Monday 19 September 2016

Corporate Conspiracies.

What's Your Poison? It is only in the last few years that the world has learned of the American sugar industry’s successful battle to suppress the science linking excessive sugar consumption with heart disease. In a tactic borrowed from the tobacco industry, scientists working for the sugar barons heaped doubt upon the emerging evidence and diverted scientific attention towards saturated fats as the primary cause of heart disease.
CONSPIRACY THEORIES have long fascinated me: ever since I laid eyes on a document known as “The Gemstone File” nearly 40 years ago. If I quote just the first few sentences from the cover-page, you’ll understand why I found it so hard to put down:
Tell me what it is, dear editors, before I get into it.
My dear, it’s heavy.
What is its history?
It’s an anonymous manifestation mailed from Tucson, Arizona, to a fanatical friend of The Fanatic, who insisted it should be published for the good of the North Indies – that radiated land improperly referred to by trivialists as America.
What does it mean?
It’s mean. It names names, and pushes punches right back where they came from.
On whose behalf?
God and the Revolution … If this planet’s a corporation, it’s a corpse.
In the age of the Internet this sort of pitch is commonplace: the staple fare of wild-eyed conspiracists the world around. Back in the late 1970s, however, when practically every form of written communication was carried on the surface of pulped trees, a document like “The Gemstone File” rapidly acquired semi-mystical status. It was passed from hand-to-hand; photocopied to the point of illegibility; puzzled over and debated through long nights of drug-fuelled paranoia.
The very best kind of undergraduate fun!
Whoever wrote “The Gemstone File” was right about one thing though: if this planet is a corporation, then it is a corpse. But even in the fevered brain of The Fanatic and his fanatical friends, it is unlikely that fantasy ever outstripped the true extent of corporate mendacity.
It is only in the last few years, for example, that the world has learned about the American sugar industry’s successful battle to suppress the science linking excessive sugar consumption with heart disease. In a tactic borrowed from the tobacco industry, scientists working for the sugar barons heaped doubt upon the emerging evidence and diverted scientific attention towards saturated fats as the primary cause of heart disease.
For nearly four decades the deadly impact of sugar on the health of people all over the world was downplayed. Not only was sugar’s major contribution to heart disease minimised, but its crucial role in fuelling the West’s burgeoning levels of obesity was also deliberately obscured. The inevitable outcome of a sugar-laden diet – a global epidemic of Type 2 Diabetes – looks set to burden the health services of the world for many years to come.
Calculating the harm done by the American sugar industry is difficult. But the number of people who, since the 1960s, have had their lives cut short by heart attacks, strokes, and the deadly consequences of undiagnosed and untreated Type 2 Diabetes, must run into the tens-of-millions.
It is difficult to comprehend the psychological make-up of people who, in the name of selling tobacco and sugar, were willing to suppress and/or denigrate the scientific evidence pointing to these substances catastrophic effects on public health. That they entered into genuine conspiracies to thwart all attempts to mitigate the harm caused by their products is indisputable – as is the conclusion that they have the blood of millions on their hands. And yet, somehow, they still manage to carve their Thanksgiving Turkey and ruffle the curls of their grandchildren. Death on an obscene scale is simply written-off by these corporate killers as the cost of doing business.
And it’s still going on. The tried and true tactic of denying and/or debunking “inconvenient” scientific evidence was adopted with undeniable success by the oil industry as it became increasingly clear that anthropogenic global warming was fossil-fuelled. Once again the hired scientific guns of the big corporations were dispatched to undermine every effort to reduce carbon emissions. That a majority of Americans are now convinced that man-made climate-change is a “hoax” bears testimony to the efficacy of the tobacco and sugar barons’ ‘big lies’. That a planet rendered incapable of sustaining human civilisation might be the ultimate outcome of their public relations exercise did not slow them down.
The author/s of “The Gemstone File” devoted considerable creative energy to inventing a world ruled by individuals utterly consumed by greed, lust and ambition. Paradoxically, their villains are too charismatic, too grandiloquent, to be believably evil. True evil is nearly always the work of ordinary, or, to use Hannah Arendt’s superbly chosen adjective, “banal”, human-beings whose lack of empathy and atrophied imaginations make them the ideal carriers of the corporate disease.
How else could so many of them work so diligently for corporations that have piled up so many corpses.
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Sunday, 18 September 2016.


Guerilla Surgeon said...

I had to investigate this when writing my thesis. There were a group of scientists who seemed to be guns for hire, who supported the tobacco industry when it was downplaying the health effects of smoking. These people had a direct link to the eugenics movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A movement which I might say was very popular in New Zealand. Plunkett was keen on it, among others. And if my memory serves me correctly after the smoking debacle, at least some of these scientists moved onto global warming denial. These days a lot of companies obfuscate the science behind industrially produced health risks using much the same tactics. Unfortunately science is always uncertain – as Dara O'Briain said, "science knows it doesn't know everything, otherwise it would stop." Unfortunately between the scientist and the public, there are a group of idiots who misrepresent and misinterpret just about every scientific discovery made, in the name of selling newspapers. And of course papers have gotten rid of most of their proper science reporters, and given it to someone who knows nothing about it mostly.
It struck a chord with me though, because my mother died of lung cancer after smoking heavily from age 13 to about age 55 – mind you, she did live a fair while after that :).

pat said...

and yet still they continue......I suspect a widespread acceptance of these facts may have arrived too late, but at least the sociopaths will be buried in nice suits in fine caskets.

greywarbler said...

While looking for something else on the internet I found these:

This guy was eating regular not apparently sugary foods.

And here is a USA doco on how bureaucrats fired with zealotry to control or eliminate anything vaguely non-conforming in food. (Think Daleks intoning Eliminate, Eliminate.)

Further - a detailed feature on the modern food corporates.

And never miss a trick - door to door, hovel to hovel, junk to junk.,_launches_barge_to_peddle_junk_food_on_the_amazon_river_to_brazil%27s_poor

Guerilla Surgeon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
greywarbler said...

Guerilla Surgeon
I fear that you have gone wandering from the right path to the right

It seems that you are replying mostly, to Manfred from A Better Poll,the next feature down. I think you should repeat it in its rightful place where the interesting points you have made should be seen.

I think that the term 'mega fuckover' is a robust, effective description of what is needed of our present political primrose path leading away down to the dunny.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Thanks. Browser went funny. Will repost.

Charles E said...

Since nobody so far has been on topic really Chris I will have a go.
I don't buy your argument that these corporate people are conspirators, destroying people and the planet. But yes they are banal and seem not to care if their company's products do harm. Yet that is true of most people everywhere and always has been. It is sadly, the human condition. We are all like that.
We care most for ourselves and our close family. Then wider family. Then community, then ... and so on .. ever diminishing. This means we do care what we eat & drink to some extent and our family. But wider, nah we don't. We think if 'those people' get fat or smoke themselves to death on legal products which at low levels are pretty harmless, them tough.
So for example I read the other day the Chinese government is allowing its companies to invest in the tobacco industry in Africa big time. Well do ordinary Chinese citizens care about that? I doubt it. But I bet if it was NZ companies and this government they would be dumped on big time by many of us. So we are progressive hypocrites.
So US sugar? Nah, I am sure we have always known that too much of it causes disease. I remember my mother going on about sugar in the 70s which she said was 'pure, white & deadly, like rat poison'. Well she banned us from using it but grew plump on other food, smoked all day and did no exercise (she read about 8 hours a day bwt, but I don't blame libraries for her addiction). She did not get diabetes but died of cancer at 70. She also told us that she remembered her uncle in the late 30s showing her that if you blew cigarette smoke through a silk handkerchief it left soot & tar on it so that is what went in your lungs. He and she still smoked and knew it caused lung disease. Same with sugar, booze and indeed excessive fat. All killers we have always know, if you pig out on them.
So we are to blame for our own wilful neglect of our health, not corporates, who merely dangle their products within reach. We move our arms out to grab them. Time for a beer or six anyone?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"So we are to blame for our own wilful neglect of our health, not corporates, who merely dangle their products within reach. We move our arms out to grab them."

Given that most smokers start in their early teens, this is complete bullshit. Cigarette companies have deliberately aimed their advertising at young people in countries where it is allowed. And did so in New Zealand until comparatively recently. A 13 year old, as my mother was when she started smoking, hasn't got the brains to figure out if they're starting on a course that is going to affect them for the rest of their lives. That's why they legally can't sign contracts or have sex. And considering that nicotine is one of the most addictive substances in the world, I think we would be doing well to protect young people from its effects.
A lot of products containing rather too much sugar also have their advertising skewed towards young people. And sugar is also addictive according to the science. Corporate dangle their products within reach indeed – words fail me – almost. They do a damn sight more than that as you well know Charles, otherwise the advertising industry wouldn't be quite so well paid I think.

greywarbler said...

GS Much of what you say could apply to the RTD alochol drinks which have been so successful with younger people, they would combine two addictive substances, sugar and alcohol.

A terribly sad helicopter crash some years ago killed the clever money-making wealth creator who brought these out in NZ. He had a lovely mansion and life out of peddling this stuff, and was awfully upset that the young people were drawn to them, it wasn't his choice. However when Jim Anderton I think, got the alcohol level on them reduced slightly, he was also a bit upset. I think he thought it was interfering with the market. However he complied and brought the alchie level down to about 1% from the maximum allowed to show his concern for the health of all these young drinkers.

Australia has shown from study that many teenagers couldn't taste the alcohol in RTDs or alcopops as they are called.
Alcopops are an alcohol-infused sweet treat of choice among young adults, thanks in part to trendy packaging and fruity flavours which can mask the taste of alcohol. While officially targeted at over-18s, premixed alcohols, also known as ready-to-drinks (RTDs), have found an audience among underage drinkers....
They're among the most commonly consumed forms of alcohol by 12- to 17-year-old girls, are considered an initiation drink by many young people

The Herald reporter Simon Collins wrote in 2012 about girls binge drinking (about a quarter of males and females 16-17 years drank eight or more standard drinks in a session).

Charles E said...

Pathetic view of human nature you paint GS and gw.
Most people who used to smoke have given up. Yes it requires effort, as I know, I am one. Even teenagers know full well it is addictive and poisonous. Most actually don't smoke these days, nor drink or eat too much as it happens so how come? They exercise self control.

Advertising takes a little effort to ignore too, yes. But you think people cannot control themselves and are just pawns, moved at will by the evil corporates. You guys really do believe the masses are ignorant don't you. Of course not you! Oh no, you are superior beings. Contemptible.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

There speaks a man who knows nothing about teenagers Charles. Perhaps you've never been a child. Smoking is falling out of favour, but largely because of controls on cigarette advertising, and counter advertising campaigns. You certainly know nothing about advertising and its effects. Smoking is still fairly common amongst working-class teenagers, something about which you know even less I suspect. And something about which you care not a whit.
To be honest, looking at the your posts over a long period of time, the tone is always patronising and superior. Full of airy generalisations on subjects about which you know very little. Contemptible.

Charles E said...

Chris isn't it against your rules to post troll-like drivel like GS above?
And when he says:
'To be honest, looking at the your posts over a long period of time, the tone is always patronising and superior. Full of airy generalisations on subjects about which you know very little.'
Don't you think that perfectly describes most of his tiresome posts? Not that I read most of them.
It would add value to your blog to delete 75% of them.

Jh said...

When are we going to link our morning's media dose of Bank Economist with coporate bullshit?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

The difference is Charles, I usually know at least a little about the things I write about. :) I suggest you read some of your postings out loud so you can get the true flavour of them. :) I found that worked with many of my university assignments. And for someone who doesn't read my posts, you certainly comment on enough of them. :)

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Actually I'm surprised Chris that you're rather abusive and not particularly constructive post through as well Charles. But in case he decides to moderate my reply, I will say something slightly more moderate.
You seem to imply that it is easy to resist both nicotine addiction and advertising. Would you like to point me in the direction of the research that suggests it easy? If you wish I can easily suggest some reading for you on how difficult it is. Particularly if you are poor and under stress from various sources, either economic or familial.
You see apart from actually reading about it, I know a little bit from personal experience and that my mother gave up smoking, under the motivation of having 18 months to live if she didn't. She felt that utter craving for the rest of her life. And she was a mature woman when she gave it up. She started smoking when she was 13 and really too young to know what she was doing. My father took up smoking while he was defending your right to spout bullshit taking supplies to Russia. He was 18, and needed it to stay awake. He also smoked until he was 55.
I also know something about teenagers, because for the first 25 years, and the last seven years of my working life I worked with underprivileged teenagers. I know first hand some of the stresses that cause them to take up smoking, and some of the problems that prevent them from giving it up. One of which is that those tobacco companies you worship have increased the addictive additives in cigarettes over the last 30 or 40 years So naturally I get just a little angry when you airily dismiss the whole addiction/advertising thing by simply pulling stuff out of your arse because you may be can't be bothered doing any research on it.
And most of your posts are like this. I think personally, that deleting at least 95% of them would do us all a favour. But then I do believe in freedom of speech, and it does show everyone else on the site what you are like. And that's a plus.

Charles E said...

GS your assumptions of superior substance, knowledge, reasoning and moral status are breathtakingly instructive. Talk about self-unaware. I should not reply but you have partly tried to address me properly, (though still with foul mouthed abuse and arrogance) so I will reply.

I'm merely stating what is obvious to the meanest intelligence:
1. Everyone has known the evils of tobacco, booze and sugar for about two generations, despite producers trying to deny or dilute the obvious;
2. Almost no government of any type, including those that are totalitarian, socialist, or fascist has banned them, only restricted them. The producers absolutely will have taken that as a green to amber light, because it really is just that;
3. That means that effectively it is we the people who are to blame for these damaging substances;
4. They are not so harmful in moderation but additive substances so hard to resist once you start;
5. There are many other such things and struggles we all are subject too. That is the human condition; All of us (rich and poor) have a lifelong battle with self-control. You are a perfect example, as am I.

My key point is that blaming just the producers is a weak position showing a distorted world view that ignores or dismisses human nature and our ability to have control of ourselves. And to tell the poor or dysfunctional that they cannot do it and are just flotsam bobbing uncontrollably in the ocean of an evil world, is itself an evil.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I see I've been modded again. Oh well the price of..... something. I must confess that man gets under my skin more than almost anyone I've ever "met" – and as a secondary school teacher for 25 years I have been tried by the best. Actually when I was a kid, and my 1st or 2nd year at school, a wannabe school bully hit me when I wasn't looking – sort of out of the blue. Uncharacteristically I turned on him and took to the bugger. When blow me down – I was just getting in me licks and a bloody teacher came round the corner, broke it up and gave me 6 of the best for fighting. Wouldn't listen at all to my explanation, but I guess teachers didn't really do much listening in those days. I think what I'm saying Chris is – would it hurt to let me have the last word once in a while? :)