words by ethel and paul

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WHO POLLUTES?

Does it seem peculiar that the worst polluters are not demonized and are barely policed, while the super-rich tobacco companies (all major polluters are super-rich) are subjected to ransom payments to exist, and are vilified in public communications in the way smoking has always been condemned in the pulpits and other modes of religious prohibitions.

When the Six Cities studies and other research established to the satisfaction of scientists that certain fuels and certain industries were responsible for the most health-damaging pollution, those powerful entities mobilized to obstruct mass dissemination of the information.

In the meantime, were there planners at work? Who? Where? How? But there must have been. The anti-tobacco onslaught did not hatch like the egg of a robin. It had to be planned. This is not to suggest that Banzhaf, for example, was not an independent actor. (But there was a certain facility, wasn’t there, about his win on such a far-reaching clamp-down?)

Planning was necessary also, to replace the information on the big fuel industries with action and studies on cigarette smoking--ceaseless studying of tobacco smoke. The big polluters were thus liberated from any serious attention.

Big tobacco was the perfect fall guy. We submit that the factors at work are fully identifiable: The moral taint to tobacco in Christian religions (yes, and others) makes tobacco a ready victim for condemnation. The makers of electric power and heating oil have government contracts of one sort or another, and government “regulation” that turns protective.

Among the targeted trusting persons to be duped by anti-tobacco advertising, there were few doubters. But those few count, and there are others who are not doubters, but still feel they should have the right to smoke in their own space, free of harassment. Some day, they all may rebel and overload the system.

A peculiar phenomenon we must recognize and deal with is the way rather ordinary humans take on an aura of special genius and insight once they obtain political power. In the old days of Commission government in our City, there were open, loud, and all-out arguments about policies and legislation. Today, it seems to be all decided in private.

If any of our several governments want to influence us, they should seek accuracy and honesty. We are never as dumb as they think.

Ethel C. Hale and W. Paul Wharton