THE MEDICAL-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX
The Body Guards Of Lies
A look at Peter Duesberg’s book Inventing The AIDS Virus shows the vast
array of common interests that come into play in the process of protecting
the obscure object of bureaucratic/ideological desire.
The uncontested and the most interesting part of Duesberg’s book comes
before he mentions AIDS directly at all. Here he describes the long history
of official medicine falsifying the nature of many disease at many times.
Despite these failings already being known, mainstream medicine has virtually
the highest prestige of any section of the spectacle. David Ho’s
“pioneering research” that earned “Time Man Of The Year” has been quietly
set aside in the years after was touted as the missing link proving the
HIV hypothesis. Despite this or more like because of this, our ability
to determine the exact cause of the spectrum of conditions known as AIDS
is quite limited. Duesberg and other “AIDS dissidents” (including the Internationalist
Communist Group) give plausible arguments about this but, as we’ve said
before, obscurity is a natural property of such large-scale phenomenon
of bureaucratic society
Duesberg’s book describes AIDS in detail as a product of the modern
medical-bureaucratic agenda – with “genetic engineering” leading the way.
The power of many of existing official lies comes as medicalization becomes
a big part of all capitalist ideology (i.e. anything bad becomes “an addiction”,
Medicalization is strongly aided by the centralization of all scientific
research today. The stamp of research on findings about AIDS, genetic links,
drug addictions, psychiatric medication or other social-medical ideologies
appears incontestable. By that very fact, some of these turn out to be
the most patent lies when viewed closely.
The magic of the modern spectacle comes from its hiding of a total
perspective. Anything can happen when no one knows what’s happening in
the next village. The destruction of community and the falsification of
daily life allows all other falsifications to take place. And we can judge
the degree of media falsification by the degree of this falsification.
There are many parts of reality whose truth everyone knows but which
one cannot prove in a laboratory: cops are jerks, work is unpleasant, stress
can make you sick and so-on. Chemical pollution is ever-present today and
clearly has a part in the rising cancer rate. But research controlled by
capital more and more orients itself to finding the genetic cause of all
of these problems. Corporate feminists wonder what mysterious force destroys
the confidence of teenage girls. While the spirit destroying qualities
of school as such were well known to protesters in the 60’s, today we need
something more mysterious and encapsulatable.
Yet just as much, there are situations where we really don’t know the
answers. The facing leaflet addresses the psycho-pharmaceutical complex.
From this leaflet, hopefully the complex social relations coming out of
this are clear. Notice that similar discussions of the lie system
might be made concerning AIDS, genetically engineered agriculture, antibiotics,
Alzheimer’s and elder care, legal and illegal addictive drugs, the prison
and justice system and so-forth.
But each of these technical-control systems is also uncertain. We lean
towards believing Duesberg’s theory, yet in this and many other situations,
our ability to definitively say what is happening is limited.
Hopefully, our discussion makes it clear that we’re not personally
attempting to resolve these riddles. One more series of speculations is
Rather than attempting to sort out each of the processes, our perspective
is to find a framework that can deal with all of them. Rather than going
into full detail, we will step back and give a framework unifying all of
these complexes, showing them as one of the general method with which this
entire system is growing.
Follow The Money – Keynesianism Economic Background
The history of the last fifty years has been the history of constructing
monumental false fronts. This society must produce more and more lies just
to stay in the same place. The modern marketing system has to constantly
stretch the “ladder of success” – moving each rung further from the last.
While a good percentage of folks live on $1000/month, professionals can
make $5,000/month and save nothing. Reproducing this ladder of success
is critical part of the system. All commentators hail the advancing economy,
as this economy crushes the average person surviving inside it.
Altogether, the big investments of the modern time have been based
on “throwing bad money after bad.” The untenability of capital’s present
phase will first be visible within capital’s desperate race to plug the
both minor and major cracks in its image. During the boom of 1999-2000,
the Dow Jones average was altered to exclude poorly performing stocks,
such as Westinghouse, and add better performing stocks, such as Hewlett
Packard (Of course, these changes ultimately didn’t stop the internet crash).
The racket of the military industrial complex was based on Keynesianism.
Excess government spending soaked up the excess production of industry
and pushed further consumption.
John Maynard Keynes had a simple answer to a simple problem. The problem
capitalists had was that once they produced a huge amount of stuff in their
factories, no one could really buy much more and the whole of working,
producing and consuming got harder to organize. Keynes’ answer was for
the government to print money to buy all the extra stuff. Artificial consumption
is the key.
Each era of capitalism has been characterized by the way it created
this artificial consumption. The way that Keynesianism maintains production
is to create an industry whose expansion cannot be questioned. In the 50’s,
60’s and 70’s this was defense. In the eighties this was real estate. In
the nineties, this is the medical industry. In the fifties, the military
industrial complex was the locus of the “American Dream.”
The fifties model guaranteed survival within the exchange system for
no longer living a rich, enjoyable life. To maintain the system of exchange,
consumption would be guaranteed to increase as much as production, even
if the consumption meant building planes and burying them in the desert.
The military-industrial complex was financed by the government which printed
and borrowed money for this purpose. The mix of “guns versus butter” was
the boundary between the working class and the ruling class, in that workers
traded off the insanity of nuclear blackmail for the promise that a certain
number of mostly white, mostly male, “good” jobs would continue to exist.
The eighties and nineties model added lies and mis-direction to fifties
model. The idea of there being any alternative to life in America was simply
ignored. The military industrial complex is growing more slowly but other
scams have taken its place. The larger scams included the medical industry,
real estate speculation and the police/prison industry. Since the system
no longer has to guarantee survival, the idea of paying more and more just
to survive an illness had a certain logic. The medical industry has grown
at the rate of 10% per year for the last twenty years (this is adjusted
for inflation!). This winds up with people paying more than seven times
as much as they did twenty years ago.
Now all these models increase production more and more without the
average person choosing to spend any money on them. Defense was and is
directly government supported. The real estate boom was supported by the
government ignoring investment scams and by corrupt diversions of Savings
And Loan money to commercial Real Estate. The building of hospitals added
further to this. Hospitals and prisons are perfect investments since their
inmates have little choice about whether to leave.
Up to the present day, the medical industry is visibly supported by
the government while being owned by corporations. This allows prices to
increase indefinitely and pays a few of the ever-increasing bills for the
poor. Beyond this, investors can see the obvious principle that a sick
person has no choice but to pay whatever they have for medical treatment
and patients are captive consumers, ready to be fleeced of everything.
(at the same time, of course, a rhetoric of individualist consumerism is
increased so as to prevent any sense of entitlement).
The general principle of Keynesianism has worked reasonably well for
capital for at least seventy years. But there were sometimes a few problems,
like money getting less valuable since so much gets printed and so-forth.
Still most of the world has been running on various versions of this system
for the last fifty years. The problem is that by producing so much stuff,
the absurdity of Keynesianism often shows through.
Ronald Reagan officially abandoned Keynesianism when he was president.
But this only perfected the most modern accounting system – which is Keynesianism
fortified with lies. Supply-Side Economics advocated the same policies
as Keynesianism, but had absurd assumptions and absurd conclusions but
this falseness was its useful element. Indeed, whether the government formally
balances its budget is mostly a matter of organizing appearances since
so many “Para-government” institutions such as banks also serve to manage
the economy by running deficits and surpluses. And the size of the budget
or even the results of arithmetic, can altered by decree (though all these
measures have a cost to them).
Rather than balancing the level of consumption with the level of exploitation,
the modern system of negative consumption must constantly increase the
level of deception, fear and anger. It sells more protection now that no
longer promises survival. Hospital culture is one visible area where people
must depend on inscrutable technology for their personal soundness.
Falsifying the value of money is the most powerful force today in this
“new economy.” The most obvious example is that government “inflation figures”
stay constant while the price for food, gasoline and housing increase wildly.
Once their numbers are fudged, the government plans seem to workout perfectly
– and exactly against the proletariat. From secret currency transactions
to bank and government collusion to the falsification of Social Security
figures to vast scams, money is pushed in and out of the economy wildly
and for the benefit of the largest controllers.
The economy of this negative consumption is real – its need for lies
is very concrete. Capitalism remains an economy based on exchange. Some
entity must pay for all of the stuff that is now produced. Scams have a
limited life – often the life-cycle of a given scam is managed by the higher
authorities. These same folks clean up after the BCCIs of the world.
The system requires that lies be spread in even, predictable layers.
And this is not guaranteed. World capital lost about 30% of its value at
the end of October of 97 as the balance different lies reached a less controlled
level. But even 1998, capital has been able to reconstruct an image of
prosperity. The final end is uncertain yet closer.
Medicine as Activity
All of these systems of consumption management are also ways in which
this society defines people’s activity – they redefine survival, achievement
and reproduction. The “American Dream” of forty years ago designated that
an obedient working class would not be pushed beyond a certain lowering
of income, humiliation etc.. Thus the transformation of consumption today
has resulted in a transformation of how we maintain ourselves.
We can begin with the broad view of health. The development of civilization
over the last 10,000 years has been altogether disastrous for human health.
Diseases and malnutrition developed as a consequence of people being pushed
closer together and of agricultural empires which extracted a surplus crop
from peasants or slaves.
Still, many peasants and farmers of pre-industrial society often retained
traditional health and medicinal practices. In medieval society, wise-women
and midwives still maintained a body of knowledge in parallel to any church
practices concerning health. So looking at either primitive or agricultural
society, humans took care of their health and well-being in a relatively
self-sufficient manner compared to today (though, it worth saying that
Europeans were least healthy after agriculture and before civilization).
This included both traditions of healing passed through mid-wives and herbalists
as well as each person’s sense of connection with their environment. Today,
simply not using your body and mind in a reasonably active and natural
way is known to be a factor in many of today’s epidemics of degenerative
disease (cancer is associated with toxics, Alzheimer’s associated
with television , heart disease strongly associated with stress and
The modern medical system began with the founding of medical schools,
with the rise of doctors against mid-wives and traditional healers, and
Pasture’s discovery of germs and the germ-theory of disease. From its beginning,
modern “allopathic” medicine has had a strong dimension of social control
aside from whatever scientific basis it had. Unlike mid-wives, early doctors
did not take cleanliness as being important to health. This dimension of
social control has not ceased, and modern for-profit research can be as
questionable as many earlier approaches.
There’s documentation showing allopathic offering both improvement
as well as detriments to total human health. The improvements are well
known – antibiotics now can prevent infections that previously would often
kill people, etc.. The detriments are less well known – doctors treated
scurvy as a germ-born disease long after the British navy learned to treat
it with lime juice, the germ-theory of disease lead and still leads to
neglecting other forms of ill-health.
The rise of modern medicine came at the same time as the rise of “public
health.” Public health was a movement of doctors, planners and public officials
which introduced clean water, safe food, better nutrition, adequate housing
conditions and sewage disposal to modern cities. In many ways, these measures
made more of an impact than the rise of medical interventions, though measuring
such things are certainly difficult. Given that allopathic medicine is
much less certain and less scientific than either physics or even laboratory
biology, a consideration of uncertainty must be woven into this article.
We won’t be trying to sort-out the exact value of the disease-model versus
the preventative model. Rather, we will be discussing medicine as a dimension
of the entire transformation of life under civilization and under capitalism.
In the role of either improving or of worsening health, allopathic
medicine has created a world in which people are more dependant on experts
and an institutional frameworks for their health and their conception of
As previously mentioned, the development of modern medicine followed
the entire world of Keynesianism and guaranteed survival. Hospitals the
world over served as a model of the modern state, university or corporation
taking care of the citizen.
In this process, what was generic “health care” was offered to people
freely or relatively cheaply. It was part of various “social contracts”
offered by the state. The better-off US workers of the 1950’s had health
insurance offered by their employer, hospitals were reasonably affordable
For something to become a commodity, it must be seen as outside of
a person. Medical commodities range from phenomena that had previous been
outside the circle of human controll, to those things which communities
once managed themselves but which now are controlled by experts – a key
example is doctors of obstetrics replacing mid-wives in delivering babies.
A human being is both subject and object. Capital’s progress alternately
use one and then the other condition of a person to commodify their reality.
As object, a person is taken in an Ambulance to the hospital, not given
a choice about emergency life-saving measures (whether useful or pointless).
As a consumer, the person is expected to choose various medical commodities,
various “health care plans” as a being expected to consider the medical
plans offered by
The growth of medicine as racket is most visible at the point the medicine
becomes a commodity. The 1960’s and 70’s saw an expanding “war on cancer”
which consisted in randomly trying an immense number of compounds to see
there cancer-fighting properties. This program was hugely expensive, defined
“big medicine” yet could show few gains in its long history. The program
was reincarnated as the “war on AIDS” in the eighties – with no measurable
improvement in public here either.
Mandating “minimum standards of care” for each particular disease forces
each hospital to purchase a new machine for each medical “advance”
as well as imposing control systems to assure that they adhere to these
standards. The decreasing ability of many people to pay for medical insurance
has caused more and more people to use the emergency room as their “medical
provider of first resort” while the emergency rooms themselves increase
in cost by the need for fancy gadgets. Legal maneuvering over nursing home
deaths forces nursing homes to take dying residents to hospitals to allow
them to die more slowly, using the latest expensive “life support system”
(more accurately called death support systems). Hospitals speculate, build
extra hospital beds and then can pass the cost onto patients. Finally,
to maintain constant corporate profits, direct medical care to patient
must be rationed and hospital worker’s salaries attacked.
Still in larger terms, this vast money extraction complex has come
as medical commodities have shown themselves to be the ideal model of modern
consumption. The patient is forced to consume medical care while they themselves
become the product through research performed on them and the patents thereby
The phase of the institutional of medicine taking full care of a person
was a necessary part of removing various kinds of self-sufficiency (though
preventative medicine certainly offered some cures beyond traditional medicine).
Now that this self-sufficiency has ended, the medical system along
with the entire system, no longer guarantees any survival.
“The Information Age” in Against Sleep And Nightmare #4 looked at this,
the economic logic driving the expansion of information. As the information
economy expand to different aspects of existence, it follows a natural
cycle of surveillance, repression, falsification, and colonization – from
software piracy to software cops. All code must be given a price. Many
of the projects of modern capitalist development reduce to this struggle
to turn activity into information and to buy, sell and control this information.
From music to education to medicine, information is the universal product.
But the form of comoditized information is, in fact, pure obscurity.
The use of code for capital is to create unquestionable commodification
of each person’s life. There is the code of world pricing, the tax code,
software code, the coded racism around “welfare mothers” or crime, the
code of universal product seals.
Nuclear energy was sold not on the basis of producing value but ultimately
on the basis of tremendous money having been invested in – if it is not
necessary for the world, then the world will be remade for it. The same
logic is followed by computer programming, art, biotechnology or surveying.
If “the map is not the territory,” then the territory will be destroyed
and reconstructed in the image of the map. Any code, any piece of information
that people are being paid to produce and consume becomes the ultimate
authority by the logic of survival.
The marketing of “genetic engineering” has followed the same logic
of enforced survival. The workings or supposed workings of life must be
altered to conform to the logic of control systems. A valuable product
is genes for the alteration of seeds so they cannot produce further seeds.
This allows seed companies to maintain their monopolies. “We had to destroy
this life to make it sellable.”
The rise of the medical industrial complex shows all of these trends
rather baldly. The American health care horror is undoubtedly the model
for the world, regardless of its visibly horrific qualities – considering
this system exemplifies the progress of capital as a whole. The medical
cost spiral mentioned in a earlier section comes as Medicine experiences
a spiral of intellectual property, both in its obsession with DNA,
in the more mundane spiral of medical paper-work, law suits and insurance
With Humans as subjects, the model of the medical system is the programming
of the body. Naturally, it is absurd that the system can charge us seven
times for care without anyone getting seven times as well (in fact, people
are getting notably sicker today than twenty years ago. Note a recent Canadian
study which found pharmaceutical side-effects as the fourth
leading cause of death in America – ahead of homicide, suicide, and
AIDS . And even this is likely an under-estimate).
We have defined a negative commodity as one that creates more misery
while being sold as the relief from that misery. While a drug like heroin
is the most obvious example, the entire medical industry perfects this
The negative commodity is not simply a matter of people being hoodwinked
into various panics and rackets. It is a principle of the capitalist world.
The commodity already dominate the landscape. If the process of marketing
is reworked to involve buying death – whether poisonous AZT, toxic Christmas
toys or equally poisonous schemes – the hapless consumer must simply keeps
consuming what is in front of them. More than this, the consumer even at
Disney Land ultimately accepts that their life is worthless simply by the
fact that they buy their existence – their life is just things. From modern
day radiation experiments to the Heaven’s Gate suicides, this has meant
that consumer is expected to buy their death as the ultimate product of
normal life. Of course, those most wiling to accept death consumerism are
the ideologues of consumption and not average consumer. Here we remark
that “The world of the supermarket is the world of the concentration camp”,
in solidarity with Giles Dave (Jean Barrot) who has been ruthlessly hounded
in the French media for this insight.
Another important part of hospital marketing is reconstructing the
human body in the image of capital. On the direct level, this reconstruction
ranges from the materially “useful” laser surgery to dubious and dangerous
cosmetic surgery. On an indirect level, this has involved imposing a mechanical
and information model on human life.
The initial principle of big science marketing for medicine was that
the body consisted of parts needing replacement with the hospital as the
point of replacement. This was back in the 60’s when transplants were seen
as the wave of the future and before the dire consequences of these procedures
became widely understood.
Naturally, this image has given way to the body as a repository of
codes with those owning and altering the codes as the masters. Here we
can see the rise of genetic engineering as the ultimate industry. It is
quite useful to look at Peter Duesberg again to see how spectacular genetic
engineering ultimately created the present landscape.
Naturally, a world which is reconstructed along the lines of the medical
code makes the procession, control and generation of medical symptoms into
a powerful aspect of people’s over-all social existence. Codes become the
repository of social meaning. Twelve-step programs have become a key social
outlet for millions of people. Elaine Showalter’s boook Hystories chronicles
the quest for legitimacy of believers in alien abduction, chronic fatigue
symdrome, satan ritual abuse, recovered memory, gulf ware symdrome and
multiple personality disorders. All of these represent individual patient’s
efforts to wrest control of medical coding away from doctors yet they generally
remain within the medical coding of the body.
Key factor is that capitalism’s dynamics move to reduce life to code
whether the reduction solves problems or the reduction creates problems.
We cannot say for certain the degree to which modern genetics has falsified
its own results but there are many examples of substantial lying.
Chronic fatigue symdrome victims fight for their condition to be considered
real in a physical sense while Alcoholics Anonymous ideologists simply
seek to have their behaviors be contained within the constellation of medical
diagnosis. Either way, the struggle for a worthwhile existence become subsumed
in the struggle for a representation. This is a world in which continuous
irratation through work, chemicals, isolation and stress makes it uncertain
that anyone could be considered fully well (see ASAN #3 article about Chronic
Fatigue and alcoholics annoymous).
Certainly, the principles of original science – proof and evidence
– have been replaced with the principles of specialization and feedback.
Specialization means the power of related specialists must be respected.
Statistically verified results are blended with whatever big lies happen
to be related. Feedback means that if the result can be defended with evidence
and fits the financial agenda of the your masters, then it is a truth of
the moment. In this order, organizations producing massively complex and
effective machinery can co-exist with massive lies, illusions and fabrications.
Indeed, the greater the success of the codes, the less preasure any
codes have to accept reality. Drugs more and more are “for” a condition
without any comment about whether they cure a condition. “AIDS drugs” are
simply “what you take” without a patient having much idea of the intended
result. There are “Alzheimer’s doctors” at a moment when medicine admits
to not knowing any particular cure or treatmeant for the condition – these
illustrious specialists simply have the task of sedating the patients.
The modern techno-structure has essentially abandoned the original
spirit of science – moving towards the truth through observation. Its principles
of feedback and specialization merely produce short-term proscriptions
lacking a coherent over-view of even the system it studies. And naturally,
this seamless organization of blind alleys is unchallengeable except for
its total lack of historical sense. AIDS science consists of a blend of
panic, simplistic generalities, incomprehensible results and moral calls.
It is surely also real contemporary science just because it has been recycled
quickly into the science curriculum and is what up-coming student believe.
But the haphazard approach actually has a unity. The spectacle must
code on the principle of maximal obscurity. One technology may truly meet
its amazing publicity while another may be simply the tissue of lies. This
circulation of code is the purest production of spectacle.
R.P., et al. 2001. Patients with Alzheimer's disease have reduced activities
in midlife compared with healthy control-group members. Proceedings of
the National Academy of Sciences 98(March 13):3440
Source: Jason, et al. (Lazarou et al), Incidence of Adverse Drug Reactions
in Hospitalized Patients, Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA),
Vol. 279. April 15, 1998, pp. 1200-05. Also Bates, David W., Drugs and
Adverse Drug Reactions: How Worried Should We Be? JAMA, Vol. 279. April
15, 1998, pp. 1216-17.