Open-washing and the CamelOpenCircle …Jerk


(Filed under: sharks jumped.)

Brynn got this in the mail last week and shared it with me. Let’s just say that it struck a nerve.

I’ve worried for some time that “open” as a market differentiator is becoming diluted and washed out, just as “organic” and “green” before. Like “2.0”, companies are coming to see “open” as just the next checkbox-marketing-trend to hitch their fading brands to.

Consider my fears confirmed.

Camel doesn’t really believe in openness — let alone grok the concept — let alone give a shit about openness — but since all the cool kids are doing it, they’re happy to co-opt the label to win points. Let the backfire begin.

At the height of cynicism, we have a company whose primary business is architecting new schemes to kill people with their death products, aligning their brand with “openness”. Consider the line crossed.

Watch Mad Men for five minutes and see if you don’t think that these assholes should be strung up by the balls (since it’s predominantly white men who run these companies) and left for the vultures. Or left to be lynched by the families of the addicted and deceased.

Fuck it, I’m going to go ahead and break Godwin’s Law. In the spirit of openness.

It is estimated that the Nazis killed 20,946,000 people from 1933 to 1945 (R.J. Rummel, Democide: Nazi Genocide and Mass Murder, 1993.)

Guess how many people are killed by tobacco-related illnesses every year?

Roughly 20% of that number. Smoking and tobacco-related diseases cause on the order of 4.2 million premature deaths per year (according to the WHO Tobacco Atlas in 2000). That means that tobacco kills in five years what it took the Nazis twelve.

And, according to the World Bank, smoking also contributes a disproportionate number of deaths in the United States over all:

Mortality Ages 35-69/Cause Percent From Smoking
All Cancer, 1985 39%
All Cancer, 1995 42%
Lung Cancer, 1985 91%
Lung Cancer, 1995 91%
COPD, 1985 78%
COPD, 1995 80%
Vascular Disease, 1985 31%
Vascular Disease, 1995 33%
Mouth and Throat Cancers, 1985 67%
Mouth and Throat Cancers, 1995 68%

And the future? The World Health Organization projects that from 2025 to 2030, 10 million people worldwide will die from tobacco-related causes (the majority in developing countries):

WHO Estimated Deaths

So, you want to be part of the “open” revolution, Camel? Welcome!

I presume this means that you’re ready to start coming clean and owning up to the millions of deaths your industry has caused? Or is “CamelOpenCircle” just another marketing gimmick to trick people into thinking that you’re on the up and up of what’s trendy?

Newsflash muthafuckas: openness is hot not because it’s a gimmick, but because it means something to those of us who are tired of being lied to, being mislead, being cajoled and tricked by companies like you. FUCK YOU. Brands like yours could learn a thing or two from openness; too bad everything about you is the direct inverse of everything that we stand for.

Bottom line:

Smoking will fucking kill you

…and aligning yourselves with openness will never change that.

Author: Chris Messina

Head of West Coast Business Development at Republic. Ever-curious product designer and technologist. Hashtag inventor. Previously: (YC W18), Uber, Google.

14 thoughts on “Open-washing and the CamelOpenCircle …Jerk”

  1. I understand your position Chris, but it also means we are getting there in openness. Everytime every change movement becomes hot-enough, every interested actor in society try to domesticate it. Every time.

    Of course, what we need to do is to answer them as you did.

    More over, the same is happening with user-generated content, viral videos, etc. They are trying to figure it out how to make profit, how to control it. They will succed, as usual, a little bit, but some power will remain in our hands. It will never be the same again. Revolutions emerge, change, destroy, are domesticated but their seeds and their memories remain there.

    It’s cool to have a reason from time to time for saying “fuck you” or something like that.

  2. I appreciate your anger. We can also thank government officials who pilfered tobacco settlement monies that were earmarked specifically for programs to reduce tobacco use. Instead they diverted them to plug budget shortfalls or other more politically expedient programs.

  3. i wasn’t really aware smoking was dangerous for my health. these hard facts really put things into perspective for me, thank you.

  4. I don’t understand the issue with smoking. As long as it isn’t directly affecting my health, let smokers smoke.

    Wouldn’t you prefer that smokers die off anyways? The earth’s population growth crisis is a far more critical issue to worry about. Smokers die, and the earth lives a bit longer.

  5. 1 – I hate the on going dilution of “open” more than anyone. This Camel example is bad, but at least they do not sit on the W3C board an intentionally destroy Open Source Standards ( Like Microsoft and Adobe do ).


    Mr. Messina your strong anti-tobacco stance has seemingly forgotten that most states, especially California, would go bankrupt if they were to lose their “sin tax” revenue.

    The trash in San Francisco gets taken away, the street lights work, clean water comes out of the tap in your house – all because of cigarettes.

    I am in no way trying to defend the tobacco companies, but they are transparent in at least one way – they just want to make money at the expense ( death ) of their customers.

    …Do the “sin tax” states, like California whose budgets are reliant on the revenue from cigarettes, show the same transparency? Do you aim the same amount of vitriol that’s in the post at the state legislators in Sacramento? They are just as guilty as big tobacco companies.

  6. I fully agree with you that tobacco companies and their advertizers should be treated like the drug lords that they are (Hang by the balls? Come on: ask Pr. Yoo from the prevous White House Legal Counsel, he’ll make way worst completely lawful for you) and although I might also agree with Mike that one shouldn’t get in the way of Darwin, and let one pay one more stupidity tax, as long as they don’t do it in my public space. In spite of that, your rant relies on the fact that Open is something real, or well defined. I would like to disagree with that — actually, I’ve spend the last month arguing (in the desert) that your very promissing attempts to make the world “more open, social and free” don’t necessarily help.

    Most initiative will lead us into a monopoly (most likely Facebook) a not very innovative one at that, and —what is worst— a hard to challenge. It is counter-intuitive, but I have enough experiments in the economics of communication services to argue my case. Projects like OpenSocial that lower the cost to have accounts on several services, like Orkut, MySpace and more, will help a monopoly to be set up. Data Portability will do the same, more efficiently. I know Dave Morin is a cool kid — almost as cool as ‘Joe’ (?) Camel’s camel — but unless he argues for DiSo, he might as well be serving the same social-based dependendy mechanism that made smoking not only cool, but a necessary aspect to integration.

    Don’t tell me Facebook doesn’t kill: Zuckerberg was the one who introduced that kind of element in the debate, mentionning how his company saved lifes but preventing bully regimes. Actual understanding of how his company can became a monopoly is important too.

    Please don’t neglect my comment.

  7. “It is estimated that the Nazis killed 20,946,000 people from 1933 to 1945 (R.J. Rummel, Democide: Nazi Genocide and Mass Murder, 1993.)

    Guess how many people are killed by tobacco-related illnesses every year?

    Roughly 20% of that number. Smoking and tobacco-related diseases cause on the order of 4.2 million premature deaths per year”

    The part you’re missing is the people the Nazis killed had no choice in the matter. They were systematically being exterminated like insects.

    Smoking on the other hand is (and this is the clincher) COMPLETELY OPTIONAL, not only optional but YOU HAVE TO PAY MONEY TO DO IT.

    Some other points I’d like to make are as follows:
    1. What business is it of your’s what other people do with their bodies as long as it doesn’t harm you? (and don’t retort with “second hand smoke”, its a bullshit claim to begin with and fairly moot with all the public anti-smoking laws in so many states and countries)
    2. This one may take you a while to wrap your head around….NON-SMOKERS DIE EVERYDAY. Fact.

  8. At least organic is a USDA standard. So, if you call food organic, and it isn’t, you are actually breaking the law.

  9. Thin end of the wedge. First they’ll borrow a term, then they’ll appropriate it.
    See how we are now stuck with CamelCase to describe words like CamelOpenCircle.

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