Tagged: the nanny state sent me to bed early

Still don’t get plain packaging

This is totally a minor point in a very torrid debate, but I’m going to bring it up anyway.  In a post on the government announcement to move forward on plain packaging, Idiot/Savant says:

Cigarette packaging has been used as a marketing mechanism to circumvent advertising bans.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume I/S isn’t a smoker.  May not live with a smoker.  May not hang out with many smokers (I can definitely say there aren’t many of them in geek circles, for a start.)

Now, if you don’t smoke, don’t know or live with smokers, haven’t ever been asked by a partner or coworker to pick up a pack for them, if you really don’t spend much of your time thinking about what cigarette packages look like … what does that sentence say to you?

How would you assume cigarette packaging “has been used as a marketing mechanism”?

Personally, I think I’d assume there are slogans on the packs.  Sexy ladies, maybe.  The pack might be like a little box-shaped billboard hawking the product’s advantages and inexpensiveness.

The reason I might not know what cigarette packs really look like might have something to do with the fact that shops cannot display them, so the usual prohibitionist argument that the packaging is SECRETLY AN ADVERTISEMENT!!!! SUBVERTING THE LAW!!!! already falls at the first hurdle.

Anyway.  Here’s a pretty standard cigarette package:

marlboro-lights-cigarettes

The text includes:  the type of product; the brand name in the brand font; the sub-brand name, and a note about duty tax.

I defy anyone to explain to me how this is any more an “advertisement” than, say, this box of Just Juice:

justjuice

Yes, cigarettes are evil and nasty and going to kill us all, and yes, the tobacco industry is so evil that it fights any move to make its business more expensive and potentially less profitable (unlike every other industry in the word, of course).  But when we’re down to exclaiming in horror that a pack containing a brand name and a fancy logo is deliberate immoral subversion of the rule of parliamentary law?  I think we’re a little bit in la-la land.

Of course, it ties in with this kind of rhetoric (and general lack-of-reality) from the Smokefree Coalition:

“[Plain packaging] will remove the tobacco industry’s last methods of making smoking appear glamorous and sophisticated to our children.”

Because like I’ve said before, apparently cigarette packaging has magical properties which entrances the minds of innocent children – even when they can’t see it on display.  Oh wait, maybe they see the magical packaging when their parents or relatives smoke.  In which case it’s definitely the packaging which convinces them that smoking is a relaxing social activity.

Honestly, when it comes to anti-smoking and anti-binge-drinking campaigns?  I’d be so much more on board if I didn’t feel they treated me, and everyone else in society, like fucking guppies.

Gold star for consistency, minus a million for still being a stupid idea

Tariana Turia on Q&A, regarding smoking:

“If I’m being really honest, I don’t think that having a substance that kills people should be allowed to be sold.”

HURRAH!  Some actual internal consistency from a member of the anti-smoking brigade.

It is of course an internal consistency limited to the smoking debate itself (other “substances” that kill people which Turia isn’t advocating banning: cars, guns, pregnancy – especially teen Maori pregnancy, which is apparently just choice).

But, like the rare prolifer who admits that parental notification has fuck-all to do with parents’ “rights” and is just a stepping stone to full banning of abortion, the honesty is refreshing.

Contraception for beneficiaries part 2: get a clue

I’m a bit pissed off about this whole free-contraception-for-beneficiaries thing.  And it’s not because of the policy.

It’s because of the number of people who should know better saying “Oh well, it doesn’t sound that bad.”

The number of people who claim to give a shit about reproductive freedom, but are quite happy to assume the worst of beneficiaries, who apparently just don’t know that sex leads to babies – babies they should not be having because look, while we all agree with social welfare and supporting families and stuff it shouldn’t just be handed out to sluts.

The number of people who want to shy away from the word “eugenics”, when this policy will pretty clearly affect certain groups of women – i.e. poor, brown, and with disabilities – disproportionately (albeit the “non-working” ones, because Labour bought into that fiction so NACT are hardly likely to let it go).  Groups of women who dominant white western patriarchy have a slightly bad history of shitting all over in the reproductive department.

The number of people who would happily agree with concepts like “compulsory heterosexuality” – i.e. that we live in a system which makes heterosexuality the only viable option yet presents it as simply normal – but are now saying “oh, but the contraception is voluntary” – like anything is really voluntary when the entirety of the world in general, and the bureaucrat in front of you who controls whether your children eat this week specifically, is saying if you don’t do this you’ll just be proving you’re a stupid greedy hobag.

The number of people jumping on the bandwagon of “but what about the men involved? [remember, all sex is hetero, all pregnancies the result of PIV sex, and only cismen ejaculate/ciswomen gestate]  Why aren’t we handing out vasectomies?”  GUESS WHAT, THAT WOULDN’T BE OKAY EITHER.  And I don’t know about you, but I think giving NACT another opening to push their perennial “let’s force women to name the father or no monies!” issue is not the most feminist idea I’ve heard all day.

The number of people who don’t get how obviously this is the top of a slippery, pre-ordained slope.  It’s basic NACT governance: put together an extremist “advisory” group, act shocked at their extremist recommendations, implement policies which are watered-down versions of those recommendations, and once everyone – especially you so-called progressives – has gone “see, it’s not that bad, they’re reasonable people, actually I think this is quite a good idea” they get re-elected and really put on the thumbscrews.

I mean, y’all seem to fucking get it when it’s parental notification (i.e. a step towards full criminalization of abortion) or banning street prostitution (i.e. a step towards full recriminalization of sex work).  But when it’s beneficiaries, somehow the Welfare Queen paranoia takes hold.

Here’s what plenty of people who should know better seem to be missing:  This is not a socially liberal policy created in the interests of reproductive choice.  This is about adding yet another signal to the pile that certain women should not have children.

It’s an absolute masterpiece:   misogyny wrapped up in a vaguely feminist banner.  That doesn’t mean you have to fall for it.  It’s still sexist, classist, racist, and fucking contemptible.

Contraception for beneficiaries pt 1: others said it better

So why paraphrase their excellent points?

Gordon Campbell:

If cost really is the rationale, then these family planning methods should be being made available for free to all women on low incomes, whatever their occupational status. Otherwise, the state is making a distinction between the virtuous working poor and the poor on benefits, who are being regarded as irresponsible and/or morally degenerate. From October, this contraceptive assistance will be offered to allwomen on benefits, and their daughters aged 16 to 19.

That’s outrageous. Think about it. Most women are on the DPB due to marital or relationship breakdown, leaving them – usually – with the prime custodial care of the children from those relationships. In response, Bennett is offering to pay to insert IUDs or contraceptive implants in those women and in their teenage daughters. That is pretty insulting. From October, the state intends to treat all such women – most of whom are on a benefit not by choice but through divorce and relationship breakups – as if they and their children are sexually irresponsible. In this respect at least, the government’s view of beneficiaries seems to belong to the 19th century.

Idiot/Savant:

… that’s not what the government is planning. Instead, they’re making it freely available to some, in a form which will limit their fertility for prolonged periods, in the very specific hope that they will use it. This isn’t about enabling choice – its about constraining it.

Tertiary Women’s Focus Group:

“We have long had a culture of ‘benefit bashing’ and the power imbalance that comes with walking into a Work and Income office will mean many will feel bullied into getting whatever form of contraceptive they are told to get. These measures take away an individual’s right to choose what is right for them” says spokesperson Ta’ase Vaoga.

Women’s Health Action Trust:

The right to plan ones family has explicit protection in International law. This entitles both women and men to the full range of contraceptive choices, as well as to information about sexual and reproductive health. Singling out young women on benefits and the female dependants of beneficiaries, and funding the uptake of only one type of contraception, undermines their ability to make an informed choice about the method of contraception, if any, that is right for them

Hilary, comment at The Standard:

It’s eugenic in that it targets one group of people for whom reproduction is deemed ‘undesirable’. Such ideas (of restricting the breeding of certain groups) were gaining popularity in New Zealand 100 years ago, and led to various policy manifestations including segregated residential confinement, and forced sterilisations of institutionalised people. There is a dark eugenic undertone in much NZ public policy and among certain groups of politicians that has never gone away.

Anthony Robins, The Standard:

Now here we are with the current offer, free long-term contraception for beneficiaries and their daughters. In some respects its a perfectly sensible plan, remove the price barrier to women asserting control of their own fertility. Who could argue with that? The problem is that a perfectly sensible plan comes wrapped in two layers of baggage. First, it’s from the same Nats who last year were speculating about compulsion, so it has to be seen as the thin end of a wedge. And second, it targets one sector of the community only, and therefore carries an implied stigma.

More on cigarette packaging

NRT continues to support the “plain packaging” of tobacco products, a subject on which he and I disagree.

To [the tobacco industry], packaging is simply a means of circumventing advertising restrictions and of marketing to people they shouldn’t be marketing to. And the only way to stop it is to require plain packaging.

As much as I hate to keep having those evil capitalist asshats’ backs on this, I’m just not seeing a lot of real, it’s-an-evil-conspiracy basis to some of these arguments.

“But the packaging is appealing to children!”

Unless you raise your child in a media-free vacuum, (and remove all brand labels from all products, tech, food, and clothing in the house, and homeschool them) they are going to be influenced by modern capitalist marketing techniques.  They are going to be trained, as all of us have been trained, towards desiring certain products, finding certain tropes or messages (“this is what cool people do, this is what rich people wear, if you can’t check your Twitter every five minutes you’ll never know anything”) compelling, and basically being another cog in the machine.

If we’re seriously going to start saying “OH MY GOD!  MARLBORO USES RED PACKAGING BECAUSE FERRARI DOES!!!” like there’s not some big cultural shit going on about red being a sexy, powerful, masculine colour, or “OH MY GOD!  IT’S PINK TO APPEAL TO LITTLE GIRLS!” like pink isn’t used to symbolize harmless feminine playfulness to adult women … well, I’m just going to continue being sceptical about the anti-smoking lobby being anything more than a modern-day DEMON DRINK!!!-screaming Temperance movement.

“We banned their advertising, so now they just use the packet as advertising!”

Welcome to the 21st century, where brand is a slightly-powerful concept.  Where packaging, especially when your product is going to end up in giant wall displays next to a hundred other identically-sized packets, where people do get really attached to their brand or type (talk to a menthol smoker about their ability to pick green packs out of a crowd), is kinda a key marketing strategy for every product.

One cheapish brand of bread has recently repackaged itself to look basically identical to Molenberg, a more expensive, fancy-pants brand.  I personally cannot wait for the carbs police to try cracking down on that on the basis that “Quality Bakers is just using its packaging for marketing purposes!  Kiwi mums won’t realise that the product inside is CHEAPER and LESS ELITIST-LY WHOLEGRAIN-Y!!!”

And frankly, welcome to the world of legal consumer goods, where when you take away a company’s ability to advertise their legal product through conventional means, they find something else to do.

Like I said in my previous post:  if you really want to stop people smoking (or at least stop being half-assed with your rhetoric, because we all know Prohibition makes things sexier, including Steve Buscemi) just ban it.

“This study shows that the tobacco companies are deliberately targeting children!”

Nope.

Nope, it doesn’t.

At least, not from anything in the linked article.

It says kids find the packaging attractive (gosh, what was that first point I made again?).  That tobacco companies have acknowledged the, um, fairly obvious fact that their packaging is one of the few ways they can market.  It shows that enforced gender binaries are getting ‘em good and early, with girls liking the “girly” smokes and boys liking the “manly” smokes (oh my gods, I bet you could even find a similar breakdown in adults legally permitted to purchase those products!)

But a shiny smoking gun of a memo saying “let’s get 10-year-olds hooked via the colour pink and cool flip-top heads!”?  No.  One has to at least hope the tobacco industry aren’t that stupid/arrogant these days.

Conclusion

Cigarettes are bad.

Marketing strategies which play on ingrained gender stereotypes and culturally-indoctrinated desires are also bad.

Philip Morris and BAT probably aren’t really crying themselves to sleep over kids getting hooked on their products.

But.

Cigarettes are legal.  Packaging “being attractive to kids” could just as easily be a fun bonus (it’s not like they’re slapping Dora the Explorer on there, it might alienate the current adult market.)  And requiring plain packaging is not going to magically stop any kid ever from starting smoking, given:

  • They’ll just start giving the cigarettes names that sound cool or work with the plain packaging, like “Marlboro Whites” or “BORN TO KILL”
  • They’ll just start printing the brand on the damn cigarette papers
  • Sales in branded tins and cigarette cases will rise
  • Oh, and smoking will still be that thing your parents can’t stand, that thing all the other guys at the restaurant do on break, that thing which gets you out of the office for ten minutes.

And it’ll still just scream loud and clear that, to paraphrase a recently-viewed episode of The West Wing, “you just don’t like people who do smoke.”  And you want to feel all warm and smug about making their addictions more difficult to cope with.

Good for you.

Being on the wrong side of the cigarette packaging debate

Australia is moving towards legislating that all cigarettes be sold in “plain” packaging, and various New Zealand groups are all in favour.  So are a few dudes I normally line up with on social issues.

On the other side, there’s Philip Morris, British American Tobacco, surprisingly-not-about-masturbation blog SOLOpassion … and me.

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to launch into some grand Liberty For All Against The Dark Forces Of The Nanny State argument, like Stephen Berry there.  I’m completely on board with concerns about the health effects of smoking, of secondhand smoke, the fact that younger people and Maori are more likely to be smokers, and of course, the fact that when you’re talking about highly addictive substances it’s a bit fucking stupid to pretend doing it is the equivalent of not eating raw fish or only buying pink tech accessories.

The problem I have is that I have no idea how this is meant to achieve what it’s claimed it’s meant to achieve.

Put it this way:  we’re going to stop young people smoking … by making it more illicit, more Something Your Parents Do Not Approve Of, more exactly-what-appeals-to-disengaged-young-folk?

We’re going to stop Maori smoking by saying “hey, you know that addictive habit we white people introduced, along with alcohol and syphillis, to your culture, which you may be using as an aid to get through the day, a way to socialise during work?  Well you should be ashamed of yourselves, and thank the nice white powers that be for getting you hooked in the first place and now punishing you for it.”

Yes, smoking rates are trending downwards in demographic groups like young Maori women, but this probably has a lot more to do with continuous increases in the price of cigarettes forcing them to space out their smokos than with any actual attitude change towards smoking.

And you know, I realise they’re completely motivated by self-interest, but if BAT and PM are right about the potential to create a black market in knock-off ciggies, that trend could quite happily reverse on itself.

Especially with the above-mentioned “ooh, your mum will hate this!” added vibe.

Add to that a mainstream culture where some of the top-rated shows are about criminals with hearts of gold (Sons of Anarchy), the inevitability of prohibition failing because people like mind-altering chemicals (Boardwalk Empire), and big sexy challenges (Mad Men) to the current push by ASH and similar organisations to pretend that smoking was never cool, never ever, not even in the 70s-pretending-to-be-the-50s.

And what is this all meant to achieve?  Well, it’s part of the much-touted aspiration set by our government, at the behest of their coalition deal with the Maori Party, to make NZ “smoke free” by 2025.

An aspiration that I frankly have a lot of problems with.

Key one?  If you really want to make NZ smokefree, have the fucking guts to just ban tobacco, maybe on some kind of phasing-out process, pour some money into addiction programmes (because it might just pay to remember that people may start smoking for reasons we think are stupid but they probably continue because it’s addictive), stand by your principles and make it happen.  Otherwise, frankly, you’re just a part of the problem, expecting to have your smoking-is-disgusting-and-bad-and-killing-our-kids cake and eating it with a but-we-can-let-another-generation-of-kids-get-hooked fork.

No (foreseeable) government is ever going to just ban smoking, and thus no government is ever going to make New Zealand nominally smoke-free (I say nominally because as we all know, Prohibition was a total success.) It’s just going to be aspirational, and a lot of people will get to feel superior to those Poor Stupid Smokers (including people who are smokers, like Stephen Berry, but seem to take some kind of perverse pride in their dependency).

Even before you take into account the massive resources of the tobacco industry, the fact is that smokers can probably be broken down into two key groups:  (a) people who are addicted to nicotine and feel a bit down on themselves for ever starting the stupid habit and have maybe already got the message just a little bit that it’s bad for them and are a bit fucking over being talked to like they’re six years old*, and (b) people who started because it was rebellious and cool and are already pissed off they can’t have a smoke with their after-work beers** and will definitely be a tad unimpressed at having a bunch of preachy no-fun people taking away their heretofore normal-part-of-Western-culture-for-about-400-plus-years vice.

There’s also (c) “social smokers” who can happily go without a puff for ages, but then just assume the normal proportion of them are against it on various principles of freedom/liberty/free markets/etc.

Another thing that grinds my gears?  Phrases like this:

Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia said yesterday that the Cabinet had agreed to introduce plain packaging … but only after public consultation.

Boy, I sure have faith in that democratic process.  It totally bolsters my faith in our political system when politicians show they really want to weigh everything up and debate the pros and cons before implementing exactly what they’d already decided to implement.

Enough from me.  Have some damn funny smokers.

~

*Yes, you may now play a game of spot-who-has-dated-several-smokers.

**This should not be read as condemnation of the ban on smoking in pubs, I love it.

Recommended reading: men talking good shit edition

A trifecta of good stuff for you this evening.

Craig Ranapia on Greg “if everyone would just be good little proles then the cops wouldn’t have to beat you” O’Connor and Tiki “brown man with completely inexplicable dislike of agents of repressive state apparatus” Taane:

But the one thing O’Connor and his ilk can’t do – and even worse, don’t believe they have to seriously try – is back up their assertion that words and music they don’t like lead to real world crime.

Gordon Campbell on both legal aid/the anti-nanny-state Government’s strange nanny-state-esque behaviour:

So far, the Key government has reduced the right to a jury trial, extended the powers of search and surveillance by state agencies, restricted the rights against self incrimination, sought the ability to conduct trials in the absence of the accused, and ended the independence of the agency dispensing legal aid – and that’s even before we got to today’s changes.

As Scoop consistently argued, the dispute was always about getting Warners more money, and the union dispute was being used as a diversion to that end. Simultaneously, the climate of anti-union hysteria did no harm to the ability of the government to get its rewrite of some key elements in our industrial legislation framework through Parliament.

Rob Salmond on the Labour list what-about-the-menz whining (h/t NRT):

What the graphs show is that Labour’s caucus will look broadly similar to New Zealand, but will continue to moderately underrepresent women, Maori, and New Zealanders of Asian descent. The Rainbow community is either marginally overrepresented (by about one MP) or represented proportionally, depending on which population estimate you prefer. And Pasifika peoples are overrepresented in Labour’s caucus by 1-2 MPs.

Who needs identity politics?

Alas, dear friends, it is late in the night and I’m buggered if I can recall what trail of sorry links lead me to the posts upon which I am to unleash my wrath.

It’s yet another spin-off of the cultural clusterfuck that is Nationhood Speech Der Zweite; specifically, the response by Chris Trotter entitled “The Liberal Left: Who Needs You?” Our special surprise guest is a commenter going by the name of John Pagani, apparently an adviser to The Speechmaker Himself, assuming anyone is honest about their identities on the interwebz these days (she says, writing under a pseudonym).

First things first, there’s the casual dismissal of all and sundry who thought that maybe explicitly modelling a speech after the Don Brash/Orewa mold might not be entirely kosher:

Their reflexive condemnation of anyone who dares to hold Maori politicians to the same standards as Pakeha betrays an arrogant unwillingness to accept the ethical norms of their own society. These people have become the fervent champions of an indigenous culture they can never truly join because, fundamentally, they despise their own.

On the “same standard” bollocks, see my previous post.  Idiot/Savant notes well in the comments,

Be honest, Chris. The word you’re looking for is “self-hating Pakeha”. Or maybe “race-traitor”.

Disclaimer: I am so white it’s ridiculous.  I don’t say I’m “proud to be white” because HOLY CRAP with the instant supremacist associations.  Also, you know, taking pride in the identity of an ethnicity which has categorically dumped on basically every other ethnicity over the past several centuries?  Not so much my thing.

But I am white.  My cultural points of reference are white and Western and English-speaking.  And there’s a big fucking difference between acknowledging that white people have seriously fucked up on the race relations/not committing genocide front and “despising [my] own [culture].”

But I guess it makes it much easier to ignore people’s objections when you can say “oh they just suffer from too much liberal white guilt” – and when you’re happy to forget the fact that we have quite a bit to be guilty about.  Throwing in that whole “too arrogant to accept basic ethics” line is a nice touch, too.

Fuck that, though, I’ve covered it already – point is, Chris Trotter is my least favourite kind of leftie: the one who thinks being a leftie makes him automatically open-minded and understanding of privilege and power dynamics and oppression, but clings happily to the notion that every single bad thing in the world comes down to nothing more than class.

Side note: Trotter responds to I/S’ comment with:

If the cap fits,Comrade …

GET IT, GUYS, HE’S A TOTAL LEFTIE BECAUSE HE CALLS PEOPLE COMRADE, WHY DON’T YOU WORSHIP AT THE FEET OF HIS MARXIST CREDENTIALS.

Anyway, point is:  identity politics.  Ah, yes, those trifling matters that get in the way of real class struggle.  Can’t think why “objects to “identity politics”” is a phrase instantly associated in my mind with white heterosexual males who happen to have a few leftwing ideas, but oh well …

Along with hassling the ZOMG LIBERAL LEFT for having no power or influence “beyond the blogosphere” (whereas Chris totes has influence ’cause they wheel him out to sing The Red Flag on election nights for a laugh) there’s a few nice jabs at we Liberal Lefties:

Those faint-hearted liberals who can’t stand the heat should get out of the kitchen.

They have no understanding of, nor empathy for, the hopes and fears of ordinary people.

The truth of the matter is, liberal leftists have been preaching to themselves for so long they no longer appreciate how few people give a tinker’s cuss what they say.

And then there’s allegedly-John-Pagani in the comments:

It’s about connecting with things that matter to people and making politics work for people, instead of instructing people in what’s good for them and inventing fabrications about the people the left represents.

And that’s frankly where I get right fucking pissed off.

Because apparently, the Liberal Left just don’t understand ordinary people.  We don’t care about things that matter to people, we just want to instruct them because we’re bossy britches.  Fuck, I’m stunned no one managed to insert a nanny/evil headmistress/other authoritarian-woman-figure-who-kills-our-fun-but-is-not-a-Helen-Clark-reference-AT-ALL into the discourse.

Why is the second “people” in both italics and bold up there?  Because when two guys get in a huddle and start slanging against the Liberal Left and the evil distraction of identity politics, and whinge about how we need to think about ordinary people, I think we can make a few very good guesses as to the kind of people they’re talking about.

And I’ll give you a hint:  it ain’t you or me, assuming you are not a middle class white heterosexual cisgendered currently able bodied male.

Because here’s what matters to me:

It matters to me that I not be passed over for a job or a promotion because I’m a woman who’ll obviously just leave to have babies.

It matters to me that I have the right to be paid the same as a man for doing the same work.

It matters to me that gay men and women can have their relationships recognised by the state just like every two-in-three-chance-of-divorce hetero couple.

It matters to me that people of colour not get pulled over by the cops because brown people shouldn’t be driving expensive cars, or are obviously on drugs because they’re brown, or not be played by white people in movies about their lives.

It matters to me that people with disabilities can travel on aeroplanes, and get into buildings, and pass exams at school (look out for that incredibly-expletive-filled-post tomorrow!) and go shopping without worrying some bastard’s going to throw them out for having a hearing dog.

It matters to me that trans people shouldn’t have to worry about being murdered because someone else feels they have the right to judge what defines a man or a woman.

It matters to me that people should be able to practise their faith without fear of persecution, and that people not-of-faith should be able to say so without harassment.

But fuck all that! That’s just identity politics!  That’s just me assuming that the way people identify, the way society wants to identify them, the assumptions others feel free to make about you because of your identity or assumed identity, might actually affect people!  It might actually rate a bit higher on their List Of Things That Pissed Me Off Today:

  1. Harassed on bus by guy who wouldn’t leave me alone.
  2. First question asked at job interview: “Do you have kids?”
  3. Threatened with sexual violence by blog commenter.
  4. Still alienated from means of production.

Come on, guys, the big important thing is obviously class struggle!  We can’t possibly let the things that affect women and people of colour and people with disabilities and trans people and people who ignore the gender binary and people whose identities are not the default white het cis male – who, in fact, by being not-white-het-cis-males, actually have the audacity to have identities – get in the way of the greater good!

And if we have to throw Maori under the bus to achieve our [white het cis male] worker’s utopia, then so be it.

To borrow a line from the bikers’ rally at Parliament, I can only ask, though: who’s next?

Other readingNo Right Turn, Lew at Kiwipolitico.