Citing Godwin's Law...

Everybody in the world is a cretin.

Alright, not perhaps everybody. But 90% of them are. I can prove this simply by citing Sturgeon’s Law, but that would blow off no steam at all, so instead I shall type a long rant about them and then I shall go through it and remove every second instance of the word “fucking” and post it on my website.

It’s something I touched upon a few days ago, but I think it needs reiterating in more detail because apparently nobody listened: the BBC’s Have Your Say website.

This site purportedly allows users to have a debate on whatever subject the BBC feels we should discuss, but what actually happens is a moronic bickering match between ill-informed idiots with some of the most poorly hidden agendas I have ever seen. So you can imagine what happens when you combine it with that other great lightning rod of stupidity, debates about the dangers of passive smoking…

As the BBC have (wisely) closed the debate, I shall respond to some of the stupider comments here:

New Labour ’“ caring for you ’“ ensuring that your life complies with the party line. Brought to you and monitored by: Enviro fascists Smoko fascists Fatty fascists Food fascists Identity fascists Equality fascists Health and Safety fascists Somebody save us from these control freaks.

Setting aside the hilarious “prefix” smoko-, I’m not even sure it makes any sense to have an “equality fascist”. The correct term for what he is accusing Labour of is “totalitarianist”. But of course that would have carried slightly less stigma and would require both intellectual honesty and a little background knowledge, or worse still, research!

More specifically, this debate was about whether it was a good idea for councils to train people to go into pubs, undercover, and enforce the ban. It got a lot of predictable results like this one:

I can think of 3 other occasions citizens were encouraged to spy on and report their neighbours for "undesirable" behaviour. Orwell's 1984 Stalin's Russia Taliban controlled Afghanistan. Frightening, isn’t it? :(

Well, yes. I can think of three as well: the police, the neighbourhood watch, and Channel Four. Just because Stalin did something doesn’t make it automatically wrong. Traffic wardens aren’t “spies”. Sending underage people to try and buy alcohol to see if they can isn’t “spying”. This is just another gossamer-thinly veiled attempt to equate an inconvenient public health policy with the slaughter of millions. Because make no mistake: this is not a comment on the actual debate topic. This is debating the ban itself.

Well, I say “debating”. You know what I mean.

Two hundred and fifty more fucking morons decided they would recommend this comment, and the one above that. I assume that includes the one who posted it because that seems like something he’d do.

...If you can’t enforce a law, then maybe the law is to blame.

But… we can enforce it. By, er, paying people to check people are obeying the law and fining them if they’re not. I thought that was the point of the whole debate?

THIS IS NOT A JOKE. this is serious. we need to get these PC Do Gooders out of power and out of our lives. we cant sit around mocking them, while they actually take over. This is how the Nazis came to power in Germany. Everyone thought they were a joke, until it was discovered that they really were kicking peoples heads in, in the street.

You’ll note we’re back on the knee-jerk Hitler comparisons, only this time with added Slippery Slope Fallacy. This one, you’ll notice, cleverly (for a given value of “cleverly”) avoids a direct comparison while still managing to imply one.

I smoke, if someone is uncomfortable with it, I stop, its common manners. Having spies will just devalue normal humanity by forcing it on people. ... The legislation isn’t the problem - aside from telling me what to do - its the enforcement. The policy wasn’t thought through and now money has to be spent to make it work.

This is actually two replies from the same person. I’ve stitched them together so as to best get across what I think his point is: that he supports the smoking ban as long as it doesn’t cost anything or stop him from smoking. You’d be amazed how many people take this view. Or perhaps you wouldn’t. This same person also went on to refer to the Prime Minister as “Bliar”, which is sort of the political equivalent of referring to the “gheystation” or the “lamecube rofl lol”.

One word: WTF???’”

Well, I dispute that that’s “one word”, but do continue, Mister, er, “[spaetow]”.

’”Who the HELL does this government think they are! I am not a smoker, but damn, this is worse than Nazi Germany!!!

Well. I think that speaks for itself (although its solicitor advised it not to).

Orwell's 1984 Stalin's Russia Taliban controlled Afghanistan. Frightening, isn’t it? :(" You forgot Nazi Germany

Fancy that.

I can be secretly filmed by govt. officials while socialising, secretly filmed in the street by cameras that can see me naked (effectively) and record my speech, govt officials can enter my home to look around or jail me if I refuse...

You should move to Britain, then. There’s none of that here.

Yet another example of Blair's Big Brother state gone mad. Whatever next? Bugging our phones to make sure we're not plotting against the State?

Yes, that’s the same thing. Cretin.

Watch as I apply your argument to something else: Yet another example of you breathing in. Whatever next? You just keep expanding until you explode?

I mean, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think this is a good idea. I think it’s a waste of money. We should wait and see if people flout the ban, then we start doing this kind of thing if it turns out that we need to. But as I’ve repeatedly explained to Dave Hitt, I don’t think it’s acceptable to argue for a good cause based on bad reasoning.

More or less everyone on the website seems to be against the plan. But that doesn’t stop a great many of them being stupid. The worst part is that I’m putting this page together by going through the comments in order of how “recommended” they are. After a while I got down to ones that few people have recommended and strangely enough the moronic knee-jerk Hitler comparisons more or less dry up, which really suggests to me that the recommendation system is a bit rubbish. So here are some more highly recommended ones:

HA HA this has got to be a joke surely? undercover agents to mingle with and spy on activities within the public realm eh...takes you back to Germany 1936 dousnt it, only then they were known as the GESTAPO. what els are these spy's going to be doing, getting children to split on their parents for doing things they shouldnt?

Er, well, actually no, they’re not.

"I can think of 3 other occasions citizens were encouraged to spy on and report their neighbours for "undesirable" behaviour. Orwell's 1984 Stalin's Russia Taliban controlled Afghanistan." You forgot Hitler's Germany!

Er… yes. I’m pretty sure we covered that.

"The majority of people don’t smoke and I think most people, like me, are looking forward to clean air from 1 July!" Moving to a village miles away from motorways, A roads and B roads are you? If not, you are NOT getting "clean air from 1 July" at all. And that should be obvious.

Ingenious. So your theory is that as long as there is something bad in the air it’s okay to fill enclosed spaces with carcinogens. Well done, you.

Fuck off. You’re being pedantic and argumentative but not actually progressing the debate at all. I mean, technically the actual statements you make are all true, but the message you’re putting across is a fantastically stupid one and you should really just shut up and let the five sensible people talk the whole thing over while you watch Buffy DVDs. It’s just an attempt to make the opposing argument appear flawed. If you can’t find an actual flaw, shup the hell up and think of a counterargument instead.

Our forefathers died to save this country from the Nazi's. Now we have these little nazi Hitlers queing up to inform on their own people. Our security services fought against the Stazi and the KGB for our freedom and Blair wants to begin this culture here. Those of you who will snoop are Nazis. You will eventauly be exposed to the public. You are treacherous pigs and all genuine people in great britain will toast your demise.

That’s a great spelling of “queueing”, isn’t it? I mean, I know that’s not the most stupid thing in this reply, but I’ve been fairly lenient on the morons’ SPG so far and I think it has to be mentioned that most people seem to have very lax English skills.

I know there’s a case to be made that it’s not important, but if you haven’t taken the time to read over your post or to spell it properly, why should I assume you have researched it or thought it through? It’s all a question of credibility.

Oh, and “nazi Hitlers” are the worst kind of Hitlers.

I can think of 3 other occasions citizens were encouraged to spy on and report their neighbours for "undesirable" behaviour. Orwell's 1984 Stalin's Russia Taliban controlled Afghanistan. Frightening, isn’t it? :( I can think of a fourth one: Nazi Germany!

Hey, yeah! You’d have thought someone would have mentioned that.

It just seems to me to be a bit of a waste of time having a “debate” section of a website run in this way. Without some way to reply to a post and have the reply appear somewhere near said post, it’s not really a debate at all; it’s just a sort of menu of opinions. And without a way to mark replies down it just becomes a menu of lowest common denominator opinions phrased in overly emotive language. The theory, I presume, is that by disallowing “negative recommendations”, they are preventing unpopular opinions from being suppressed, but clearly it doesn’t work, because I’m sure nobody reads the replies with few recommendations once they drop off the first couple of pages.

In many ways, though, it’s worse than that: if someone says to my face that we can’t have traffic wardens in case it inevitably leads to the invasion of Poland, then I can call them a moron and explain why it clearly won’t. But if they post it on a website and 250 people click a button to say how great it is, then they’ll think they’re right. And so will the 250 other people who’ve suddenly found their ludicrous opinion legitamised on the front page of a BBC webpage. That doesn’t help. That makes things worse.

I mean, the thing is that while the plan is superficially similar to totalitarianism, it isn’t the same thing, and any argument that relies on equating them is flawed. The difference is that in this case the undercover “spies” are being used appropriately: if two uniformed officers walked into a bar then the smokers will just stub out their cigarettes and shove them down the backs of chairs or in pockets or something, and then light up again the moment the policemen leave. It’s illogical to assume that once that happens it becomes inevitable that we will end up with inappropriate government spying (although of course there’s no harm in watching out for it). So really the only questions are whether enforcing the ban is necessary and whether the council should be the ones doing it. And since they already enforce parking rules and anti-littering rules I don’t see that that’s much of an issue.

It boils down to the same thing as most smoking arguments: people think that because something is currently allowed that makes it one of their basic human rights. If tobacco had never been discovered and someone sold the first cigarettes tomorrow, they’d be off the shelves by Tuesday. If they’d been available for ever, but hadn’t been allowed in public until now then no minister would ever be stupid enough to propose legalising them. But because smoking has been almost universally allowed for so long, the idea that this might stop being the case looks a lot like an erosion of people’s freedoms.

But there’s a difference between what is allowed and what should be allowed.

And that should be obvious.