Countering Critics

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Inteligence gathering

To monitor opponents and social trends in order to anticipate future challenges


To use legal and economic power as a means of harassing and frightening opponents who support tobacco control.
WHO Definitions of Tobacco Industry Tactics for resisting effective tobacco control, 2009.

In public relations literature, ‘countering critics’ could be considered part of what is called ‘issue management’ – dealing with the issues that can potentially disturb stakeholder expectations. PR specialists say:

To avoid unpleasant surprises, organisations should scan, monitor and track external forces. (…) these forces should be analysed in terms of their effects on an organisation’s image, profit and ability to act. Based on that analysis, an organisation’s policy must be developed, strategy planned, and action implemented.1

Since most tactics of the tobacco industry and their allies are essentially issue management issues that include weakening the position of their critics, this section could be construed as encompassing most of the information detailed on TobaccoTactics. However, the Countering Critics wiki category focuses on strategies aimed directly at countering the work of people active in tobacco control, whether in academia, health, campaign groups or politics.
It includes undermining the legitimacy and trustworthiness of critics, by analysing the use of Arguments and Language and the – increasingly abusive – comments online and personal attacks in the blogosphere. Sometimes this evolves into a genuine Smear Campaign.

Smear Campaign

A long-standing tactic of the tobacco industry and its supporters is to try to marginalise and denigrate its critics. There is, however, a sliding scale of attacks ranging from criticism from the industry to blatant threats and abuse from pro-smoking bloggers.
A recent case of one smear campaign is against Professor Linda Bauld, an international expert in public health policy. Not only was her work discredited, she received a string of threats both online and by phone, which included what could be construed as death threats. Other academics have also been targeted too.

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  1. Baskin, Aronoff and Lattimore, Public Relations: The profession and the practice, Brown & Benchmark Publishers, Madison WI. 1997, p. 80