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« Days like this | Main | More thoughts on snipers and smoking »

Some things are beyond the pale, even as a joke

I have just received this response to 'Snipergate', as I'm sure it will be called.

As it happens, it reflects my own views.


As I live, and smoke, in one of the areas where the Luton and Dunstable Herald and Post is distributed and sold I suppose I am one of those who should be placed in the sights of Alan Dee’s licensed snipers.
It’s a local paper and only locals usually see it. And, who knows, one warped local mind might feel that such views, in print, legitimise extreme and irrational thoughts.
Unlikely, I know, and besides it was only written as a joke. Presumably, therefore, I or anyone else similarly inclined could write an article advocating council sponsored snipers for any other minority group you care to name. As a joke of course. It would not, quite rightly, be allowed. The article, if written, would be ditched.
From architects to zookeepers all would be protected. But smokers are different, they are not people, they are what they do not what they are. They are the easy, and in these sensitive times, only target. Literally so in Mr Dee’s view, if only as a joke.
So I rang the editor, Lynn Hughes, and requested that she publicly retract any support for the article and apologise to that persecuted minority who still enjoy a cigarette.
It wasn’t easy doing this. I am by nature instinctively against bans and overregulation and sorry handwringing at past misdeeds. And in spite of getting old I still have a sense of humour.
But increasingly I feel myself getting more and more militant at the constant hounding of those who enjoy a perfectly legal, and highly taxed, product. I have never knowingly broken the law but fear that day will arrive when smokers are driven off the streets.
It was against this background that Mr Dee’s lazy journalism, and his papers tacit support of it, seriously irked me and made me call.
It was a very polite conversation. I formed the impression that Lynn Hughes had returned to her office to be greeted with an unusual number of protests regarding Mr Dee’s article.
It was clearly high on her morning agenda even before I phoned. We naturally discussed the timing but, terrible as those events in Norway were, they are not relevant to the basic issue. She did not say that an apology would be issued in the next copy of the paper but she is clearly considering the position and sounded a little contrite.
Whether that is for the sensitivities of smokers or the crassness of the article I do not know. We both agreed that people should be allowed opinions in a healthy society.
I used to write a theatre column for The Herald’s sister paper and my opinions used to get me into lots of trouble. But, as far as I can remember, I never advocated the shooting of any of the actors. Even as a joke.
There are certain rules one obeys. Unless your target is smokers, and then you can say anything. It is that underlying presumption rather than Mr Dee’s specific article that needs challenging.

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Reader Comments (19)

"There are certain rules one obeys. Unless your target is smokers, and then you can say anything. It is that underlying presumption rather than Mr Dee’s specific article that needs challenging."

I think it is because smokers are legitimate targets for anything - including inciting acts of violence against them - that we must ALWAYS challenge such articles.

After all, it was only bit by bit, drip feeding hysteria by the antis over four decades that has brought us to this point.

The anti-smoker industry has taught us everything we know which is why I am sure that challenging newspapers and their writers of such offensive articles is one of the most important things we can do and then eventually, who knows, the message may sink in that we are, actually, people and members of this community too.

Monday, July 25, 2011 at 17:34 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

I think the protest was entirely in order. Even if complaining seemed humourless we are increasingly under attack from the humourless control freaks of the 'progressive left', the "thought police" whose rhetoric in web forums increasingly resembles an Orwellian Two Minutes Hate session. Nobody in the public eye of course will acknowledge that is is the exremist behaviour of the left and their support for terrorists and seditionists that is driving right wing extremism.

(For anyone not familar with 1984, the link takes you to the full text of the novel. Search the site for 'hate'. I think the two minutes hate is the second or third ocurrence)

Monday, July 25, 2011 at 18:24 | Unregistered CommenterIan R Thorpe

As I said on a previous article, ENOUGH is ENOUGH.

Who else will stand up for smokers against the constant media hate campaigns?


Monday, July 25, 2011 at 20:41 | Unregistered CommenterEddie D

Quite a good report today from BBC Wales

"Figures released by the Save Our Pubs and Clubs campaign, a coalition of groups that want the smoking ban to be amended, show that Wales has suffered a similar rate of decline in pub numbers to England since both countries banned smoking in pubs in 2007."

Monday, July 25, 2011 at 20:43 | Unregistered CommenterFredrik Eich

I was the only one to travel from Scotland to attend the Westminster Reception, how many came over from Wales?

Monday, July 25, 2011 at 20:58 | Unregistered CommenterBill Gibson

Smokers are not a legitimate target for anything. It may be just a habit but smokers are people and to print an article which is likely incite hatred and physical violence against any particular group is very wrong. Of course Dee's article and every other one like it must be challenged ,in this an age where smokers in reality, have been attacked in the street for smoking. A joke? Lazy journalism?
There is no excuse for it. Dee wrote the article I'm sure realising full well, its very sick and offensive implications.

Monday, July 25, 2011 at 21:02 | Unregistered Commentermark

This is not the first time this stuff has appeared, see:

Supposing ...
Snipers were brought in to shoot smokers

Charlie Brooker
The Guardian, Friday 17 February 2006

In addition, there was an online game to shoot smokers. Can't remember the reference, but I used to play some of the other games produced by that company, until the shoot a smoker game appeared.

We need to be much more militant now and if the press overstep the mark, then we should take them to task EVERY TIME!

Monday, July 25, 2011 at 21:05 | Unregistered CommenterBlad Tolstoy

And there's this:


AND this:

Ham&High:Hampstead and Highgate Express

Smoking party goers shot by air gun sniper
18 October 2007

SMOKERS at a party discovered their habit really was bad for their health when they stepped outside and were shot at by air rifle snipers. The victims were hosting a party in Kingsgate Road in Kilburn on October 6 but things turned sour just after midnight.

Party host Adam Terry, 24, said: "We had the balcony doors open as several of us smoke. "My girlfriend went out on to the balcony for a cigarette, and came back in complaining that she had been hit - she'd felt a sharp pain in her shoulder.

"I went out to have a smoke, felt a very sharp pain in my head and when I put my hand up there to feel it, found that a small metal air rifle round had punctured the skin and I was bleeding."

The housemates called police but before they arrived a third smoker went outside to locate the snipers and was shot in the back.

Police arrived on the scene and checked the injuries. They told people not to go back out on the balcony for the rest of the night and to draw the curtains in case the windows were shot at.

Mr Terry, who works as a civil servant, said: "We received a follow-up phone call the next day, and a visit from the forensics' team.

"The police confirmed that it would be difficult to find out who did it, but suggested a leafleting campaign on the road from where the shots were fired - Mazenod Avenue - warning about the dangers of shooting people in the head with air rifles."

Monday, July 25, 2011 at 21:12 | Unregistered CommenterBlad Tolstoy

By publishing such, the newspaper is in breach of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948

Article 1.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Other Articles within the said document also apply

Monday, July 25, 2011 at 22:30 | Unregistered CommenterBill Gibson

Just food for thought. At this moment in time, the press are terrified that Cameron will impose some heavy regulations upon them. Interestingly, for the moment we have the whip hand. That means if they step out of line with smokers the more we can make life difficult with legions of complaints to the respective bodies.

No, I don't really want greater press control but I am just not prepared to suffer any more of those reporters and editors who jump on the anti-smoker band wagon to sell copy.

Lastly, if readers would like to see a whole catalogue of deaths related to smoking bans, some involving the killing of smokers for smoking, then take a good look at this collection of evils carefully catalogued by Samantha at Smokers’ Club:

Monday, July 25, 2011 at 23:20 | Unregistered CommenterBlad Tolstoy

Thanks Blad. I had that link and lost it. I recall the bloke who killed his wife and kids because she wouldn't quit and he believed she was killing herself and the kids anyway. I think he was a nutter, as I recall, but it's the nutters that Dee's sort of article and the health propaganda inspires.

Monday, July 25, 2011 at 23:40 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Oops - I stand corrected - he killed his kids so they could join his wife who he killed because she wouldn't quit

Monday, July 25, 2011 at 23:45 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

My own views are the same. I was once a happy-go-lucky, professional, family woman. The smoking ban came in and I am now a shadow of former self. Like many now, I am angry, bitter and very suspicious of the majority of politicians - not all, I hasten to add.

The damage that the ban and the hate-propaganda towards smokers is only truly felt by smokers, their families and friends. God help the next generation, because as we can already see, the anti-smoking propaganda has done nothing to reduce the number of smokers. It has just created a new social/communtity/economic/political problem which has nothing to do with health.

If the 'immature and career-wielding' politicians are willing to do this damage to our country; then I trust I live long enough to see them reap the consequences as well. I know my children will.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011 at 0:27 | Unregistered CommenterHelen

Yes Helen. I have got to the stage now where, although they do not show it, those who engineered this smoker hatred, even now can see that their efforts are not achieving their original aim.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011 at 1:34 | Unregistered Commentertimbone

@ timbone.

""....even now can see that their efforts are not achieving their original aim""

""...their original aim""

I feel sure that, by 'their original aim', you mean the 'original aim' of ASH ET AL. But I would ask you to consider 'THE original aim'. Go back to the early 1900s. There was a movement to ban tobacco. At the time, there were no (fake) studies showing harm. What was the reason for that movement? Am I right in thinking that the reason was vaguely moralistic? I think so.

But am I also right that the Civil War between the South and the North had not been concluded all that long ago with the defeat of the South; and is it not true that the slaves had not long been emancipated? And is it not true that lots and lots of slaves were imported to work in tobacco plantations - in the South? Why do I see a connection between the defeat of the South and tobacco demonisation?

Fast forward to the 1960s. Only as a result of Martin Luther King's speech, and the movement which that speech invigorated, did Negroes (especially in the South) gain real equality. Is it not odd that the anti-tobacco movement in the USA suddenly gained strength thereafter? Anti-tobacco = Anti-South.

Are we all suffering (without scientific justification) because the Americans are still fighting civil rights issues?

What was 'the original aim?'

Tuesday, July 26, 2011 at 3:01 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

Junican: I really think you're grasping at straws there. I sincerely doubt the antismoking movement has all that much to do with anti-South prejudice, although I did once hear a commentator say that the anti-alcohol movement in the US grew up with the abolition movement--since rum was part of the "triangle", it was viewed as evil. But even then, I'm sure other things were much more influential.
It's much more likely that tobacco has been demonized since Europeans first came into contact with it due to its association with the "demonic" Native Americans who turned them on to it.
Also, cotton far and away surpassed tobacco as the main crop worked by slaves.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011 at 4:43 | Unregistered Commenterchris

Media reports today of a 2050 target of cities without petrol-powered cars, coupled with references to 'nudging' people towards public transport and the appalling arrival on the scene of a Lords' committee dedicated to behaviour modification - I paraphrase - took me back to 1961 and the start of the current epoch's drive against tobacco: a smoke 'free' nation by 2000 and so on.

It might have seemed far fetched then. But the techniques are established. Motorists, prepare to be 'denormalised'. What really puzzles me is what the zealots get out of it. They'll mostly be dead by 2050.

But the issue is one of individual freedom and choice. The control freaks seem unable to tolerate the idea.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011 at 20:05 | Unregistered CommenterNorman

Helen and Timbone- Yes I know the feeling. I used to be a fine upstanding pillar of society,a real gentleman, president of the Rotary club, solid and dependable who'se trust and integrety was beyond question, the sort of chap who'd share his last fag with you. But that was back in 2007. It's different now. I am now a despicable smelly inconsiderate moron. Scum of the earth, the lowest form of life.
So now I behave in a manner consistant with my status. I no longer use litter bins nor do recycle rubbish. I leave chewing gum on park benches, squirt superglue into payphones, drop stinkbombs in supermarkets, urinate in shop doorways, trample over council flower beds, tear pages out of library books and break wind in crowded lifts. When there's a drought I leave my cold tap running all day, I make hoax calls to the fire service and scatter my kitchen waste around the playing feild.
And why shoud'nt I ? It was the anti-brigade who masterminded my decline, so I shall leave the rest of the community to reap the benefits of their infinite wisdom.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011 at 15:49 | Unregistered CommenterBarnie

Barnie - I wouldn't but I understand what you mean. Whenever I hear about some new public cause that we must all ascribe to, and think the same way about, I roll my eyes knowing that "public" no longer includes me.

Thursday, July 28, 2011 at 15:26 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

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