by Carl V Phillips
Hmm, hard to decide whether this counts as truth or lying. When serial liars actually publish a statement about how to be more effective liars, does that count as rare moment of honesty? I think, perhaps, that it would be honesty if they admitted that what they were doing was figuring out how to lie better. Alas, they never actually admit that, so they are even lying in their discussion of how to lie.
The case in point is a relatively new article, published in the journal/comic book, Tobacco Control (which is remarkably difficult to find a copy of because very few libraries subscribe to it — good for them!). It examines how to better trick smokers into believing that smokeless tobacco use is far more risky than it really is (the actual risk is, of course, too small to even detect), so that they are not inclined to try THR. The authors do not really matter (their names, just for search purposes: Lucy Popova, Torsten B Neilands, Pamela M Ling); all you really need to know is that they are minions in the Glantz ANTZ colony at University of California, San Francisco.
So, they probably do not even understand that there is such a concept as lying. In their world, you say whatever is most useful to get people to do what you want, and the fact that this manipulation might well kill them is of no greater consequence than the act of lying. Yes, that’s right — this is an article that is openly about teaching people how to be more successful sociopaths.
They performed an experiment on people, showing them snus ads and then various anti-THR lies which they call “antismokeless tobacco ads”, basically admitting — through the use of the word “ads” — that their tobacco control enterprise is every bit as much an industry as the tobacco manufacturing business (though I give them no credit for accidental honesty). The word they use for “lying” in the paper is “countermarketing”.
They natter on (without saying anything concrete — this is not a real scientific paper, of course) about their wonderful techniques for optimizing their propaganda (indeed, the experiment appears really to just be a window-dressing excuse for talking about their lie-development efforts), talking about effectiveness, focus groups, how they dissected Secret Evil Industry Documents; never once do they make any reference to whether one of their messages is true or not. It apparently does not occur to them to care about such matters. They might as well just note in the conflict-of-interest disclosure that they are not capable of conflict of interest because they are sociopaths who do not even understand the concept of ethical obligations.
In describing their “countermarketing”, they report that they:
emphasised similarities between all tobacco products in a straightforward, informational manner
Wait, which was it? Were they straightforward and informational, or did they claim there all tobacco products are similar in important ways? That journal could really use a literate editor who could recognize that an extended typo has rendered the sentence internally inconsistent.
pointed out tobacco industry attempts to ‘push smokeless gimmicks at smokers’
Yes, damn those tobacco companies for trying to get smokers to embrace the gimmick of switching to near-harmless products. Gimmicks like that are a serious threat to the tobacco control industry’s business model, which depends on people continuing to smoke. Keep smoking, dammit!
And then there was:
comparing smokers who used novel smokeless tobacco products to lab rats used by the tobacco industry to test their new products
Snus is so novel that it has been used for merely a few centuries, is the dominant form of tobacco use in only one medium-sized country, and is merely the second-most-studied tobacco product. Just because its risks have been more precisely estimated than any other tobacco/nicotine product does not mean we know anything. Geez, anyone exposing people to that might as well be brewing things at random in an organic chemistry lab and passing them out to drunk people at nightclubs, just to see what happens. I mean, how dare that tobacco industry try to sell smokers something until we know more. Until we know for sure whether it is 99.5% less harmful than smoking or merely 98% less harmful, it is far better to keep them smoking.
And, of course, the authors lied to their lab rats that snus causes oral cancer and implied that smoking does not, though the evidence actually supports the opposite claim.
What is worse, they performed their experiments on smokers and recently abstinent smokers who they judged to be at the highest risk for starting smoking again — i.e., the people who would benefit from learning the truth about snus, and thus were directly harmed by being in the experiment. [UPDATE: In thinking about this more, it occurred to me that I had perhaps understated the importance of this observation. This was not targeted at nonusers who might have considered trying snus, so they cannot even pretend to be “thinking of the children”. This was a targeted effort specifically intended to figure out how to keep smokers from switching to snus.]
Remember (or be sure to learn, if you do not already know it) that Rodu and I showed that as of 2000 in the US, well before “snus”-branded products increased interest in THR, switching to smokeless tobacco was more likely to be successful than any other smoking cessation method. Since 2000, the increase in smokeless tobacco use has closely matched the decline in smoking, suggesting that substitution has been the only thing moving smoking rates down.
So what did the authors of this “study” conclude? Who cares, really? They are liars to such an extent that they are voluntarily announcing that fact in a paper, so reading what they concluded is likely to only make us less knowledgable? Besides, those methods for measuring people’s responses to stimuli like the anti-THR lies in this experiment are pretty close to junk science even when deployed by honest researchers. People’s snap reaction to their first viewing of an advertisement or gory image has little impact on their views a short time later. The only good news is that when the authors lie to their fellow ANTZ about the definitive implications of their research, they are mostly just wasting their own time (though they are still wasting taxpayers’ money).