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« Review of the week | Main | Forest Eireann fights back »
Thursday
Jul282011

Lynn Hughes: the sound of silence

I am still awaiting a response from Lynn Hughes, editor of the Luton Herald & Post, following last week's now infamous article.

On Monday I sent the following email:

Dear Ms Hughes

Re Alan Dee's article in the current issue of the Herald & Post, I am writing to add the name of Forest (Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco) to those who have already commented via email and on various blogs including my own.

Unlike tobacco control lobbyists (who refuse frequently to share a platform or debate openly with us) I believe in free speech and I defend anyone's right to be offensive or to have a different opinion to mine.

For that reason I will not be joining the chorus of voices who wish to take this matter to the Press Complaints Commission or, worse, the police.

Nevertheless, on behalf of our supporters, I must express deep disappointment with the tone and content of Alan Dee's article.

It seems that smokers are an easy target these days. I certainly can't imagine Alan Dee having the courage to make similar comments about other minority groups, or those who are unfit, overweight, enjoy a drink etc.

He is mistaken too to speak so derisively of Stony Stratford where an ill-judged attempt to ban smoking in all outdoor public places has met fierce opposition and attracted little or no support.

The people who protested so vehemently against a ban on smoking in the streets of Stony Stratford are ordinary people. They included smokers and non-smokers like myself.

Alan Dee is entitled to both his opinion and his adolescent sense of humour, but the people he is attacking represent not just ordinary people but a substantial percentage of your readership.

I am not seeking an apology, although we would like an acknowledgement of the anger Alan Dee's article has provoked.

Instead I would like to request the right of reply in your next available issue, preferably on the same page occupied by Alan Dee. (I'm sure he won't mind giving up his column for one week only!)

I appreciate that this may go against your normal editorial policy but in the light of Alan Dee's incendiary article - which coincided unintentionally with the grave and tragic events in Norway - I believe that it would be an appropriate response.

I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely

Simon Clark
Director, Forest

If anyone has received a response from Lynn Hughes it would be useful to know before we take the matter further.

On Monday grumpybutterfly reported that he thought she sounded "contrite" when he spoke to her.

No evidence of that so far.

If I was in Lynn Hughes's shoes I would have at least acknowledged our complaints, if only to take the heat out of the situation.

Instead she may be hoping we will go away. We won't.

PS. I am trying to track down a copy of this week's issue, out today, to see whether there is any reference to Alan Dee's article.

Meanwhile I have sent a further email to the editor:

Dear Ms Hughes

I would be grateful for a response to my email, sent on Monday, and your reaction to the complaints you have received following the publication of Alan Dee's article last week.

An early response would be appreciated.

Simon Clark
Director, Forest

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Reader Comments (19)

No response here either Simon - however, her rival newspaper the Luton on Sunday has also received masses of complaints about Dee's article by its readers and has been in touch with me regarding contacts who have reported this matter to the police. Lynn Hughes would be wise to stop ignoring us.

Like SS - this kind of reporting needs to have a line drawn. Inciting people to shoot to kill smokers - even in jest - sends the wrong message and is dangerous. I can understand your view on the right to be offensive but would you feel the same if Dee had proposed shooting "Muslims with ruck sacks on their back "because they might just want to kill themselves as well as others"? Quite rightly that would be an outrageous suggestion and illegal. This must be proved as a test case to ensure that there is some protection for lifestyle groups from this kind of hate.

The PCC is taking it seriously and considering under Clause 4 of the code - harassment. Perhaps if newspapers realise that there is a line - the DoH might just realise that there is also a line in its continual harassment of law abiding consumers of a legal product.

We must fight this to protect those other lifestyle groups you mention who are next in line if we fall.

Thursday, July 28, 2011 at 13:54 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

See Today/s edition of the Luton Herald & Post Online at this link.

http://www.lutontoday.co.uk/news/digital-editions/herald-post-online

Lots of letters and the Editor DEFENDS the article.

Thursday, July 28, 2011 at 21:37 | Unregistered CommenterEddie D

I can't find it Eddie -- and I even looked under sport. Is there a better link?

Thursday, July 28, 2011 at 22:00 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

The bit she defends that Dee only pointed out that we "addicts" are killing ourselves and if we thought that a sniper would be waiting in the wings to pick us off we might just be "sensible" and quit, is not the bit that offended me as much as Dee's proposal to "get rid of the problem" - the one infantile and brainwashed belief that we cost too much to the NHS. It is sick and she has demonstrated that smokers are worthless and only worthy of attack and harassment. She is deluded and nasty.

Thursday, July 28, 2011 at 22:18 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

I still can't find it - where is the story?

Thursday, July 28, 2011 at 22:24 | Unregistered CommenterRick S

I got it in a PDF - I don't know how to share it. She also printed a letter from an anti saying F2C only complained because they want more people to start smoking and smokers kill more people than any sniper encouraged by Dee could (not verbatim). "name and address supplied" of course.

Thursday, July 28, 2011 at 22:48 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Some of the letters.
Smokers fume
over Alan Dee
Our controversial columnist Alan
Dee’s comments regarding smokers
in last week’s H&P and online
prompted a deluge of letters from
around the country. Here is just a
sample.

from Sean Spillane, Luton
I would like to complain in the
strongest possible terms.
No doubt he found perverse pleasure
in calling for the public execution
of smokers in Luton and I believe
questions should be asked how this
column ever got to print.
He describes in detail how smokers
should be “shot between the eyes” if
they light up on the streets of the town
and that squads of licensed snipers
should be given permission to carry out
this planned action.
I have asked both local MPs Gavin
Shuker and Kelvin Hopkins to get
involved and investigate this article. I
am not legally trained but it has been
suggested to me that Alan could have
broken the law with his letter calling
for “incitement to maim or kill” and if
this is proven to be true then he should
face the full consequences of the legal
system. Alan’s article is nothing more
than guttersnipe journalism!

from Elizabeth Barber,
address supplied
I wish to complain in the strongest
terms.
Aside from the timing, which in
itself should give pause for thought,
the publication of such vile musings,
however witty or ironic Mr Dee thinks he
is, is wholly unacceptable.
As a smoker, I have become a target
for abuse and hostility that simply did
not exist prior to the smoking ban.
The tactics of the anti-smoking
activists has given rise to, and actively
encouraged, an attitude that smokers
are virtually sub human.
They have been banished from social
interaction in any enclosed space save
their own homes – and some social
housing residents are now even banned
from smoking there too.
They can be abused without fear
of any consequence, discriminated
against in regards to housing,
employment and health care, denied
the opportunity of infertility treatment,
or the possibility of adoption. One
hesitates to cite the anti-Semitic tactics
employed in the last century (and nor
is it the only such example), but you
cannot deny that there are strong
similarities in the methodology.
Then along comes Mr Dee with
his prejudice and loathing dressed
as journalism. Is he aware that there
have been incidents in the USA where
smokers have been shot dead for
smoking?

from John Coles,
address supplied
If you cannot control Mr Dee’s
adolescent outpourings, then maybe
you should not be the editor.

from Mr Chris F J Cyrnik
I cannot believe that there are any
circumstances whatsoever in which
you could allow such offensive and
disgusting trash to be published.
Had Alan Dee made these kinds
of remarks (using “squad of licensed
snipers”) about another section of
society, then he would have been
summarily sacked.
The smoking ban was brought in
on July 1, 2007 by the then Labour
government. When it said it wouldn’t
bring in a blanket ban, it offered a
partial ban and many people, including
myself, voted for these duplicitous,
reprehensible politicians on the
strength of that.
They lied to us, and now we’re
paying the price for that duplicity with vile attacks of
this kind - and with increasing regularity now.
But of course nobody complains about the
£10billion of tobacco revenue that the chancellor takes
each year.
That's OK then, just keep buying the tobacco products, but
don't smoke it anywhere.

Thursday, July 28, 2011 at 23:11 | Unregistered CommenterEddie D

@rick S - page 14 or 15 of the digital edition.

The editor says that Dee is a lesser writer in the tradition of literary satire. S'funny, I think Dee's "humour" is so reliant on victims that it is actually a form of victimisation.

Can't wait for the Lord Horror Anti Smoker special then.

Friday, July 29, 2011 at 1:29 | Unregistered Commenteralanx

Copy the Url and paste into the address bar. Click on Herald & Post. Delete (click X) 'Welcome to...'. At bottom of page, click 'Next' to turn pages. Page 14 & 15, see 'opinions' - the editor's comment is on the right side of page 15 (It is a small comment.

As is usual with ASH ET AL, she avoids the issue. In her comment, she runs together two sentences which were separate sentences in the original. Separately, they mean different things as compared to what they mean when run together. Separately, these sentences mean: "Smokers have ignored warnings on packets, so it is alright to shoot them" Together, they mean "Since smokers have ignored warnings on packets, why not shoot them?" Can you see the difference? The first is an encouragement, the second is satirical. In any case, both are out of order. Her ASH-like playing with words is not acceptable.

Friday, July 29, 2011 at 3:32 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

Thanks everyone - I've tracked it down now. The editor's defence of the journalist is possibly even worse and more stupid than the original article.

As for the correspondent who irrelevantly trots out a pack of lies about F2C, it's significant that they've chosen to remain anonymous. These people really are cowards, aren't they?

Friday, July 29, 2011 at 9:01 | Unregistered CommenterRick S

This is the comment editor of the Luton Hearld & Post, Thursday 28/07/2011

EDITOR'S COMMENT.

The Alan Dee column has been a popular feature of the Hearld & Post for many years and regularly uses the recognised satirical technique of progressive exaggeration to make a point. The most famous example of this is probably Joanthan Swift's call for the middle classes of England to eat babies to solve the Irish over-population, which dates back to 1729.
While we would never claim that the Alan Dee column sets its sights so high, the agrument as I understand it was this: Smokers wilfully ignore the widely available advice, and prominent warnings every time they buy a packet of cigarettes, that their habit could kill them, and are presumably happy to accept the risks as they understand them. Would they pay more attention if the threat to their health was even more extreme, and could potentially strike at any time ? Alan Dee's column regularly prompt responses from readers who agree with his point of view, or believe he's got it wrong. I'm afraid I cannot see how anyone who read the the column in its entirety could have taken it to be an incitement to violence.

Friday, July 29, 2011 at 9:10 | Unregistered CommenterSean Spilane

@Rick S

That response was either written by Rollo or a member of staff of ASH. The detail in the letter requires specialist knowledge of what we do, to recognise our names on blogs. I was on Left Foot Forward the other day and one of the comments about me was "I'm not an expert" and a reference to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and offshoot of the WHO. That was written by an ASH employee for sure. Not many members of the public would again have the knowledge.

BTW, although he may deny it, I think Rollo is an employee of ASH Scotland, I have circumstantial evidence that points his way.

In conclusion at worst it is good to be a thorn in their side and at best they are rattled.

Friday, July 29, 2011 at 9:43 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

A couple of years ago he mentioned that he lives in Edinburgh.

Friday, July 29, 2011 at 10:27 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

It wasn't written by Rollo, who writes very well. I think it was written by Councillor Bartlett.

Friday, July 29, 2011 at 12:57 | Unregistered CommenterJon

I just think the name and address and supplied was some random ASH supporter sent in to discredit smokers and F2C - after all we're not human are we? Watch your backs for snipers folks - and if that happens watch that no one cares and no one gets prosecuted. We are here for abuse and nothing else and we will bloody well pay through the nose for the privilege too! . That is Govt policy as designed by ASH and it isn't going to get any better unless smokers begin to act as one political force to get our persecutors out of the DoH.

Friday, July 29, 2011 at 13:58 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

An effective future direction for ASH Scotland (2008):

An unfortunate turn of phrase from one political stakeholder....

"The war is won in terms of what you can do with legislation. Therefore you've got to consider scaling back. As we take the big guns off the field, it's time for the sharpshooter - the more forensic approach."

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2008/08/29113558/9

Friday, July 29, 2011 at 17:30 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

There you are then. She is not prepared to publish a polite and reasoned response from Forest, so that their readership may get a balanced view of this issue. It's quite clear where she stands, and is not going to allow any debate on this, which at the very least would have been a courtesy.
That, as you will be only too well aware Simon, is how those of this pernicious ilk like it.

They pour out vitriol and bile and deny any coherent right of reply – no matter how well argued.

These people only offer bias and intolerance.

Saturday, July 30, 2011 at 10:48 | Unregistered CommenterJJ

I have had a look at that publication re Ash Scotland. I note that it is dated 2008. But here is one sentence which is interesting:

""7.49 Stakeholders from the public health sector, the Scottish Government and the voluntary sector all mentioned the opportunity for ASH Scotland to become an international adviser on tobacco control issues and, thereby, possibly open up new funding opportunities.""

So do we take that to mean The Chemical Industry (big pharm)? No wonder that they push nicotine patches for all they are worth and are against ecigs!

Saturday, July 30, 2011 at 20:22 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

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