Tobaccogate

Politics by theft. It really is Watergate-like.

LONDON — The police in Belgium are investigating break-ins at the offices of three antismoking lobby groups in a central Brussels building, in which thieves stole material related to their campaigns against the tobacco industry.

The burglaries took place early on Thursday morning, less than two days after the abrupt resignation of John Dalli, the European Union’s health commissioner, in the wake of a corruption investigation.

Mr. Dalli, who says he is innocent of any wrongdoing, was responsible for shepherding through proposed tougher rules on European tobacco sales. In a setback for antismoking campaigners, the departure of the Maltese commissioner means action on a new tobacco directive has been shelved, potentially for two years.

The European Respiratory Society, one of the three, said: “We do not subscribe to conspiracy theories. However, in light of the evidence we feel we have legitimate reason to suspect the intrusion was well-planned, researched and targeted.”

I was amazed that the press let, you know, the climate thing get so twisted. Will they get played like a fiddle again? When people achieve their goals by criminal means, that doesn’t do much to discourage repetitions.

 

 

Comments:

  1. "I was amazed that the press let, you know, the climate thing get so twisted."

    It's not amazing at all when you consider how key the Grauniad was to the whole thing and that a big part of their business model is to be constantly on the look-out for eyeball-attracting scandals. Notice they never really climbed down on "Climategate," although Monbiot did personally (way after the fact). The NYT front-paging Revkin's story was the other major factor in getting the ball rolling, although I don't think it would have gotten much traction without the Grauniad.

  2. Not just the tobacco industry here.
    This is the anti-public-health industries association:
    http://euobserver.com/economic/29252

    Big tobacco distorted EU treaty, scientists say
    13.01.10 @ 11:41

    "... One of the biggest tobacco manufacturers in the world led a group of chemical, food, oil, pharmaceutical and other firms in a successful long-term lobbying strategy to shape European Union policy making in their favour, a new study says.

    EU commission staff were unaware that BAT was linked to the campaign, the study says (Photo: EUobserver)

    After trawling through some 700 internal documents from British American Tobacco (BAT), academics at the University of Bath and University of Edinburgh say they have found evidence that the cigarette giant in the mid-1990s teamed up with the European Policy Centre, the prominent Brussels think-tank, to create a front group to ensure that the EU framework for evaluating policy options emphasised business interests at the expense of public health...."
    ___________________

    The statisticians and epidemiologists are the biggest threat to the simple uninformed faith that citizens are encouraged to develop in markets, media, and industry at their own cost.

    Business wants people to fall for the notion that "If it weren't good for ya, they wouldn't let them sell it" -- with "they" always excluding citizens governing in the public interest).

    It's them darn public health epidemiologists who insist on trying to convince people that -- even if you can't see the bodies on your own block or the cost on your own family budget -- the injuries and costs are real and significant.

    The free market does not concern itself with trifles, trifles being, well, anything less than bodies accumulating faster than they can be hidden -- or evidence accumulating faster than it can be stolen.

  3. Somehow I missed that Revkin had a front page story on this. While I am sure it was carefully "neutral" and difference-splitting, this makes it harder for me to retain sympathy for Revkin.

    Anyone have a link handy?

  4. Although I think the position you sketch is overdrawn, I agree that the extent to which the corporate mechanism can be trusted to take the genuine needs of the public into account is very much on topic for our broad issue of sustainability, or what I think I will start to call humanist futurism.

    A corporation is a machine and cannot be expected to have a conscience. The conscience must be imposed from without, either by regulation or by a very strong social consensus. And we no longer really have the latter. Yet regulation passes thorugh polictics and is hence a very clumsy instrument. It's a pickle alright.

    But the larger issues of tobaccogate, such as they are, aren't exactly the narrow and crucial point that those of us focused on climate need to take away.

    I think it's crucial to make the point that if the press makes a fuss about cherry picked stolen emails without context, people will continue to steal emails, strip away context, and do their best to mess up the lives of innocent people. That is, they will abet the creation of an industry of theft and slander. I hope they reconsider.

    But this comes back to the question of whether there are social responsibilities that outweigh the corporate motivations of the press. And I just said that those are fading. Indeed, this collapse of social responsibility is at least as prevalent in the press as in any other industry, and legislating social responsibility in the press is difficult anywhere, and probably impossible in America, given the legal traditions.

    The only hope I see on that front is for a swath of the public to actively support non-corporate media.

  5. I agree that the press might well willingly (eagerly) be misled about this. There is one big difference between climate and tobacco, however. We have enormous, publicly-available documentation (http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu) of the internal debates and ultimate decisions made by the tobacco companies for several decades. Whatever the thieves may have found, we still know more about the tobacco companies than the companies now know about anti-tobacco groups. For every quote-mined dribble from this theft, there's a potential torrent from the tobacco archives. Getting the media to pay attention may well be a problem, but at least the resource is there.

  6. I wouldn't be so sure about that, Michael. Oh look, it's Pat Michaels again (among other things). Revkin knows just where to go for those quotes.

    The thing you persistently keep not getting about Revkin and Kloor is that they have decided, based on similar misunderstandings of a past state of the science, that climate change simply cannot be the existential crisis that it is. This distorts their behavior in predictable ways.


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