McKee’s A Jolly Good Fellow

Posted 17th October 2014 by Dave Cross
Martin McKee is a professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and he recently penned an article, published in the British Medical Journal, with the subheading: “How big corporations are helping to fund the internet trolls.”

He opens his text by explaining how he sees the world through Boolean glasses: “For those who advocate for healthy public policies, social media are both a blessing and a curse. They offer a means of communicating instantly to large audiences. Yet they also offer the opportunity for those seeking to undermine public health to undermine you.”

On one side are those including McKee who champion healthy public policies, on the other is everybody else (who therefore must champion unhealthy public policies). The recipients of his 128 character missives are either passive vessels to be filled with his opinions or trolls waiting to take and twist his words “out of context”.

He continues: “Most of us…refuse to engage with our attackers.”

This stated refusal smacks of petulance at being pulled up time and again for failing to produce evidence to support his opinions. Opinions such as: “And remember that the industry is producing these really targeted at kids – the flavourings that are in them – bubble-gum flavour – that’s not a flavour for adults is it?  So they’re clearly being pushed at children.”

This is not a first, McKee has been complaining about being vilified ever since he developed an interest in e-Cigs. Roughly twelve months ago he penned: “Within an hour of it being posted on the BMJ website I was the subject of dozens of messages on twitter. Most portrayed me as an idiot, but a significant minority believed I was evil (or both, calling me a “vile cretin”).”


You have to wonder why anyone would be driven to insult him when all he does is things like suggest a link between cocaine addiction and vaping.

Of interest, given his perception that he is embattled rather than just embittered, are the books sitting on his office shelf: a couple of Kagan’s war tomes and Richie’s “Faust's Metropolis”. One would have though a man with such a keen interest in the subject of conflict would be slightly more adept at handling opposition.

But then we are faced with a man who departed medicine for academia, who embraced a life being sheltered from being held to account. As we have witnessed recently with Professor Ashton, these gentlemen are not equipped to deal with the public aspect of public health. Like social media, in their opinion it is something to be done to us.

He conveys no sense of understanding the level of irony in his BMJ article in which he insults and damns all those who don’t share his opinions. What he does is personalise the objections to his unfounded notions as “attacks in blogs and on Twitter for his advocacy of public health.

So let us track back to May 2013, when he posted one of the last articles on his old blog: “Why are people losing faith in conventional politics?” In it he decries the systems of modern governance where he states that: “politicians are meant to represent the views of the people, not powerful vested interests.” I wonder if he ever returns to re-read this? I wonder if he ever considers a scenario where the word ‘politician’ is replaced by the term ‘public health official’?

Pure Eliquids

Where do we go from here? Does the vaping community simply accept that a leading public health figure is both anti-vaping and ignorant of the research? Do we just accept that he has placed the bulk of us on ignore?


Martin is a war buff and considers himself in a battle with us so let us consider that we are at war with Martin. Let us consider Sun Tzu: “All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.”

Let us remove one of his cornerstones.

Let’s be nice to him.


Main image:

Top Photo credit: eirikso via photopin cc

 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, motorbikes, and dog walker