Friday 11 September 2015

Simple Simon squirms

The divestment movement is one of the sillier empty gestures to have caught on in recent years. The principle is fiendishly simple: institutions sell their shares in evil corporations like Big Oil and then, er, absolutely nothing happens. The share price doesn't fall and the company doesn't suffer. The only losers are the institutions which have to settle for weaker investments.

It's an idiotic idea and it's pure virtue signalling. Naturally, then, clowns like Simon Chapman are big fans of it...

Simon Chapman, 2007 (in Public Health Advocacy and Tobacco Control: Making Smoking History):

Public declarations by reputable companies and individuals that they will not invest in a tobacco company for ethical reasons can be newsworthy and may cause other groups to reflect on their position. The ethical investment movement in your country will be a useful ally in suggesting ways of promoting divestment of tobacco shares

Simon Chapman, 2009 (in Guide For a Tobacco-Free Campus):

The aim of this guide is to urge campus managers and administrators to review and improve their tobacco-free policies to include three key elements:

... An ethically and socially responsible mandatory standard or core principle that ensures that the institution, its staff and students are not financially or materially associated through the institution with the tobacco industry.

Simon Chapman, 2010:

 “A medical school taking funding from the tobacco industry is like a peace studies school taking funding from terrorists,” said Tobacco Control's editor Simon Chapman, professor of public health at the University of Sydney.

Simon Chapman, 2014:

Simon Chapman, April 1st 2015 (after falling for an obvious April fool joke):

Given his typically blowhard views on this issue, it was an #awks moment for Simple Simon this week when it became known that his own university (Sydney) had just invested $2 million in British American Tobacco. This left him squirming when he wrote his regular column for The Conversation. First, he argued that $2 million isn't very much money, then he resorted to the most tenuous sophistry to claim that everybody gets money from the tobacco industry if you look at things through a kaleidoscope...

With $2m of $1.4b invested in BAT, the homeopathically small proportion that might arguably be linked to my salary would be pressed to buy a sachet of sugar for a coffee. But that’s what passes for excitement among pro-smokers these days.

Indeed, by extending the same logic, there is no citizen in Australia who is free from taking the Big Tobacco dollar. Some $9.763b is collected annually from customs and excise duty on tobacco and GST. This money goes into consolidated revenue where, along with every other form of government revenue, it is pooled to provide expenditure on things we all use and benefit from: roads, government schools, health care, prisons, defence etc.

Every doctor in Australia by this argument, “benefits” from big tobacco each time they receive a Medicare payment from Canberra.

Some strong arguments there, I'm sure you'll agree.

Aside from the hilarity of watching the fool fight his corner, it is interesting, though unsurprising, to note that the university's financial advisers are more realistic about plain packaging's ability to deliver a blow to the tobacco industry than Chapman is.

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