Friday, 10 October 2014

The Right To Reply: or not, as it happens.

Below are responses written to the tenacious, indefatigable even, Martin McKee who has penned yet another scathing, sneering and downright offensive attack on those that have the bare faced cheek to disagree with him. How irritating it must be to know that there are folk that keep pointing out that what you spout to the media is complete and utter nonsense. Seemingly he has nothing better to d....what was that? Ebola you say?

I fail to understand why journals like the BMJ are giving space to unsubstantiated accusations on members of the public. It is also infuriating beyond WORDS to see the sycophants on Twitter, blindly retweeting McKee's article without question of its validity.  

Anyway, these have been submitted to the BMJ in the correct manner, and only appear here as the journal in question has seen fit to disallow these comments about not being allowed to.. Uh.. yeah.. 

Submitted by me on 9/10/14

Almost a year to the day[1], here I am writing to defend myself and other honest vapers from the same inflammatory outpourings from the same people. What has been learned in that time by those in the very elite of Public Health? Sadly, it appears to be nothing. For the second day in a row, we are subjected to yet another unsubstantiated and unwarranted attack. These continuous and relentless accusations emanating from the upper echelons of those charged with the protection of our health, ceased to be a curiosity a long time ago. We have tried, relentlessly yes, to talk to and deal with the very people who proclaim to all that will listen that we are either Trolls (the definition[2] of which does not actually apply here) or paid industry stooges (be that Tobacco or E-cig). Now we have the added definitions of ‘extreme libertarians’ or ‘deeply troubled individuals’.

Let me be clear. I am not a paid stooge for ANY industry nor am I a Troll. I say this also for the people that I speak to on a daily basis. I would not even call myself a libertarian let alone an extreme one, though I fail to see why that would be an issue; indeed Mckee rather eloquently made the case for them himself.  Am I a troubled individual? Well, yes actually, but certainly not in the ‘unhinged’ manner which Martin implies. I am troubled by the fact that no matter what we do, what we say, we are totally unable to defend against these accusations and still they persist. In fact, given how often we have tried to refute them, I consider them now to be nothing more than lies, constructed in order to make e-cig advocates so very toxic that we are as likely to be spoken to as a tobacco industry member. I am troubled because far from this idea that the use of the ‘block’ button being as a RESULT of contact we have made, it has often been used BEFORE we have been able to say a word. In fact, the author of this smear piece has been un-contactable for more than a year.  As have some of the people I expect to see respond to this article. Yet somehow we are deemed to still be attacking them (challenging their opinion or asking questions), to such a degree that it warrants repeated opinion pieces being published, often behind paywalls so that we are unable to see.

I am troubled as this feels like we are being bullied by people who are untouchable and unreachable yet have absolute authority and the assumed respect of their peers, the media and the public. What are we, unpaid volunteer advocates or lay vapers, supposed to do in the face of this adversity[3]? If there is indeed proof of astroturfing, then I strongly and passionately request that this be made public immediately as we would be as concerned and upset (if not more) as Martin McKee and his ilk are. As yet, despite repeated requests for this evidence, we have seen nothing.

This debacle is serving only to muddy the waters, delay sensible regulation and, worse, create fear and uncertainty in smokers who would otherwise have chosen harm reduction as their route out of tobacco. In truth, the last of these things is the one that should cause the most consternation in anyone who is genuinely interested in the health and wellbeing of smokers. The greatest irony being that the entire movement is in danger of being handed to the tobacco industry through the fear of their involvement in, what appears to be, the least effective part of the market. In the long run, the attention being paid to unjustified scrutiny of us e-cig users, unsupported theories of gateways and gross lack of understanding of the role of flavours, will make cannon fodder of smokers in your war against the tobacco industry. A war we want no part of. Whilst you gaze at your navels contemplating hypothetical fears, millions of smokers have made the decision themselves to choose harm reduction. 

The big question is; how many didn’t as a result of this relentless scaremongering?

[1] Full response to the first McKee BMJ article 27.9.13

Submitted by Sarah Jakes on the 8/10/14

This is the second article [1] I have read today in which McKee attempts to conflate the e-cigarette industry, libertarian bloggers and angry e-cigarette consumers (vapers) in an attempt to paint the latter group as an astroturf organisation in the pay of either big tobacco or big vapour, which of course to his mind are one and the same thing. Is it any wonder that people who do not have the luxury of being published in prestigious journals such as this get even more angry when being maligned in one?

Either McKee does not understand the public he purports to protect or his comments are disingenuous in the extreme. I know that McKee has read Clive Bates' blog article entitled 'Memo to public health grandees: vaping, vapers and you' [2] which attracted 111 positive comments from consumers and is the most read and shared article on the Counterfactual site. I personally asked McKee to read that article because Bates has absolutely nailed the thoughts and feelings of vapers on the head, as is evident from the comments. My request to McKee to read it was a genuine attempt to create some understanding between our two sides. He confirmed that he'd read it, but the message appears to have fallen on deaf ears. 

McKee is completely entrenched and out of touch. He is of course free to disagree with Bates' article, but cannot deny the fact that it has the widespread support of the very people who are its subject. McKee has himself researched a member of the public and indeed uncovered the shocking fact that one Twitter user (who uses his own name and very colourful language) is a freelance writer who sometimes gets paid to write positive articles about e-cigarettes. If he'd researched further he may also have found that this is common knowledge, as is the fact that the person is a British ex soldier with several tours of duty under his belt, which probably explains the liberal use of creative profanities. One, sometimes foul mouthed, squaddie with a genuinely held belief that public health will kill people doth not an astroturf lobby make.

There appears to be a concerted effort by some in public health to deliberately make false associations between a genuine grass roots consumer campaign and organisations with commercial interests, the more malign the better. This of course serves two purposes, firstly, it undermines the voice and views of the public by instilling  the false belief that their views are paid for rather than their own. Secondly, it allows those in public health who are apparently unable to control their own behaviour to keep their jobs due to "mitigating circumstances" - those circumstances presumably being that they were baited into calling members of the public "c**ts" and "onanists" by industry shills with agendas [3]

One thing is for sure - if McKee and others continue to provoke vapers with false accusations whilst failing to engage with them on the issues which are important to them, the relationship between the two sides is only going to get worse, and PH will only have themselves to blame. If your job is public health and you find that the public are angry with you then you really should be asking yourself a question - and here's a clue - it's not "who is paying them".

[1] Martin McKee - Peering through the Smokescreen

[2] Clive Bates - The Counterfactual - 'Memo to public health grandees: vaping, vapers and you'

[3] The Times - E-Cigarette debate Heats up in online War of Words

Statement from the Faculty of Public Health (now removed from the site):  "The Board has registered its strong disapproval of Professor Ashton’s comments, whilst noting the mitigating circumstances. The Board also agreed that Professor Ashton should continue in his role as President and has given clear direction on the necessary steps to support his return"

1 comment:

  1. There were no "mitigating circumstances" - the man was not provoked and there are screen-shots to prove this. Maybe it'll be O.K for Cameron et al to refer to us as "whores and pimps" now that the ice has been broken?? No matter what the provocation, this is totally unacceptable bullying from someone in Public Office of any kind, let alone Public Health.