Johanna Faust, a mixed race Jew, prefers to publish pseudonymously. She is committed: first, to preventing war, ecological disaster, and nuclear apocalypse; last to not only fighting for personal privacy & the freedom of information, but, by representing herself as a soldier in that fight, to exhorting others to do the same. She is a poet, always. All these efforts find representation here: "ah, Mephistophelis" is so named after the last line of Christopher Marlowe's Dr. Faustus, whose heretical success flouted the censor for a time.

How To Glossy Political Mail: An Object Lesson in BS Detection

Royalty free, I might add.

I got a piece of political mail, glossy (actually semi-gloss), on card stock, you know the type.  I always think at least the print shops are getting some business, but you and I know its not a mom and pop.  What do I see but Carroll’s Alice, meeting the Caterpillar, above.


If you're thinking, that’s “Alice in Wonderland,” that’s not from Grimm’s collection of fairy tales, you’d be correct.  At least, I'd be one to say you were correct, because I do not think you can call "Alice in Wonderland," a fantasy that Lewis Carroll made up for one little girl, a fairy tale, that is, one of the traditional stories about magical creatures retold often, particularly to children.  One was published as a book by the author; the others are  passed down over generations and then collected, by other people, into books.

Ah, but both are stories you tell kids.  I guess they are the same, then.  Not.

If you go ahead and apply our preliminary findings to the truth of the accompanying statement, following the thrust of the argument but armed with your knowledge of English lit, you might catch a glimpse, as I did, of something slithering.

So we can bet that the State Legislature is doing no such thing.  I don’t think there are any 'experts' who have weighed in on 'flavored hookah tobacco.' If there were, wouldn’t there be a quote there from one of them?  Instead of a vague reference? Instead we get a statistic: “The California Department of Health reports that California kids smoke more flavoured hookah tobacco than flavored cigarettes.”  

Here might be a good place to note that I am pretty sure that smoking from hookahs is a practice that originated in the Arab world, and found more widespread introduction in America via people immigrating from countries in which the practice was popular.  Those would be countries we would think of as Muslim.  I know that detail is being deployed here,  I can smell it. (Update:  see the update below.)

This group, ’Tobacco Free California,” their name appeals to the recent anti-tobacco trend, but their warning is just as empty of actual information as that last statistic. (While it is a stretch to call these 'statistics,' I thought I would go ahead and do that, for now.) 

“Hookah use is increasing among young adults.”  Source please.  Context.


Like, where?  How big is the sample?  When? Who did the study?

Here’s what I can tell you from experience: 

• the sale of flavored cigarettes has been banned almost everywhere.

• social distancing rules would not permit gatherings like the one pictured on the back.

• most universities are doing remote learning this semester because of COVID-19

All of which makes the conclusion suspect.  But note, this isn’t put out by the politician pictured; it is trying to make you tell him something.  So now this ad is activist?  Awfully well funded for an activist movement. They usually call me, if they have enough funds to be more than just an online campaign. But where is the phone number to call?  

More to the point, where is the proof that this bill is giving 'special protections' for 'flavored hookah tobacco'?

Maybe it’s on the other side.



Nope. More mealymouthed statistics, and this guy's pic again at the bottom.  

The quote from the American Lung Association isn’t even about the tobacco, but about the charcoals used to heat it, which are not themselves smoked.  They are lit beforehand, and the tobacco is not introduced until

they are already lit.  No one smokes the charcoals, they would taste bad, even if you flavored them, and wouldn’t get you high.

Its like saying BBQ is toxic because of the chemicals off-gassed when you light the briquets.

Both the statements about hookahs are misleading:  The first, “Hookahs are water pipes used to smoke flavoured tobacco,” is, correct me please if I am wrong, guilty of the pars pro toto fallacy.  Hookahs can be used to smoke anything, flavoured tobacco, unflavoured tobacco, passion flower leaves (actually an excellent tobacco substitute), pot, opium, mugwort.  Everything except meat and cheese. Maybe.

The second, “Hookah stores are increasing in number around colleges,” ought to set off fallacy warning bells just on account of its vagueness.  It’s 'murder and ice cream' revisited: just because murder rates go up when more ice cream is being consumed, doesn’t mean the guy driving the ice cream truck is complicit. 


Well, not unless certain factions keep on with their idiocy: they seem to think that social distance guidelines are a personal insult, that wearing a face mask is a Communist plot. The irony here is not just about the findings of Russia investigation —  if things keep going the way they have been in America, soon that ice cream truck may be pressed into doing double duty as a corpse wagon.

(Would the ice cream song then be like Monty Python's “Bring out yer dead?”)


Maybe the stores are increasing in number around colleges because a “hookah store” is just a weird name for a head shop!

Did you notice that somewhere along the way, all hookah tobacco became flavored, as far as this ad is concerned?  In fact, they want you to think of hookah tobacco like all tobacco.  So now all tobacco is flavored, and all little kids want to do is suck it down whenever you aren’t looking, and because it is flavored that means they will love it.

Reminds me of people who think that if you recognize LGBTQ+ rights, the inevitable consequence is that they will be raping your children.  Maybe that’s just me.

This argument smells so bad, I am starting to think its a good bet that isn’t even what this piece of legislation is about. (Update: see update.)

All of which mealymouthedness makes me wonder about the people who put up all the money for this semi-gloss ad on heavy card stock. ’Tobacco Free California.’  Who else?  'RESOURCE • 455 Capitol Mall, Suite 600 • Sacramento, California, 95814'

Then there’s that block of text up in the corner where the return address should be. Let's look at that.

Altria. Altria.  Where have I heard that name before….   


Hey aren’t they the new name for Big Tobacco?  Don’t they own Camel & Nat Sherman? Didn’t they buy Philip Morris?  Or am I thinking of the new slick name for Kraft foods?

The answer is “Yes.”

Altria is all those things, Gentle reader.  Altria is Big Tobacco, & Kraft foods.

That’s who is funding this ad.

All I need to know is that Altria is behind this.  

I feel a sense of completion; I can stop here.  I am not even sure if I am going to dig up dirt about Tobacco Free America or RESOURCE, or up Senate Bill 793 before I publish, before I vote the opposite way.  I have more important things to do. 

Like smoke some pot.




Upon hearing the draft version of this post, Corporanon went and looked up SB 793.  Dig, if you will, the evil:

It bans the sale of all flavoured tobacco products in California.  State wide, not just county by county.  

So voting “NO” on SB 793 would allow, or continue to allow, the sale & distribution of flavoured tobacco products.

There is an exception for hookahs, probably because of smoking mixtures traditional in Arab culture.   


(Charcoals and traditional tobacco are in fact sold at my local Halal grocery slash butcher shop slash deli.  I have never seen White college kids buying these products.  If I see them there at all, they are there for the awesome sandwiches.)


I am not sure why I bothered to write this.  I doubt it will get seen by enough people to do any good, that is, to stop the misinformation propagated either by the specific ad I use as an example, or by the countless ones like it.  But I did.  Because reasons.

(See below.)

Full disclosure:  Personal details irrelevant to my argument of interest to those interested in deploying the ad hominem in counterargument will be posted in the orange square above.  For your convenience.

By the way, ad hominem is the lowest form of argument, and does nothing to advance understanding of the topic at hand.  But you knew that.

Hopefully whatever you think about all this, if you live in California, now your vote will be better informed.

Hat tip to Wonkette for influencing my writing style.  Hat tip to Sarah Cooper for influencing the title.

Be seeing you.

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