As sympathies and condolences for the tragic death of Michael “the king of pop” Jackson flood cyberspace and indeed, any tangible (or intangible) space practically everywhere and anywhere on the earth, an inevitable wake of questions is being left trailing behind the metaphorical bandwagon that everyone has boarded since he passed away. But for all of the fame and glory, all the influence and funk, all the inspiration, all the record sales and sales records, there is a much darker side to this story – and it all revolves around greed.
Years in the limelight surely gave Jackson a taste for the extreme, lavish lifestyles of those in the celebrity world (the greed of his father and his hand in pushing Jackson towards celebrity is an entire other story) and Jackson’s financial problems have been public knowledge for some time. His absurdly grandiose ‘Neverland Ranch’ which he called home – complete with fun parks and animal enclosures, amongst other ridiculously unnecessary installations – just one gross misuse of the billions his empire accumulated. Towards the end of his life, his Neverland Ranch would fall into foreclosure, and he would spend his time being accommodated by his other sickeningly wealthy chums in luxury hotels in Bahrain, Ireland and Germany, to name but a few of his ports of call. Then pushed to begin clearing his debts – his health already ailing, reports flying around that he was suffering from cancer, as the doubters began to speak up – he was persuaded to announce a 50 date series of shows.
In the aftermath, questions are being asked as to whether it was responsible for the tour promoters to make Jackson carry out the tour. Speaking out against the accusations against Jackson’s preparedness, Randy Phillips, head of AEG, the company promoting the concerts was quoted as saying that Jackson was “as healthy as can be”, even though days later he was forced to cancel the first four shows, AEG quoting “technical issues”. Healthy or just healthy enough, the reported £85 million worth of tickets sold for the gigs was surely cause to convince Phillips and AEG that he was making the right choice for corporate greed. But there’s more.
Reports from family friends in recent media confirmed that Jackson was using prescription drugs to help him deal with the stress of preparing for the shows. Others close to him compared his frail existence to the heavily-doped lifestyle of Anna-Nicole Smith, who died of a painkillers overdose in 2007. Brian Oxman, Jackson’s family lawyer further proved his negligence towards Jackson’s prescription drug use, media reports quoting him as saying that he didn’t know what medications Jackson was taking, but reports that he received from within the family were that they were extensive. He loosely uses the term ‘enabling’ – a psychological term for helping someone to continue their addiction.
The pharmaceutical industry is one of the biggest and most powerful industries in the world. According to statistics, pharmaceutical companies in the year 2000 recorded profit margins of nearly four times the average of fortune 500 companies – the top 500 companies in the US as ranked by their revenue. – Massive figures. What’s more, the majority of this profit is then reinvested in advertising and marketing (to generate more revenue) as opposed to research and development. Highlighting this, eight out of nine drug companies reported on the rubins.com website invested less than half as much of their profit in r&d, in comparison to projects aimed at further feeding their gigantic revenues.
The equation is really quite simple for these corporate giants: convince everyone that their miserable, unfulfilled, mundane, anti-social, unconfident lives will improve by putting synthetic substances in their body – often an unnecessary remedy for a simple problem, that humanity has been dealing with since our existence – and reap the rewards of the patented discoveries that they spend little time on finding out whether its long term effects are causing other ailments, weakness, addiction and far deeper problems. – What’s to say that an overdependency on these products isn’t weakening our natural immune systems and indeed, our brains? Anna-Nicole Smith and Michael Jackson are surely a tribute to this statement?
A constant pushing of these drugs into people’s faces may see an entire world of ‘doped up’ people, with America – the only country where direct to consumer advertising of pharmaceutical drugs is legal – strongly leading the way. John Abramson MD, in his book ‘Overdosed America’ said that “The stage could not have been set more perfectly for prescription drug advertising to become a major force in American medicine. And so it did. In 1991 the drug companies spent a paltry $55 million on advertising drugs directly to consumers. Over the next 11 years, this increased more than 50-fold to over $3 billion in 2003.” Some might argue that medical research advances are a blessing for humanity, why then is there a distinct problem with allowing these companies to advertise their products, if what they’re really doing is a good thing? Moreover, why do advances in natural medicine receive virtually no advertising in comparison to their synthetic counterparts? – The answer is simple: Money. Testing of natural remedies is far more costly (and far more necessary because their dosage isn’t constant or as easily controlled) and once released, they cannot be patented, meaning that the company who discovered them can easily have their product mimicked, thus making it impossible to achieve the unfair and monopolistic market conditions of their rivals in the pharmaceutical market.
Perhaps the most disgusting accusation against the pharmaceuticals companies lies in the very facts as to why the medical community denies the danger of pharmaceutical drugs – dangers which speculative reports say killed MJ, and which were confirmed in causing the sad, empty demise of Anna-Nicole Smith. In the American Medical Publishing’s ‘Prescription Medicines, Side Effects and Natural Alternatives’ they attribute the drug companies’ unwillingness to report these dangers, to the fact that “drug companies make huge profits from the sale of drugs [and] spend more than $10 billion a year promoting drugs, [spending] next to nothing warning the public about potential risks.” Worse still “Drug companies also engage in misleading advertising campaigns which make outright false or unrealistic claims, but which convince the vast majority of the public that most or all prescription drugs are not only safe, but the key to better health and a better life.” Clearly a stupefied mass of people buy into this shit, and needlessly contribute to the drug industry’s bottom line.
The doctors (also an integral part of this shameless, money-sucking industry) all do their part too. “Doctors chronically under-report and even ignore the deaths or adverse reactions to the drugs they prescribe because it is not in their professional self interest to raise public awareness to the danger … and they also profit from the relationships with the big drug companies.” – Once again, a seemingly insatiable thirst for money is a driving force behind these irresponsible decisions.
Although Michael Jackson’s death is little more than a reminder of the perils of massive worldwide celebrity, couple this with the corporate greed of the world’s medical giants, as the suppliers of those who would freely provide him with his means of protracted euthanasia, and a tragic story takes on an even more sinister side. He was sucked into a life of stardom (via a vortex of the creation of his over-bearing, money-hungry father) full of materialistic possessions and false image. One of the alleged catalysts to his death – a massive run of shows, attempting to pull him out of the depths that his excessive lifestyle plunged him in to – has merely become a parody of his tumultuous career in the spotlight. While his family and his friends blame (amongst other things) the stress of his proposed tour for his passing, the greed of those who were undoubtedly benefitting from, and preying upon his fame and his almost innumerable weaknesses, are much more to blame. While we speak in support of Jackson’s legacy, we must also fight those who contributed to his ruin.