Monday 4 March 2019

The sockpuppet state in action

Last week, the IEA released my report Still Hand in Glove? which takes another look at state-funded activism. It would be nice to report that the problem is shrinking. In truth, it is evolving. Blatant sockpuppetry is alive and well in Scotland and Wales. In England, the baton has been largely passed onto Public Health England, local authorities and PHE's legion of Directors of Public Health, with assistance from a growing band of activist-academic 'research' institutions.

Over the weekend, there were a couple of small examples of how this works in practice. One of Britain's oldest sockpuppets, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), was back, this time acting through the parliamentary mouthpiece it set up in the 1970s, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health, of which ASH is still the secretariat.

Having exhausted every other anti-smoking policy, ASH are really scraping the barrel in an effort to keep themselves relevant. Their next phase of action involves banning 18-20 year olds from buying tobacco, censoring television programmes and raising prices even further with a tobacco levy.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health - which assists the group ["ASH wrote the report" - CJS], said: "Legislation to strictly regulate smoking used to be considered controversial and extreme by all mainstream political parties.

"Thanks to the dedication of the All Party Group, working closely with civil society, that's no longer the case."

'Civil society' was straight out of the blocks to lend these extreme measures their support on Saturday, with a series of similar tweets. First up was ASH, of course, which got £160,000 from the unwitting taxpayer in 2016/17 and has recently started getting mysterious grants from Public Health England (£108,000 in the last quarter of 2018).

Then the regional sockpuppets piled in, including our old friends at FRESH, which is wholly funded by local authorities in the northeast...

And Breathe 2025, which is wholly funded by local authorities in Yorkshire and Humberside although you'd never guess that from looking at its website...

 And the recently formed History Makers, wholly funded by local authorities in the northwest...

In my report, I noted that History Makers had 'not yet begun active campaigning' and that state-funded anti-tobacco groups, in general, had been fairly quiet recently:

The lack of overt political activity by these groups since plain packaging was introduced in 2016 probably reflects a dearth of new policies to lobby for and the government’s stated intention not to pass further anti-smoking legislation in this Parliament.

Now they have their new policies, expect to hear more from them.

Meanwhile, in the northeast...

Five areas in the North East are among the top 10 worst places for underage drinking in the UK.

.. Dr Jo Cranwell, from the University of Bath, has specifically researched Geordie Shore and says that in scenes with “real people who young viewers in particular relate to” viewers are exposed to “extreme levels of alcohol content including high levels of intoxication”.

She found that nearly 80% of scenes throughout season 11 of the MTV show featured alcohol.

Dr Cranwell said: “This all suggests Geordie Shore might be a risk factor and could be exacerbating serious problems ­associated with binge drinking.”

Regular readers will be familiar with Ms. Cranwell and her laughable research. It takes quite an imagination to believe that young geordies like to binge drink because they've seen it in Geordie Shore rather than that young geordies like to binge drink and therefore binge-drinking features in a reality TV programme about young geordies. Cranwell worked at the state-funded UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies when her 'study' was conducted and her research was supported by grants from the taxpayer-funded Economic and Social Research Council, Medical Research Council and the Department of Health.

No austerity for quackademia. 

And, of course, there's a political dimension...

Her fear is shared by Colin Shevill, of North East alcohol awareness charity Balance.

It's not a charity. It's a neo-temperance pressure group that shares an office with FRESH and, like FRESH, is entirely funded by local authorities.

He said: “This north-south burden of harm long pre-dates Geordie Shore [well spotted! - CJS], but it does highlight the way alcohol is glamorised in TV shows and through advertising.

"There is overwhelming evidence that exposure to alcohol marketing increases the risk.”

He also believes the Government must push up the current “pocket money prices” of booze, as has already happened in Scotland.

Of course he does. That's all he ever says.

The article contains no opposing viewpoints and is rounded off with a message from the £4.5 billion a year mothership...

Rosanna O’Connor, director of drugs, alcohol and tobacco at Public Health England, said: “This is a top priority.”

Keep digging deep, taxpayers.

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