New Video: Links Between Big Tobacco and Climate Denial – “Rhymes with Smoky Joe”

November 25, 2013

“Smokey Joe” Barton is known for apologizing to BP after the 2010 Oil spill, and harassing climate scientists.

Turns out he’s also been a key connection between the tobacco industry and the climate denial industry. Archival footage from ABC News on the tobacco wars of the 90s turns up sequences of Smoky Joe in action on behalf of Big Cancer, digs up haunting parallels between the tactics of Big Tobacco and Big Fossil Fuel, and reminds us of the origins of the anti-science movement.
Poignant to see the late Peter Jennings in action, and remember what it was like when there was at least some tough, probing journalism with a moral compass on mainstream media.

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40 Responses to “New Video: Links Between Big Tobacco and Climate Denial – “Rhymes with Smoky Joe””


  1. Another fine compilation and juxtaposition of tobacco denialism vs. climate denialism.

    I found Marco Rubio’s statements to be particularly interesting, especially because he seems to be a leading GOP presidential candidate. Those statements may come to haunt his campaign, especially as climate change continues to move from a back burner issue to a front burner issue.


    • This piece needs a hat-tip to Naomi Oreskes, who IIRC was among the first to write about the common roots of the tobacco-denial and climate-denial movements.

      • greenman3610 Says:

        stay tuned for more news on Oreskes work in the coming year.

      • MorinMoss Says:

        Agreed.
        Oreskes did a fine job on shining a light on how the same contingent of denialist cockroaches have scurried from one cause to another, be it smoking / secondhand smoke, ozone depletion or global warming.

        And cockroaches they truly are – smack them down on one cause, they pop up elsewhere denying another.
        If denialism is the fountain of youth, Fred Singer will never die.

      • andrewfez Says:

        Senator Whitehouse (Rhode Island) recently did one of his once-weekly climate speeches on the Wall Street Journal’s part, regarding disinformation related to either (or both) CFC’s (and the ozone hole), and/or SO2 (and acid rain). He read several passages from the articles in question that had to do with folks calling for more scientific studies on the respective subjects in an effort to create the perception that the science was not settled.

      • anotheralionel Says:

        Robert Proctor wrote a more detailed account of the shenanigans of the tobacco lobby in his book Golden Holocaust: Origins of the Cigarette Catastrophe and the Case for Abolition.

        Well worth a look.

  2. Wes Says:

    Watching that video of Barton is like looking at the face of evil personified. He’s selling out his constituents to one big industry after another, and then with a pious smirk, lying on the Bible about it. It doesn’t get much more repulsive than that. Wake up, Texans!


    • His constituents are too dumb to understand that going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to the garage makes you a car.  Or maybe they’re so used to mouthing pious platitudes on Sundays and then doing whatever they want the rest of the week that they accept hypocrisy as normal—hell, it just makes Barton one of them.  Or it gets the preachers on his side, and the sheeple vote based on the pulpit endorsement without ever looking at the man himself.

      This is what comes from “safe”, gerrymandered districts.


  3. […] Re: Climate Change Climate Denial Crock of the Week New Video: Links Between Big Tobacco and Climate Denial – “Rhymes with Smoky Joe” … […]


  4. As long as I’m on the subject of hypocrisy:  what do you want to bet that the masses marching to halt Keystone XL and climate change in general are all for electric cars, but dead-set against the replacement of coal and gas-fired electricity with carbon-free nuclear?


    • So, if I have an informed opinion which agrees with yours on Keystone and AGW, but which is different than yours re nuclear power, that makes me “a hypocrite”?

      Is that all? Doesn’t it make me “stupid” as well?


      • if I have an informed opinion which agrees with yours on Keystone and AGW, but which is different than yours re nuclear power, that makes me “a hypocrite”?

        What makes someone a hypocrite is the making of unprincipled exceptions to their program.  E.g., they say that carbon is the single most important issue facing humanity for the next century or more, but effectively (by failing to check their assumptions, and disregarding warnings) lock society on a course which keeps spewing carbon.

        On what information do you base your contrary conclusion?  If I can show you that it is DISinformation, will you change your position?  (That’s the difference between a reasoned conclusion and a quasi-religious dogma.  FYI, the Storm and Smith analysis of the carbon emissions of uranium mining has been debunked completely, yet it still keeps popping up like “hide the decline”.)

        Doesn’t it make me “stupid” as well?

        Ignorance, confirmation bias, genetic fallacy, herd thinking… all ways people allow themselves to keep believing things that dispassionate analysis shows to be false.  I’ve had to change my thinking on some issues because I found the facts… or in some cases, because the facts became too blatantly contrary to the current social dogma that I could not ignore it any more.  I’ve lost friends more than once.  Well, I’d rather be right.

        I am doing what I can to walk the walk.  My house is insulated, and I am looking at making a full set of storm windows to cut losses further.  Most of my driving is powered by electricity.  I’d both drive and heat with carbon-free nuclear electricity, if I could.  If I can get my wind turbine repaired and erected, I’ll have another (hobby) supply of electricity I can use for heat or feed back to the grid.

        All of the regional-scale RE “success stories” I see are crowing over a milestone of 30% or 35% wind and the like.  Where the rest of the generation is hydro this works great (massive energy storage, no thermal limits), but in the rest of the world this means 65-70% fossil combustion electricity and everything else still running on the fossil model as well.  But Ontario has close to 90% non-fossil electricity, and could expand this to supply a full province’s worth of EVs with overnight charging and no carbon emissions.  The problem isn’t that it can’t be done, it’s the people who insist that it’s anathema (and vote in governments which buy gas plants instead).

        If the climate is the greatest consideration for the future, that insistence isn’t just unprincipled, it’s insane.  It’s species-suicidal.

        FYI:  even under the stringent Japanese standards for exposure, most of the area in Fukushima prefecture is now cleared for re-habitation.  What’s worse:  losing the use of a few hundred square miles for a few years, or turning large parts of the planet into desert for thousands?  What’s your PRINCIPLED position on that question?

        • dumboldguy Says:

          Here’s E-Pot, beating the nuclear power drum yet again. In my mind, everything he says here has been overshadowed by this one statement:

          “I am looking at making a full set of storm windows to cut losses further”

          It’s 2013, E-Pot, and you still don’t have storm windows? Next you’ll be telling us that you haven’t upgraded your attic insulation.


          • Yeah, I’m going to beat myself up over not having built myself a new set of storms for this house (that I just moved into in 2011) despite having zero free cash for non-necessities due to my legal expenses being ten or more times my income for most of that period.

            The only thing less likely that that is to see you make an intelligent reply to me that doesn’t start with an assumption of bad faith.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            I am NOT going to ask you why your legal expenses have been ten (OR MORE) times your income for 2+years (although the gossip in me would love to know—the mind runs riot with possibilities). I’m sure that you may share that with us some day when you feel we have not been paying you enough attention.

            Of course, now that you have brought it up as some sort of an excuse, NOT giving us details will make us (me anyway) wonder whether you’re just evading the issue by deflecting and seeking sympathy. Have you in fact upgraded your attic insulation?

            I assume no “bad faith” on your part. I merely point out some of your hypocrisy and logic fails, since self-examination does not seem to be one of your strong suits. As a self-anointed seeker of truth, you should welcome that.


          • I am NOT going to ask you why your legal expenses have been ten (OR MORE) times your income for 2+years

            I’ll tell you anyway.  A deceased relative willed everything to me.  The will was challenged.

          • MorinMoss Says:

            I have to ask – after all that litigation, was there anything left?


          • Precious little, and so much else destroyed besides.


  5. […] "Smokey Joe" Barton is known for apologizing to BP after the 2010 Oil spill, and harassing climate scientists.Turns out he's also been a key connection between the tobacco industry and the climate …  […]

  6. NevenA Says:

    I could be wrong, but I really think that Joe Barton is pure evil.

    • rayduray Says:

      Hi Neven,

      You might enjoy this video. The WW II film “Downfall” has been parodied dozens, perhaps hundreds of times. Here Joe Barton gets the skewering he so richly deserves.

      “Hitler Finds Out Joe Barton Apologized to BP”:

      • MorinMoss Says:

        I like that they worked the “hold a knife and fork” into the mock translation, which is actually part of the original dialogue from Der Untergang (the Downfall).

    • skeptictmac57 Says:

      I object!

      Joe Barton is NOT pure evil…he is banal evil.

      Nothing pure about that man.


  7. Dr. Jeff Masters at Weather Underground did a great post on this a few years ago:

    The Manufactured Doubt industry and the hacked email controversy
    http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=1389

    “In 1954, the tobacco industry realized it had a serious problem. Thirteen scientific studies had been published over the preceding five years linking smoking to lung cancer. With the public growing increasingly alarmed about the health effects of smoking, the tobacco industry had to move quickly to protect profits and stem the tide of increasingly worrisome scientific news. Big Tobacco turned to one the world’s five largest public relations firms, Hill and Knowlton, to help out. Hill and Knowlton designed a brilliant Public Relations (PR) campaign to convince the public that smoking is not dangerous. They encouraged the tobacco industry to set up their own research organization, the Council for Tobacco Research (CTR), which would produce science favorable to the industry, emphasize doubt in all the science linking smoking to lung cancer, and question all independent research unfavorable to the tobacco industry. The CTR did a masterful job at this for decades, significantly delaying and reducing regulation of tobacco products.

    George Washington University epidemiologist David Michaels, who is President Obama’s nominee to head the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), wrote a meticulously researched 2008 book called, Doubt is Their Product: How Industry’s Assault on Science Threatens Your Health. In the book, he wrote: “the industry understood that the public is in no position to distinguish good science from bad. Create doubt, uncertainty, and confusion. Throw mud at the anti-smoking research under the assumption that some of it is bound to stick. And buy time, lots of it, in the bargain”. The title of Michaels’ book comes from a 1969 memo from a tobacco company executive: “Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the minds of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy”. Hill and Knowlton, on behalf of the tobacco industry, had founded the “Manufactured Doubt” industry…”


  8. (I second recommendation of David Michaels’ book).

    Great material, yet another one to add to the list, as per Fakery 2, especially PDF pp.37-47.

    For those interested in the future, e0-cigaretes are (currently) unregulated, offering big tobacco a fine chance to reverse the down trend in teenage nicotine use, necessary to stay in business.

    For examples of the new commercials, see:
    RJR Vuse, digital vapor cigarette, microprocessor-controlled, the future! and

    Jenny McCarthy, selling something else.


  9. […] “Smokey Joe” Barton is known for apologizing to BP after the 2010 Oil spill, and harassing climate scientists. Turns out he’s also been a key connection between the tobacco industry and the climate denial industry. Archival footage from ABC News on the tobacco wars of the 90s turns up sequences of Smoky Joe in action on behalf of Big Cancer. ClimateCrocks.com […]


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