Monday, November 28, 2005

Dissent Not Allowed: Criticizing Tobacco Control Groups is a Display of Lack of Discipline

I received an interesting response to my post expressing disappointment with being personally attacked by anti-smoking groups or advocates for taking a position in opposition to policies that discriminate against smokers in the workplace and in opposition to policies that ban smoking broadly in open, non-enclosed outdoors areas where people can move about freely.

One anti-smoking advocate wrote:

"I am quite certain that the tobacco industry law firms all have a copy of this undisciplined rant from Michael Siegel and plan to use this and other quotes from his article to telling effect in all future political and legal actions."

The Rest of the Story

What I find most interesting about this response is not my blog being called a "rant" (I'm still a pretty good sport about this kind of denigration), but the use of the word "undisciplined."

Apparently, what is troublesome is not the serious problems I have pointed out with the tactics being used in the anti-smoking movement, but instead, the fact that I have lacked the discipline to restrain myself from speaking out.

Apparently, I am supposed to be highly disciplined as a tobacco control advocate, and part of that discipline is, I guess, not sharing my criticisms or dissent with the actions taken by tobacco control organizations, for fear that my criticism may then be used by tobacco company lawyers against us.

I would have felt a whole lot better if the discipline that this advocate was looking for was discipline in crafting careful, well-documented arguments. Had this advocate taken specific issue with any (even one) specific point I made in my posts, or in the documentation or argumentation that I provided to support my points, that would have been wonderful. But instead, the point was simply that I should have had the discipline to muzzle myself.

I call it like I see it and I speak out when I believe that something we're doing (or the way we're doing it) is wrong.

The rest of the story suggests that I guess I simply have to admit that I lack discipline as a tobacco control advocate: I just don't have the ability (or desire) to muzzle myself whenever I disagree with a policy that is being advocated or in the way that policy is being promoted.

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