The Hightower Report

U.S. media establishment yawned at damming Downing Street Memo; and Merck launches advertising blitz to portray itself as 'huggable teddy bear of a corporation'


Thank goodness the establishment media barons in our country are not in charge of the fire department. They wouldn't ring the alarm if their own firehouse was in flames.

A case in point is the Downing Street Memo. This transcript of minutes from a secret meeting chaired by Tony Blair in July 2002 is an official acknowledgement of what George W and his neocon ideologues have long denied: deliberately lying to Congress and the American people about the need to go to war in Iraq, where more than 1,700 of our troops have now died. These minutes, written by Britain's top intelligence chief seven months prior to the war, tell of Bush's determination to invade Iraq and to use weapons of mass destruction as his rationale – whether they existed or not. The minutes flatly say that "intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" by the Bushites.

You'd think this would be serious news here in the USA, as it has been in England and elsewhere around the world. Here is credible evidence from Bush's top ally that our president was engaged in a conspiracy to deceive and mislead the American people in order to shove our nation into a deadly war. But our media establishment simply yawned at it ... and failed to bring the story to us.

Now, thanks to a grassroots Internet effort and persistent questioning by such uncowed Congress members as John Conyers, the American press is beginning to play catch-up. Of course, the Bushites are trying to dismiss the Downing Street story, but just as they got started, another flame flared up in the form of more secret memos called the "British Briefing Papers." These six top-level briefings for Blair confirm and extend the point that there was no threat from WMD in Iraq and that there was no evidence that Saddam had an al Qaeda connection. The British media covered this last fall, but our media ignored it.

To get the news that Bush and the U.S. media don't want you to have, go to this Web site:


Merck, the $5.2-billion-a-year drug giant, is upset that people think it's a greed-headed bloodsucker.

So, by jove, Merck's executives have decided to do something about their problem. Does that mean they'll stop their greed-headed bloodsucking? Don't be insane – bloodsucking is wildly profitable!

No, no, Merck's honchos want to deal with the appearance of bloodsucking, not tamper with the moneymaking reality. Thus, they have launched a $20 million advertising blitz to portray the drugmaker as a huggable teddy bear of a corporation. Their PR slogan is "Merck: Where patients come first."

How cuddly. Less cuddly, however, is the fact that this blast of corporate back-patting follows the recent revelation that Merck's bestselling drug, the pain reliever Vioxx, has had an unfortunate side effect called "death" in quite a few patients who trusted it. Also, it seems that Merck's top executives knew about this side effect, but withheld the information from doctors, patients, the media, and regulators – all the better to suck profits before the news got out.

Now that the ugly news is out, Merck hopes to deflect public disgust with ads featuring cute children, adding a tagline asserting that this altruistic corporation is out to eliminate cancer and Alzheimer's so such adorable children should never suffer. What's not to love about that?

Another of the ads features a man-on-the-street interview with a guy saying that people shouldn't "have to choose between their groceries and their medicine." The announcer then intones: "At Merck, we believe in the same things you do." Gosh, really? Then why did Merck hire a horde of lobbyists to push through a law making it illegal for us folks in the USA to import Merck's medicines from Canada at a third of the price the bloodsucker is charging us here at home?

You don't have to be in "Who's Who" to know what's what. When a corporation throws $20 million into a PR campaign to try to tell you that it's "good" ... it isn't.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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establishment media, Downing Street Memo, Tony Blair, George W. Bush, John Conyers, Al Qaeda, Saddam Hussein, Merck

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