Roger Scruton high priest of the libertarian right defrocked and exposed as ‘grimy hack’ for tobacco industry

Thursday 24 January 2002

24th January 2002 (updated 29th April 2002 with news coverage links)

Professor Roger Scruton is exposed as a tobacco industry stooge.  The high priest philosopher of the British libertarian right [1] and, it seems, covert PR hack for the tobacco industry at £4,500 per month.  A leaked e-mail (download memo as a PDF) from October last year reveals Scruton’s negotiations with Japan Tobacco International for orchestrating a campaign against WHO.  Professor Scruton demands more money and lists his ongoing activities.

In the memo, Scruton bragged to his paymasters that he would: “…aim to place an article every two months in one or other of the WSJ (Wall Street Journal), The Times, The Telegraph, The Spectator, the Financial Times, The Economist, The Independent or the New Statesman.”   ASH has called on these newspapers to launch internal inquiries into proper declaration of interests.

Director of ASH, Clive Bates, described the revelations as definitive confirmation of the case for loathing Roger Scruton:

Scruton is engaged in an attempt to deceive the readers of some of the most respected newspapers in Europe.  He was trying to pass off what is really paid advertorial as legitimate editorial.  How many of these papers would publish his work with an appropriate and honest by-line like ‘The writer is a paid scribe for a tobacco multinational’?

“Scruton passes himself off as the leading intellectual of the right, but it seems he’s just a grimy hack for the tobacco industry – trying to coach them in libertarian free-choice spin about an addictive product that kills 4 million each year. 

“He’s put himself firmly on the side of big business and against the public bodies and elected governments that are trying to tackle the world-wide epidemic of disease and addiction caused by tobacco.”

“You can’t claim to be a free-thinker if you are in the pay of an industry that has a record of 50 years of deceit, denial and obfuscation about its products and business practices.

This absurd figure describes himself as “Writer. Philosopher. Publisher. Journalist. Composer. Editor. Businessman. Broadcaster.”  Though he clearly regards himself as a kind of post-modern Leonardo da Vinci, he doesn’t have much to say about the seedy side of his activities.  His web site tells all – (except his tobacco links).

His attack on WHO Tobacco Free Initiative “WHO, What and Why? Trans-national Government, Legitimacy and the World Health Organisation” [2] was done under the auspices of the Institute for Economic Affairs – a source of much pro-tobacco propaganda, that always refuses to disclose the exact nature of its funding or it’s authors’ conflicts of interest.

The supposedly independent think tank released Scruton’s report under the headline: World Health Organisation is abrogating its responsibilities and exceeding its authority – clearly a visible attempt at attacking WHO, but actually paid-for public relations.

One of Scruton’s moralising tomes is: The Intelligent Person’s Guide to Modern Culture, 1998.  In it he says:

“Something new seems to be at work in the contemporary world – a process that is eating away the very heart of social life, not merely by putting salesmanship in place of moral virtue, but by putting everything – virtue included – on sale.”

… oh dear!


[1] [Added 29 April 2002] It has been pointed out (by academic Andrew Roberts) that Roger Scruton is actually an authoritarian conservative rather than a libertarian.  We apologise for any confusion.

[2] WHO, What and Why? Trans-national Government, Legitimacy and the World Health Organisation, (pdf) Roger Scruton, 2000, Institute of Economic Affairs

News Coverage:

·         Guardian: Scruton in media plot to push the sale of cigarettes – see article

·         Independent: Scruton likely to lose newspaper columnist job after exposure of financial link to tobacco firm

·         Financial Times: Writer failed to declare tobacco interest

·         Independent: Cigarette firms prepared to throw millions into public relations battle

·         Guardian: Scruton faces sack from FT over tobacco retainer – see article

·         FT diary: “Oh s**t,” says the Institute of Economic Affairs

·         Observer: Nick Cohen – Beware your smugness will find you out, Mr Scruton – see article

·         Guardian:Invoice attached – (satire) – see article

·         Sunday Telegraph: Writer fired over tobacco links – see article

·         Whinging letter from Roger Scruton: – see letter

·         Guardian diary (Media Monkey): see piece

·         BMJ: Pro-tobacco writer admits he should have declared an interest – see piece

·         Guardian: Catherine Bennett – Keep up the good work, Roger – see piece

·         Media Guardian: Wall Street Journal stands by Scrutonsee piece

·         Oh not it doesn’tWall Street Journal (US): Scribbler’s Ethics editorial (pdf)

·         Independent: Scruton sacked by second newspaper for tobacco links

·         Independent: Terence Blacker: A minor sin in the media whorehouse

·         Independent – letter in response to Terrence Blacker ‘no defence’

·         Guardian:  Wall Street Journal drops Scruton over tobacco cash – see article

·         Guardian: Comment – Pitfalls of advocacy – see article

·         Guardian: City diary… problems at the Wall Street Journal – see article

·         Independent: letter – can we trust Scruton on anything else?

·         Guardian: City diary … Wall St Journal publishing other tobacco PR hacks – see article

·         Guardian: City diary … a third expose of tobacco funded scribes writing in the Wall Street Journal – see article

·         Health Facts & fears: Libertarian Scruton-ized for Tobacco Ties thoughtful agonising from the stronghold of libertarian health policy

·         Private Eye: (satire) 8 February 2002
Great Philosophers of History
No 94: Scrutonides

Scrutonides, whose school briefly flourished in the late 20th century held that the highest good could only be attained by those who were dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, unsullied by any material consideration such as receiving money from commercial organisations. His celebrated axiom “Fumo ergo sum” (“I smoke therefore I am very rich”) was much-quoted until Scrutonides was revealed as a charlatan who had himself received payment from two tobacco companies. He retired and spent his declining years in a barrel.”

·         The Spectator: Smoke without fire by Roger Scruton, who thinks it’s a left wing conspiracy

·         ASH letter to the Spectator – mysteriously unpublished – download a pdf.

·         New York Times – Advocating Tobacco, on the Payroll of Tobacco – see article

·         Risk of Freedom – sample the wounded venom and trauma of the Scrutons in their own JTI-sponsored publication (and see if you can spot them misleading their own readership!) – view the PDF



Clive Bates +44 20 7739 5902 (office) +44 77 6879 1237 (mobile) ISDN available