Dave Hitt Is A Twat.

I assume everyone here already knows that I think smoking in public is something that should be banned. Dave Hitt does not. But then, Dave Hitt doesn’t appear to think very much at all.

I found his website (The Hittman Chronicles – I swear, he calls himself “The Hittman”. It would be cute if he wasn’t a fully grown man) through a pro-smoking group’s website that I was looking to email because I’d seen their representative on BBC4 and he was demonstrably a moron. (He was consistently outwitted by a comedian. I think that politicians should be smarter than comedians but they persistantly prove to me that they are not. One wonders if we would be better off putting the comedians in charge for a while. The only problem is that of who’d do the comedy. Certainly politcians aren’t funny. Not on purpose, anyway.)

You may have noticed that both people I’ve mentioned so far who support smoking in public I have dismissed as morons. I want to mention that I don’t consider that they are morons because they disagree with me. In fact, it’s the other way around. They disagree with me because they are morons.

And now I shall prove that Dave Hitt is a moron. The page I was linked to on his website was this one. I don’t advise you bother actually reading it. That will just make you angry. I’ll give you the gist here: nobody can give me three names of individuals killed by passive smoking. Therefore nobody has been killed by passive smoking.

I touched on this issue before, but I thought it so clear why this argument is wrong that I left it to a six-word sentence in the comments section to explain it, but as at least one person is too stupid to understand it, I’ll spell it out more clearly. I spelt it out to him, too, and his response was to point out that studies of smoking were mostly inconclusive (and therefore, he presumably believes, any argument that reaches the same conclusion is valid). So I spelled it out again:

The "name three" defence is analogous to saying that someone who throws a six four hundred times in a row shouldn't be accuse of using a loaded die because rolling a six is not that unlikely. Point to any given roll of that die and prove that it wouldn't have come up six anyway. Can't do it. But when you consider all 400 throws it's obvious to anyone with half a brain that the die is loaded. Whether or not the statistics show smoking is dangerous [the] argument is flawed.

You know what Dave Hitt said when I told him that? I swear this is a direct quote from his email which has not been altered to make him look foolish (in the same way that people don’t draw stupid moustaches on photos of Hitler):

That's a semi-valid analogy. Yet, if SHS were so dangerous that it's killed a million people in the past twenty years, why can't the very people who make a living selling the dangers of SHS come up with three measly names? Because there aren't any, that's why.

Clearly he has some kind of mental block, so I decided to remove smoke completely from the equation and try him on something he has no stated agenda in:

You appear to have once again completely missed the point of my email. I am left with no choice but to slowly and patiently explain it to you a third time. I shall try to use shorter words and an example this time around. In Cornwall, the local granite pours radon gas into the air. This is radioactive. A study has shown that this causes about 1% of UK cancer deaths -- about 1000 people per year. But since cancer doesn't leave a calling card, it's not possible to say which ones, becuase for any given cancer patient there is only about a 1% chance that it was caused by radon gas. (This chance is higher in places like Cornwall, but still not 100%.) For any given patient, the cancer is more likely to have been caused by something else. This means that it would be impossible to produce even one name of someone killed by radon gas. It would be impossible even to pinpoint the exact figure accurately. This does not mean the risk does not exist. It is a very real danger that kills a thousand people a year in the UK alone. If you know as much about statistics as you seem (or claim) to, then you already know this and are refusing to acknowledge it out of sheer stubbornness, or possibly the fact that you don't actually have any valid arguments to fall back on. It's hard to say. Your "people say passive smoking is dangerous but when I ask people to name three people it has killed all anyone can ever think of is Roy Castle" argument is akin to saying "people say radon gas is dangerous but when I ask people to name three people it has killed all anyone can ever think of is Marie Curie". It's a stupid argument and you would be wise to abandon it.

And do you know what he said?

Ah, but does it? You have numbers to make that claim, but how accurate are they? How big was the sample size? Who paid for the study? Was it a cohort study, a case control study, or a meta-analysis? Was the data gathered by survey or interview? Was it done in such a way that recall bias would be an issue? Was it repeated independently, with similar results? And most importantly, does it have an RR high enough to be concerned about?

He doesn’t quite understand the concept of an example, does he?

That's irellevant. That study could be totally ficticious and still serve as a good example.

And his response?

Wow. Again, just, wow. You think *making stuff up* proves things. No wonder you're so gullible.

What an utter twat. And I consider that I’ve now proved he’s a twat.

For the sake of completeness, let’s have another proof:

Dave Hitt, in common with much of the world’s other anti-ban propaganda artists*, believes that any statistical survey that produces less than a 100% increase in risk is inconclusive. Passive smoking does not double the risk of cancer, and as such no (properly performed) survey could ever prove to that standard it is dangerous. “Some risks”, to use his words, “are just too small to measure.” He repeatedly asserts that smoking is safe, implicitly on the grounds that nobody has yet managed to prove that it isn’t, and dismisses any study that suggests that is isn’t as invalid.

So why does he get to make that claim when people who claim that it’s dangerous are expected to prove it? Well, he has a handy thing called the Burden of Proof.

The Burden Of Proof is a sort of logical-argument version of Godwin’s Law. Generally in my experience the first person to mention it should be excluded from the remainder of the debate. Here, he uses it to show that as the Smoking Is Dangerous camp spoke up first they should be the ones to prove their claim, and should be assumed to be wrong until they have done it. It should be clear to anybody with half a brain that who says what has no bearing on the truth they are trying to find.

And what the hell? One last proof:

Dave Hitt eventually admitted to knowing that the “name three” argument was invalid and continued to use it.

But that’s not the fun part. Oh my, no. The fun part is that he believes that valid conclusions can be drawn from invalid reasoning. I’m not limited by petty details like facts or logic or common sense. So let’s start the real Dave Hitt bashing…

Fact: Nobody I know can name three people that Dave Hitt has met and not immediately raped. Therefore there aren’t any.

Fact: Out of everybody that has ever met Dave Hitt, the number that actually like him is statistically insignificant. Therefore, it is unreasonable to assume that Dave Hitt caused them to like him. Probably they have confused him with somebody else.

Fact: Dave Hitt has a beard. Fact: At least three murderers had beards. Therefore Dave Hitt is a murderer.

Fact: CDs are a silicon based data storage medium. Therefore Dave Hitt is a twat. This argument makes no sense, but apparently I can still draw conclusions from it.

Fact: Nobody I know can name three of Dave Hitt’s brain cells. Therefore he doesn’t have any.

Fact: Well, you get the idea.

Look at my comments system, by the way. It’s good, isn’t it? You know what it does? It lets people post things onto the page itself, and I’ve never once deleted a comment for disagreeing with me. Dave Hitt’s website has his email address at the bottom. All emails go invisibly to him and he never publicly responds.

Essentially, what he’s doing is putting up a website full of lies with a “please give me feedback” link at the bottom, and then winding people up who exercise the option. What an utter twat.

*This sentence was updated in July 2007 to give less undue credence to this idea, which, it has come to my attention, is basically lies peddled by anti-ban lobbyists and other propaganda artists. Also, I feel I should mention that Hitt’s new “mini-blog” has much the same open comment system as my blog has, although his “name three” page still does not. (Also, a brief but important update for the foreign or otherwise ignorant: smoking has in fact been banned in public places in the UK now.)