Friday, 19 November 2010

Free Speech: Not Where Tobacco is Concerned

A little nugget that has been doing the rounds lately (I found it courtesy of Head Rambles and Juliette Tworsey) is that smoking news that isn't anti is being banned from the Irish Examiner. To quote directly, in correspondance to the head of Forest Eireann (Forest's Irish branch):

“John, the editor says there is no way he going to allow his paper to
be used in any way as a vehicle for a lobby - funded or not – that
condones or promotes the consumption of a hazardous subject - legal
or not. “

In other words, anti-smoking news will gladly be carried in its printed papers, but anything not anti won't be. This isn't just pro-smoking stuff, but neutral content too. So, for instance, if Forest, or indeed you or I, write a perfectly balanced and justified letter to the editor explaining that a smoking ban in cars is scientifically without merit, it will be barred from print.

Anyone with half a brain (and I'll refrain from jokes about the Irish intellect here) can acknowledge that a balanced point need not be condoning or promoting anything. It's a similar argument to someone saying 'the risk of AIDs from intercourse is pretty low, relatively speaking' being tacit condonement for sleeping with as many people as possible. It's not a logical progression and it makes no sense.

It's perplexing that the Irish Examiner has focused this on tobacco, and we can see how much this is an encompassing new regime by seeing if any news stories come up on alcohol that don't only call for minimum pricing, or topics on the war on drugs only look at promoting its cause. Any dissent from condemning the evils of the world will show this for what it really is: horseshit.

Most troubling, though, is the blow to free speech. What sort of society, supposedly developed, actively bans freedom of speech? The editor is really saying the readers who keep him in a job need to be spoon-fed content and are so fickle to their lifestyle habits that the slightest mention that something may not kill you on sight will encourage them to engage in said activity to the nth degree. Well, if that is the case, let them do it. The world's a crowded place and if we can lose some idiots then i'm sure we'll be better for it. Besides, it'll help Ireland's ruined economy.

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