So here is how you con smokers, the public, the media and the politicians into believing that safer nicotine products are no safer than cigarettes. The basic framework is pulled from the interweb, so can be applied to many areas of public discourse but resonates with operatic clarity in the world of tobacco harm reduction. Italics are my additions or paraphrasing. Here we go…:

Before you embark on this nefarious enterprise, make sure you have sufficient funds to deliver on all that follows.

Make your message believable even if it is the opposite of the truth. To make something believable in the first place, when it is not true, you may need to create a culture to place that seed in. In other words, build a world in which your message, when delivered, is believed - because everything points that way; everything being what you yourself created.

Once you have fertile ground, keep repeating the message - have it delivered by different sources.

Make your version the prevailing view by drowning out opposing views including the truth.

Use one or more of the proven tools: create a hypothetical danger; create a threat to the children; leverage astroturfing and front groups; get fake experts to pontificate.

A group of people such as the population of a country can be made to rally round a threat, even if it is non-existent. Create the threat then big it up, and you have a powerful tool - one of the best, in fact. This is sometimes called the ‘hobgoblin ploy’ as it uses a mythical threat.

One of the best hypothetical threats is one that endangers the children. It is a magically powerful tool.

Astroturfing is creating a false grass-roots movement that is in fact synthetic: created and funded by the propagandists. Real people will join up once it gets moving, giving the impression of a genuine citizens’ movement. It can be entirely false or just given a helping hand to start.

The fake charities and other kinds of front groups assist this effort by creating noise around and about the astroturf efforts. The whole picture then becomes one of citizens and charities working against a dangerous new threat. It is extremely powerful.

Then you add paid-for commentary by helpful academics and similar who can give their expert opinion on the issue, which will be whatever you have paid them to say. These people are incredibly easy to buy, either outright or via greenwashing.

Greenwashing is a method of laundering toxic funds. Typically, you buy a university, and they ensure a puppet professor says exactly what you need. Hopefully there will be two or three stages between your funds and the helpful academic, so only the most determined investigator will make the connection.

An important key to having your message believed is to have it repeated by partners. Its repeated delivery from different sources, some or all of whom are believable, helps to smuggle a blatant falsehood past the natural defences of the recipients.

 Science is for sale, so use it.

You can buy academics, researchers, scientific journals, and everything out there that will help you make your case. The science can be whatever you want it to be.

If the evidence is against you then create a new reality: produce your own evidence and ensure it is recreated and repeated by partners and sympathisers.

Get to a point where your science outweighs the genuine article by a factor of 10. Then, yours is the accepted version, no matter how illogical it is. The public don’t understand science, they want opinion makers to tell them what it means. It’s not their fault, indeed if you do the job right you will even convince professionals who are not specialists in the exact topic.

And spookily the example given in this otherwise generic description of the tools of propaganda is this: A survey of British and Swedish doctors returned the fact that 44% of British doctors believed nicotine causes cancer. This is directly in contrast to their official clinical guidance from NICE on Smoking and Harm Reduction (PH45), which states clearly that nicotine has no association with cancer. So, with the correct approach (and enough funds), it is clearly possible to convince some medical experts of the impossible, as long as it is not within their speciality.

The media need you, and you need them

The final piece of the puzzle is the media. They desperately need your money, and you need their power: the power to present your message optimally.

There is always a way to buy publicity and exposure. Sometimes it is not money, it is hooking the journalist by appealing to their politics. Find a way that your message (or its packaging) is right for the writers you cannot buy for one reason or another (such as they are already owned by others). The false flag method in one form or another is always a winner.

Proponents of political or religious ideologies will sometimes use false flag tactics. This can be done to discredit or implicate rival groups, create the appearance of enemies when none exist, or create the illusion of organized and directed persecution. This can be used to gain attention and sympathy from outsiders, in particular the media, or to convince others within the group that their beliefs are under attack and in need of protection. And so…

The foot soldiers don’t have to be in on it


Some of the most valuable people working for you will be those who think they are working for someone else or for some other agenda. One of your greatest skills will be to convince the people at the bottom they are working for another actor or some other goal.

Zealots make the best useful idiots. They are blinded by their zeal, which is a form of insanity. They are highly valuable to you as they work 24/7 and never give up. You first have to construct a world model in which they are fighting for X - even where X is in fact owned by Z, who is someone/something else, even something they hate. It is easier than it sounds, because above all else zealots are stupid.

Paid zealots are doubly useful to you because they know they are in the perfect job, and will fight to keep it, even when that fight achieves what they are against; they are blinded by the detail and their personal mission and are frequently incapable of seeing the whole picture. People are often unable to see something that conflicts with their world model even though it is obvious to others.