Conspiratorial thinking

A while ago I posted a response to an Elmdon councillor’s claim, in a letter to the local paper, that smoking isn’t bad for you. Eighteen months later Cllr Bramham turned up in the comments, denying that there was any evidence linking smoking with disease. I responded that such evidence does exist, and pointed him towards it.

This is giving it far more attention than it deserves, but his rebuttal is such a good example of classic conspiratorial thinking that I have to mention it:

I see that I have eventually stirred up some interest in this topic, which has to be a good thing if we are to exorcise some of the misinformation being bandied about by avid followers of the ASB.
Andrew; of course the US Surgeon-General blames tobacco for that exhaustive list of ailments; he has to because of who he is and because he’s expected to.

The US Surgeon-General is just a pawn in the conspiracy, it seems. This is used to reject all the scientific evidence. He also subtly changes my statement – I said that the evidence is sufficient to draw a causal link between smoking and the various ailments, not that smoking is the only cause.

It’s also a very convenient peg upon which to hang the hat of blame for all these ills, as nobody could possibly question the Surgeon-General of the United States, now could they?

They could if the evidence didn’t back him up. When US officials used to deny the existence of global warming there was uproar. Note also the implied bravery at his questioning of authority.

The only things he seems to have omitted are Global Warming and the damage to the ozone layer!


Neioll (sic); the fact that I question things that I find illogical does not necessarily make me a prat, nor does it give you the right to judge others who may not agree with your point of view.

This isn’t what Neil did in his comment, but note the victimisation. Also the denial of ‘rights’ that don’t make sense as rights.

Many men throughout history who had the temerity to challenge the accepted establishment view later became feted as visionaries, but that did not stop loopy luddites and dogmatic diehards from attempting to justify the status quo.

This is a meaningless statement, but it’s fair to point out that far more people have been wrong in challenging the establishment than have been correct. They laughed at Copernicus, and they laughed at Bozo the Clown.

I’m nothing special and never will be, but at least I walk around with my eyes wide open, and I don’t miss much.

Classic “I’m not a scientist, but…” technique much beloved of creationists. People warm to you if you’re humble. Never mind that he just implied he was a visionary.

For any of you who insist on believing all you read without question, I’d ask you to look at the bigger picture, and not just the one that the establishment wants you to see.

Not without evidence, I won’t. The onus is on you to explain why the current evidence is flawed, and to do so without invoking self-referential massive conspiracies with no evidence.

It’s a truism that statistics can and frequently are manipulated to portray anything that the compiler wishes, as evidenced most graphically in the runup to the Iraq war.

Similarly, words can be manipulated. Anybody who uses words can convince you of anything, so you should reject anything with words in it. If only there were some way of rationally seeking the truth, some method that involves logical and impartial examination of evidence, with methodology and rationale clearly explained and accessible to all. You could call it the scientific method, if you liked.

Lastly, I won’t be around to see it no doubt, but I would laugh my cotton socks off if and when everyone stopped smoking worldwide, and all these so-called Smoking Related Diseases continued unabated – what would they blame it on then, I wonder?

This seems unlikely to happen.

However, most entertaining is this from the comments. Simon discovered this on Cllr Bramham’s own site:

Some of these people bag [their rubbish] all up neatly and put it out for the green waste collection; however, others insist on using the 19th century method of burning their garden rubbish on bonfires, which makes it a lottery as to which direction the wind is blowing, and who will be the lucky recipient of lungfuls of thick, acrid smoke that these fires tend to generate.
Those people who do this sort of thing ought to be made aware that a staggering 40% of all residents in the Solihull Borough have some form of pulmonary disorder, and nearly 60% of those are under the age of 18.
It isn’t rocket science therefore to deduce that every time someone lights a bonfire in their back garden or allotment, someone, somewhere is going to suffer as a result, particularly in the hot weather when windows have to be left open to keep temperatures down.

What? Smoke from bonfires is bad for you? I don’t think this is true. It’s a conspiracy by, er, hedgehogs.

I don’t know about the composition of bonfire smoke compared to cigarette smoke, but I suspect they’re mighty similar. It’d be interesting to find out.

Finally, as Cllr. Bramham says in the above post:

Please show a little consideration for those who need to breathe fresh air, who don’t like their homes smelling of smoke and most importantly, don’t cause offence to anyone else.