Thursday, February 25, 2010

Graphic violence

There's a story in the paper today about an Israeli study supposedly showing that smokers have lower IQs than non-smokers. The story's interesting as far as it goes - it probably shouldn't come as a surprise that cigarette marketers aim for the stupid.

But what I found interesting about the article in the Editing-the-Herald-sense was how the Herald decided to turn the Reuters article into a bit of a joke. First, there's the pointless Emmerson cartoon which I won't bother to reproduce here. Secondly, there's a Herald Graphic pointing out some famous smokers and non-smokers, compiled by some wag at the paper:

Right, so I get the joke: Einstein was smart, and he smoked. Meanwhile, Dubya was dumb and he didn't. But the research says dumb people smoke and smart people don't! So there's a very funny inversion going on here. I get that.

But how exactly did the Herald decide which eight examples to cite? Are the famous smokers just famous people who smoked, or people who are famous for smoking? Einstein was certainly famous, but I'm not sure people reminisce along the lines of, "Einstein, yeah, I remember that guy - he smoked like a train." Freud you can possibly get away with - sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Kate Moss is an odd addition; wasn't the point of the graphic to get smart people who smoked?

How about the other side? Making a list of 'famous non-smokers' seems a bit like making a list of 'famous right-handers': pointless. But let's bear with them. Helen Clark? Is she a notorious straight-edger? I suppose she did bring in the restaurant smoking ban. But then it just gets weird. George Reeves? I dare say that if you have to put what he's 'famous' for in brackets after his name - "(1950s Superman)" - he's not quite famous enough to make the Top Four Famous Non-Smokers. What's more, using the latest online research techniques I discovered the following on his Wikipedia page:
Reeves took his role model status seriously, avoiding cigarettes where children could see him and eventually quitting smoking.
So not really a non-smoker, and more a former smoker - especially seeing he's been dead for fifty years.

Then there's Hitler - well that was original. What should one read into the juxtaposition of Helen Clark with Hitler and - worse - Bush? I'll leave that up to you, the reader.

Anyway, an exercise in pointlessness, and I can't believe - and I'm sure my boss wouldn't either - that I spent so long wondering about it. Or that you bothered to read it.


  1. Intellectual violence, more like.

  2. The gun which Reeves shot himself with was probably smoking. I wonder whether that counts.

    Tasteless jokes aside, Einstein smoked a pipe and Churchill and Freud smoked cigars. The article is about cigarette smoking; ergo, the illustrating examples are in fact 75% irrelevant.

  3. I'm surprised at the 25% accuracy level.

  4. I'm not, given that the 25% accurate portion is Kate Moss, who is clearly not the 'role-model smoker' their list seems to want to portray.


    This is national news.

  6. Then there is the forced oral sex = tobacco smoking "controversy".