On July 29th 2009 suddenly and inexplicably one of the most popular groups on the social networking site of ‘Facebook’ disappeared without trace. The group was called ‘Can we find one Million people who DO want smoking back in pubs’ (the ‘Do want’ group) and it had just under 800,000 members before being taken down. It disappeared without any fanfare or explanation. Coincidentally, earlier that day, there had apparently been a short item on BBC news; it mentioned "a social network group has been deleted as it was inciting others to protest”. (or words to that effect) It did not identify a specific group. Other than this report, which may or may not refer to the removal of this group, there was nothing – zilch, apparently a non-event! (If anyone heard this or can add to it, please do comment). This is NOT the first example of changing the goal posts on this topic!
From what I can gather, this group, together with an opposing group; ‘Can we find one Million people who DON’T want smoking back in pubs’ (the ‘Don’t want’ group) were created in early February 2008 simply as a race to see which group could first attract one million supporters. One of the instigators, Drew Peter Taylor, also published a blog to introduce the ‘race’; http://smoking-groups-race.blogspot.com/ - These are still, for the moment, accessible. A poll on here of those who do and don’t want smoking back in pubs is however, tellingly CLOSED. The final figures are; For 1129 (44%) against 1422 (55%). Why close the poll before the ‘race’ has ended?
The answer is fairly obvious to anyone who can utilise common logic! In the first few months, the ‘don’t want’ group was romping ahead and apparently ASH are said to have cited it as a true reflection of public acceptance of the ban (will they stick by this now I wonder?) The groups quickly developed however, into active and rigorous debating venues on the smoking ban issue. I was a fairly regular contributor myself particularly on the ‘don’t’ group – until, one day in early June 2008, I found I was unable to post anything, then the group ‘disappeared’, all my hyperlinks to the group failed to work.
I did eventually discover the ‘don’t want’ group again but all the previous comments were gone. It wasn’t until a month or so later that I discovered the group, which I had actually commented on, had not in fact been deleted but instead had been sidelined and the group name changed to ‘Participant of the smoking ban groups experiment (‘ (Presumably because the debate was NOT going their way).
Thereafter, I continued to comment on the ‘participant’ group until the anti-commentators gave up and deserted it, but I also spent many an hour commenting on the ‘do want’ group too, as did many other well informed pro-choice commentators. The group became more than just a talking shop; it was a good source of information on devious anti-tobacco tactics, pseudo science, erroneous claims and the twisted mindset of rabid anti-smokers. It was also very informative in relation to smoking bans internationally, exposing the anti-tobacco tactic of lauding the false success and exaggerated public support of smoking bans in one country over another and vice versa. Conversely, the ban supporters’ arguments had been reduced to inane insults … and that major threat to liberty,… having smelly clothes and hair!
So, who is responsible for removing this invaluable source of information on anti-smoking rhetoric etc? Is it one or two individuals such as Drew? I have tried to contact him but have yet to receive a reply. Other than originating the groups he appears to have been replaced anyway, disappeared along with the ‘Do want’ group! Maybe a hacker has hijacked the group as happened to the website of ‘Freedom 2 Choose’ in April of last year? …. OR is it possible that a professional anti-smoking organisation such as ASH, CRUK or BHF etc. have directed the ‘take down’, utilising support from a compliant and negligent government, because it was a threat to their dominance of public information?
This is so reminiscent of the TICAP conference in January. When faced with the threat of their anti-smoker misinformation being exposed to a wider audience, anti-tobacco’s response was to take it out – suppress the source of that information and prevent its exposure to an apathetic public. Mushroom farming! This was stupidity of the highest order! All it achieved was to insult the intelligence of free men, provide yet another clear indication of the dubious caliber of anti-tobacco proponents and highlight the threat to freedom of speech that anti-tobacco represented! The conference went ahead anyway - just in a different venue! That stupidity is replicated with this new attempt to deceive the public.
The fact is that while the ‘don’t want smoking back in pubs’ group had around a 10% greater following, their support was increasingly waning – and rapidly. If this ratio remained the same it would still be a positive vote AGAINST smoking bans! Considering that smokers represent no more than 20-30% of the population in developed countries it therefore follows that many non-smokers have given their support to the ‘Do want’ group. It makes a mockery of ‘official’ statistics on smoking ban ‘success’ (and matches the scientific validity). However, during the four months or so before the ‘do want’ group was taken down, new members ‘signing up’ on the ‘don’t want’ group were less than half of those in the ‘do want’ group. (Roughly 49,000 joined the ‘don’t want’ group compared with well over 100,000 in the ‘do want’ group over that period).
Extending this trend into the future puts the ‘race’ to the one million figure as a close run thing and indications were that the ‘do wants’ were probably favourite to take the chequered flag. This obvious deduction will not have escaped the attention of the anti-smoking movement and they don’t like unknown outcomes that are out of their control. It reminds me of a quote allegedly made in 1992 by Stanton Glantz, one of anti-tobacco’s high priests;
"…that's the question that I have applied to my research relating to tobacco. If this comes out the way I think, will it make a difference? And if the answer is yes, then we do it, and if the answer is I don't know then we don't bother. Okay? And that's the criteria” (01)
It seems that this has been taken one step further and applied not just to tobacco research but to ANY aspect of their campaign -
‘if the answer is we don’t know – we suppress it, remove it, deny it or hide it’.
By taking down the ‘do want’ group to remove opposition, anti-tobacco may think that they are free to reach the ‘one million’ unhindered and then, hoping no one will notice, claim victory. What it actually represents is anti-tobacco ‘throwing in the towel’, ‘stamping their feet’ and ‘taking their ball away’ because it wasn’t likely to turn out they way they had wanted. I’m sure they realised that far from being merely a frivolous, irrelevant social network chat shop, it was more a barometer of public mood and awareness.
Now that the ‘race’ has been voluntarily forfeited by anti-tobacco I think we can expect pro-choice commentators to increase the membership of the ‘DON’T want’ group and rightly continue to dominate the debate on there. I wonder how long before this dawns on anti tobacco and they are forced to take this group down too? – to prevent further humiliation.
It is a long time since anti-smokers lost the on-line reasoned, scientific, and logical debate, how long will it take for a majority of the general public and a complacent media to see the obvious? More importantly when will our elected representatives acknowledge the inevitable conclusion and PUT RIGHT THIS FAILED SOCIAL EXPERIMENT – (AKA, the smoking ban), and prevent further damage to society?
Mysterious and Intriguing? – Maybe not!