'What right did they have?'
'What?' Yossarian froze in his tracks with fear and alarm and felt his whole body begin to tingle.
'What did you say?'
'Catch-22' the old woman repeated, rocking her head up and down. 'Catch-22. Catch-22 says they
have a right to do anything we can't stop them from doing.'
Catch 22 ~ Joseph Heller
(screenplay by Buck Henry; film directed by Mike Nichols)
Gut Revisionism as Drug Market Purgative
Don’t get me wrong: the “Lancet Paper” and Andrew Wakefield are nowhere near dead. In fact. the front groups are always prematurely celebrating Dr. Wakefield’s politicide and the “debunking” of the modest case study right before both are exonerated yet again by yet another research finding, injury claim or legal ruling.
But industry desperately needed for Dr. Wakefield to be buried along with all memory of the embattled paper before it could fully monetize the undeniable connection between gastrointestinal disorders and autism. Basically all industry needed to launch the gut-drug-palooza chapter of “Autism: Disaster Capitalism Unlimited,” was for the gut-ASD connection to be effectively divorced from a vaccine-induction theory. That connection is not buried and never will be since the truth will always out, including the fact that safety advocacy doesn’t equivocate to an extremist anti-vaccine position. But the corporatocracy confuses media spin for reality all the time. WMD? Gulf of Tonkin? Swine Flu?
A first-ever vaccine created by University of Guelph researchers for gut bacteria common in autistic children may also help control some autism symptoms.
Call it “hair of the dog.” The story immediately reminded me of the “IV/pee-swap” scene from Catch 22.
At the end of her post on the “autism vaccine,” Anne concluded sadly that “the money's in treatment, not prevention.” In that sense, it’s par for the course that, even as industry backed researchers and pundits claimed no gut connection whatsoever, industry vultures have quietly circled the autism-gut issue for several years.
And the media vultures have begun to convene as well. Since last year, Emily Willingham has turned herself into a regular GI Jane in her efforts to laxatize the backlog of gut meds in the pipeline which are just waiting for the break-up of the gut-autism/Lancet marriage to be finalized in public perceptions before being (typically) blasted all over the airwaves in drug puff promos and DTC ads as the new “revolutionary” thinking in autism.
In her touting of a new gut-autism study in Pediatrics, Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Autism Spectrum Disorder: a Meta-analysis, Willingham tries to reconcile the irony with an acrobatic bullshitsu maneuver attempting to— uh —blame the gastroenterologist who largely called attention to the autism-gut connection for causing the commercial science lag in recognizing the association. In Blame Wakefield for the Missed Autism-Gut Connection, Willingham attributes the accusation to the new study’s authors, writing,
When children aren’t autistic and they have stomach pain or constipation or diarrhea, the frequent conclusion is that stress and anxiety are the cause and predictive of anxiety in adulthood. Indeed, with that little nervous system parked there in our gut, it’s no wonder that things get a little seized up and out of rhythm when the rest of us does.
So why is it that no one attends to this clear (to me) link when it come to autistic children? Well, the Pediatrics review by McElhanon et al. happens to cite that reason several times: Wakefield’s MMR/autism/gut red herring and the subsequent noxious cloud that his fraud left over any research examining autism and the gut. So we don’t know anything about the real underlying causes of these digestive problems among autistic children. The Pediatrics authors state it unequivocally:
“It is clear that greater clinical and research scrutiny is needed to increase awareness on this topic and thus support development of the best standards of care. Previous controversy surrounding the MMR vaccine and proposed causal link between ASD and infection of the GI tract probably deterred investigators from dedicating resources to examine GI functioning in this population while fostering uncertainty in the ASD community regarding the validity of this line of inquiry.”
While Andrew Wakefield has published his response to the Forbes article, families who benefitted from Wakefield et al.’s more timely warning have our own perspectives and they run more than a tweet long. Aside from the fact that blaming Wakefield for the lag in autism-GI investigations is a bit like blaming Galileo for the church’s lag in accepting heliocentrism, investigators and physicians who’ve been making money hand over fist drugging the bejesus out of affected children with medications that—whoops—often cause gastrointestinal disease, left children in agonizing pain, denied care to and allowed some affected individuals to die while parents frequently lost custody through state child welfare apparatuses which parroted mainstream claims that attempting to treat bowel disorders in autism was tantamount to “medical child abuse”— all because these investigators feared facing the same media assaults as Andrew Wakefield? And these gutless wonders who would put their “good names” above the lives of children have apparently been the dominant force in the same commercial field we’re now supposed to entrust with the task of coming up with a solution?
W. G. Sharp: research support from the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Trust Pilot Award; J. F. Cubells: research support from NIH, Roche, Seaside Therapeutics, and Biomarin and consultant to Abbott Laboratories, Novartis, Barnes and Thornberg, LLP, and the University of Nebraska.
Sharp’s conflicts don’t necessarily indicate lack of integrity but they should still get some attention. Remember Roche’s (and now Glaxo’s) Xenical, infamous for producing the same side effects as Proctor & Gamble’s Olestra, the subject of a Mad TV “anal leakage” spoof? Roche is all over autism-gut research, since clearly they care about GI health…
And remember Arbaclofen trials for the treatment of Fragile X syndrome from Seaside Therapeutics, now enmeshed with Autism Speaks? Baclofen, the root drug in Arbaclofen, aside from carrying risks of seizure, suicide and violence, carries gastrointestinal side effects like nausea, constipation, anorexia, taste disorder (?), abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and positive test for occult blood in stool.
Then there’s Barnes and Thornburg’s corporate clientele ( hint: Roche); Abbott Labs, which paid the third largest settlement in history for illegal marketing of Depakote, one suspected prenatal cause of autism; and Novartis’s GI drug division.
Many NASW [National Association of Science Writers] members, including myself, function both in the field of public relations and independently as authors of factual articles and other literary materials. So long as we properly identify ourselves as regards these separate activities, nothing, I know of can or should forbid us the right to pursue these two activities.
What could be wrong with that arrangement?
Milo Minderbinder : (Climbs tree, where Yossarian sits naked watching Snowden’s funeral) I don’t want to butt in or anything, but I just wondered why you weren’t wearing your uniform.
Yossarian: I don’t wanna.
Milo: Ah…Yossarian, I want you to do something for me. I want to serve this to the men. Taste it and let me know what you think.
Yossarian: (Eating) What is it?
Milo: Chocolate covered cotton.
Yossarian: (Spits) Are you crazy?! You don’t even take the seeds out!
Milo: Is it really that bad?
Yossarian: It’s cotton!
Milo: They’ve got to learn to like it.
Milo: I saw this great opportunity to corner the market in Egyptian cotton. How was I supposed to know there was going to be a glut? I’ve got 100 warehouses stacked with the stuff all over the European theater. I can’t get rid of a penny’s worth. People eat cotton candy, don’t they? Well this stuff is better: it’s made out of real cotton!
Yossarian: Milo, people can’t eat cotton!
Milo: They’ve got to. It’s for the syndicate!
Yossarian: It will make them sick! Why don’t you try it yourself if you don’t believe me?
Milo: I did—and it made me sick.(Rifle fire) That looks like a funeral.
Yossarian:They’re burying that kid who got killed in my plane yesterday.
Milo:What happened to him?
Yossarian:He got killed.
It’s only in the past few years that I’ve come to understand the real genius of Joseph Heller and Catch 22. Incidentally, Heller also wrote No Laughing Matter, his autobiographical account of his experience of contracting Guillane-Barre in 1981, which left him with tremors and may have hastened his death. My father, also a WWII veteran, also wounded in Italy, died of GBS following a flu shot, which was among the speculated causes of Heller’s condition (as it happens, the film’s director, Mike Nichols, the son of a physician, lost his hair at age four due to a whooping cough vaccine). Catch 22 was one of my father’s favorite books and films, though he said it never made him laugh, arguing that the humor is bait to get the innocent to sit through a political science lesson.
Maybe it takes seeing the bodies hit the ground in our own time to really get the lesson. Aside from the story of Catch 22 coincidentally pivoting around a haunting “Snowden” theme which gradually drives the protagonist to face the truth and refuse capitulation, the book illustrates that telling this not-so-universally-visible truth in your own time can serve as prophesy for the future. Basically the story is an ode to the totalitarian creep of disaster capitalism, how public institutions and the military industrial sector are too easily turned out to service corporate globalization, and how cheap and absurd life becomes in that hell. Heller doesn’t exempt medicine from purgatorial absurdity.
The Bigger Bind: The Great Media-Astroturf Roundup and Totalitarian Shiftstorm
Political media analyst and body-counter Noam Chomsky stated in 1989 that the corporate globalization campaign is virtually indistinguishable from statist Bolshevism, which is why so many political pundits have shifted allegiances seamlessly from the latter to the former in a switcheroo called the “God that Failed.” Chomsky points out that both corporate totalitarianism and state Bolshevism hinge on neo-Platonic, not-so-democratic assumptions that a specialized class of intellectuals must lead the “stupid and ignorant masses” and that the metamorphosis from one to the other is mostly expedient and cynical. It’s not that surprising then that industry attack dogs like Brian Deer and David Aaronovitch were once Leninist enthusiasts when it was the student fashion in the UK, and that both later swerved without a hiccup to virulent corporate neolib/neocon (technically not much different themselves).
Old Pimp: I was a Fascist when Mussolini was on top. Now that he has been deposed, I am anti-Fascist. When the Germans were here, I was fanatically pro-German. Now I'm fanatically pro-America! You'll find no more loyal partisan in all of ltaly than myself.
Nately: You're a shameful opportunist! It’s better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.
Old Pimp: You have it backwards. It’s better to live on your feet than to die on your knees.
Since Leninism never quite caught on in the U.S. and the political spectrum tends to be narrower here than in Europe, there’s far less of a double-take in watching the slightly less dramatic seeming American version of the “God that Failed” shift to totalitarian corporatism. It would more likely have a vaguer starting point of a rejected “hipster social progressive” god or a “libertarian” god. The general ideological molting is happening all over the formerly independent media from Mother Jones to Reason Magazine, which is why flip-flopping on GI issues in autism barely stands out as a shocking reversal. Advocates for gay marriage or gun rights or press freedom, or those who righteously oppose the surveillance-state or “big government,” are now calling for civil and criminal penalties for medical noncompliance.
How does any hipster journalists think vaccines can be universally enforced except through A) surveillance and B) expansion of the powers of government/police state? The chilling absurdity of championing politicized state child snatching as a means of forcing consumers to the biotech trough or silencing science and discourse on medical product safety as a “freedom-loving” position is the ultimate Catch 22.
The fact that mandate-peddling journalists rarely admit to any political shift at all speaks to an increasingly prevalent utopian view that any policy, as long as it’s spun as scientific, can’t be plain old politically repressive. Only Skeptic biotech pitchman David Gorski/Orac of Respectful Insolence recanted his former dabbling in libertarianism. Gorski’s shift may be because Skeptics simultaneously try to infiltrate as many political ideologies as possible with their brand of biotech-peddling pseudorationalism to either divert or, barring that, destroy. Gorski’s occasional progressive-y rhetoric seems to be part of a wider campaign to divert and harness less politically astute hacktivists on the fringes of Anonymous, while Skeptics like Penn Jillette, Ronald Bailey, and Michael Shermer already have Libertarian entryism covered. But other than Gorski, there’s been little ceremonial disavowal of former ideology among reporters pushing coercive policies. The captured (read: “Dick Armey”) wing of the libertarian right blames “free-riders” for the “necessity” of oppression; the left media, which is caving issue by issue, blames the right — and there’s absolutely no discernible difference between either side’s shot rhetoric and that of the always blatantly corporate media. Apparently there are to be no last rites or keening for the failed god of civil liberties, having died with the free press some time ago.
In the film Catch 22, the seamless “full circle” political shift theme is spelled out with Milo Minderbinder, the former mess officer who’s always doing things “for everyone”:
Yossarian: I don't care about the Syndicate. I don't want your tomatoes!
Milo: They're not my tomatoes; they're the Syndicate's tomatoes. Our tomatoes. Just as these are our statues. In fact, that's where all the parachutes went.
Yossarian: You traded my parachute for statues?
Milo: No, in point of fact. I traded our diesel engines for the statues.
Yossarian: I don't have any engines!
Milo: I said “our", not "your". I got the engines for two planeloads of lumber, pairs of shoes and the parachutes.
Yossarian: The men aren't gonna be happy about what you've been doing.
Milo: Don't they understand? We're going to come out of this war rich!
Yossarian: You're gonna come out rich. We're gonna come out dead.
The shift is completed when Milo is shown riding astride a jeep through Rome looking every inch the fascist dictator as he oversees the great M&M whore roundup, a scene which illustrates the meaning of the “Catch 22” reference as the absurd bureaucratic constraints binding up every individual and every last vestige of culture, right down to the whores.
Fascia: A sheet or band of fibrous connective tissue that binds together intestines and other organs, muscles and soft structures of the body.
Fasces/ fasces lictoriae: (Italian) The band binding a bundle of rods symbolizing the imperium with the number of rods signifying individual rank and a single ax representing magisterial power over life and death. Authoritarian league formed through the alliance of feudal empires. A syndicate.
Joseph Heller was agnostic but ethnically Jewish and would have appreciated American participation in liberating the Nazi death camps, though in Catch 22 he focuses instead on the use of heroism and the greater good ethos as a cover for exploitation. From his experience in WWII, Heller was obviously aware of the irony of American war profiteering, particularly given that Mussolini – who, to Lenin’s consternation, had rapidly shifted from Leninism to fascism as he rose to power—stated that fascism is “when you can’t slip a cigarette paper between government and corporations.”
In any case, Milo Minderbinder, the syndicate and the inculcated military personnel in Catch 22 are handy analogies for the pharmaceutical industry, its capture of public health apparatuses and all the various front groups and fronts-of-fronts that spur on the process of corporate ingestion of the media by attacking the careers of journalists or media personalities who resist. Even pop-astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson appears to be roundup ready on GMOs, flu shots and autism theory.
And like Milo or the Roman whores for that matter (gender-neutral analogy again), many of the astroturfers we currently see in the media and blogosphere— who will surely be filing up to backpedal former denialism towards the autism-GI connection while babbling the usual science-speak in defense of biotech and repressive policy— will eventually rise as state operatives. And they will have climbed there on the shredded guts of the syndicate’s collateral.
Pilot: (Over headset) Help him! Help him!
Yossarian: Help who?
Pilot: Help the bombardier!
Yossarian: I'm the bombardier, I'm all right.
Pilot: Then help him. Help him! (Yossarian moves to the tail of the plane, where Snowden lies injured and shivering under his flight jacket).
Snowden: I'm cold. I'm cold… God.
Yossarian: It's gonna be OK, kid. We'll be home soon. Does the leg still hurt?
Yossarian: (Removing Snowden’s flight jacket, at which point Snowden’s intestines spill out. Gasping in horror) There, there… There, there. There, there.
In Catch 22, Milo Minderbinder transforms from chattering clown to despot and we’re already witnessing the same with the PR hubs and anonymous troll league. Some could be appointed to committees like former anonymous online troll “Sullivan” (Matthew Carey), or “autism advocates” like Alison Singer. Some could eventually be tapped for government jobs. Think of the “Ratf*ckers” from the Nixon campaign who ended up with government posts—except the stakes are so much higher this time. And if anything emerged from the Skeptics’ internal alleged rape and sexual harassment scandal, it was that involvement with the Skeptics is considered—who knew?— a “career track.” Fear of lost career opportunities reportedly provided certain high-ranking Skeptics with sufficient power to coerce or silence victims.
Ashley Paramore at 9:40 : I’ve never publicly talked about any of the issues that I’ve experienced at these conferences. And I’ve seen what happens to women that have talked about their experiences at conferences like these, and seen the severe backlash that they have to deal with. And I, for many of these years, have worked in some way for Big Atheism. What would any of this getting out mean for my career even?
Aside from the question of where the cash is coming from that could endow an organization with a career track, what would that career entail? As is true in most front groups, the lower order rank and file, for all their vicious enthusiasm for the “cause,” may not fully understand that the Skeptics are nothing more than an ideologically void biotech PR front which is rapidly expanding into a state-sanctioned operation. If Orwell’s Nineteen Eight-Four were written today, there would have to be a fifth department in the Ministry of Truth: “Debunksec”—the branch which grubs credence for debunking nonsense claims like Yeti sightings only to cash in the verification credits by speciously tarring legitimate scientific whistleblowers with the same “debunking” brush.
But this is precisely why the “whore” analogy doesn’t extend to the alleged victims in this case (multiple women and one young man). They didn’t know the rules. Rape can happen in any institution, maybe particularly in those claiming to be transcendently exempts, but it’s no just punishment for any deed, least of all for being a true believer. The proverbial whores are higher up the front group food chain and would understand that an organization which specializes in industry cover up and attacks on whistleblowers would probably be pretty adept at internal cover up and attacks on internal whistleblowers. That appears to be what happened—followed by silence.
Maybe the allegations were a set up; maybe they weren’t. But the silence is the takeaway. Even if they get off scot-free, politicians and DuPont heirs can’t always avoid being slathered all over the news at the slightest hint of deviance, so it’s a bit of a media anomaly when a major publisher in the Skeptic arena is repeatedly accused of rape and it never makes the regular press. That tells you something. Or, better put, it tells you nothing and that’s interesting. It could point to the current import of seemingly peripheral PR machinery.
In his article for First Look, How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive and Destroy Reputations, Glenn Greenwald writes:
One of the many pressing stories that remains to be told from the Snowden archive is how western intelligence agencies are attempting to manipulate and control online discourse with extreme tactics of deception and reputation-destruction… Among the core self-identified purposes of JTRIG are two tactics: (1) to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet in order to destroy the reputation of its targets; and (2) to use social sciences and other techniques to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable.
Government positions and contracts aren’t necessarily made public, particularly when government deployment of domestic psychological operations and propaganda are completely illegal. It’s still illegal if done by government contractors but the Stratfor scandal shows there may be a familiar catch: the crime won’t be prosecuted but the whistleblower will be. Catch 22.
According to Noam Chomsky, the Skeptics are in essence a “state religion” charged with rationalizing state atrocity, and Greenwald called the group’s leaders out as violently rhetorical political propagandists who play on bigotry. The organization’s nonprofit status may mean that they’re political propagandists with a bonus of providing plausible deniability for whoever hires them due to the anonymity of sponsorship through Schedule B donations.
Emily Willingham has lightly tried to distance herself from Skeptic online attack squads since their compounded “rape/Islamophobia/racial-profiling” scandals while still taking what appear to be defense contracts for the Skeptic holy trinity of GMOs, vaccines and psych meds (and now possibly GI drugs). But it’s hard to keep a distance from strange bedfellows when there’s increasingly only one bed. She’s as enmeshed as Dorit Reiss—one of the most visible operatives campaigning for legislation to coerce medical compliance— or anyone else on the biotech PR front, sprouting ties that bind and a thousand interweaving threads leading back to dead center.
What happens with dying empires—Thucydides [Greek commander circa 400 BC, author of History of the Peloponnesian War] wrote about this— is that the techniques of control, which are always about coercion—the only language most people speak in the outer reaches of empire is the language of force—as the impirium is hollowed out, these techniques migrate back into heart of the impirium, which is exactly what is happening. So you have the mercenaries working in Iraq and Afghanistan suddenly appearing in New Orleans after Katrina…
The consolidation of most media is especially interesting in view of the rough but still pretty remarkable correlation between the ranking of countries by freedom of the press and these countries’ infant mortality rates if only developed countries are included (a country may have high infant mortality due to war or poverty but have a relatively free press). Among developed countries, infant mortality correlates in turn with the number of infant vaccinations according to one study, though, without the warning system of a free press, other risk factors could be obscured as well. In the end, we can’t count on the captured press and stealth marketing hubs to determine what these risks are.
It’s also very interesting that the “anti-vaccine” strawman propaganda label has the double-edge of making the process of consolidation glaringly obvious. The lockstep reporting on vaccines/autism has wider political ramifications than just medical rights because the increasingly centralized coercive medical campaign never had anything to do with public health to begin with anymore than Milo Minderbinder was really interested in eggs or cotton. Because vaccines come with the built-in “for the little children” moral hostage taking tagline, they’re simply a convenient Trojan horse for wider incursions on consumer and civil rights. Pushing way more shots than is necessary or safe even turns the issue into a litmus for general public pliability and an all-purpose oath of sacrificial fealty, flushing out those who won’t “pledge” the better to brand them as “extremists.” In any event, if a publication, reporter or blogger uses the term, the money/influence trail, no matter how carefully concealed, usually leads to something curious, so activists are easily able to track the consolidation of PR hubs by the use of the “anti-vaccine” label, which no honest independent observer could conclude about the bulk of the medical rights movement.
Andrew Wakefield’s interview on FOX with (former anchor) Alisyn Camerota in 2011 (4:07):
"Alisyn, let me correct you on that. I advocated very strongly for the use of the single vaccines: single measles, mumps, rubella which were available at the time  in the U.K. The vaccination uptake did not fall. MMR went down, but there was a reciprocal increase in the use of single vaccines. Then six months after I made that recommendation, the government in the U.K. unilaterally withdrew the importation license for the single vaccines, thereby depriving parents of an opportunity to vaccinate their children. Then vaccination rates went down. Then measles came back. The British government is solely responsible for that happening."
The Age of Autism author and blog editor Dan Olmsted’s 2010 Spectrum Magazine article (June/July) entitled, not incidentally, I Am Not Anti-Vaccine:
"Being opposed to vaccines might seem like less of an insult that “twit”, “fraud” or “hypocrite”. But there’s one problem with it. It’s not true. It’s a way that those who want to shut down the debate on vaccines and autism try to marginalize their opponents."
Generation Rescue’s J.B. Handley on The Doctors in 2009:
Handley: (1:05): "The devil is always in the details. One of the problems with vaccines is they’ve been so great that people overly generalize about them as if they’re only great. We looked at first world countries: we’re 34th in under-five mortality, behind such luminaries as Cuba and Slovenia. However, we have 36 vaccines. The top five, which include countries like Finland, Norway, Iceland average 11 and 13 vaccines. From 1994 we added 8 vaccines to our schedule. There are vaccines like flu, rotavirus, varicella which have only been picked up by 2 or 3 of the other 30 countries. So what do they know that we don’t? Why aren’t they picking up vaccines that have been around for 15 years? And why are their autism rates 1 in 1,000; 1 in 1,500, 1 in 2,000? It doesn’t take a brain surgeon or an ER doctor to figure out there might be a correlation."
Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthy on Larry King in 2009:
Jim Carrey (2:46): "We’re not saying don’t vaccinate. That’s the thing we want to get really clear right now. This is the thing: there’s a lot of misdirection going on. We hear the people like Campbell Brown that are saying, you know, 'You can’t not vaccinate.' No one has ever suggested not vaccinating."
Jenny McCarthy: "Going back the 1989 schedule when shots were only 10 and the MMR was on that list. I don’t know what happened in 1990—there was no plague that was killing children that we had to triple the amount of vaccines. Let’s be smart."
Jim Carrey: "What happened in 1989 that warranted 26 more vaccines?"
And from the Vaccine Epidemic promotional film featuring contributors to the book:
Michael Belkin: "I am not a total anti-vaccine advocate. I am a vaccine safety advocate."
Captain Richard Rovet, RN: "I’m not anti-vaccine. I’m not anti-medical counter-measures. I’m anti-cover-up."
In the same speech quoted earlier, Hedges notes that the language of so many modern draconian laws in the U.S.— laws like the Patriot Act the NDAA, the Authorization to Use Military Force Act, the FISA Amendment Act, etc.— has incrementally made free speech into an actionable offense by defining “dangerous extremism” in increasingly broad terms. Coupled with the almost total loss of rights to privacy, most Americans should probably heed the fact that the above moderate statements on vaccination—which are criticizing an industry, not a sweeping conception of preventive medicine— now officially represent such “dangerous extremism” simply because someone in power decrees it. It’s all so absurd, but to paraphrase Camus, those who are made to believe absurdities can be led to commit atrocities.
Yossarian: (Running after Milo’s jeep) Milo! Milo! I’m going to kill you, you murdering son of a bitch!
1st Lt. Milo Minderbinder: (To MPs) Take it easy, don’t hurt him. (To Yossarian) I know how you feel, Yossarian, but it wasn’t my fault.
Yossarian: Who’s fault was it?
Milo: No one’s. Nately was the victim of certain economic pressures. Do you understand anything about the basic law of supply and demand?
Yossarian: You unbelievable bastard! (Yossarian doubles over as MP kidney punches him)
Saints of Mediocrity: “Scientism” Disembowels Science
Should [the doctrine of the science cult] ever be adopted, it would result in anti-intellectualism, a war on science and democratic freedom, and a silencing of those who fail to conform. ~Chris Hedges, When Atheism Becomes Religion
There are many more extraordinary discoveries to be made in science, but the US hasn’t been the Vatican of discovery since the past century. The country has lost its scientific edge, may be losing its scientific elite, most of whom were foreign born to begin with, and now they’re going back where they came from. The US education system is a disaster.
It could be that the mental flights which lead to discovery are being grounded along with the loss of the “space of resistance,” an idea which political theoretician Hannah Arendt developed in The Human Condition, drawn originally from her husband, philosopher Heinrich Blücher, to describe a conceptual space carved out consciously in some societies and snuffed in others, which promotes freedom of political thought. Arendt believed the loss of this “space,” or mental elbow room, could lead to an enslaved society and totalitarian rule.
An enslaved society may also equivocate to an unhealthy one. There’s been a desperate attempt to resurrect education through standardized testing in the US as it falls behind the developed world in math and science, but it’s interesting that, in the world secondary science and math educational ranking, the US falls behind the same developed countries, give or take, which rank higher in press freedom, child mortality and, inversely, the number of required infant vaccinations.
It’s interesting then that the same front groups that push for science education also generate propaganda for toxic industries which may very well be devastating children’s health and contributing to declining educational standards.
The country is bleeding from a million holes drilled by spin. To the rescue comes the hand that held the drill. Since there will never be enough words to capture the epic absurdity of the racket, I’ll crank out a completely different film analogy to recap the central irony of the new GI research hijack in autism marketing, which has already boasted a $3.5-billion-and-rising “autism drug market.”
Once upon a time there was a gastroenterologist named Andrew Wakefield who, with fellow researchers, developed a theory of a gut-brain link in autism and discovered a novel GI disease. Because this paper merely cited parental reports that child subjects developed these peculiar gastrointestinal symptoms after the routine administration of the MMR vaccine in infancy, and because Dr. Wakefield suggested in a press conference that it might be better to break up the three vaccines into separate doses until more was known about the MMR’s effects, every aspect of the paper was attacked, down to the theory of a gut-brain interaction.
Wakefield was accused of conflicts for money he never kept and he, John Walker-Smith and Simon Murch were accused of “callous disregard” for performing lumbar puncture which, for the purposes of determining treatment for child subjects, was employed as a gold standard for diagnosing mitochondrial dysfunction. But attack dogs in the media who gasped over use of the procedure never noted that spinal tap had been used previously and repeatedly by industry funded scientists at the National Institute of Health for much less legitimate purposes, such as investigating whether captive, mostly non-white child subjects at NIH facilities carried “crime genes,” or if having delinquent family members made the siblings of juvenile delinquents respond in a novel way to drugs made by the researchers’ sponsors. To make his case in Panic Virus, Seth Mnookin even affectionately second-hand quoted one of the NIH scientists responsible for several of the experiments without choking on the irony (or noting conflicts).
And now that Wakefield et al. have been effectively assassinated in the media if not in the courts, it’s suddenly common wisdom that autism harbors a gut-brain connection and that addressing GI issues may improve behavior?
Remember the “Patron Saint of Mediocrity”—the character of Salieri in Amadeus?
Salieri: My plan was so simple, it terrified me. First I must get the Death Mass and then achieve the death… His funeral— imagine it! The Cathedral, all Vienna sitting there. His coffin, Mozart's little coffin in the middle. And suddenly in that silence, music. A divine music bursts out over them all, a great Mass of Death: Requiem Mass for Wolfgang Mozart, composed by his devoted friend Antonio Salieri. What sublimity! What depth! What passion in the music! Salieri has been touched by God at last. And God, forced to listen. Powerless - powerless to stop it. I at the end, for once, laughing at Him. Do you understand? Do you? The only thing that worried me was the actual killing. How does one do that?…
The story of Amadeus is really not so different from Catch 22, since it’s also a statement ontotalitarianism. As much as the plot line of the film has been debunked as pop myth—that Mozart wasn’t really such a goofball and that Salieri probably did not plot to kill the composer and take credit for his music—it’s not often mentioned that the story was drawn from the play Mozart and Salieri, Alexander Pushkin’s political parable for exploitation, coopting and decimation of expression under the Soviet system, themed on the mediocrity of worshipful authoritarian capitulators and their jealousy over the creative latitude of free agents.
O heaven, where,
Where is the justice, when the holy gift,
Immortal genius, comes not as reward
For any burning love or self-denial,
Labor, diligence or prayer, but lights
Its radiance instead in heads of folly
I don’t think most industry biotech researchers consciously set out to patent crap. They’re just too politically constrained in the age of industrial disease epidemics and market rules to do much of anything else. The ones issue the crap without bleeding from the gills and with a smile are the ones who rise in rank. All others would be quickly filtered out. Like Drs. Wakefield, Walker-Smith and Murch, like Dr. Gilles-Eric Seralini and so many others. Skeptic vaccine-defender and TV magician Penn Jillette went so far as to produce Tim’s Vermeer, a film which encapsulates that wish of schemers and bean counters everywhere to be delivered from mediocrity by reducing “the mystery of artistic creation to a scientific formula.”
The discovery of an environmentally induced gut-brain disorder wasn’t so much sublime gift as awful revelation, although an extremely important one. But the reason industry-embedded science didn’t illuminate it in any meaningful way is that commercial science is currently a Mecca of mediocrity, illegal marketing and blind careerism. By the global and domestic body count, the pharmaceutical industry is clearly lacking the gift of political “frivolity” that led researchers to pursue clues about an epidemic disorder no matter where they led. There can’t be a lot of investigatory leeway in a systematized model of incompetence built on the “Halliburton spill, burn, dump, poison, misreport and profit-as-rescuer” financial platform.
For instance, if you look at every top blockbuster drug, they’re almost all for treatment of symptoms of disease which are causally linked to industrial catastrophe. The top ten highest selling drugs (compiled from Wikipedia) are: Abilify, prescribed for psychosis and depression, which had sales of $6.5 billion in 2013, followed by Nexium for gastrointestinal disorders, then Humira for rheumatoid arthritis, Crestor for cholesterol, Advair for asthma, Enbrel for RA, Cymbalta for depression and anxiety, Remicade for Crohn’s and rheumatoid arthritis, Neulasta for neutropenia, and Copaxone for multiple sclerosis.
We all know of children with autism who’ve been on all of these drugs at one time or another. All that’s needed to keep the cash flowing is for industry to keep screwing up. By bypassing the industry-optimized search-wreck that is Google and using Duckduckgo.com for less manipulated results (with a bonus that searches aren’t tracked), it’s not hard for any layperson to discover that multiple sclerosis has been compensated in “Vaccine Court” in the US and recognized as a vaccine injury in France; Neutropenia is a known drug side effect; Crohn’s and other autoimmune disorders have been linked GMOs and, despite industry-funded research denying a link, vaccines; depression has been linked to pollution and drug side effects; asthma has been linked to vaccine side effects, pollution and pesticide use; cholesterol drugs are linked to mitochondrial damage and, though the data has now also been painstakingly buried under heaps of industry-sponsored denials, possibly dementia; RA is linked to pesticides, pollution and prescription drugs; psychosis is linked to antidepressants and other prescription medications and antipsychotics are commonly used to treat autism, which is itself linked to a range of industrial products and emissions, including vaccines.
And finally there’s the fact that the collective onus for the fallout falls upon industries that also control the media through roughly 118 corporate representatives who play musical chairs on the boards of the 10 most powerful media corporations in the US according to Operation Censored, which described this corporate-media fraternity as “one big happy family of interlocks and shared interests.”
Anyone hoping that a few beneficial GI drugs, a treatment shift away from sedation, and greater institutional empathy towards gut-driven behavior in autism might all arise from the GI theory hijack may be disappointed when industry slaps together, say, Risperdal with Prilosec, calls it Whatthef*ckitol and gets it rubber stamped for autism treatment. Anyone who thinks curtailing criticism of the hijack might encourage industry to do the right thing hasn’t been paying attention for the past 16 years. Some new formulations may indeed emerge, but in light of all the garbage drug- and treatment-recycling that’s been aimed at the “autism drug market”—from angel dust, electroshock, lobotomy, to an orphan Prozac patent scheme and now an “autism vaccine”— there might be cause to wonder how industry’s autism-gut drugs are going to work out.
When the fallout begins, we won’t hear about it from the incorporated media controlled by a few boards for a syndicate of global corporations which have no allegiance to any country or any population, only power and profits. What’s good for the syndicate is good for us all, right? That’s what they’re writing for.
Col. Cathcart: What are you doing, Yossarian? Get off the field! (Flinching as Yossarian fires pistol at him in revenge for Nately’s death, only to find the gun is out of bullets) I'll see you later. You're confined to the base. I won't forget this.
Yossarian: (As the airfield explodes) I don’t think the air force is going to forget about this.
Col. Cathcart: Don’t be ridiculous, Yossarian. What’s good for M & M Enterprises is good for the air force!
Lt. Col. Korn: There goes the bomb dump!
Col. Cathcart: We had to get rid of that cotton. The Germans promised to take it off our hands if we ran this mission for them. It’s all part of the deal!
Yossarian: You made a deal with the Germans to bomb our own base?
Col. Cathcart: A contract is a contract. That’s what we’re fighting for.
Adriana Gamondes is a Contributing Editor to Age of Autism and one of the blog’s Facebook administrators.