Once again, I have been publicly accused by a fellow anti-smoking advocate colleague of being a paid lackey for Big Tobacco.
On a Facebook smoke-free advocacy site, an anti-smoking advocate told readers that I am well known to be a tobacco industry mole who is paid large sums of money by the tobacco money to present reports to help the industry.
The advocate wrote:
"Dr Siegel who used to be a prominent researcher for tobacco control has been and is very well know in political circles that deal with this issue paid very healthy sums of money by the tobacco manufactures to present reports that are favourable to help the multi billion $$ industry seem OK."
A reader then asked:
"Can you please provide some evidence on Dr. Siegel."
The advocate responded:
"You seem to be good at Googling info on why smoking is good...look for the info on the Doc...it's out there."
Fortunately, when I confronted the advocate and asked him to present the evidence that I am indeed a Big Tobacco-paid lackey, he then retracted the claim and apologized to me:
"I would like to retract my comments made regarding Michael Siegel."
The Rest of the Story
While I do not harbor any ill will towards the advocate who made this accusation and I appreciate his retraction, I think it is important to write about this episode because it illustrates a number of very important general points.
First, it demonstrates the extent of the campaign out there among my colleagues to discredit me by defaming my character. This particular exchange took place on a Facebook site dedicated to promoting a smoke-free restaurant law in Gibraltar, of all places.
I am not blaming this advocate in Gibraltar because he most likely got the "information" about me from the Globalink list-serve. Thanks to the defamatory comments made about me on this international tobacco control list-serve, my reputation internationally as a Big Tobacco lackey has now been solidified.
Interestingly, while I was thrown off the Globalink list-serve for expressing some dissenting opinions, the advocates who made defamatory comments about me on that site were not disciplined in any way.
This is precisely the way in which the anti-smoking movement ensures that it presents a monolithic presence to the public. It is able to quell dissent because people know that if they air dissenting opinions, their careers in tobacco control will be ruined as they face personal attacks like those I am highlighting here.
Second, this story highlights the black and white, all or nothing thinking that pervades the current tobacco control movement. You either have to be a full believer or you are not a believer at all. If you don't accept 100% of the established dogma, then you might as well not accept any of it, for you are no longer considered part of the movement.
Now what I need to do is figure out where I misplaced all that money I have received from Big Tobacco.