Beware the spoon-feeders of anti-conspiracy pap. You know who I mean. Like several local Victoria writers who suggested that if you suspect corporations may influence U.S. policy in Iraq, Princess Diana’s accident was not accidental, or certain leaders may have been complicit in 9/11, then you “forgot [your] medication” and evidently need far-fetched conspiracy theories as “comfort food” to help you “cope”.
Anti-conspiracists relentlessly attack conspiracy theories, yet their reasonings often have nothing to do with facts or proof. In their minds, for example, the suggestion that companies, regulators, doctors, scientists and thousands of victims have been involved in a global cover-up of a drug’s dangerous side effects is so improbable it not only doesn’t merit serious investigation, it’s laughable.
And that’s dangerous.
I know, because I’ve seen the secret Eli Lilly documents. (You can download them yourself here.) They’re the same internal emails, studies and marketing tools the New York Times wrote about in December after a crusading lawyer subpoenaed them. Swiftly, though, the pharmaceutical company obtained injunctions to shut down all dissemination. I downloaded them through the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s groundbreaking anti-censorship stealth network, TOR.
The documents make clear Lilly began suspecting almost ten years ago that its sedative-antipsychotic Zyprexa (Olanzapine) was particularly dangerous. These suspicions grew into convictions even as Zyprexa was becoming the world’s (and BC’s) third top-grossing drug at $4 billion annually, 30% of Lilly’s total income (Zyprexa is currently about number 5 in the world). This astonishing achievement was due in part, the documents suggest, to Lilly reps illegally promoting the powerful schizophrenia medication to family physicians as a “safe, gentle” anti-anxiety pill for anyone, and as treatment for dementia in the elderly (for which the drug is not approved and for whom it’s particularly lethal). This latter misuse also likely explains why the capital region has one of Canada’s highest per capita expenditures in this drug class.
Today, Zyprexa must carry strong warnings against using it in the elderly, and about its links to astronomical weight gain, hyperglycemia, diabetes and death. Lilly has so far paid out $1.5 billion to harmed patients in class-action lawsuits, and it’s likely we have hundreds, possibly even thousands of victims in this region alone.
Reading the internal documents and public record, what’s striking is how easily and straightforwardly a conspiratorial cover-up of global magnitude could dupe us like local bumpkins.
As the damning data accumulated, Lilly scientists alerted with restraint, rationalizing that waiting for more evidence would be prudent.
Later they, along with Lilly executives and salespeople, understandably did what they were paid to do, frequently strategizing about how to be relatively truthful without denting the image of their company’s flagship product. Apparently, none were ready to blow up their careers with unmitigated candor.
Journal editors and government regulators mainly relied on Lilly’s reputable expertise.
Countless practicing physicians were easily misled because, as Lilly marketers discussed, most were too busy to closely analyze the evidence themselves and could quickly be convinced comparable drugs were equally bad or that untreated patients were in more danger.
Thousands of victims were paid off in exchange for confidentiality agreements.
Finally, even as horror stories from 20 million users snowballed, Lilly was still vigorously publicly denying or downplaying most of this. Essentially, the company described the accusations as exaggerations and conspiracy theories.
Simple how it all works together really, isn’t it?
Conspiracies aren’t far-fetched at all.
Conspiratorial faked attacks? The Vietnam War began with the U.S. Navy staging an assault against itself and President Johnson blaming the North Vietnamese before Congress. That lie survived for years until one insider leaked the Pentagon Papers.
Seditious conspiracies behind a war? Declassified documents explicitly show U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger helped violently overthrow Chile’s democratic government for a dictator friendlier to U.S. corporate interests.
Politically-motivated purges of royal bloodlines? Archduke Ferdinand, anyone?
I recently chatted with someone who’d worked in the Public Affairs Bureau, the top operations room for BC government public relations. He wasn’t ready to sacrifice his career to detail scams he’d helped mastermind. However, he pointed to the “conspiracy theory” that, in 1998, various U.S. government agencies schemed to spectacularly bomb a supposed terrorist WMD factory just to deflect public attention from Clinton’s sexual relations scandal.
“When people call that a ‘ridiculous conspiracy theory’, it makes me laugh,” he said. He noted that the bombed target was eventually exposed as an ordinary pharmaceutical plant, and added, “What the hell do people think we do? If the government is getting bad press, we come up with ways to divert attention. That’s our job!”
That’s just it. Conspiracies are actually common foundations of modern society.
At the local level, that’s obvious. Naturally mayors who own architecture companies don’t constantly vote anti-development. Of course local councillors, developers, and business and media leaders occasionally meet, sometimes in confidence, to discuss furthering common goals. That’s not “conspiracy”, that’s just people doing their jobs.
But when this is logically transferred to the global scale, the anti-conspiracists become incredulous. It’s as if the suddenly bigger, more variegated lights befuddle them. And that’s dangerous, because many global conspiracies, like Lilly’s, affect our communities even more than local leaders do. Dismissive anti-conspiracy pap merely helps disguise and support our society’s most powerful collusions.
Still, in the absence of hard-to-find, definitive evidence one way or another, some people insist large governments, companies and organizations operate with relative independence and forthrightness.
Well if you believe that, local bumpkin, have I ever got some pills for you.