Most people’s idea of activism doesn’t extend to the desecration of memorials, but being that the – not yet convicted, but freely admitted – attacker of the late Eurydice Dixon is autistic, Andy apparently thought this was a good time to raise awareness of the vaccine-induced autism epidemic with obscene graffiti. Or perhaps he just wanted attention. Whatever, but I know this is exactly the kind of incident used to smear the anti-vaccine school of thought and it did make front-page news in Australia, which the apprehension of a vandal (no matter how offensive) generally doesn’t, indicating a distinct partisan spotlight in the press.
If you pay any heed to the mainstream media – or even the more “commercialized” alternative media such as Infowars – you’ll probably have been bombarded with updates on the silly saga of Michael Rotondo. The question you should be asking is why? Why should a litigious domestic dispute make it to the local news for a day, let alone headlines across the western world for weeks? There’s an agenda at work here, I’d say, an agenda to explain our guttering economy and declining standards of living by shifting blame from neoliberal globalization (among other things…) to a scapegoat like, oh let’s say, a convenient caricature of a misbegotten millennial exemplifying everything supposedly wrong with young people. Continue reading
Nassim Taleb – who is notable in skeptic circles – and his followers seem to have awoken to the business model of pharmaceutical corporations: Spread disease and then charge exorbitantly for “treatment”. It’s worth noting that although the evils of Monsanto are often discussed separately to the evils of Big Pharma, Monsanto was created an outgrowth of the nascent pharmaceutical industry.
The early Monsanto, purveyor of chemical weapons (these days they only sell white phosphorus, which is handwaved as being something other than a true incendiary), has long since been adsorbed into Pfizer, cleansed and born again as a biotech company who now just predatorially patent and monopolise crops and bleed smallholder farmers dry with their rented sterile seeds, condemning them to starvation or suicide. Pharma corporations on the other hand do all that and then some! (cf. IG Farben)
Now that said I’m really not a fan of Taleb, who attacks Monsanto whilst defending Big Pharma as benign; excuse me, but that’s like condemning thieves and condoning robbers (Yes, I’m aware Dante and some other philosophers considered secretive theft worse than open robbery but the analogy still holds…). He also blocks anyone who criticizes or disagrees with him, truth doesn’t fear scrutiny, so consider that an inherent sign of dishonesty. Finally he has a clique of sycophants who remind me a lot of the follower’s of Julian Assange (or even Neil deGrasse Tyson) in their hopes to bask in some reflected intellectualism.
We all know that the anti-vaccination movement has a public relations problem and has been unable to mount a legal challenge to compulsory immunization, this is often blamed on corporate shills and a corrupt media and indeed they do their part. However, the behaviour and in particular the associations of antivaxxers has thus far given their enemies abundant ammunition to use against them. To understand why, it might be useful to draw comparisons with earlier failed branches of social activism.
No doubt you remember Occupy Wall street (and it’s spinoffs), such a widely coordinated effort, such a massive turnout and yet so little accomplished. Why? Simply because it was easy for the corporate media to portray the protesters in a repulsive light (no less a persona than Steve Bannon directed Occupy Unmasked). The Occupy movement’s initial vision was against financial deregulation, the undue influence of corporate lobbyists on government and of the people shackled to spiralling debt, all worthy issues, but vaguely understood and poorly enunciated by the bulk of attendees, who focused their slogans and banners on the inequitable distribution of wealth in the US, the fruit rather than the roots of the problem. This was a bad idea because without adequately arguing their case as to how the proletariat is trapped in poverty the protesters were easy to frame as “occutards who want free stuff”.
Add to this the naked hippies climbing trees, the nightly outbreaks of sexual assault in their encampments along with the mess their camping made of the park and it becomes clear why Occupy was ineffective. Big protests may draw the public eye, but in order to sway public opinion they must also deliver a coherent ideology and present a positive image. Unsavoury associates are tremendously damaging to both ideology and image.
Now, consider the kind of people who comprise the public face of the anti-vaccination movement: Enter David “Avocado” Wolfe, self described “rock star and Indiana Jones of the superfoods and longevity universe”.
The Australian Vaccination Network’s official facebook page has promoted him, and AVN has marketed his advice.
Let us note that David Wolfe is a flat-earther, this isn’t a slur, it’s something he actually believes or at least hypes, insofar as this man can be said to “believe” anything, being that he is a content aggregator floating any trendy conspiracy theory. The MSM of course chortled about this during his visit to Australia; flat-earther and antivaxxer in the same headline and it wasn’t even a polemical exaggeration. He also sells philosopher’s stones in the form of longevity zappers, for a mere
$397 apiece [$497 apiece circa July 2018, I guess such rapid markup is a requisite to stay afloat in a sea of scammers -Ed.].
This isn’t the first time AVN has been involved with a ridiculous alternative medicine scam, their website used to advertize black salve (which in it’s intended topical application shouldn’t even be relevant to vaccine injuries), until ordered to desist by the TGA. David Wolfe meanwhile was sensibly disinvited from another conference for those who dissent from the medical establishment’s paradigm – the 2017 Biohacker Summit in Helinski, but toured Australia in the same year and was welcomed by many antivaxxers. I didn’t see him in Perth, but I saw several other alternative medicine snake oil salesman given a platform at AV meetings. People like Wolfe must not be invited to speak at anti-vaccination rallies, his success in self-promotion and social networking in addition to his fame and popularity with some nearly 12 million Facebook followers might seem to recommend him as a useful advocate, but this huge number is still a minority and mostly drawn from an overseas US demographic anyway, a voting majority at home is needed to effect change, moreover those who subscribe to the fringe of Wolfe-type quackery will always be a minority anywhere no matter how many are gathered, as such, association with him is ultimately more of a hindrance than a help.
A similar objection could be raised regarding the confused delivery of contradictory messages at the vaccination protests in 2017 where speakers acclaimed the Australian screening of Andrew Wakefield’s Vaxxed movie but in the same breath talked about detoxing the body of heavy metals like mercury. The notorious MMR triple shot – the basis of Wakefield’s scandal – never contained any mercurial thiomersal, or aluminium adjuvant for that matter; Wakefield’s initial thesis holds that MMR vaccine related neurological damage is caused via the induction of an atypical measles infection. Some other authors have suggested a synergistic effect between MMR and previously administered aluminium-containing vaccines. Actually, the specific vaccine component responsible for brain inflammation in early development and resultant dysregulation of normal development might vary considerably between cases; in 2016 researchers at the University of Maryland induced autism-like brain damage in rat pups via administration of naturally occurring PGE2 and lipopolysaccharides as adjuvants. Anyway, confusion on this topic has become a running joke among pro-vaccinators: The crazy antivaxxers don’t even know what’s in vaccines or what they want to ban!
Of course this is a fallacious line of argument, you do not need a mechanistic knowledge of the interaction between vaccines and neurodevelopment (there are very few people who could be considered experts in both the fields of immunology and neuroscience) to object to the practical consequences of vaccination. Likewise, the exact workings of nuclear weapons and nuclear technologies in general are a classified secret, therefore following these vaccine shills’ line of thought nobody’s opinion on them should be regarded bar a handful of government anointed physicists and nuclear engineers; those ignorant islanders and sailors who claim to have been poisoned by fallout do not understand the intricacies of nukes, therefore their personal experience and complaints are invalidated by their inexpertise.
In any case, antivaxxers’ current lack of purity of purpose and inconstancy of message are self-sabotaging enough without associating with obvious scoundrels and charlatans; continue to comingle with them and you’ll continue to enjoy the same success in influencing public thought and opposing forced vaccination that you’ve had to date.
Some have argued that the prison-industrial complex combines the worst aspects of coercive government and exploitative private industry. Others would give this distinction instead to the military-industrial complex. However, I think that the symbioses of unrestrained capitalism with oppressive governance reaches it’s apotheosis in the medical-industrial complex, uniquely insidious and hypocritical, for no one would claim that prisons aren’t made for punishment, or armies for war, but the Pharmaceutical manufacturers and the doctors they both enable and are enabled by cloak their crimes in a guise of humanitarian beneficence.
If it wasn’t obvious, the special trait shared by the prison, military and medical industrial complexes is their ability to make proletarians unwilling customers (if not unwilling servants), being thusly empowered by our protective states in the name of public good, which is why they are robust against trivialities like recessions. It is not a coincidence that the USA which of first world nations has the greatest (and growing) gap between the rich and poor also boasts the worlds most formidable armed forces, the highest incarceration rate and the highest per-capita spending on healthcare. I hear many other businesses both large and small are wondering how to effectively market to millennials, there’s no right answer, as millennials are often impoverished and lack the disposable income of their parents. If only these lesser capitalists were in on the non-consensual consumer model of business.
A tangential but salient example of “forced consumerism” targeted at the poor is the government testing welfare recipients for drug use – besides turning a profit such scapegoating initiatives help hide the threat of technological unemployment from the working population who need to be kept incognizant for the meanwhile about the real reason for rising poverty and joblessness – consider that a heroin or meth addiction could easily cost $100 per day (and cokeheads might spend twice that), such a habit cannot be sustained unless the user has a good job or is a career criminal, people on the dole aren’t likely to be buying any recreational substances except cheap wine although some might grow marijuana. Nevertheless, the result of such testing programs is money flowing from the taxpayer to the biotech corporations (out of poor hands entirely) who have thus captured a new audience of consumers for their services: Services of no benefit to their end users, but they’re not the ones paying for them, and their feelings about the paradoxical (and parasitic) profits from their poverty matter about as much as those of pigs in their pens. So it is with Pharma, for vaccines are such a growth industry.
Even more troubling than public apathy and complacency on this front is the inefficacy of the opponents to our medical establishment, an issue which is exemplified by the antivaxxer movement and their failure to prevent the passage of increasingly invasive legislation. When I attended a rally against compulsory vaccination earlier this year I was struck by three disappointing things:
- Firstly the lack of young adults at the event, there was only a dozen or so close to my own age, any movement that fails to reach the next generation is probably doomed, youth are naturally somewhat gullible but also crucial and neither the right nor left leaning MSM give adequate coverage to this issue bar mocking of soft targets (see below) thus resulting in a lack of youth engagement, well I suspect many of them will learn the hard way not to get their own children vaccinated.
- Secondly, affection for the easily discredited, a good example is the excitement over the Australian release of Vaxxed: The Movie. The producer, Andrew Wakefield, makes a poor front man for the antivaxxers since he appears to have designed his study badly, to have fudged his data anyway, and to have a probable conflict of interest insofar as he was paid to find proof that the MMR vaccine was dangerous (Source). Now, the mere facts of his compromised ethics and faulty science of course do not prove that vaccines actually are safe – especially not all the new vaccines that have been introduced in the decades since! Nor does it even prove that there wasn’t a real connection between vaccination and brain damage in the particular cohort of children he studied if the small sample size was indeed inadequate to establish statistical significance. However, this evidence of misconduct does mean that the tendency of skeptics to rally behind Wakefield and invest in him as a sort of iconic martyr is misguided since discrediting such a prominent “face” of a movement is guaranteed to taint the perspective of a vaguely informed audience (the MSM gives Wakefield a podium for precisely this reason, so they can publically bring him down)
- Thirdly I noticed several speakers using the rally as an opportunity to advertize their “miracle cures” for vaccine related injuries (or at any rate shill for their friends), it’s possible to view them charitably as well intentioned individuals who genuinely think they’ve discovered a panacea but equally as self interested entrepreneurs cynically monetizing the false hope of desperate families i.e. much the same behaviour on a smaller scale as that of the Pharmaceutical giants. I would’ve thought the focus of such an event should be on how to combat the proposed unjust and harmful forced vaccination laws before any further damage is done rather than the promotion of one’s products as a means of potentially repairing such damage. Activist groups are easily corrupted by financial incentives, but their image is still more easily corrupted in the public eye for as soon as their spiel begins to turn a profit it becomes at least plausible to ascribe ulterior motives to them. Moreover trust in the efficacy of such cures is harmful insofar as it increases the likelihood that the public will cave in to government pressure on vaccines under the mistaken belief that the injuries are reversable anyway.
To expand on these last two points, the opposition block of resistance to modern medicine will probably remain subverted by alternative medicine gurus for the foreseeable future, because once people realize that the medical establishment is not to be trusted they will desperately look elsewhere for solutions; consider that many of them learned the truth precisely by watching a child or other loved one maimed by the medical industry if not suffering a crippling injury themselves, that’s called iatrogenics. Seeking comfort in optimistic illusions is such a common coping strategy as to be practically universal, I know of no-one who doesn’t engage in it to some extent, nonetheless this tendency is especially pronounced in those whose lives are ruined, making them easy marks for quacks and charlatans. Such scammers when exposed tend to taint their colleagues by mere association, now generalizing guilt to a group from the actions of a subset is supposedly fallacious, but is another such practically universal human tendency and is frequently applicable as a utilitarian safeguard anyway (why else do police find it worthwhile to arrest gang members, or surveil those with connections to terrorists?). This problem is reflective of a more widespread bias among conspiracy theorists in general, i.e. their inability to differentiate or unwillingness to distance themselves from the truly insane or fraudulent fringe of conspiracy theories, so long as some hoaxer alleges to be exposing the global elites or somesuch his claims are rarely critically evaluated or challenged by his fellows who accept him as an ally: This is the flip side to guilt by association, validation by association.
Meanwhile the pro-vaccine fools have an oddly similar motive for their completely opposite position, in that proof of the wrongs of the medical establishment would require them to face the reality that they are not safe after all, and were playing Russian roulette with dangerous injections all this time. Faced with a great, living evil most people either refuse to see it, flee from it, or kowtow to it; condemnation, let alone opposition is reserved for when the danger is still far away or it’s already passed. A more nuanced explanation for the frequency of pro-vaccine views, particularly among the young might lie somewhere between the phenomena of scientism and hipster elitism, i.e. a combination of blind faith in technocracy as progress and modernist snobbery: If you aren’t excited about the headlong rush of science you’re a pariah, a flat-earther, probably a transphobe, do you even own an iPhone? Sounds like you need psychiatric treatment…
The power and cupidity of Pharma corporations is almost less of a problem than simple human pigheadedness in the face of such a threat.
Any complaints about the social consequences of technization draw the predictable smear of “Luddite”. Naturally this accusation ignores the awful conditions of the lower classes during the industrial revolution (pre-teens stricken with emphysema from long hours in the coal mine come to mind…) along with the fact that the actual Luddites were skilled artisans, weavers, controlling a seller’s market who are hardly comparable to the groups doomed by automation. That much is expected, sad, but expected.
However, the comparison is teleologically wrong: Previous technological displacements of workers from existing industries were paralleled, indeed precipitated, by novel advances in the sciences which unlocked entirely new niches or at least new environments for the displaced. The petrochemical industry, for instance, evolved from the mining of fossil fuels to keep the new machines fed. As the people of Europe became superfluous in their original occupations they expanded in a wave of colonization prospecting for new sources of raw materials for the industries of the Old World, whilst enlarging the market for their new products. It is a dangerous assumption to see the accumulated comforts currently enjoyed by the majority of Westerners as anything other than a meta-stable situation, an uphill slope that ends in a precipice.
The robotic basis of automation is fundamentally different to the prior industrial and technological revolutions, insofar as it represents a refinement of existing mechatronics and cybernetics, not a new field of science in it’s own right. As such, new niches are not being generated en masse for the increasingly redundant working class. Nor are there any new lands to colonize. There is, however a burgeoning population explosion in Europe’s former colonies driving migration in the reverse direction, a development which is ironically better for the capitalists than the socialists who agitate for open borders. These third-worlders are valuable patrons if you’re some “philanthropist” property developer such as Harry Triguboff building hive-like apartment blocks to accommodate them all (and the natives as well). While for the “equal opportunist” magnate like Gina Rinehart they represent a useful way to raise the percentage of unemployed and thus force the replaceable locals to fight for scraps (of course the robots are even better for this purpose…).
Another problem is the degree to which the average person is blinded to the scale of the threat of automation by illusory superiority, studies suggest that 80-90% of Americans (though other Westerners aren’t much better) consider themselves above average in most areas, whilst up to a quarter might consider themselves to be in the top 1% of ability. Don’t believe me? Just think of how many people you’ve heard claim to have an IQ of 135 (which is higher than 99% of the population) or thereabouts, and IQ is only one of many aspects of commonly overestimated human potential. Thus the majority will not be perturbed by any forecast of job losses… unless and until they lose their job, descend into poverty and their opinion (as a disenfranchised loser) ceases to matter.
Widespread retraining and tertiary education for more skilled forms of work, even for those smart enough to flourish in such, will not solve the problem either as it will result in the devaluation of qualifications (most every millennial seems to have a bachelor’s degree, which are now practically useless regardless of the major) as well as a glut of candidates for those occupations (how many more doctors and lawyers do we need after all?) and suppression of the wages of what were formerly highly paid jobs.
Proposals for basic income often enter the discussion at this point, but it is a vain hope, if corporations were to be taxed so heavily as to provide their former workers with a decent standard of living then the motivation to automate would essentially be lost. There’s no reason to believe the wealthy cannot continue to erode our living conditions as they already have, through economic globalization. Some optimistically predict that it will be in the interest of corporations to keep the average person sufficiently munerated to still be a profitable consumer of their products, that’s one possibility, another is that conspicuous consumption by the wealthy will increase in compensation for the deteriorating customer base of the proletariat.
So, if you’re at risk of replacement by a robot and don’t want to end up living in a shanty town subsisting on a diet of surplus grain and mice what’s to be done to improve your prospects? Engineers and research scientists will still be needed, but you’d better be at the top of your class considering how many STEM graduates are currently unemployed (or working in menial jobs which will soon vanish). Fortunately there remain at least three ancient, irreplaceable jobs for the impoverished:
- Soldiers: Will obviously be needed to fight in the coming wars over the last of the oil reserves and when they’re exhausted, probably again for the uranium. Infantry won’t be replaced by autonomous robots. Consider the difficulty in programming a robot to merely navigate through a constraining, heterogeneous environment and over rough terrain, something any healthy person can do automatically; there is no proof to date that true AI capable of human like decision making is actually possible (I’m talking about not strategic but basic decision making, like how to implement orders and identify threats). Even if a remotely controlled, unjammable, unhackable battle robot with an obscene price tag was fielded, wouldn’t it suck when some wastrel with an IED or RPG blows it up? Lower class humans are inherently more efficient, have a limited capacity for self-repair when damaged and are cheaper to replace when damaged beyond repair.
- Prostitutes: Including various demeaning variants on this profession such as nude housekeeping. Sex robots will never out compete them as only rather weird people will prefer a robot, no matter how lifelike, for erotic purposes. For the vast majority of human beings sexuality is intrinsically bound to either loving, or possessing, another person.
- Specimens: Yes, this role is ancient (i.e. Sumerian) and human medical experimentation is still going strong: A guilty conscience gives one such a motivation to seek anti-aging treatments and stave off death. Paid clinical trials are a growth industry, and since it requires no skills I imagine it won’t be long before you can sign your kids up too!
Oh wait, they already use kids, particularly poor ones, in medical experiments. It’s called vaccination. I should write about that next.