H. Bernard Levin

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'Harry Bernard Levin is better known to the world as the British TV personality Bernard Levin. He was one of the most readable columnists in their newspapers, and a celebrity intellectual in the UK. He became notorious also as the live-in boy-friend of Arianna Stassinopoulous who later became Arriana Huffington, and he was the curmudgeonly associate of Auberon Waugh in his tobacco-promotion activities via the ARISE and Libertad organisations..

Levin was physically small, and he always cultivated an image of jewish intellectual commentator who had accidentally stumbled into the upper-class. He was accepted into the upper-ruling class society of Britain (and its Arts culture) while never really becoming a part of the in-group -- and therefore regularly utilized on the BBC as an entertaining and dispassionate critic/commentator. It was a highly confected image which worked well in Thatcherite Britain and it enabled him to couch opposition to passive smoking regulations in terms of human-rights, and he regularly depicted the anti-smoking health activists as health-Nazis, and socialist puppets in the welfare-hungry 'Nanny State'.

Levin and Waugh wrote newspaper columns for the Spectator and many other of Britain' newspapers -- and they also held a life-long commission from the American and British tobacco industries to tour the world giving entertaining interviews attacking Britain's "Nanny State" and decrying legislative attempts to prohibit passive smoking in public places and offices. He also disproved of health authorities moves to reduce the death and disability toll of cigarette smoking. See ARISE

Documents & Timeline

1928 Aug 28 Born Henry Bernard Levin

1946 London School of Economics

1955 Column, in The Manchester Guardian

1956-62 Wrote political column for The Spectator.

1962-70 Wrote for the Daily Mail (resigned June 1970 over political stance of the newspaper).

1971-97 Column for The Times. This became a platform for his passionate liberal views and his scorn for authoritarianism of both left and right.

1971 He met and shacked up with Arianna Stassinopoulous (later Arianna Huffington)). They never married but lived together until 1980.

1980 He wrote extensive and glowing accounts in The Times newspaper of his visit to the Indian commune of the meditation teacher Osho (Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh)

1980 Arianna left him and went to America. She later started The Huffington Post with money from her rich husband.

1981 He took a self-imposed sabbatical from The Times newspaper after a disagreement over the selection of a new editor as successor to William Rees-Mogg.

1981 Oct 14 This transcript was in the RJ Reynolds files of Frank Colby, one of the industry's main scientific disinformation specialists. It is from a BBC radio panel/debate program "You the Jury"on Smoking in Public Places.

  • The anti-smoking case was made by Clement Freud, assisted by Professor Charles Fletcher and Lord Soper.

    [Chest physician Dr Charles Fletcher, was a well-known, virulent anti-smoker mainly on grounds of its effects on asthmatics.]
  • The pro-tobacco side was made by Bernard Levin and Dr Alan Bailey.

    [ Arianna Stassinopoulos was later known in the US as Arianna Huffington. Unknown to the viewers at this time, was the fact that Levin was her live-in lover.]

Colby's Introduction: Bernard Levin also commented that, after an article of his on this subject in The Times last year (item 993) he received tremendous mail and I have never in twenty-six years of journalism seen such fanaticism nakedly displayed as the hatred, real hatred, that came out of those letters as I read them. At the start of the programme the Jury was 45% in favour or the motion [to ban] 33% against and 22% undecided. After the debate, 49% were in favour, 50% against and 1% abstained. Arianna proposed that there are already far too many laws forbidding people from doing that which they wish to do ... and that smokers should be helped rather than persecuted. Levin is amusingly and satirically cross examined on his views:

Miss Stassinopoulos: Mr. Levin, you I understand are an expert on everything ... and for those in the audience old enough to remember, you used to be a columnist for "The Times" and the " Sunday Times".

You are yourself a non-smoker, and indeed I understand that you do not like being in smoke-filled atmospheres. In that case why have you gone on record in writing as saying that you're against the banning of smoking in public places?

Mr. Levin: First because I am against any more legislation, as you said in your opening speech, that prevents people doing what they want to do, we've got quite enough and too much of that already. Second, because I believe this would be another serious step towards what I have called the "Nanny State."

[Levine and his friend Auberon Waugh popularised the term Nanny State which became a catch cry of the Thatcherite conservatives in opposition to the so-called 'Socialists' in the Labor Party. It was taken up in the USA and elsewhere as a battle-cry of those opposing health and environmental regulation.]

We are a democracy and we're talking about adults being prevented from doing what they want by other people who want to do them good against their will. I am in favour of segregation which is roughly speaking-what we have in most places today, we have buses, trains, aeroplanes, you can smoke in one place, you can't smoke in the other, cinemas -- you can smoke upstairs, you can't smoke downstairs. I'm in favour of extending that, I'm not in favour of bringing the criminal law into this. There's too much of that already.

Banners and prohibitors and suppressors are all around us and we want less of them, not more. (Applause)

Miss Stassinopoulos: What In fact do you think of the banning lobby?

Mr. Levin: Well, I had one appalling example of the banning lobby when something over a year ago I wrote an article saying what I've just said, roughly speaking, and I got a lot of letters, and enormous postcards [corrects himself] postbags from people who didn't agree with me and wanted to ban smoking. I have never in twenty-six years of journalism ... I'm not making It up just for this programme ... I have never seen such fanaticism nakedly displayed as the hatred, real hatred, that came out of those letters as I read them. People wanting to suppress other people's pleasure.

[He then told the amusing story of Alexander Walker, spitting in soup]

[Cross questioned by Freud:] You say "I admit that smoking is harmful to health ..."
Mr. Levin: For those who smoke, not for those who do not smoke, like me, but are in smoky atmospheres.
Mr. Freud: Right. You say 'I accept that smoking is harmful to health'.
Mr. Levin: Right.
Mr. Freud: Are you aware of the fact that twenty-two thousand male deaths under 64 occur every year?
Mr. Levin: From smoking?
Mr. Freud: From smoking.
Mr. Levin: Yes, I will accept that figure and It's a deplorable figure but the fact of the matter is there are deaths caused by all sorts of things ...


1982 He was coaxed back to The Times newspaper twelve months later after it came under different editorial control.

1987 Mar 7 Waugh, Auberon, "The Big Lie which Threatens to Clean Up the World," The Spectator, March 7, 1987. -- The "smoking scare" is based more on puritanism than on medical evidence. CORPORATE AFFAIRS ISSUES HANDBOOK [3]

1989 Jul The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Libertad Australia brought conservative luminaries, Bernard Levin, Paul Johnson, Michael Novak and Peter L Berger to Australia to proclaim the achievements of capitalism and to denounce ‘collectivism’. [4]

1990 He was awarded his CBE for services to journalism

2004 Aug 7 Died