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  • Glenn Sonnenberg

Musings from the Bunker 6/2/20

Good morning friends,

 

CONSPIRACY VS. MANIPULATION

Those who know me are well aware of my skepticism about any sort of conspiracy. I’m a firm believer that the easiest explanation for an observed event is usually the correct explanation. This concept is known as Occam’s Razor, posited in the 14th century.

Amazon’s algorithm feels otherwise, with any number of conspiracies of QAnon moving up the charts: https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news/amazon-qanon-conspiracy-book-climbs-charts-algorithmic-push-n979181. This is deeply disturbing news. The sales numbers and positive ratings on the Internet are the product of a well organized campaign by these conspiracy theorists to lend plausibility and legitimacy to their theories. By pushing book reviews and buying in mass, the book appears to have quite a following and likely will be purchased by the unsuspecting public (which the numbers would tend to support). For an interesting article about how the Internet is a hotbed for such theories, here’s a Wired article from 2018: https://www.wired.com/story/wired-guide-to-conspiracy-theories/

I think people really struggle to comprehend events that to them are seemingly incomprehensible. They scream out for a unified theory that can “explain it all” in ways that make it more palatable, notwithstanding how wildly implausible the conspiracy may seem, the loose connections between and explanations of events, and the remarkable ability of so many people to maintain a juicy secret for so long.

One of the best books debunking myriad theories about a single event is Case Closed, by Gerald Posner. I have been recommending this book for years. Mr. Posner meticulously examines each of the major theories surrounding the Kennedy assassination (including the “magic bullet,” the extra gunshot, the smoke on the grassy knoll, the man with the umbrella…everything). By most accounts, Mr. Posner’s work was the definitive work to resolve the simple fact that Lee Harvey Oswald indeed pulled the trigger of the only gun pointed at the President. Whether he might have had connections to the Russians or the mob is discussed in the book as well, and generally resolved but with some room for doubt about these connections.

I am just finishing a book by Mr. Posner called Pharma. It is a methodical history of the pharmacy industry of a coordinated effort to deceive and mislead, perpetrated by the pharmaceutical industry. The story begins with the early days of patent medicine and elixers through the early days of Merck, Abbot, Parke, Davis, Squibb—real people who created an industry that has helped millions. Posner goes on to explain the history of modern pharmaceuticals, its testing, and distribution, charting the great successes of this industry. But then the book takes a turn to describe an industry that for decades hid data and tests that showed serious risks. It created journals that published industry-funded articles to tout the value of medications of questionable efficacy. But it was the application of advertising skills, paying off doctors, manipulating the press, and pushing pills to the public and their health providers, that changed the landscape and profitability of these companies. The scourge of the opioid crisis is only the latest in a series of nefarious activities by an industry pledged to save lives.

That Posner, a great skeptic of the assassination narratives, so definitively and ruthlessly demonstrates the problems in this industry, is stark. The book’s subtitle is “Greed, Lies, and the Poisoning of America.” While great advances have been made in medical care, this book demands that changes must be made in an industry that has lost its way. Saving lives is admirable; but the senseless sacrifice of lives on the altar of corporate profits is shameful. The Sackler name rightly will go down in history along with the names of other criminal enterprises.

 

PRODUCTIVE TIME

Lauren has had weekend projects of tie-dye and friendship bracelets. Jake has a sourdough starter that he feeds daily. They both are churning out scones, muffins, cookies, challah, sourdough bread, bagels and babka. I’ll be the size of a house when this is over.

There is something to be said for finding new skills and refining others in this time of self-isolation and self-sufficiency. It seems some are going so far as to churn their own butter or make their own candles. It’s like we are all now living in a historic re-enactment village…

https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2020-05-14/coronavirus-butter-churning-candle-making

 

WE ARE PART OF A COMMUNITY

The continued pandemic, coupled with the issues of racial injustice and fear of civil disorder, should remind us of our common humanity. In the words of John Donne in his Meditation XVII, from the 16th century:

No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

Enjoy the day,

Glenn

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