Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Attempt by Anti-Smoking Advocate to Defame My Character on SourceWatch

A tobacco control advocate has attempted - fortunately without success - to defame my character by writing a blatantly inaccurate and distorted biography of me on the SourceWatch web site.

SourceWatch, which is a project of the Center for Media and Democracy, describes itself as "a collaborative project of the Center for Media and Democracy to produce a directory of the people, organizations and issues shaping the public agenda. A primary purpose of SourceWatch is documenting the PR and propaganda activities of public relations firms and public relations professionals engaged in managing and manipulating public perception, opinion and policy. SourceWatch also includes profiles on think tanks, industry-funded organizations and industry-friendly experts that work to influence public opinion and public policy on behalf of corporations, governments and special interests. Over time, SourceWatch has broadened to include others involved in public debates including media outlets, journalists, government agencies, activists and nongovernmental organizations."

The advocate, identified only as "truthteller," wrote an entry about me on the site which stated that my primary role is to campaign against tobacco control measures, that I issue "tobacco-industry soundbytes" and that I am aiding the "tobacco industry's efforts to create a 'doubt' campaign" and assisting the tobacco industry in its fight "to return to smoky areas."

Fortunately, the site editors had the wisdom to retract this personal attack and substitute a more appropriate and accurate depiction of who I am and the role of my tobacco policy blog.

You can view the current entry on me here.

You can view the discussion between "truthteller" and the site's editors here.

The Rest of the Story

Ironically, "truthteller" is recklessly disregarding the truth and distorting it in order to attack me because he or she does not care for my dissent from the mainstream tobacco control movement and its blind support for every proposed tobacco control measure, whether scientifically justified or not. Apparently, in tobacco control, this is what "colleagues" do to one another when they can't tolerate someone's disagreement. It's a rough field. Definitely not one for the weak of heart.

The ultimate irony is that I always imagined that the harshest comments about me would come from the tobacco industry. Not true. The harshest attacks I have faced are coming from my own colleagues.

Moreover, while the tobacco industry has attacked me publicly (mainly in the courtroom), its attacks have been based on the facts. They have been fair, and I have had an immediate opportunity to respond. In contrast, anti-smoking advocates who have attacked me have done so with lies and innuendo.

It continually fascinates me how there is no room for nuance in tobacco control. Everything is black and white. Either you approve of all tobacco control measures or you are a traitor to the cause. Either you approve of all tobacco taxes or you are working to promote the tobacco industry. Either you support all smoking bans or you are trying to return to smoky areas. Either you support every scientific statement that tobacco control groups make or you are participating in the tobacco industry's doubt campaign.

The blind support for the cause, with no room for any dissent, is what categorizes the modern-day tobacco control movement as a "religion," rather than a true, grassroots, social, public health movement.

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