Big Lies and Reconciliation

by Carl V Phillips

Hi.  I’m back.  Did you miss me?

I am still not quite home from almost a month of travels (tomorrow, finally!), but am currently existing in what feels like the belly of the beast, Geneva.  Since it costs the equivalent of over $10 for a beer here, I do not exactly feel like going out partying, so one quick post to ease this blog back to life.  After numerous meetings I have reams of notes I would like to post more about, so no shortage there, to say nothing of my backlog of reading.

Numerous times over the last few weeks, including in a newspaper interview I just gave, I found myself trying to explain the Big Lie concept.  One of the problems in explaining the politics of THR to someone new to the topic is that you have to be careful not to sound tinfoil-hat to them.  Those of us in this space get used to the fact that the “public health” people do not actually care about people’s well-being — or even about their health, that (many) tobacco companies are the right side of this issue, and that most of what most people “know” about low-risk tobacco products is lies.  But if you try to explain that to someone who does not already trust you, it is pretty difficult.

The phenomenon at work here is the Big Lie:  If someone tells a minor lie, it is not all that difficult to show people it is wrong.  But if they go big, and tell an enormous lie (or body of lies, because it is impossible to isolate a single lie at that level) they might just get away with it.  People are willing to believe that someone might tell a small lie.  But they often cannot conceive that anyone would be bold enough to tell an enormous collection of blatant lies and stick with it, and so they just cannot accept that it is happening.  The thinking goes, “if this were all lies, someone would catch them at it and point it out, of course, so it cannot be all lies.”  This means, ironically, that when someone does catch them at it and point out the lies, people refuse to believe the claim.

To this day, many Americans still refuse to believe that all the stated justifications for the invasion of Iraq were lies.  It is trivial to provide evidence that there was no connection between the Iraqi government or people and the 9-11 attacks (which was clearly known at the time), that they had no WMDs (which was fairly apparent at the time and now proven beyond a doubt), that the war would hurt us not benefit us (fairly obvious at the time, rather more so now), that it would be bad for the Iraqi people, etc.  But it is very difficult for people to believe that many supposedly respectable people would tell lies so big, so bald, and so costly, so they just did not believe it.  Many still do not believe it, because it is hard to believe and even harder to admit that you were so badly fooled in the first place.

By contrast, give misinformation (you will call it sloppy miscommunication or a lie, depending on your politics) like “you will be able to keep your old insurance plan” (rather than the accurate “you will be able to keep your insurer, but they must upgrade your plan to meet the new minimum standards, but don’t worry because it will be better, and also cheaper unless you are lucky enough to be among the most wealthy and healthy”) and everyone is all over it.  Little lies/errors are fun to fight about.  The Big Lie is too scary to contemplate.

Thus, the tobacco control industry, under the guise of “public health”, manages to mislead a lot of people about THR, about their real motive, and about who the real good guys are, and to get away with it.  After all, if that were all a lie, how could they possibly get away with it?

In one panel session I was on at the South Africa meetings last week (more on the meeting later, but I will note that it was a serious grown-up meeting, and this question was not just rhetorical banter), someone asked if there was any chance that the tobacco control people would be held to account and punished for all the harm they are causing.  I responded (with all due caveats that what was suffered in that country was of an entirely different level horror and that I was not suggesting equivalence) that the best we could hope for was Truth and Reconciliation.  No American will ever be punished for the crimes that got us into Iraq or that were committed there (punishing Private Manning for exposing some of those crimes does not count, obviously).  And no one will be punished for the even greater loss of life caused by anti-THR.

Thus the Truth and Reconciliation approach is the only sensible strategy for us.  The tobacco control industry has lost the war, and will not last another generation, but the dead-enders will keep fighting and causing harm until their dying day if their only alternative is to admit that their core messages and mission have been lies since at least the start of this century (let alone to stand trial for it, which would be both fair and impossible, of course).  I am not suggesting that there can be any formal committee or confessions, obviously.  But as more and more “public health” people, governments, and others come over to the truth and recognize that the 21st century will see a world with billions of happy tobacco users, most of whom avoid the health hazard of a lifetime of smoking, it is time to unilaterally reconcile with the dead-enders and just let them die in peace.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not going to stop calling out their lies when it is useful for helping others understand the truth.  But often the best way to disempower your enemies (and perhaps keep them from fighting to the last breath) is to forgive them, even if it comes without them confessing to what they did.  And if the strategic advantages of that are not enough, well, just think about how deviously satisfying it is to actively announce your forgiveness of someone who has not yet admitted they have done anything that warrants forgiveness. :-)

11 responses to “Big Lies and Reconciliation

  1. Welcome back!
    The problem for the liars is that the lie needs to be maintained. Often, that can only be done by more and more claims concerning the effects of the lie.
    You may not be aware that the new Australian government has said that it will NOT pay the UN any more money in connection with global warming. This, apparently, is because of claims that the Philippines’s typhoon is the result of ‘climate madness’, as some in the UN have been claiming.
    If the money spent on the Tobacco Control Industry over the past couple of decades had been spent on harm reduction rather than prohibition, some good might have ensued. As things have turned out, the TCI has become a significantly destructive force. For example, ASH in the UK continuously stated that the smoking ban would have no effect on pubs. If anything, they claimed, the ban would be good for pubs. We all know what has happened in reality. Even so, ASH continue to deny the facts by claiming that ‘the hospitality industry‘ has not suffered. IE, they have moved the goalposts.
    Ecigs have changed the nature of the game completely. In order to maintain the original BIG LIE, even bigger lies are required. For example, the zealots are now claiming that ecig enjoyment is ‘as bad as smoking’. It is easy to see that, if that were the case, then SHS would be enormously less damaging than ecigs!
    The original BIG LIE(S) will be uncovered when the consequent even bigger lies become obviously lies in the eyes of the man-in-the-street.

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  5. This is a very interesting post. I am surprised it hasn’t generated much comment.

    There are two groups of anti, those who lead and control, those who follow. It is, somewhat easier to forgive those who follow, who were perhaps duped, than those who knew exactly what they were doing.

    In comments with the follower group, it would be interesting to see the reaction to forgiveness. They comment: ‘THR is a crock’ or ‘smoking is a filthy habit’, you reply: ‘You are forgiven for saying that’. Would this ’tilt their brain’ causing them to rethink or would it generate an angrier response?

    The angry response could be forgiven as well, leading to an interesting dynamic between you and them and the observers. What would an observer think of someone who was ‘attacking’ a person making a ‘passive’ meaningful forgiveness?

    The leader group are a different kettle of fish. Would forgiveness have any effect? There are many who would find forgiving these people extremely difficult. They have knowingly disrupted society and the lives of individuals in many ways.

    Even if they are forgiven, would they still face consequences? Will they be disgraced? I am not sure if you mean ‘forgive and forget’ as what has happened can not be forgotten. ‘Forgive them for they know what they do’ could not apply to all. ‘Forgive and move on’ is just as painful. Allowing those who have lead to ‘move on’ to resurrect the harm they have caused, would be to start all over again. So perhaps forgive now and at some time there will be contrition once they come to realise just what they have done?

    Are those who have already come over to THR contrite? Some may still think the approach they adopted was right, yet, given the current circumstances, see THR as a pragmatic stepping stone. My problem is one of expectation. A ‘truth and reconciliation’ type approach could let many face no consequences at all. A lot to consider.

    At first I thought this forgiving idea [:)] would not work, with more thought the idea has merit and has the potential to initiate change and to be applied following change.

    • Carl V Phillips

      Truth and reconciliation is definitely a “never forget” thing, not “forgive and forget”, but it does mean no sanctions and keeping a spot at the table (not being so disgraced that they have to disappear) in spite of past crimes. It is tough to grant such forgiveness, and I am not saying I am sure it is the right attitude (just trying it out a bit). You can be sure that the ANTZ would never do it (as evidenced by them constantly banging on about industry actions that happened when most people involved in this discussion were children or not even born yet). But that is the nature of these things, that the oppressors in power are the ones who get forgiveness — after they long denied it to anyone who opposed them — and it comes only when those who are the voice of justice are about to win. It can allow them to win a little sooner and with fewer casualties and, as I noted, get the dead-enders to not fight to their last bullet.

      As for the different groups of ANTZ, it is true that the useful idiots (those who are tricked into being foot-soldiers for the people who know the truth, because they actually believe the lies) are guilty of something different from what the knowing liars are guilty of. I am not sure it is any easier to forgive, though, since it is not just a matter of being duped (as many innocents are), but of being an aggressive activist without knowing what the hell you are talking about.

  6. Excellent article and I look forward to more of your thoughts once you get back and settled.

  7. It would be easier to forgive were it not for the fact that the ‘top people’ in tobacco control have been preparing the persecution of people who enjoy tobacco for decades.
    For various reasons, I have been back-tracking on the law in the UK re tobacco product duty. The ‘modern’ version of the Act was the 1979 Tobacco Products Duty Act. Over the years, what seem at first sight to be minor amendments to the Act, have been gradually introduced and passed by Parliament. the cumulative effect of these amendments has been to back people who enjoy tobacco into a corner where their only alternative, if they wish to smoke, is to buy highly taxed manufactured products.
    First, in 1993, the act was amended to close ‘a loophole’ which did not forbid making your own tobacco from home-grown plants. What the amendment did was to add a clause to the definition of ‘roll-your-own’ tobacco. Before the amendment, the section said that RYO was ‘tobacco sold or advertised by manufacturers as such’ or ‘tobacco of which 25% or more has been shredded to 0.8 mm’. As you can see, the implication was that tobacco which did not fulfil these requirements was NOT RYO. The 1993 amendment added this statement::
    “2(aa)which is of a kind used for making into cigarettes”.
    A simple amendment of no great significance? Think again! That rather opaque statement brought home-grown into duty liability. But note that no attempt at enforcement was made. The statute had merely been amended.

    Move on now to 2006. Another amendment was made to the 1979 Act, but not directly. It was introduced as part of the Finance Act 2006. That amendment read:
    “4.1 (2) Tobacco products may only be manufactured in a registered factory”
    Again, no attempt at enforcement has yet been made.
    Those are only two of several.
    In my opinion, other than in degree, those amendments are not dissimilar to Hitler’s gradual turning of the screw on Jews.
    Should we forgive?

    • Carl V Phillips

      You call attention (perhaps intentionally, but I am not sure) that I am conflating two different concepts. Point taken. Truth and reconciliation is not the same as forgiveness. The former is more practical and clear cut, and involves active steps, while the latter is more fuzzy and spiritual, and exists entirely in someone’s head. I should not conflate them. T&R was really my original thinking, and it does require that the enemy admit their ill deeds — without necessary declaring or believing they were wrong — and it does not require forgiveness, just reconciliation (i.e., a promise to try to work together to move forward rather than chase all the old vendettas).

      I understand that doing this (either reconciliation or forgiveness) is tough, but recall the context: It was done in South Africa, and the crimes there had a lot of similarities, but I think we can agree are more awful (though perhaps not actually doing more total harm by “public health” standards). One thing I have come to believe is that the usual analogy to the Holocaust is not a good choice, not because it is too hyperbolic or cliche, but because it is not really analogous. On the other hand, what was done in South Africa (or is done to other downtrodden races/tribes who are, among other things, systematically taught to hate themselves and accept their abuse as deserved) has a number of remarkable similarities.

      But either way, yes, it is a huge move to either forgive or reconcile. And I hope I hedged enough to make clear that I am definitely not sure that it is appropriate or even expedient.

  8. I was aware that your reference to ‘truth and reconciliation’ was the road taken by South Africa. Personally, I think that whoever had that idea was a genius (minor). Perhaps what is just as important is that the idea was not a ruse. It was genuine. For example, as far as I know, after the Government changed, there was no ‘massacre’ (physically, financially or politically) of former white supremacists.
    But there is an important difference in the case of the Holy Zealots of TC. In South Africa, there were atrocities on both sides. In the case of tobacco control, people who enjoy tobacco have committed no atrocities, but they are on the receiving end of persecution. Admittedly, it is ‘persecution lite’, but it is still persecution. Who are the people who will be most affected by the amendments which I have described? It will be those who most need to be as self-sufficient as possible – the poorest people. The amendments have attacked those people most directly (even if they have not yet been enforced).
    In Nottingham, England, the Zealots decided to conduct an experiment. The experiment was to try to induce parents to stop smoking at home if they had young children. I know about this experiment because the zealots bragged about it at one of their conferences. They arranged to give the parents ‘advice’ and follow up, and took saliva tests to check the results. All well and good, you might say. But who were the people who were chosen to be experimented upon? It was parents who, due to their poverty and, in some cases, the health problems of their children, needed to use ‘child clinics’. That is, people who were in no position to say, “NO!”
    It seems to me that that only application of ‘Truth and Reconciliation’ that makes sense would be that between Tobacco Companies and Holy Zealots since both have committed atrocities. We humble people who simply enjoy tobacco are not involved. We are the ‘collateral damage’.

  9. Pingback: The most random observation from my recent meetings | Anti-THR Lies and related topics

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