthusiasm to sit at the table and compromise on the smoking ban issue. This is understandable. Mister Benjamin has only recently entered the tobacco wars. He has accomplished much in a few weeks. He may get his day in court and he may win. If he does win this could compromise antitobacco’s power in the state of Minnesota for some time, but antitobacco has powerful friends, and money, and will try to recoup all the power and force it can, over time, and with its long reach.
Tobacco prohibition is a worldwide movement. Prohibitionists are interconnected nationally and internationally. Minnesota cannot indefinitely remain isolated from this. The impetus to prohibition will squeeze on the state from outside. On the other hand, effective activism in Minnesota, and elsewhere, can collectively weaken antitobacco on a world scale. That is the most exciting point in this. Minnesota is not just interesting, or important, to Minnesotans: so let us watch, and help the Minnesotan freedom fighters, however we can. It should be helpful here to view this situation from and between local and world perspectives.
For the long haul, Mister Benjamin and anyone who resists antitobacco locally must come fully to appreciate, that they are really up against a local manifestation of an international and vastly-funded prohibition movement. It does interconnect and it does have many consistent characteristics wherever it appears. It will "compromise" only in situations where its position and power become compromised. It can afford to bide its time. It can outspend its opposition by thousands of dollars to the penny. It lobbies continually and monitors election cycles. It is a monoscopic puritanical movement. It is fanatical. It is manipulative. Whenever it can renege on its compromises it does so promptly.
Like all fanatical movements, antitobacco considers itself the sole arbiter of truth, and its truth is whatever suits its mission. That mission is smoker eradication. Antitobacco will say in Minnesota, as it always does everywhere, that there is no debate, that smokers are murderers and that legislators who allow them to smoke anywhere are accomplices to murder, that it has authoritative proof of all it says (in the form of the sort of "political science" that once went by the name of eugenics), that all who oppose it are anti-health and anti-social.
We say all of this from close observation and from close and long experience over wide geography. Sitting at the table and compromising is what civilized people do on matters of civil debate. There cannot be civil debate at a table where empowered fanatics sit. This is the plain situation regarding tobacco issues today which, if they continue in their activism, the Minnesotan freedom advocates will have to come to cope with. Antitobacco never stops lying. It never stops threatening. It never stops banning. It never stops encroaching. Antitobacco is of the nature of the old witch-hunting movements that spread all over Europe and carried over to America. It is a very dangerous enemy.
The evidence of this is as vast as our archives at the FORCES site and vaster still than that. FORCES, and the freedom movement generally, represent resistance to an extreme and very vicious campaign of hate. Society suffers from it. Many of those who fight antitobacco have suffered in very personal ways. We therefore speak frankly. We are not extremists. We don’t care who smokes or who doesn’t. We have no problem with "smoke-free" venues established out of preference by property owners.
The public should not, however, be scared into tobaccophobia and smoker-hating by proponents of antitobacco eugenics. Tolerance should not be proscribed by law. We are witnessing today the dismal effects of a smoker pogrom. We promise never to try to ban non-smoking but antitobacco needs to be stopped from banning smoking. Hence the war, the World War, in which many Minnesotans have now chosen to fight.
Returning then to the Minnesota battleground, we hear from those on the ground of burgeoning popular support for ban repeal, reflected in interest shown in activist organization and also in local polls. Updates occur regularly at freedomtoact.com. We noted Mark Benjamin’s piece in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune earlier this week. Even that newspaper, a notable Healthist mouthpiece, has come to face the reality of popular resistance to health fascism. We congratulate Mister Lowell Johnson for penning this pithy letter that surprisingly appeared on the pages of the Star-Tribune this week:
Bar patrons responding to smoking ban’s tyranny
If the intent of the Minnesota smoking ban was to improve indoor air quality, the law would have been written in terms of an air-quality standard and not a smoking ban. With their participation in "theater nights," bars are using the letter of the law to protest the spirit of the law behind the state’s five-month-old indoor smoking ban. When the spirit of the law is tyranny, civil disobedience will surely follow.
The Minnesotans deserve all encouragement and support. We link below to statements prepared in recent days by Mark Benjamin, and by the Tavern League of Minnesota, including news and information about future plans and fund-raising. We shall continue following Minnesota events on these pages.
Click for: Statement from Lawyer Mark Benjamin