Tuesday, March 28, 2006

He who controls the past...

Ok, I really, really want all of you—smokers and non-smokers alike—to consider this post carefully. Particularly non-smokers; this is important.

As you know, a ban on smoking has been imposed on public places in Scotland and, in general, your humble Devil can see the reason for this (although he resents the fact that, as a worker from home, he can no longer smoke in his own front room, even if he is the only person there). But—and this is a but bigger than Beyonce's—carry this on. As I reported yesterday, the stage and screen are not exempt. In fact, the SNP (how I hate those craven cunts) MSP who introduced the Bill stated that this was a direct point of the Bill, i.e. that Scotland was undergoing a change, and that smoking should not be shown at all. Can you see where this is going?

Under this Bill, no one can smoke anywhere in a workplace, and this particularly affects television studios. Inspector Rebus will no longer smoke; nor will Churchill; those who write plays about the shit conditions in Glasgow will no longer be able to have their protagonists smoke.

Most of all, those fans of Life On Mars will be disappointed. This series, which sets a modern-day cop in 1973, has been recommissioned but, by the time that it starts shoting, will almost certainly be censored by the English ban. What all of this means is that in 1973 no one smoked. Churchill never smoked. Inspector Rebus—even when shot in his "own home"—does not smoke. Glasgow schemies do not smoke.

None of these people will ever have smoked. I would like you to say that sentence again: none of these people will ever have smoked.

Now, recollect the quote that I put at the end of the last post on this.
"He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future."—1984, George Orwell.

Only a few months ago, the photo of Isembard Kingdon Brunel had his cigar removed; how soon before it is easy to remove the cigarette from a film character's mouth? Whether you are smoker or non-smoker, consider the power of the government now. After all, the guns wielded by some characters were removed from E.T., at the insistance of Drew Barrymore, and that is the version now shown on TV. As far as many people are concerned, the actors in that film only ever had mobile phones; they never had guns.

Seriously, think about this. How soon before cigarettes are removed from film? Already they are prohibited from any Scottish film or play. When the English ban comes in next year, will there be an exemption (as there is is Ireland (for herbal cigarettes) and, even,California (an "industrial exemption" license i needed, but usually granted))? In, say, 50 years' time, smoking will be unknown, but more than that: people will never have smoked.

Given that one cannot now perform plays that contain scenes (and some are crucial, especially in farces) that contain smoking, how soon will it be before editions are released with those stage directions omitted? How soon afterwards will we watch a film thinking, "You know, I am sure she smoked here?"

And so the government rewrite history.

And yet it gets worse ("how?" you cry!). Although cigarette bans are in place in Scotland, and shortly England and Wales, tobacco is still openly sold, for it brings the Treasury a lot of money (£17.2 billion last year). And who will care where the ubermensch smoke?

In Orwell's 1984, the proles were a breed apart; no one bothered to enforce laws on them because they were simply not worth it; they were pacified with telescreen vids and stultified by trying to stay alive. But they drank spirits and they smoked. Think of our country in 50 years' time...

The middle classes have forgotten what smoking was: only Big Blair matters. And, of course, smoking has not been seen on telescreens for a good 30 years. Even in the "oldies" smoking has been removed for the common good; those films that absolutely required it have been deleted. Although, naturally, the proles smoke and drink their way to an early ruin, ignored by the ruling class; the proles are a breed apart, barely considered human, but still able to smoke and drink, still able to buy...

In a couple of decades, this is what will have happened; for the faithful, smoking will never have been. For the unfortuate, smoking will be an incurable death (but also a delicious pleasure).

What is next? What pleasure do you have that, in only a few years, will never have been? And does it not worry you that the goverment has this power, the power to persuade you that something never existed?
"He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future."—1984, George Orwell.

I say it again, because it needs to be said.


Simon Hodges said...

Quite right DK. Another Orwellian observation I enjoyed was in Down and Out in Paris and London which characterises tobacco as a neceesity second only to food. It was a sweet luxury for him and his trampish companions to be able to sit and smoke when none other was afforded to them, an escape from their otherwise die existence. It's a world untainted by the PC dogma we're plagued with.

Stew said...

Every day as I read the news and my preferred blogs I vacillate between thinking "Oh come along now, you're being paranoid" and "Jesus Christ, it's too late we're all fucked!"

Anonymous said...

For me, it is likely to be motorcycling. Government has been making it increasingly difficult to get a licence - and those of us who have one are likely to get it deleted by the incompetent DVLA. We are seen as deviants to be discouraged for our own good. It's health and safety, innit?

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Very well said.

I hope they are going to ban actors eating deep fried onion pizzas on screen, and going to the lavatory without washing their hands, or dropping litter, or murdering people - OMG murder. That's bad, isn't it?

Davide Simonetti said...

I wonder how they are going to do all those anti-smoking adverts now. How can they show the evils of smoking (their opinion, not mine) if they can't even show the offending item?

I suppose school kids will now be taught that Sir Walter Raleigh returned from the New World armed only with a bag of spuds (until potatoes are deemed dangerous enough to be airbrushed out of history)

As for the George Orwell quotes. Well done, that illustrates the govenment's control freakery perfectly. That scary bunch of cunts make me want to smoke even more.

Blognor Regis said...

The Normal US Nouvelle Vague album cover, the clean version (for Walmart and the like, with Too Drunk To Fuck and something else removed. (The British cover is completely different.)

Anonymous said...

I can't obviously speak for the Scottish or British, as I am and always will be an American, but I see these things beginning to happen in my country and it's driving me crazy.

Though, I don't see it as a losing fight!

Clairwil said...

The funny thing is. I've never seen so many smokers in my life. You cannot walk down the street without seeing them standing outside shops, offices, bars etc. I'm not sure making smoking appear more 'normal' was what the idiots who brought in this ridiculous ban wanted. I sincerely hope it backfires.

tomdg said...

Very interesting point about actors not being allowed to smoke at work. (Good for the actors' health, no doubt). It'll be interesting to see if this affects the output of the BBC.

That is a completely different issue from banning the representation of smoking, though. I don't know if non-tobacco cigarettes exist or are banned. Certainly you could add one in using special effects without hurting anyone - although I agree that's a horribly painstaking way of doing it. And although Humphrey Bogart died of smoking-induced cancer, showing his films uncut now doesn't require anyone to breathe the smoke.

I agree with you that reinventing the past is a bad thing, though. We can put different moral values on things like the Boer War, but what happened happened. The fact is people thought differently in the past, and things we think are terrible now were commonplace then (and vice-versa).

Perhaps the biggest danger of all is that if we whitewash the past, we condemn ourselves to repeat it.

Devil's Kitchen said...

don't know if non-tobacco cigarettes exist or are banned.

They do, and they are. Ireland has an exemption on herbal cigarettes: as I said, Scotland specifically does not.

Certainly you could add one in using special effects without hurting anyone - although I agree that's a horribly painstaking way of doing it.

How? Special effects compositing is expensive (especially with partially transparent things such as smoke) and who is going to smoke the cigarette? If they are being paid to smoke it, then they are smoking at work.

Besides, you miss the point that I was making: the whole point is that people are not seen smoking. Full stop. That is the point of the Bill: it is not for the sake of secondary smokers' health per se, but to eliminate the depiction and culture of smoking itself. This is why there is no exemption for herbal cigarettes.


Anonymous said...

"As you know, a ban on smoking has been imposed on public places in Scotland and, in general, your humble Devil can see the reason for this..."

What reason? Oh dear. I thought you were a libertarian. You're not.

Devil's Kitchen said...


Perhaps "I understand the reasoning behind this..." might have been a better way to put it.


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