FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Scientists or Celebrities?

Washington, DC

Question: have you ever heard of Maurice Hilleman? If your answer is No or Who?, join about 99 percent of the American people. He passed away this month in Philadelphia at the age of 85. Here is what the front page New York Times article said about his medical career:

Dr. Maurice R. Hilleman developed vaccines for mumps, measles, chickenpox, pneumonia, meningitis and other diseases, saving tens of millions of lives. Much of modern preventive medicine is based on Dr. Hilleman’s work, though he never received the public recognition of Salk, Sabin or Pasteur. He is credited with having developed more human and animal vaccines than any other scientist, helping to extend human life expectancy and improving the economies of many countries.

The Times quotes Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health as saying: “The scientific quality and quantity of what he did was amazing. One can say without hyperbole that Maurice changed the world with his extraordinary contributions in so many disciplines: virology, epidemiology, immunology, cancer research and vaccinology.”

His associates, whom he regularly credited for their contributions, marveled at his artistry in safely producing large quantities of weakened live or dead micro-organisms. Dr. Hilleman credited his skills wryly to growing up on a farm in Montana where he worked as a boy with chickens. Chicken eggs are the fertilizing sites for many vaccines.

There are many fascinating stories about this scientist. Yet almost no one knew about him, saw him on television, or read about him in newspapers or magazines. His anonymity, in comparison with Madonna, Michael Jackson, Jose Canseco, or an assortment of grade B actors, tells something about our society’s and media’s concepts of celebrity; much less of the heroic. This is not a frivolous observation.

Bringing the work of individuals who matter to so many people on the important issues of lives and livelihoods is a prime way of educating the citizenry about important matters. Media trumpeting of Madonna’s latest escapades alerts and motivates the public quite differently than highlighting the frequent breakthroughs of a scientist like Dr. Hilleman. The former sells records and pulp magazines, the latter keeps the American people more knowledgeable about the critical perils that confront them if recognition and resources are not dedicated to their prevention.

Today, in America, there are tens of billions of dollars being spent and misspent on the struggle against stateless terrorists. Despite being warned repeatedly by the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization, the Bush Administration is reacting feebly to the avian flu risks coming from the Far East. Already having taken nearly one hundred lives, should this avian flu mutate with a human virus, a deadly pandemic could sweep the world with tens of millions of fatalities.

I have written thrice to President Bush about the need to launch a war against this kind of microscopic terrorism by diversifying his speeches and making room for a major national address on this subject. He could put forth a program of greater support for training more infectious diseases specialists and working with other countries for an early alert system so that the requisite quarantines and vaccine development can get underway in time. There have been no responses from the White House.

Such an initiative would cost a fraction of the annual $9 to $10 billion dollars that Bush is spending on the boondoggle missile defense business. (A technology so easily decoyable and dubious that it has been deemed unworkable by the American Physical Society). But missile defense and other massive military weapons programs, conceived for a Soviet Union era of hostility, make big profits for corporations. Vaccines do not make big profits for drug companies the way lifestyle drugs do.

The daily headlines are sounding grave alarms. Rob Stein and Shankar Vedantam of The Washington Post report that a strain of the flu virus H2N2 that caused a worldwide pandemic and killed more than one million people worldwide in 1957 and 1958 was mistakenly sent to thousands of laboratories in the United States and around the world. Keith Bradsher’s reports from China for the Times have been getting ever more somber. The latest dispatch headlines “Some Asian Bankers worry about the Economic Toll from Bird Flu.”

Maybe if business profits are jeopardized by what a pandemic can do to an economy, officialdom will reorder its twisted priorities. The deadly Marburg virus (nine of ten people afflicted die) now spreading slowly in Angola is another wake up call for our country to change its priorities from continually adding to the largest major weapons arsenal in world history (nuclear submarines, aircraft carriers, missiles, planes, etc.) and moving to life-saving and health-preserving investments for prevention before vaccines are needed.

It is time to know the names of the scientists already working on this great venture for health and hear them out.

Hear ye, media!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
November 13, 2019
Vijay Prashad
After Evo, the Lithium Question Looms Large in Bolivia
Charles Pierson
How Not to End a Forever War
Kenneth Surin
“We’ll See You on the Barricades”: Bojo Johnson’s Poundshop Churchill Imitation
Nick Alexandrov
Murder Like It’s 1495: U.S.-Backed Counterinsurgency in the Philippines
George Ochenski
Montana’s Radioactive Waste Legacy
Brian Terrell
A Doubtful Proposition: a Reflection on the Trial of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7
Nick Pemberton
Assange, Zuckerberg and Free Speech
James Bovard
The “Officer Friendly” Police Fantasy
Dean Baker
The Logic of Medical Co-Payments
Jeff Mackler
Chicago Teachers Divided Over Strike Settlement
Binoy Kampmark
The ISC Report: Russian Connections in Albion?
Norman Solomon
Biden and Bloomberg Want Uncle Sam to Defer to Uncle Scrooge
Jesse Jackson
Risking Lives in Endless Wars is Morally Wrong and a Strategic Failure
Manuel García, Jr.
Criminalated Warmongers
November 12, 2019
Nino Pagliccia
Bolivia and Venezuela: Two Countries, But Same Hybrid War
Patrick Cockburn
How Iran-Backed Forces Are Taking Over Iraq
Jonathan Cook
Israel is Silencing the Last Voices Trying to Stop Abuses Against Palestinians
Jim Kavanagh
Trump’s Syrian See-Saw: From Pullout to Pillage
Susan Babbitt
Fidel, Three Years Later
Dean Baker
A Bold Plan to Strengthen and Improve Social Security is What America Needs
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Trump’s Crime Against Humanity
Victor Grossman
The Wall and General Pyrrhus
Yoko Liriano
De Facto Martial Law in the Philippines
Ana Paula Vargas – Vijay Prashad
Lula is Free: Can Socialism Be Restored?
Thomas Knapp
Explainer: No, House Democrats Aren’t Violating Trump’s Rights
Wim Laven
Serve With Honor, Honor Those Who Serve; or Support Trump?
Colin Todhunter
Agrarian Crisis and Malnutrition: GM Agriculture Is Not the Answer
Binoy Kampmark
Walls in the Head: “Ostalgia” and the Berlin Wall Three Decades Later
Akio Tanaka
Response to Pete Dolack Articles on WBAI and Pacifica
Nyla Ali Khan
Bigotry and Ideology in India and Kashmir: the Legacy of the Babri Masjid Mosque
Yves Engler
Canada Backs Coup Against Bolivia’s President
November 11, 2019
Aaron Goings, Brian Barnes, and Roger Snider
Class War Violence: Centralia 1919
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
“Other Than Honorable?” Veterans With “Bad Paper” Seek Long Overdue Benefits
Peter Linebaugh
The Worm in the Apple
Joseph Natoli
In the Looming Shadow of Civil War
Robert Fisk
How the Syrian Democratic Forces Were Suddenly Transformed into “Kurdish Forces”
Patrick Cockburn
David Cameron and the Decline of British Leadership
Naomi Oreskes
The Greatest Scam in History: How the Energy Companies Took Us All
Fred Gardner
Most Iraq and Afghanistan Vets now Regret the Mission
Howard Lisnoff
The Dubious Case of Washing Machines and Student Performance
Nino Pagliccia
The Secret of Cuba’s Success: International Solidarity
Binoy Kampmark
Corporate Mammon: Amazon and the Seattle Council Elections
Kim C. Domenico
To Overthrow Radical Evil, Part II: A Grandmother’s Proposal
Marc Levy
Veterans’ Day: Four Poems
Weekend Edition
November 08, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
The Real Constitutional Crisis: The Constitution
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail