The Belgian newspaper Le Soir today published an article Le lobby du tabac recrutait des profs d’unif (in English : The tobacco lobby recruted university professors) in which Le Soir claims sociologist Claude Javeau of the ULB and philopher of law Frank Van Dun of the UGent were paid by lobby tool ARISE to promote the conclusions of the tobacco lobby.
The tactics used by ARISE was putting tobacco in the same line as ‘daily little joys’ like drinking a cup of coffee or eating chocolate, stating these things increase your happiness in life. Tim Lambert had a closer look at the activities of ARISE in his post Just how many astroturf groups did tobacco fund?
The fact Van Dun was part of ARISE has long been known, Tim mentions him in the post above and i had a closer look at Van Dun’s tobacco activities last year in my post Libertarism, climate change and the tobacco lobby.
The online article of Le Soir is referring to the newspaper itself for the full details and unfortunately i don’t have this paper copy so i’m not really sure if there’s a deeper reason why they are publishing this article exactly today. Nor do i know where they get the information that both professors were paid for their affiliation with ARISE.
I always assumed Frank Van Dun was just a libertarian blinded by bias who got manipulated into the tobacco lobby by agents provocateurs and by not being able to switch of his own superstrong personal libertarian bias. And it’s because of this strong bias libertarians tend to end up in industry-spinned astroturf groups attacking ‘unwanted’ scientific conclusions. The only thing the industrial agents-provocateurs need to do is feed the bias. In case of tobacco subjects, the lobbyists just need to use the word “Freedom”.
They did so in the time of ARISE, and they still do so for the TICAP-conferences which show the symbiosis between libertarism and lobby : the TICAP-conferences were organised by libertarians and I’m actually pretty sure they honestly believe the sloganesque language around freedom that was spoken on that conference.
The only problem with the speakers they invited is that those guys were professional tobacco-lobby spokesman. The agents provocateurs feeding the bias. The i’m talking about lobbyists like John Luik, Gian Turci or Gio Batta Gori.
Unless Le Soir managed to find new information, i think Van Dun, even though he participated in conferences of ARISE, was not a tobacco lobbyist but ‘only’ a libertarian.
Le Soir dugg up a text from Javeau from 1994 titled Choix des plaisirs de vivre et de defense de la democratie (in English : “The choice for the pleasures in life and for defending democracy”) [sic]. in this text Javeau is playing with all the well know libertarians fears. An example of a sentence (p2) : Brave New World isn’t far away and we’ll be meeting to play 1984 with some delay.
So again, just like was the case for Van Dun, libertarism might be the real motivator behind Javeau’s actions. But for Javeau there's more. While in Le Soir he claims he was unaware ARISE was funded by the tobacco industry, a draft version of the IARC action plan for Belgium shows Javeau was deeply involved in a broader strategy to influence policy makers.
While I’m willing to give Frank Van Dun benefit of the doubt, things for Claude Javeau look worse. If i were Brussels University, I’d wanna have a chat with the man.