BY E.F Nicholson
How avoiding questions about capitalism and its application within healthcare ensures we overlook the root of many of the problems and issues with modern medicine and society as a whole.
This is the first time I have ever ventured into writing about a medical or health issue. Reason being rather obvious, I am no medical professional or even a well-read “amateur expert” when it comes to issues of health and vaccines. In many ways this isn’t even an opinion piece about vaccines, rather an observation about how important issues are addressed and dealt with, about how credibility is defined and upheld and how “important questions” may not be that important after all.
What got me thinking about this was a link that a friend on facebook posted to a web site that you would call pro-vaccine. I read about the person who set up the blog and you can see it’s a response to a lot of other information out there that is saying that “vaccination is the cause of autism”. This person is saying all of this talk of “vaccines being linked to autism” and other serious problems is both bogus and dangerous. She talks about her own organic, ‘au natural’ upbringing by her hippie-ish mother. Her mother vehemently believed in having “non-vaccinated” children and she talks about all the serious health problems she had to deal with because of this belief system her mother had embraced. In short, as far as she was concerned, not getting your kids vaccinated is a dumb and dangerous choice. Although the whole theory about vaccines causing autism has been around for a while, in the last few years it has got further prominence by a US celebrity/playmate Jenny McCarthy coming on the woman’s talk show “The View” claiming that her child getting his vaccination was what triggered his autism.
Understandably, much of the medical profession are horrified that someone is out there basically encouraging mothers not to vaccinate their children. Someone, which in our celebrity worshiping culture, has enough authority , for some people to listen and act on. One of the last century’s biggest advancement healthwise, next to clean drinking water, was stopping and preventing a whole host of viruses through social program of vaccination. These viruses previously would just wipe out massive swathes of the population but through the social program of everyone getting their children vaccinated this has been dramatically reduced, and some diseases totally eradicated. If you haven’t recently heard of your best friend’s kids getting polio, or dying from rubella, chicken pox or meningitis, vaccines would be the thing to thank. So with that backdrop in mind for non-medical or even medical professionals, to be going out and openly endorsing not getting children vaccinated is, as far as they are concerned, equivalent to saying “go out and smoke as much tobacco as you can, as it’s the surest way you can prevent lung cancer.”
So you have this army of vaccine advocates, all out there doing what they see as a social good by trying to educate and prevent unnecessary harm by deriding web site that has an “Anti-Vaccine” bent. Yet all this reasoned logic aside, although I haven’t had any experience or knowledge of how vaccines work, I have lived with a brother who had a chronic mental illness for a number of years which exposed me to the workings of the modern medical system. During that time he was forcibly drugged and brought into a system of “care”, if you can call it that, which viewed his problem as being purely biological. His brain was chemically imbalanced; a claim I ended up finding out has no scientific credence whatsoever, yet it is used as an undeniable truth. As a result he was treated solely with an onslaught of extremely powerful anti-psychotic medication. Finding out what he was taking, what it did to him, who made it and what the whole nature of that bio-medical model meant, did make me a bit of doctor of psychiatry from the university of Google. I did become knowledgeable and I would consider more “informed” through my self-education. I discovered that there were dissenting views of how psychosis should be treated coming from within the psychiatric profession itself. I also discovered how basically greedy and sociopathic the multi-billion dollar companies were that were producing the drugs he was being administered. So with that I am not someone who thinks you’re not entitled to a credible opinion unless you have medical degree and I was actually quite shocked when speaking to certain health professionals that still defended using ECT (electroshock therapy), based on arguments made 30 years ago that seemed to be about when they last updated their general knowledge of treating mental illness. So I went through my own education process and doing so I discovered the hard truth about how his treatment was being approached. This was summed up by something I read in a business magazine whilst waiting at the dentist. In it there was an article with a profile on Johnston & Johnson and how well the sales of their anti-psychotic called Risperdal that my brother once was on, were going. Being a business article, it wasn’t looking at Risperdal in its therapeutic application, rather it was about the market share it was gaining and how they were wanting to expand that market share even further, with lines like
“J&J’s antipsychotics franchise, including the Risperdal formulations and Invega, earned revenues of $2.0 billion in 2010, a decrease of 12.7% from 2009”.
At the time I found it sickening, and so divorced from the reality of the pain my brother went through but it accurately framed the context of what it was really all about. That is by getting the diagnosis of “mentally ill” he was drawn into a system that seemed to have been co-opted or bought by the pharmaceutical industry. Therefore he became a unit of sale of a multi-billion dollar corporation’s profit and loss statement. Although now I don’t follow what’s happening in pharmaceuticals companies when it comes to promoting mood altering drugs, I am all the time coming across articles revealing how corrupt and morally bankrupt these corporations are, and how toothless, and pointless the government regulators are who are meant to protect us from their wrongdoings. Don’t take my word for it that these are criminal organisations, just read how the pharmaceutical companies have over taken banking and defence contracting (that’s saying something) for committing the most grievous acts of fraud and theft, getting slapped with the biggest amount of fines totalling 6.6 billion for any industry in 2012. Which in some way is small change in the price of doing business, seeing as the industry in the USA does $325 billion annually turn over in sales.
So tying that back in with the debate on vaccines, it’s impossible to forget that many of the same companies pushing anti-depressants, ADHD meds, anti-psychotics are also the same ones producing and selling the vaccines. Pfizer does 1.8 billion in sales of vaccines and 3.3 billion of anti-depressants, and there are similar figures with Merek and GKL just to name some of the bigger ones. The model, or “modus operandum”, that drives the sales of vaccines is the same as what drives the sales for anti-depressant use, that is, profit, profit and more profit. These corporations are legally bound to maximise profit, not improve the health and well-being of the public. It has been shown time and time again, how these corporations are willing to lie, cover up, delay, litigate, bribe and do whatever they can within, around and outside of the law, to ensure profits keep coming. To see illustrated how calculating and heartless these companies can be you only need to stay up to date with news, as there is a constant steam of stories coming out showing how devious and corrupt these companies really are. For instance GlaxoSmithKline who currently do annual sales in vaccines of 1 billion, knowingly, willingly and, most disturbing, “legally” suppressed data showing that Paxil, an anti-depressant they own, increases suicidal tendencies in teenagers as this quote from Wiki shows
“As of 2008, GSK’s prescribing information acknowledges that “serious discontinuation symptoms” may occur. Court documents released in October 2008 indicated that GSK “and/or researchers may have suppressed or obscured suicide risk data during clinical trials” of paroxetine.
So let’s be clear what happened here, GSK suppressed the data, knowing there was a greater probability that teenage boys and girls would die directly from that action, which they did. Placing profits over the life of children; if that is not a profile of corporate sociopathy, I don’t know what is. The case of GSK and its fraudulent practices with Paxil and other anti-depressants is sadly just one of many crimes committed regularly by large pharmaceutical companies. I assume it is all just factored in as the cost of doing business. You would think with record fines of £2.2 billion, which is what GSK had to pay out for its “off branding” of Paxil, they would be out of business or the CEO would be put in jail, but two tier justice ensures no such thing happens.
So I don’t know if vaccines do or don’t cause autism, what I do know is the companies selling the vaccines are unscrupulous, rapacious and do business without any moral compass and are in no way to be trusted. With billions of dollars at stake of course any linking of vaccines with autism will surely be lampooned and discredited. Now that may be because it is actually bogus, but how can we ever really know or trust that it isn’t because they say so? Given the record, the public should be very distrustful of what any big pharma company is peddling. Also research and studies into the danger of vaccines will not be getting funding or encouragement within academic environments. Any university professor or researcher within any academic institution (which are more and more being conduits for corporate control) will go nowhere in their career if they go out on limb to get funding to test or prove there is a link between vaccines and autism. Now even the suggestion of such a link is a sure-fire career suicide.
So we see power protects its interests, and whether or not that interest happens to be in line with citizen interests will only ever be by chance. One of the ways power and authority are protected is through ridicule and derision. An example of this in action is on the web site Autismum. This is a pro-vaccine site and in its menu it profiled what is called “Assorted Cranks”. This was a scathing critique of the predominant voices in the “vaccine causes autism (VCA)” camp. I guess I find this type of pious scorn more revealing about it authors, then those whom they derided, as to belittle, mock and talk down to anyone, no matter how silly and idiotic you might think they are, is often a method employed by those assisting keeping power in the hands of the powerful, rather than those trying to take it away. This type of naked contempt has an air of “how dare you” even venture to discuss or voice an opinion when you are outside of the upper echelons of the medical priesthood (I got this same haughty contempt when I questioned some of the logic of the psychiatrists who were treating my brother). Then if you are qualified to have an opinion, your character, rather than lack of qualification will be attacked. Yet the use of ridicule is a common tool in shutting down dissent. In Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman’s classic book on media propaganda “Manufacturing Consent” , they list five filters which ensure the media stays within the permitted parameters of discussion. One of those filters is “Flak”. Like the media, within the medical and scientific community there are things that are allowed to be seriously discussed and things that aren’t. In the same way, journalists see their impartially being key to their reporting, the bias that they “have no bias” ensures they don’t even see what they filter, in fact the filtering is unconscious and internalised. Andrew Marr, who would be considered part of the respected elite of establishment journalism, on a BBC program in which he was interviewing Chomsky denied that he filtered information. Chomsky’s reply was pithy and simple “If you believed something different you wouldn’t be sitting where you’re sitting”. Snap goes Chomsky!!! Watching Andrew Marr’s arguments get shot down, we get to witness something that is uncommon in the mainstream media. We see with Chomsky airtight logic, the medium itself is exposed, by the medium itself, as the hollow industry that it is, that is in complete service to corporate and state power. Also an excellent analysis of it by David Edwards of Medialens.org was written as an media alert.
So too, medical professionals and scientists see in the scientific method the assurance that they are not coming from a place of bias or personal prejudice, that they are only dealing with the “facts” and “the data”. So when I see that same kind of flak directed at the VCA advocates, I question if they are worthy of it, maybe they are but I shouldn’t ever assume that. I also can’t help wonder, in the interest of balance, why isn’t some of that same scorn and vitriol that is directed at anti-vaccine campaigners also directed towards some of the companies that sell the vaccines? Those out there pushing the VCA view, I believe, will in the end do a lot less damage than the unlawful practices of Big Pharma, so why aren’t Big Pharma worthy of the same scorn and vitriol?
So do vaccines cause autism? I have no idea. We know correlation isn’t the same as causality and if no credible studies have been done to say otherwise, then you can’t just believe that to be true just because you have personally linked the two. Yet let’s remember, that would have been the same response to the mothers and fathers whose teenage children committed suicide whilst on Paxil . Those parents would have been told, “Sorry mum and dad, correlation isn’t causality and it was just an unlucky and tragic coincidence”, that is until the suppressed study came out showing the very thing they intuited was fact, not fiction.
So rather than ridiculed, I think these people have to be understood and sympathised with as these people are not crazy or loons to think this is possible. Is it feasible that a pharmaceutical company actually does a study that shows there is a link and then suppresses that study? Absolutely, again history shows us that, given a choice between profits and inflicting massive amounts of pain and suffering on innocent victims, profits will win 10 times out of 10, no question. On top of that we have a political and legal system that makes the practice of suppressing negative data actually legal, which just validates how bought and empty of integrity our political systems have really become. Steal some socks and go to jail for 25 years, suppress data that leads to the death of innocent teenagers and that’s just the price of doing business.
So I don’t think it’s a case of vaccines “do” or “do not” cause autism. Is it possible there are a whole series of interrelating variables? That vaccines, in and of themselves, may not cause autism but at the same time, vaccines may be one thread of a number of variables that are creating this absolutely astounding figure of 1 in 50 US children being diagnosed autistic. The established medical profession is saying that the reason for this apparent increase is just “better diagnosis”, meaning 1 in 50 adults in the US has undiagnosed and untreated autism, but it just went undetected. This is the same logic as to why there is a sudden surge of children with ADHD, supposedly we just know now how better to diagnose it. Again some of these assertions may or may not be correct, yet the debate of “do they or don’t they cause autism” also serves to distract or take attention away from the very structure and mechanics of how our health needs and issues are addressed and looked at.
Why would we be surprised that an industry worth billions of dollars, driven solely by profit, ends up peddling lies, committing fraud, misleading the public, promulgating misinformation and generally behaving in a despicable kind of way? Name me one industry that is worth billions that isn’t covered head to toe in lies and mistruth? We now have a medical industrial complex, where vast fortunes and profits are made from testing, diagnosing and treating peoples’ health. Surely the fact “profit” drives this industry, not peoples’ health is worthy of some attention and focus? How have we have ended up with a billion dollar industry supposedly built for our health, that has a vested interest in people being less healthy rather than more? That treating symptoms is more profitable than creating cures. How is it that medical errors in hospitals, now the third leading cause of death after cancer and heart disease, are not seen as a serious red flag? How is it that any of these issues aren’t being seen as a serious problem? It is not a conspiracy theory to conclude that if a pharmaceutical company developed a cheap cure to an illness, that up until then they had been making billions from drugs alleviating the symptoms of that illness, that they would not release that cure, or more practically, they would not put the time, research and money into finding it in the first place. We don’t need a shadowy cabal and global conspiracy for this to happen, we just need to follow the logic of what happens when profit is the sole objective.
Running parallel to the global billion dollar industry of treating “health” is a gradual concentration of ownership across all spectrums of the corporate landscape, as we witness a fusing of global corporate power. Each of these big industries from defense, property, banking, petro chemical, big agriculture, security, pharmaceutical and media all have stakes in each other. These corporations, hold no national or political allegiance and are bound by their universal pursuit of profit. So we can see the majority of the media most people consume, from TV news, to newspapers, radio, cinema etc. is owned by the same interests that own banks, pharmaceutical companies, defense contractors, large agriculture etc… Given their shared ownership or mutual drive for profit, do you think we are going to be told and informed by the mainstream media of anything that’s outside of their broad interest? Therefore the information we are fed, the environments we work in, the food we eat, the goods and services we consume, the structure of political systems, all end up in service to the enhancement and furthering of these larger ventures and business interests.
These obsessions toward growth and profit not only corrupt healthcare outcomes but most facets of society. The result of this across-the-board focus on profit first is a legacy of societal dysfunction that manifests as crime, job dissatisfaction, unemployment, poverty, illness and stress, debt etc. All these social ills are not by chance, they are created purposely and in the end have very easy solutions. It’s not like we don’t have the resources, capacity and intelligence to fix these things. What prevents us is that those with a high concentration of power and money are unwilling to concede any portion of what they have taken, stolen and acquired. For instance, the Glasgow media group proposed a workable solution to the current economic problems the UK is facing. They suggested a blanket, one off, 20% wealth tax on all UK citizens with wealth greater than 4 million pounds. This one off tax would raise 800 billion in income, stimulate the economy and leave no need for austerity. Then we have the fact that halting the doomsday like future of global warming is all completely doable. If all governments stopped the massive subsides for fossil fuels and implemented a global carbon tax, it would force innovation and give industry no choice but to switch to renewables within the time-frame required to prevent the earth becoming unliveable. I wonder what 3 trillion dollars of USA tax payers money would have done, if it were invested in the development of renewable energy, instead of going to war with Iraq? We could reduce much of the war and murder going on in the Third world countries just by USA, Britain, France, Germany and Russia not selling them all the weapons to commit these atrocities. War is a racket and we, the western democracies, are the racketeers. We could also free all citizens from the shackles of debt, by creating a government run bank that lent money with no interest, as proposed by the web site www.positivemoney.org ensuring the end of debt peonage that so many people are enslaved under. People forget there was a time when charging interest on money lent, or “usury” was a crime!! Also all the corruption and fraud around health could be radically removed by simply removing the profit motive. If all medicines were free and only governments and non-profits had the rights and resources to research and create cures, vaccines, antidotes and any other pharmaceutical medicines, the state of the health care system would look radically different. By replacing profit with peoples’ “wellbeing” at the centre of all innovation, research and treatment, the health industry would become in service to citizens rather than the shareholders of large corporate interests.
What would the world look like without being awash with guns, bombs and so many means of destruction? What would life look like without financial debt? What would the world be like knowing our planet is being truly stewarded for future generations? Yet none of these solutions to the world’s problems are seriously discussed and explored for the simple reason they take money and power from those with all the money and power. It’s really that simple. So we are permitted to argue or question “Do vaccines cause autism?” because the answers and solution are no big threat to established and institutional power. Questions like “Why aren’t all medicine’s free?” or “Why don’t we nationalise the pharmaceutical industry?” and “Why don’t we make interest on loaning money illegal?” are not allowed. On the back of those questions I wonder how long Barbara Walters would keep hosting “The View”?
So if we want meaningful change and improvement to our health and the healthcare industry we need to move away from debating the most effective treatment of symptoms. Instead we need to look at the foundational and structural elements that shape peoples’ health and create peoples’ ill health. To me, these alarming figure of 1 in 50 US children being diagnosed with autism, is in and of itself, a symptom of something else. It is a sign of a bigger, wider and more complicated picture of post 2000 society, culture, our environment. It tells us something about the way we work, interact and think and feel, revealing what’s really going on in our collective unconscious and individual psyche. Unless we address that bigger picture, these issues will never get solved, they will just change in name, and other versions pop up elsewhere, and on it goes. I don’t think I am being an alarmist or over the top when I say the current state of our world is radically fucked up. Shit, we are looking down the barrel of complete annihilation for humanity as global warming starts looking unstoppable and Miley Cyrus tongue against metal objects is what’s trending on Twitter, really? Please tell me it’s not so! Yet sadly it is so, that means as far as I am concerned, radically fucked up problems warrant radical solutions, radical questions and for sure, radical answers.