Monday, September 15, 2008

"Cathy Bell's" True Identity Revealed; Lawsuit Against "Her" Should Deter All Anti-Smoking Groups and Advocates from Continued Use of Smear Tactics

Many of my readers are familiar with a frequent commenter - "Cathy Bell" - who has posted comments on this site from time to time. On Thursday, Citizens Against Government Encroachment (CAGE) posted a column which revealed the results of an investigation that culminated in the determination of Cathy Bell's true identity and announced that CAGE is initiating a defamation lawsuit against "Cathy" based on claims "she" has made about the organization.

I thought my readers would be interested in this story, and therefore, I am posting, with CAGE's permission, the full text of CAGE's column, which was originally published here.

The original title of the column is: "Revealing the Cathy Bell Hypocrisy."

"For the past two years, a certain “Cathy Bell” has been making “her” presence felt on the Internet. “She” regularly frequented many of the forums, newspaper websites, “wiki” websites and discussion boards dealing with the tobacco issue. Therein, “she” used very unscrupulous and unethical propaganda tactics, engaging in ceaseless ad hominem attacks on anyone who disagreed with any element of the tobacco control industry’s agenda.

“Cathy Bell’s” own apparent agenda was not to engage in civilized debate, but rather to insult and discredit anybody who dared to disagree with her hard-core prohibitionist point of view. Rather than accepting invitations to serious and fact-based discussion, “Cathy Bell” preferred to resort to the tactic of poisoning the well, trying to discredit her adversaries by any means. Her most odious tactic, however, was to choose particular opponents who distinguished themselves the most and to launch a relentless barrage of barbs attacking their integrity, honesty, intelligence and motives. Her apparent goal was to make her most effective adversaries pay a personal price for opposing her points of view. Perhaps “she” sought to make an example of them: “If you dare to stand up and speak out, if you dare to contradict the government approved wisdom of the pharmaceutical companies and the ‘non-profit’ franchises that they support, you will be made to suffer in terms of your career, your livelihood, your reputation, and even your personal life”. Her mission was to squelch any kind of dissent or opposition. Of all of “Cathy Bell’s” targets, “she” reserved the greatest amount of harassment for David Romano, one of C.A.G.E.’s founders.

Cathy Bell methodically researched Dr. Romano’s academic and professional history, noting every place he had studied and worked, and proceeded to, over a period of two years, send bombardments of thousands of e-mails to his past and present work colleagues (he works in a field unrelated to the tobacco issue) and to anyone else whom “she” thought may have some connection or interaction with Dr. Romano. These e-mails were full of libels, innuendos and accusations regarding David Romano’s motives and character. “She” claimed that other C.A.G.E. officers and supporters must be deluded saps under David Romano’s mental control (“she” was apparently incapable of understanding how anyone could disagree with the government harassing and coercing people for their own good). Without any basis or foundation whatsoever, “she” warned Dr. Romano’s employers that he might be prone to violence and may pose a threat to his colleagues, and “she” claimed “herself” to be in physical danger from his “fanatical” cult of followers who were members of C.A.G.E.. “She” even created nearly a dozen geocities websites as part of her harassment and defamation campaign against David Romano. Some of these sites even included death threats against C.A.G.E.’s founders. All the while, “she” insisted that “Cathy Bell” was her legal name, yet for some of her regular e-mail salvos, “she” occasionally used other pseudonyms such as “Diane Smith”, or “Benny”. “She” also used a convoluted system to maintain “her” internet anonymity.

With the help of the Montreal Police, C.A.G.E. has succeeded in uncovering Cathy Bell’s true identity and exact address. It turns out that “she” lives on Sherbrooke Street in the West part of Montreal. It turns out that “she” is actually an average-looking young man whom, for the time being, we will identify only as “Mr. Jones”. Obviously, “she” is a man with far too much time on his hands. C.A.G.E. looks forward to chatting with Mr. Jones in court, and we have already served him with the preliminary documents for initiating a civil law suit. It will be very interesting to find out whether he was also lying when he insisted that he was acting out of his own initiative and was not getting his cues from any organization with a stake in this issue.

But law suits can be expensive. The Directors and core members of C.A.G.E. have already donated and/or pledged a lot of money from their own pockets in order to help with the investigation of “Cathy Bell” and to prepare the law suit, not to mention hundreds of hours of personal time. We need help in order to bring this person to justice and the only people who can help us are the same ones who support C.A.G.E.’s message and mission. At this time, we have already raised $6,000 for this legal fight, and anticipate the need for another $14,000 at the very least. Anyone wishing to donate funds for a long and very justified legal process is invited to do so via check or via our Paypal account located on the C.A.G.E. website at: We will publish regular updates of the progress of the case, and C.A.G.E. promises to keep all individual donors informed of the progress and details of the proceedings.

It is important that those such as “Cathy Bell” and his supporters and allies who would use unscrupulous tactics and personal attacks to squelch dissent, learn that those who have the will and the courage to stand up for the rights of others against government encroachment most certainly have the will and the drive to defend their own rights against such cowardly and unethical harassment campaigns. We hope that you will stand with us in this battle, and stand up for those who are willing to devote the most to protecting our freedoms and liberties."

The Rest of the Story

I think that the "Cathy Bell" story is important because it illustrates a general tactic being used by anti-smoking advocates and organizations: trying to discredit the opposition through undocumented personal attacks, rather than substantive discussion of the issues. The most widely used of these tactics is to insinuate that an opposition organization is funded by Big Tobacco, even if you have no evidence to prove that your accusation is correct.

Even though I am a widely known anti-smoking advocate, some of my colleagues in tobacco control used this very tactic against me. Several times, I have been publicly accused of being supported by Big Tobacco.

I have written a number of columns that address this issue, and I encourage readers to review these postings as they are quite relevant to the "Cathy Bell" story:

Challenging Dogma (Post #2): Anyone Who Disagrees With the Anti-Smoking Movement is Affiliated with the Tobacco Industry (July 20, 2005)

Challenging Dogma (Post #4): All Groups that Oppose Tobacco Control Policies are Big Tobacco Front Groups (August 9, 2005)

Challenging Dogma (Post #10): Anyone Who Disagrees that Secondhand Smoke Causes Chronic Disease Must Be Personally Discredited (March 20, 2006)

IN MY VIEW: Brainwashing in the Anti-Smoking Movement: #1 - Smearing the Opposition (April 16, 2007)

Right From the Anti-Smoking Playbook: When You Don't Like Something Someone Says, Accuse Them of Being a Big Tobacco Shill (April 29, 2008)

I feel strongly enough about this issue that I have made a personal donation to CAGE to support its efforts to help ensure that innocent people do not become victims of the vicious attack tactics that have become a part of the strategy of many anti-smoking advocates and groups. I wish CAGE success in its efforts. God knows, I have tried to create change from within the movement, but to little avail. Perhaps litigation is just what is needed to teach these groups that the ends do not justify the use of inappropriate and arguably illegal means.

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