Moore / The leopards have changed their spots. Not!

“The big lies, along with large donations to political parties, undermine our democracy in favour of a ‘corporatocracy’ where big business can purchase policy outcomes,” writes political columnist MICHAEL MOORE

THE big lie is alive and well. Apparently, Big Tobacco is going to deliver a “smoke-free world” while coal mining giant Adani and its supporters are going to introduce “cleaner coal” to reduce the impact of climate change.

Michael Moore

We are supposed to believe the leopards have changed their spots. They are suddenly interested in healthy people, healthy communities and a healthy environment rather than profit from their devastating commodities.

(Roll around the floor laughing!)

Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels reputedly said: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it”.

Herr Goebbels would probably be proud his legacy has been adopted by one of the world’s most lethal industries and one of the most polluting.

Appearing before a Federal Parliamentary Committee last week a spokesman for the tobacco giant Phillip Morris said: “I know that many Australians have long viewed tobacco companies as part of the problem, but we will demonstrate that our company is changing and we’re bringing practical, science-based solutions to the table in pursuit of our smoke-free vision”.

(Continue the belly laugh!)

He went to explain: “Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of premature death and disease in Australia and around the world”. Big Tobacco knows it can no longer deny. Despite every claim they now make in Australia, they are vigorously marketing their lethal product to new and larger markets in low and middle-income countries.

(Not a laughing matter!)

Big Tobacco has a track record on the big lie. First, tobacco companies, including Philip Morris, spent decades denying tobacco causes illnesses such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. Second, they went for the next big lie …“just filter it”. The argument was that filtering would be less harmful and would therefore save lives.


The current big lie attempts to reframe the debate in terms of health: “The principal cause of those diseases is not the tobacco and it’s not the nicotine; it’s the way nicotine is delivered… if smokers could use cleaner forms of nicotine, their risk would be substantially reduced.” Despite a track record and overseas behaviour, we are now supposed to believe tobacco companies are interested in health.

(Still rolling around on the floor in side-splitting guffaws!)

It is the same big lie. ANU professor Emily Banks and colleagues, studying 200,000 people, demonstrated that about two thirds of smokers will die 10 years younger than non-smokers.

Extrapolating, Philip Morris’ “smoke-free world” argument would mean, for example, with a 50 per cent success rate about a third of people smoking alternatives will die five years younger than non-users of their (mostly unassessed) products.

Claims are made. The big lies repeated. Repeated again. Official assessment is not hard. Why do they not put their products through the Therapeutic Goods Administration process? Perhaps such scrutiny just might expose the big lie.

The big lie is also embedded in the fossil-fuel industry. For years the industry has denied climate change has any relationship to human activity. Conservative politicians repeat the claim, tobacco-company style, despite irrefutable evidence to the contrary. At the same time as incessantly attacking any government support for renewable energy.

Nationals Barnaby Joyce and Matt Canavan prefer to talk about “high-efficiency, low-emissions” coal plants as part of the debate over the taxpayers’ subsidy of Adani. Attempting to use more technical language because the notion of clean coal is so laughable it should fool no-one. But it does. This is how the big lie works.

These unhealthy industries also challenge our democracy. As Monash academic, David Holmes pointed out, “fossil-fuel companies already receive $2000 in rebates and subsidies for every $1 they donate to Australia’s major political parties”. Unfortunately, this return on investment undermines human and planetary health.

The big lies, along with large donations to political parties, undermine our democracy in favour of a “corporatocracy” where big business can purchase policy outcomes. The reality is that this is not a laughing matter.


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