Peter L Berger

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Peter L. Berger was a prominent American sociologist at both Rutger's University and Boston. He is often confused with (John) Peter Berger, an English art critic, novelist, painter and poet, who wrote the popular sociology book on Art, "Ways of Seeing".

This Peter Berger also wrote a number of books, some with his wife Brigitte Berger.

Peter L Berger worked regularly for the tobacco industry from early 1977 attacking anti-smoking activists and their motives, (Anti-Smoking is the new Anti-Semitism). He was still working for them in the late 1990s, especially as a celebrity conference speaker for the industry through its ARISE and Libertad phantom organisations. His real value was in him being offered to local newspapers as an 'independent' academic expert, and it was organised by a PR company employed by the tobacco industry for him to be interviewed on local radio and TV programs.

As a prominent sociologist he was able to attack the motives and honesty of those who wanted to introduce workplace smoking bans.

In his 1977 book he said the mood of the anti-smoker's campaigns cannot be explained by rational grievances. "Not for a moment do I believe these people want to protect me from emphysema," he observed. "As a matter of fact, I believe they would be quite delighted if I got emphysema -- or worse -- as just punishment for my wicked habit." [1]

He also offered strategic advice to the tobacco industry as to how they should approach and influence politicians. As early as 1979 he was earning $750 and $1500 for his advice to the tobacco industry's ICOSI (International lobby organisation in Brussels. [2] He appears to have made himself available for travel to international conferences on average, about 5 or 6 times each year, and also provided witness services to industry programs to block smoking bans [3] and he wrote articles and some pro-smoking chapters in industry-funded books [4]. His propaganda was highly prized by the industry. [5]

In January 1988, Professor Robert Tollison who ran the Cash for Comments Economists Network for the Tobacco Institute signed a contract with Philip Morris to edit a book to be called, Clearing the Air opposing bans on public and workplace smoking. The contract allowed Philip Morris to adapt and reprint portions of the text, or to stop publication of the book, and to force the nominal publisher Lexington Books to withdraw it from the market and terminate all distribution if it didn't suit the tobacco industry's purposes. Berger was among the celebrity authors of the various chapters of the book who were to be paid sums in the region of $7,500 to $10,000. [6]

By mid 1994 Berger was also writing op-eds in the popular right-wing journal Commentary attacking the Clinton Administration's anti-smoking stance. This agreed with the position of the National Smoker's Alliance (NSA), a grassroots operation funded by the US cigarette manufacturers. He wrote a sociological analytical piece attacking anti-smoking activists:

    Furtive Smokers - and What The Tell Us About America. -- Boston University Professor Peter L. Berger noted that it is too early to tell whether the current explosion of anti-smoking activity by government on all levels will lead to the total victory of which the movement has been dreaming. America is indeed being transformed, institution by institution, into a society that makes a mockery of the values on which its democracy was originally founded.

    Elaborating on the change in our society, Berger said: The old American creed used to be expressed in the proposition (as it read in the 1950s) that every individual had rights 'irrespective of race, color, creed, or national origin.' Other collective ascriptions were then added to this affirmation of individual autonomy vis-a-vis the community - gender, sexual orientation, age, physical condition. But then, at first imperceptibly, every one of these collective identifications was reified and the formula was turned on its head. Now it is the collective entity - gender, race, ethnic group, and so on - that has rights, irrespective of the rights of the individual.