"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

No Fertilizer Needed for The Constant Gardener

Well, my wife prevailed upon me to see The Constant Gardener this weekend. How can I say this gently: Don’t waste your money. A new tuberculosis strain is wreaking havoc across Africa, you see, and a corrupt pharmaceutical firm has developed an effective treatment that, sadly, has the unfortunate side effect of killing many of those taking the drug. We know this because UN aid workers in Kenya, using only the most rigorous of statistical analytic tools, say so. And so the poor Africans killed by this drug are secretly buried in lime pits, while the official records of their lives are expunged. Only Soviet-style airbrushing of photos failed to have been included. Meanwhile, the starlet---Ms. Rachel Weisz, aka Tessa Quayle in the film---learns that the evil pharmaceutical firm, aided by some corrupt British officials, is covering up the obvious evidence of the drug’s deadly effects because fixing the formula would cost millions and take considerable time, during which the firm’s competitors could create their own effective drugs that would not kill people, thus cutting into the corrupt firm’s profits, etc., etc. And this perfidy makes sense because the epidemic is likely to spread worldwide, creating a large demand for the drug, and suppression of the deadly side effects will guarantee a huge market in Asia and the West. It’s all about the money, you see.

Got that? Anyway, the evil pharmaceutical firm through its allies in Kenya arranges for the murder of the fair Tessa and her ally, a Kenyan doctor both humanitarian and seemingly the only man in the country both unpoor and uncorrupt, before they can expose the plot. After all, that is not the kind of direct-to-consumer advertising that sells medicine. And so Tessa’s loving husband Justin picks up the torch, exposes the evildoers for what they are, and then allows himself to be murdered by the same nefarious forces so that he can be together again with his beloved Tessa in heaven. Who says that Hollywood is not religious?

Well, if Big Pharma is motivated only by money, why would they expose themselves so crudely to the plaintiff’s bar in the West? After all, people would start dying in the West also; can we even imagine the sums that the juries would award in such cases? And would the FDA and the other regulatory agencies in Europe simply accept the results of such African “clinical trials?” And what about the brand name capital of the offending pharmaceutical firm? Does it not have a profit motive to protect it by marketing only drugs the benefits of which justify the downside risks?

This flick is so silly—-so Michael Moore-like in its excess and mendacity—-that the pharmaceutical industry has little to fear from it in terms of adverse p.r. It’s good thing, as Martha might put it, when those out to destroy capitalism prove themselves so crude.

22 comments:

Tlaloc said...

"Well, if Big Pharma is motivated only by money, why would they expose themselves so crudely to the plaintiff’s bar in the West?"

Perhaps they learned something by watching Big Tobacco kill people for decades and get away with it.

Hunter Baker said...

Oh yeah, nobody ever knew cigarettes were bad for you.

We forced Big Tobacco to put a warning label on every package for about three to four decades and then expect them to pay for it when people get sick by not heeding the warning. Meanwhile, Big Gov't collects the high excise taxes without complaint.

Jay D. Homnick said...

The good news, I see, is that they stayed true to LeCarre's plot, a rare occurrence.

As to why LeCarre has taken to making such silly statements in his novels these days, who cares? He is still the most amazing novelist and his latest books are as insightful about the human condition as the earlier works.

Kathy Hutchins said...

Based on Ben's review, I think I'll wait for the sequel: The Constant Gardener 2: Betrayal of Trust, in which the various Big Pharma firms agree to collaborate on a new and less lethal tuberculosis vaccine. In a stunning climax, Super Attorney General (tightly modelled on Eliot Spitzer and portayed by George Clooney in a cape and tights) parachutes into the conference room through a skylight and offers the assembled CEOs the choice of being charged with criminal violations under the Sherman Antitrust Act or jumping out the window. They all jump. (You would too if Eliot Spitzer were threatening your business with the legal equivalent of an anesthesia-free colonoscopy.) Super Attorney General nationalizes the pharmaceutical industry. Everyone is free of Big Pharma at last, and then they all die of tuberculosis. But happy. And free.

Tlaloc said...

"Oh yeah, nobody ever knew cigarettes were bad for you."

Well people might have gotten confused by the parade of Tobacco CEOs who swore before congress that the evidence is inconclusive.

Or maybe they were just too busy jonsing after those same executives had the cigarettes modified to be more addictive.



"We forced Big Tobacco to put a warning label on every package for about three to four decades and then expect them to pay for it when people get sick by not heeding the warning."

I do think that's dumb. Instead the companies involved should have been dismembered and their executives jailed for perjury. Then if a new company decided to make cigarettes they'd know they better do it squeeky clean fromthe start.

Kathy Hutchins said...

From a review of The Constant Gardener on NRO:

Based on the novel by John Le Carré, Gardener presents a world of ineffectual bureaucrats, shady government dealings, and sinister corporate empires, all of which act with sneering disregard for the human consequences of their actions.

Based on that sentence alone, I would have guessed it was a movie based on the UN Oil for Food scandal.

Hunter Baker said...

What I recall is that the Tobacco CEO's testified there wasn't conclusive evidence that cigarettes are addictive. Pretty bad, but not a denial of the ill health that results. Whoever arranged that little stand-up was a genius. The tobacco executives were equally stupid.

Now, they finance commercials designed to make them look like evil fools. Must be a high profit margin in this tabacky stuff.

Tlaloc said...

"Now, they finance commercials designed to make them look like evil fools. Must be a high profit margin in this tabacky stuff."

Yeah. Drug running has always been lucrative because of the captive market of addicts. The purest form of capitalism and a true credit to free markets everywhere.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

T ... are you implying that there is a moral argument against the sale of tobacco?

Tlaloc said...

"T ... are you implying that there is a moral argument against the sale of tobacco?"

Sure, but what you are trying to do is get me to say there is a universal moral argument against it. Sorry, no.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

T said: "...there is a universal moral argument against [the sale of tobacco]."


Sorry, I couldn't help myself!


Look, I am not *trying* to get you to say anything. I am simply trying to understand another persons thought process. If, in the course of conversation, either you or I find a logical inconsistency, then so be it.


Without trying to put you in a box, how do you feel (or where do you stand) on drug laws, or "the war on drugs"?

James Elliott said...

Thanks for revealing the end, Dr.Zycher. That was rather poor.

I think it's interesting that liberal and entertainment sites all love "The Constant Gardener." It appears to be the Big Pharma lapdogs that hate it.

Kathy Hutchins said...

Thanks for revealing the end, Dr. Zycher. That was rather poor.

Hecubus, have you seen the movie Presumed Innocent?

Yes I have master, and his wife killed her.

But Hecubus, I haven't seen the movie yet. Evil! Evil!

Kathy Hutchins said...

It appears to be the Big Pharma lapdogs that hate it.

While it's true that the film's Tomatometer is running about 80% favorable, there are more critical reviews there than can be laid solely at the paws of us lapdogs. I particularly liked:

Fiennes cries (again) playing a boob diplomat with a wife who is jeopardizing his career and her life. You won't care.

and

it not only preserves the book’s flaws but has added to them

Look, it's not surprising that the most prominent detractors of the film are those invested in the real nature of the pharmaceutical industry, and thus the ludicrous nature of the plot. Dammit, I'd really like to like this film. I like le Carre: even if he is much more unlikeable in the post-Cold War era, he's still more likeable than 95% of the competition. I love Ralph Fiennes. I don't go to feature films to learn about corporate geopolitics, and if the plot weren't shoving something in my face that I know to be outlandish to the point of fantasy, I wouldn't care whether it was strictly true or not if the plotting, character, and cinematography were good.

Almost everyone loved Million Dollar Baby, too; the movie was well filmed, with compelling characters and story, and it was only the folks with a pre-existing ethical point of view, prolifers and disability activists, who saw through the masterful filmcraft that the film carried a frightful message in the way it ended.

Tlaloc said...

"Look, I am not *trying* to get you to say anything."

Okay I'll give you the benefit of the doubt.


"Without trying to put you in a box, how do you feel (or where do you stand) on drug laws, or "the war on drugs"?"

I think our policies are demonstrably ineffective and self destructive. People will choose to use drugs or not to use drugs. The amusing thing is that we try on one had to violently oppress one group of drug makers (cartels) and at the same to time to subsidize and shield another (tobacco industries).

Tlaloc said...

"I don't go to feature films to learn about corporate geopolitics, and if the plot weren't shoving something in my face that I know to be outlandish to the point of fantasy"

Even though we have a real world example of companies doing exactly what you find so ludicrous. The Tobacco companies have lied about the dangers of their products for decades in order to maintain their profits. W R Grace lied about the asbestos content of it's products for years again to maintain it's profits.

Strange, it's almost as if your conception of how the world works is flawed.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

T ... Are you suggesting that the tobacco companies ought to be violently oppressed?

If the tobacco companies ARE subsidized, then that is news to me.

Kathy Hutchins said...

Even though we have a real world example of companies doing exactly what you find so ludicrous.

I could argue about whether the corporate leadership of either the tobacco or the asbestos-using industries lied about their products, or if they simply declined to accept at the earliest possible moment the worst possible interpretation of the then-ambiguous evidence. But I'm not going to, because the uproar is not about the depiction of an company whose spokesmen lie, it's about a company that steals corpses and commits murder to cover up evidence. Now, if you have evidence that Philip Morris and W.R. Grace have been committing that sort of mayhem, I suggest you phone the Washington Post. You could be the next Deep Throat.

Tlaloc said...

"T ... Are you suggesting that the tobacco companies ought to be violently oppressed?"

No since I said our drug war methods are self destructive. There is a middle area between paying someone to push dope on kids and shooting at them.



"If the tobacco companies ARE subsidized, then that is news to me."

Really? Tobacco farmers get subsidized to the tune of $500 million between 95 and 2003. Hopefully it's clear that tobacco companies as the only purchasers of the tobacco farmer's product are benefactors. Furthermore we could consider the Justice deprtment's gutting of their case against tobacco companies to the tune of $120 billion to be a form of under the table subsidizing.

Tlaloc said...

"I could argue about whether the corporate leadership of either the tobacco or the asbestos-using industries lied about their products, or if they simply declined to accept at the earliest possible moment the worst possible interpretation of the then-ambiguous evidence. But I'm not going to"

You have no idea what it means to me that you've begun to recognize arguments you can't win and actually then refrain from making them.



"it's about a company that steals corpses and commits murder to cover up evidence. Now, if you have evidence that Philip Morris and W.R. Grace have been committing that sort of mayhem, I suggest you phone the Washington Post. You could be the next Deep Throat."

I'd have to point out that the difference between a company killing intentionally and killing by intentional negligence is trivial. In both cases a company has snuffed out human lives in pursuit of money. Quibbling over what tactics they use is pointless in the face of the larger horror of killing for profit. And unfortunately that horror is not constrained to fictional works.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

T ... it looks like you argument is as follows:

1) you don't like government subsidies to farmers;

neither to I.

2) you don't like the "war on drugs";

neither do I.

3) you feel that we somehow shield tobacco companies;

this statement goes against mounds of evidence to the contrary.

4) morally, the selling of cigarettes is equivalent to the selling of "illegal drugs"


???

Tlaloc said...

"T ... it looks like you argument is as follows"

You've taken a number of my statements and left out the interconnecting bits, no wonder it seems discordant. Let me help.


"morally, the selling of cigarettes is equivalent to the selling of "illegal drugs""

While I agree with this it is unrelated to the other things you list off. The equivilency is easy to demostrate. One group sells addictive substances that can drastically harm their user up to and including death. The other group sells addictive substances that can cause harm to the user up to and including death. See how it sounds pretty similar? The legality is the only difference and if the that's the only difference then it's a false distinction. Laws are supposed to reflect reality not to dictate it.



"you feel that we somehow shield tobacco companies; this statement goes against mounds of evidence to the contrary."

Really? So you aren't aware that after years of fighting a case against the tobacco companies the DOJ asked for damages that were $120 billion dollars less than what they thought they could and should get originally? That sounds like some severe shielding. The very fact that there is indisputable evidence that the Tobacco company execs committed multiple counts of perjury before congress and yet not one of them has gone to jail is a pretty good indication of them being shielded.

Yes they do have to fund a few anti-smoking commercials. Somehow that pales n comparison to the vast crimes they have literally gotten away with.