The @CDCTobaccoFree follies: propaganda, promotion of scientific illiteracy, and censorship

by Carl V Phillips

The twitter feed from the anti-tobacco liar branch of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is one of the more pathetic efforts of our government. I will circle back to its worst problems, but for now I will just observe that they rarely get 10 retweets of anything or positive comments, including from their own sympathizers. Mostly the CDC tweets just generate replies from the public, criticizing their stupid claims and lies. Those of you who follow me on twitter see my hacked MTs of their posts, translating them into what it really means.

So a funny thing happened yesterday: They were well on their way to getting 100 or more retweets of a post and numerous positive comments. We will never know how many they would have gotten because they deleted it, an act that is clearly inappropriate and pretty clearly a violation of government records and communications rules.

Fortunately, quite a few of us made screenshots (this one is early on, of course — last I saw, it had nearly 100 retweets and a few dozen comments):

CDC tweets link to CASAA

This may have been the only useful smoking cessation advice that @CDCTobaccoFree ever offered. The best guess about it was that the incompetent operator of their twitter feed was trying to send a private message. Or maybe he was trying to write an email or make a phone call — those people at CDC Tobacco are not exactly bright. Or it could have been the opposite, an unusually competent CDC intern thinking that their twitter feed should contain useful information every now and then, and maybe even get some attention. In either case, the retweets and comments mounted up over a few hours and then they deleted the tweet and with it the retweets and public conversation, thus making it a highly dubious act from a legal perspective, even if the original tweet was an accident.

CDC Tobacco is perhaps the worst of the anti-THR liars. They led the anti-smokeless-tobacco lying 15 years ago, and they lead the anti-ecig lying today. They are also the source of all the world’s dubious estimates for the death tolls from smoking, which they base on undisclosed analyses of secret data. In short, they represent the worst stereotypes of government behavior: secretive, dishonest, manipulative, and pursuing a special-interest agenda at the expense of the public. Needless to say they do not like CASAA or anyone else who presents truths that interfere with their campaign of lies.

But censoring public comments is the least of the crimes of @CDCTobacco. The worst of them are exemplified by their posts like the following, which appear at least weekly. (I am doing a screen shot again because I do not trust those bastards to not delete this as soon as I link to it.)

CDC lies about Toluene

They post such attempts to lower the scientific literacy of Americans about once a week. It will be familiar to anyone who follows anti-ecig propaganda (“…a chemical found in antifreeze!!!!”). In this case, of course, they are trying to trick people into believing that anything that contains toluene is essentially the same as paint thinner. Bad news for all the foods we eat, which deliver on the same order of magnitude found in cigarette smoke, or breathing any indoor air, for that matter. And by choosing paint thinner as their comparator, there is also some risk that someone will think that huffing it is no worse for you than smoking.

Yes, there is tiny bit of toluene in cigarette smoke. Yes, inhaling that quantity is probably a tiny bit worse for you than not inhaling it. But CDC is not trying to educate people about that. They are trying to trick them into believing that anything that contains some scary-sounding chemical must be just like a hazardous solvent or industrial chemical that contains it too. Indeed, anything with a scary sounding chemical should be feared. This is the type of anti-science that creates anti-vaxxers and other whackjobs. And CDC is promoting it.

Non-government tobacco controllers lie like this all the time. That is also evil: If you have to lie to people to generate a particular action on their part, you are almost certainly harming them rather than helping them. If you were helping them, the truth would be sufficient. But it is clearly inappropriate and arguably illegal when it comes from our government. A good rule of thumb for government action is that if they lie to people to get them to buy into something, they should not be doing it. It is difficult to think of any good government policies that were sold to people based on lies, and rather easy to think of various harmful fiascos that were.

Moreover, we have to accept that the non-governmental tobacco controllers are special-interest fanatics who care about nothing other than their moralizing. They do not care about health (so do not care about promoting the scientific illiteracy that creates anti-vaxxers) or even the world’s greatest evils (witness their Putin-hosted FCTC meeting and praise for Islamic State anti-tobacco policies). But the U.S. government should and does care about such things (and good for them for refusing to send a delegation to that FCTC meeting).

It is time that the CDC anti-tobacco people start acting like they are part of the U.S. government and have responsibilities and duties to the greater good, and should not be indulging their personal fanaticism at the public’s expense.

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2 responses to “The @CDCTobaccoFree follies: propaganda, promotion of scientific illiteracy, and censorship

  1. natepickering

    “They are also the source of all the world’s dubious estimates for the death tolls from smoking, which they just make up.”

    I fixed this sentence for you, Carl. I thought the original was a bit too diplomatic. :)

  2. Powerful and true. Impressive.

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