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Monday, 10 August 2009

The Mysterious and Intriguing Case of the Disappearing ‘Facebook’ Group By Steve Bell.

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’; - 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!

Steve Bell


B7 said...

NHS Gloucestershire’s Stop Smoking Services recently wrote to Jack Wills clothing chain asking them to remove some unlit cigarettes from their window displays.

If they have the audacity and nazi tendencies to write to a clothing chain asking them to remove smoking products immediately, maybe smokefree bigots have applied similar pressures to get the facebook group removed.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Great piece, Steve. Is there any way of contacting Facebook themselves and asking for an explanation for the disappearance?

John Savage said...

I have set up a Facebook group asking Pacebook for an explanation.

Be quick, it might mysteriously 'disappear' rather quickly.

John Savage said...

I have also emailed my MP. I urge everyone to do the same regarding what could be a violation of out right to freedom of speech..

Flag Cases said... also sells limited edition flag cases with an embossed symbols on the glass.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for replying so late folks I’ve been otherwise engaged.

B7; Quite so! - a logical and quite probably correct deduction!

Dick; Have you ever tried to contact a real person on facebook? It would be easier to get hold of the Queen while on safari in Ngogo land.

Here's the reply from them - for what use it is!

Thanks for your email. We are sorry to hear that you are experiencing
these issues with our site. Unfortunately, we do not offer
functionality or technical support from this email alias. Please
refer to our Help Center for answers to common questions, solutions
to technical issues, and feedback from other Facebook users. You can
reach the Help Center ( by selecting
"Help" at the bottom of any Facebook page.

Thanks for contacting Facebook,

User Operations
By the way Dick, thanks for your comment. This is welcome praise from someone who has one of the best blogs on the internet in my opinion.

Good, but I think your other method of taking the antis on on their own group,.. the 'dont wants' .. is better. You and Iro have been doing a sterling job on there and I notice very few are brave enough to questioning your comments.

One other thing I have noticed is that if you now do a 'group search' on facebook under; 'do want smoking back in pubs' It produces 352 responses - all apparently with similar names and most with less than 30 members (although I didn't check them all out).

If anyone thinks this is coincidence ????? - Bloody hell - work it out!!!

Steve Bell

TheBigYin said...

Their still taking comments on their NOT section blog:

Anonymous said...

Hi there Steve, well said! I'm all for freedom of speech and I think this was very underhand!
However, I think the ban was for the best- maybe scientifically it wasn't conclusive that it was dangerous to others, however I think it has helped many people to finally kick the habit- preventing some from getting what would have been a cancer diagnosis. Also, asthmatics will benefit because they will no longer have to go out in the rain to prevent an attack brought on by smoke. Whilst I sympathise with smokers and I do believe they should have a warm, safe environment away from others so that they may enjoy a cigarette, I do think the ban was necessary to prevent the smell on clothes, the sore throats, the sore eyes caused by smokey environments.
I find that smoke irritates my chest and eyes and so I personally am glad that all inside public areas where smoke could not escape are no longer filled with smoke.
However, taking away a group that voice the opinion of many UK taxpayers is wrong and I am pretty sure that it was illegal. Freedom of speech is important and I hope that they do something about this.
In the meantime, I hope that many of you are able to give up smoking as it really is bad for your health and it costs the NHS a lot of money.
Peace people xx

Benson N Hedges said...

I'd just like to clear up a few of the ASH myths for you Anonymous.

Firstly it is doubtful that it has helped anyone kick the habit, people quit when they want to not when they are forced to by a nanny government and smoking rates have actually risen in many places where smoking bans have been introduced.

The argument for asthmatics is completely anti freedom, a free society cannot forbid 25% of it's population from having any indoor social environment on private property just in case an asthmatic wants to go in. The same goes for stinging eyes and smelly clothes; it is not the Governments job to provide odour free entertainment on private property.

Lots of things are bad for your health but many of us have no desire to be stuck in a nursing home wearing nappies once again. Smokers don't costs the health service a lot of money at all, in fact the diseases that unhealthy people tend to die of cost very little, it's the health nuts who cling on to life regardless of its quality that cost the taxpayer. If you want to ban something to save the NHS money try starting with jogging.

helend498 said...

The ban was not meant to get people to kick the habit - and if it was - it has failed miserably as smoking rates are now on the increase after years of decline.

Smoking is up in Ireland also (first place in the UK to instigate the blanket ban).

Blanket bans create more smoking and political, social and economic damage. They are dangerous to the country and dangerous to public health.

What is wrong with offering a choice to everyone so that all can socialise and work in the environment of their choice?

BTW - Air Quality Standards have proven to address the concerns that you mention.

Smoking costs the NHS absolutely nothing. It provides a surplus each year of £billions.

So basically, you are wrong as smoking rates are now increasing, choice/AQS can address anyone who has a health concern or does not like the smell of smoke, smoking costs the NHS nothing.

But, you are totally correct - the science was not conclusive. It was cherry-picked and manipulated to provide the pre-determined results that the anti-smoking organisations (aka Big Pharma and Big Government) requested.

Denormalisation (with the use of £millions of tax-payers money, propaganda and junk science) of your own citizens is not something that I approve of.

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