Microaggressions and Other Fictions

Microaggressions and Other Fictions

Brian Davidson/Getty Images

College students are rising up to protest systemic hatred and racism. Are they solving problems or creating them?

Last week at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, a student group called Hidden Dores staged a protest. A couple hundred students demonstrated, complaining about racism on campus and making demands about what the school needed to do to eliminate it.

The day after the protest, a black bag was found on the front steps of the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center on the campus. There was poop in the bag.

The protesters were outraged at what they branded as obvious racism. “The Hidden Dores team is appalled to announce that our demonstration yesterday was met this morning with a vile act,” they wrote in a Facebook post. “This morning someone left a bag of feces on the porch of Vanderbilt University’s Black Cultural Center. … As many of us sit in grief, recognize that these types of actions are what we speak of when we note the reality of exclusion and isolation of students of color and specifically Black students on our campus. This act has hurt many and will not be received lightly. We will not allow for the desecration of the place we call home. As we announced yesterday and reaffirm today, we will not be silent.”

The campus police sprang into action, and by that night they had located the offender. A security camera revealed that it was a blind female student: Her seeing eye dog pooped; she cleaned it up and, being blind, was unable to locate a trashcan. So she did what she had been instructed to do: She left it outside the door of the nearest building so the next person coming along could put it in the trash. “Everyone is going to point me out now as the blind girl who left her dog feces by the black cultural center,” she posted on Facebook. “I am sorry that I do not know where all the trash cans are on main campus.”

Students had been “sitting in grief” and “hurting” over a hate crime they invented. They were rushing to the barricades of racial justice over a fiction.

How many other improperly disposed-of bags of feces are being trumped up into cause for war? This is a colorful metaphor for a problem besieging America’s higher education: the hypersensitivity that startles and then raises Cain over the slightest perceived offense.

Vanderbilt’s racist dog doo takes its place among an increasing number of such head-shaking, quasi-comical incidents. It represents a misguided quest for justice that is creating problems far worse than those it purports to solve.

Earlier this month at Yale University, an incident caused students to feel unsafe, under attack, unable to bear living in the college anymore. “I have friends who are not going to class, who are not doing their homework, who are losing sleep, who are skipping meals, and who are having breakdowns,” one student wrote in a campus publication. What caused such distress and anguish? It was an e-mail from a school official suggesting that administrators’ overconcern about Halloween costumes like feathered headdresses, turbans, “war paint” and blackface wasn’t giving students enough personal freedom. Outraged students demanded that this official and her husband, who tried to defend the importance of freedom of speech, be fired.

“These are young people who live in safe, heated buildings with two Steinway grand pianos, an indoor basketball court, a courtyard with hammocks and picnic tables, a computer lab, a dance studio, a gym, a movie theater, a film-editing lab, billiard tables, an art gallery, and four music practice rooms,” wrote Conor Friedersdorf at the Atlantic. “But they can’t bear this setting that millions of people would risk their lives to inhabit—because one woman wrote an e-mail that hurt their feelings?” (“The New Intolerance of Student Activism”).

This is what the best and brightest in America’s highest universities are being taught to think. They are being trained how to be offended—trained to detect aggression where there is none.

The buzzword for these concocted crimes is microaggressions—”small actions or word choices that seem on their face to have no malicious intent but that are thought of as a kind of violence nonetheless.” That is how Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt defined microaggressions in their September 2015 Atlantic article, “The Coddling of the American Mind.” They describe, for example, campus guidelines branding it a microaggression to ask an Asian American “Where were you born?”—“because this implies that he or she is not a real American.” In a list of offensive statements presented to deans and department chairs at the 10 University of California system schools, these microaggressions were included: “America is the land of opportunity” and “I believe the most qualified person should get the job.” The horror.

This isn’t just funny and ridiculous. It is a serious problem—because we are seeing America’s future. It is the nation’s educational system that produces tomorrow’s leaders.

These young people are radical. They cherish extremely divisive and dangerous ideas of what justice looks like, what society owes them, and how they should be able to shut down anyone who disagrees with them. They are gaining more and more power, abetted by authorities who came out of the same educational system.

“For almost 50 years universities have adopted racialist policies in the name of equality, repressive speech codes in the name of tolerance, ideological orthodoxy in the name of intellectual freedom,” wrote Bret Stephens in his Wall Street Journal column this week. “Sooner or later, Orwellian methods will lead to Orwellian outcomes. Those coddled, bullying undergrads shouting their demands for safer spaces, easier classes, and additional racial set-asides are exactly what the campus faculty and administrators deserve.

“In other words, the radical children who grew up to run the universities have duplicated the achievement of their parents, and taken it a step further. In three generations, the campuses have moved from indulgent liberalism to destructive radicalism to the raised-fist racialism of the present …” (“Radical Parents, Despotic Children”).

The brand of justice these students are demanding does not exist. Perfect conformity with their expectations will never be achieved. Supposedly systemic problems like racism and white privilege are whatever they feel they are. If they say something is microaggressive or makes them feel unsafe, everyone must accommodate and fulfill their demands, no matter how bizarre or off the wall. Failure to completely agree is evidence of racism; opposition is proof of bigotry and privilege.

Meanwhile, these students are themselves immune from standards of civility and decency. Screaming, bullying, fighting—these are legitimate tools in their supposedly noble war on supposed intolerance. This misguided movement offers no actual solutions. Its aim is simply to protest, accuse, malign, get people fired and cause a ruckus.

These students’ notion that they will achieve justice by manufacturing racial grievance is extremely dangerous. In fact, their mission to expose hidden bigotry is fomenting blatant racism, overt hatred and actual conflict.

Evidence of a backlash among whites in the U.S. against these incidents is emerging. The Washington Post reported November 20 on a “Illini White Students Union” Facebook page: “Created Wednesday after a protest sympathetic to Black Lives Matter, the page declared itself ‘for white students of University of Illinois to be able to form a community and discuss our own issues as well as be able to organize against the terrorism we have been facing from Black Lives Matter activists on campus,’ as the Daily Illini reported.” The page said it was about “white pride and a safe place for white students.” Another part of the site encouraged people to send it pictures of black protestors on campus “so we know who anti-whites are.”

Following up on the Post story, the College Fix found more than 30 “White Student Union” pages on Facebook created within just the prior week, at prominent universities including Standford, Penn State, ucla, UC Berkeley, the University of Missouri and nyu. Several of these pages say, “We affirm the dignity and ancestry of our proud people who have gifted the world with countless works of beauty, science and wisdom, and are committed to promoting a dialogue and political resistance that will secure a future for our posterity and spirit.”

Is this all that surprising? These students are simply creating Facebook pages that containing essentially the same language that “black student union” groups do about their own race. Nevertheless, they have stirred student anger and roused administrators to demand the removal of these webpages. What will happen next?

Obviously, there is racism in America. There are racist people who will do racist things. But the idea that creating a climate of intolerance—of accusations and demands, of forced change based on a skewed view of justice—is going to root out supposedly systemic racism is dangerously wrong. It is leading in precisely the opposite direction.

This is deeply concerning, because—as we have often mentioned at the Trumpet—biblical prophecies warn that race problems in the United States are about to explode. Surely there are some—of several races—who are racist and are being provoked into violence. This situation is going to blow up in all our faces.

In his column, Bret Stephens mentioned that one solution might be to open new colleges according to the model of Hillsdale College in Michigan—a school that accepts no federal money and is thus free from having to enforce the government’s ideological agenda. At this conservative school, he noted, there are no student protests. I’m sure there are many reasons for that. But one must surely be that it teaches respect for law. It offers free classes to the public about the Constitution, teaching about America’s founding principles, law-keeping, separation of powers, and constitutional restrictions on the government.

Any school that teaches respect for law and personal accountability—rather than victim culture and finger-pointing—isn’t going to have nasty protests. Students aren’t going to be whining about how hard they have it. They’re not going to assume that a stray bag of dog waste is evidence of racial hatred.

It’s the schools that teach liberal lawlessness that have the problems. And it isn’t because they haven’t implemented their politically correct policies enough. It isn’t because racism is increasing. It’s because their policies are failing!

“That’s why I’m not altogether sorry to see the wave of protests, demands, sit-ins and cave-ins sweeping university campuses from Dartmouth to Princeton to Brandeis to Yale,” Stephens wrote. “What destroys also exposes; what they are trashing was already trashy. It’s time for the rest of the country sit up and take notice.”

Can we look honestly at what is happening here, recognize it for what it is, and take some wisdom from it?

Week in Review: Germany in Mali, Paris Attack and Iran’s Legitimacy, Soviet Union Amnesia, and More

Week in Review: Germany in Mali, Paris Attack and Iran’s Legitimacy, Soviet Union Amnesia, and More

Brian Davidson/Sean Gallup/Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images, JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images

All you need to know about everything in the news this week

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Germany to send troops to Mali

  • Germany is wary of a “ring of fire” connecting Paris, Ankara, Beirut, Sharm el-Sheikh, Kano, Yola and Bamako—cities in France, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Nigeria and Mali that have recently been targeted by terrorists.
  • Deutsche Welle wrote November 21: “This unsafe zone, defined by extremism and extensive conflicts, almost surrounds Europe.”
  • “[T]he ‘ring of fire’ is only a few hundred kilometers away from Europe, and the buffer zone between Mali and the now nonexistent Libya is smaller than the vast and sandy emptiness of the Sahara would have us believe”
  • Consequently, Germany will send an additional 650 soldiers to Mali to support the peacekeeping mission in Mali, as Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen announced on November 25.
  • How the Paris attacks boosted Iran’s legitimacy

  • In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris, France is reaching out to Iran and Russia to form an alliance against the Islamic State.
  • “This in turn legitimizes Iran’s military engagement in Syria, which Washington considers as one of the root causes of emergence of [the Islamic State] in that country,” said Ali Alfoneh, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
  • “In that sense,” Alfoneh added, “the terrorist attacks in Paris came as manna from heaven for Tehran.”
  • Russia and the “great forgetting”

  • The West’s memory of the Soviet Union is rapidly fading, and forgetting that dark history is preventing people from understanding what Russian President Vladimir Putin is doing today.
  • History is repeating itself, and observers like Anne Applebaum fear the speedy “revival … of a belligerent Russian state, one led by men who were taught and trained by the Soviet state and are thus prepared to use a familiar blend of terror, deception and military force to stay in power.”
  • Racism on college campuses

  • College campuses have black student unions. Now white students are creating their own exclusive unions.
  • Perceived racist acts, like what recently happened at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, are now so quickly and frequently treated as confirmed malicious racist acts.
  • Other news:

  • A recent report by the Threat Knowledge Group said the Islamic State is radicalizing thousands of people in the United States.
  • The United Nations General Assembly adopted six resolutions that condemn the nation of Israel. Five of the anti-Israel resolutions were sponsored by the Palestinian Authority, while the sixth was sponsored by Syria—a nation being ravaged by four years of ongoing civil war.
  • In defiance to the United States, China said on November 22 that it will continue building military and civilian facilities on its artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea.
  • A newly released propaganda video from the Islamic State condemned America’s waning military morale and willpower, declining morals and rising racial tensions.
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    The Peace Lie

    The Peace Lie

    THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images

    It has been 42 years since the Jewish nation in the Middle East first exchanged land for peace. How has this strategy fared?

    The Prophet Hosea wrote about Judah’s wound, referring to the Jewish nation in the Middle East. The modern nations of Israel—America and Britain—are also implicated by Hosea’s prophecy.

    Notice the seriousness of these nations’ condition in the end time: “Therefore will I be unto Ephraim [Britain] as a moth, and to the house of Judah as rottenness” (Hosea 5:12).

    Think of a severely moth-eaten garment. It may look fine on the outside, but if moths have gnawed away at it on the inside, it almost falls apart when you pick it up! God says He has afflicted Britain with such a plague today!

    Meanwhile, Judah is rotten to the bone, as the word “rottenness” means here. This tiny nation is like a terminal-cancer patient expected to die at any time—unless God intervenes, and He will.

    “When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah saw his wound, then went Ephraim to the Assyrian, and sent to king Jareb: yet could he not heal you, nor cure you of your wound” (verse 13). As bad as Judah’s wound is, Ephraim’s sickness is even worse! That’s why it is mentioned first. Manasseh, or America, isn’t mentioned at all because it is more sick than Ephraim and has already faded from international relevance by this time. No man can heal these nations. Only God can.

    “The Assyrian” here is Germany. (Request our free book The United States and Britain in Prophecy for proof of the identities of the titular nations, as well as Judah and Germany.) King Jareb is the Assyrian leader. “Jareb” means “warlike monarch,” or “King Contentious,” as the Soncino Commentary translates it. This leader is more dangerous than Adolf Hitler. If you study history, you know that the German people routinely follow the lead of some truly frightening men. They are a great people, but they have not repented of their warlike ways.

    False Peace

    “All the men of thy confederacy have brought thee even to the border: the men that were at peace with thee have deceived thee, and prevailed against thee; they that eat thy bread have laid a wound under thee: there is none understanding in him” (Obadiah 7).

    This verse pictures a particular people coming “to the border” of a national neighbor to engage in diplomatic talks for peace. These talks are a fraud, a scam, a snare, a trap, an outright lie, and, most of all, a wound! Judah’s wound is a fruitless land-for-peace deal with its mortal foe, and it all officially started with the Oslo Accords in 1993.

    Really, Jewish capitulation began way back in 1973. During the famous Six-Day War from June 5-10, 1967, Judah executed a preemptive strike on Egyptian forces camped out and preparing for attack in the Sinai Peninsula. In just three hours, the Jews annihilated 300 of their fighter jets. This led to absolute Jewish victory over Egypt, Jordan and Syria, which also received support from Algeria, Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (plo). Judah essentially crushed the anti-Semitic hopes of 11 nations and one farcical government entity.

    But after 1973, following an unsuccessful attempt by the Arabs to conquer Judah once again, United States President Jimmy Carter pressured the Jews to give Sinai back to the Arabs. Throughout history, anytime a nation wins territory in war as Judah had done in 1967, that nation gets to keep that land. Yet our naive and historically ignorant leaders pressure Judah to return much of its own land to the enemy—something no other nation has ever been expected to do!

    Relinquishing command of Sinai was a particularly significant moment in Jewish history. This region contains Mount Sinai, where God gave the Ten Commandments to the 12 tribes of Israel and made them His special nation. This is fabulous history that our nations have sadly forgotten.

    In 2005, Judah evacuated 9,000 Jews from the Gaza Strip and turned the territory over to Palestinian control. The enemy has used that land as a launching pad for rockets aimed at Judah ever since. Gaza is now a proxy of Iran, the number one state sponsor of terrorism in the world. The West Bank Palestinians have also joined forces with the terrorists in Gaza. So much for a peace pact.

    Thanks to a foolhardy campaign promise by newly elected Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, the Israel Defense Forces withdrew from South Lebanon in 2000 after 15 years of warfare with the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorist organization. Of course, Hezbollah immediately seized control of the area, and now Iran has Judah virtually surrounded.

    Iran is no friend of Judah. It is controlled by ayatollahs, the Islamist extremist spiritual leaders of the country. Seemingly every week, these madmen lead huge crowds in chants of “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel!” They have branded America “the great Satan” and Judah “the little Satan.” Their immediate goal is to wipe the Jewish nation in the Middle East off the map.

    Unkind Allies

    America and Britain offer huge financial aid to Judah. Since America began defense support of Judah in 1962, it has given more money to Judah than any country—amounting to $100 billion total or about $2 billion per year. And that’s just for defense purposes.

    Bolstering a brother is indeed a worthy cause, but American and British generosity comes with a great deal of pressure. The U.S. and Britain have basically forced Judah to give up land every time they have given support. This shows the grand delusion clouding the minds of nearly all Western leaders today: that all problems can be solved through negotiation.

    There is no judgment or wisdom in sitting across the negotiating table from avowed enemies—whether Iran, the plo, Hamas or Fatah. These Islamic radicals believe the only way their messiah will return to Earth is if they slaughter as many people as possible! They are also convinced that America, Britain and Judah are Satan’s proxies and must be crushed from existence.

    No amount of land or pleasant platitudes will change the minds of these evil men. Our people need to wake up and recognize this truth!

    A Crippled Will

    Shmuel Schnitzer wrote in Maariv on Sept. 14, 1994: “Suddenly we are gripped by a will to withdraw. … We are a generation that is betraying its forefathers, their faith and their sacrifice. We are now engaged in tearing out the heart of the land from ourselves, undercutting everything which we nurtured. An entirely new Jewish people is being created before our very eyes.”

    The Jews no longer have the will to fight, but the will to withdraw. America, Britain and Judah are vastly different from their former triumphant selves. Why? God tells us throughout the Bible that it’s because of sin.

    “The Bible is no longer our calling card; it’s a mere historical curiosity,” Schnitzer continued. Twenty-one years later, the Bible isn’t just a curiosity anymore; it’s an object of scorn!

    On June 28, 2006, then-Sen. Barack Obama gave a speech in which he mocked the Bible. “Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy?” he asked. “Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is OK? Or we could go with Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith. Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount, a passage that is so radical that it’s doubtful our own defense department would survive its application? Folks haven’t been reading the Bible.”

    This man is now leading the United States of America! The Founding Fathers would be ashamed.

    Reliance on self, rejection of the Bible, and sin have led to our peoples’ pathetic loss of will. “And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass” (Leviticus 26:19). God Himself has robbed America, Britain and Judah of the will to use their astounding power.

    Judah is by far the most powerful nation in the Middle East. It possesses nuclear weapons, but it won’t confront the terrorists because of the peace process. The other side doesn’t want a solution—they want war. Winston Churchill said war is the only real way to solve anything with carnal men. Our nations can either rely on God or crush the enemy, but they refuse to take either action!

    Sound the Alarm

    “Blow ye the cornet in Gibeah, and the trumpet in Ramah: cry aloud at Bethaven, after thee, O Benjamin. Ephraim shall be desolate in the day of rebuke: among the tribes of Israel have I made known that which shall surely be” (Hosea 5:8-9). Who is declaring to the nations God’s own words about the peace process?

    “For I will be unto Ephraim as a lion, and as a young lion to the house of Judah” (verse 14). God will tear these nations apart as a lion ravages its prey! He is a God of mercy, but people don’t realize that He also punishes severely when necessary.

    “I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early” (verse 15). Through indescribable suffering, God will force the nations to see their wrongdoing. Then, the Messiah will return to this Earth to solve all our problems.

    “For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 8:11). Our leaders always try to negotiate peace, but it only causes gaping wounds! We need God’s judgment and wisdom.

    Judah’s capital, Jerusalem, is filled with violence today because of the peace process. But God shows us throughout the Bible that Jerusalem will soon be the capital of the entire universe! This is the wonderful conclusion to Judah’s wound.

    Will the Islamic State Threat Unify Europe? And the Opposite of Grievance—Gratitude!

    Will the Islamic State Threat Unify Europe? And the Opposite of Grievance—Gratitude!

    MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images

    Listen to the Trumpet Daily radio program that aired on November 27.

    Hans-Werner Sinn is a professor of economics at the University of Munich with a résumé full of economic accomplishments. He recently wrote an opinion piece for Project Syndicate titled “Can the Islamic State Unify Europe?” He notes the changing mood in Europe due to the rise of radical Islamist terror threats. On today’s show, Stephen Flurry takes a look at this article in the context of Bible prophecy to help you understand Europe’s future.

    Also on today’s show, why it’s important to count your blessings.

    Listen to or download Trumpet Daily Radio Show on:




    IMF to Invite Yuan Into SDR Currency Basket

    IMF to Invite Yuan Into SDR Currency Basket

    Yuk Tao Wong/iStock

    Global confidence in the Chinese currency continues to rise.

    The International Monetary Fund (imf) is set to include the Chinese yuan in its Special Drawing Rights (sdr) reserve currency on November 30. The yuan has reached the sdr requirement of being “freely usable,” which brings it one step closer to reserve currency status.

    Special Drawing Rights are international reserve assets that supplement the official money reserves of member countries, providing extra credit and liquidity to the international market. sdrs are not a currency in and of themselves but can be used to potentially claim the equivalent value of the four currencies currently in the sdr basket: the euro, Japanese yen, pound sterling and U.S. dollar.

    The Financial Times said the inclusion of the Chinese yuan may be “like many Chinese financial reforms: significant in hindsight but harder to get excited about in its early stages.” The current value of all sdrs is around $280 billion, and most economists estimate that the yuan’s inclusion will take up around 10 percent of the value of the currency basket. This equates to $28 billion—a small amount compared to the huge volumes traded worldwide.

    Mark Boleat, policy chairman at the City of London Corporation, said:

    It is an indication that the currency is already very important in the world, and it is going to become more important. So symbolically, it is important, but it is not just a symbol; it is a recognition, and also it will undoubtedly increase the willingness of central banks and others to hold and to deal in renminbi [yuan].

    In 2009, amid the West’s scramble for signs of recovery, Zhou Xiaochuan, the governor of the Peoples Bank of China, called for a new financial order with a global reserve currency replacing the U.S. dollar. The Financial Times noted, “If, as expected, the imf this month approves the inclusion of China’s renminbi as a reserve currency, it will mark a small step for Mr. Zhou’s 2009 vision but a big move for the renminbi.”

    Since the inclusion of the yuan into the sdr basket has been debated for over a year, Barrons predicts that a positive decision on November 30 will be unlikely to have any immediately significant positive impacts on the yuan. It will be just one more step on the journey of unpegging, revaluing and internationalizing the yuan—making it competition for the previously untouchable U.S. dollar.

    Despite this, other analysts predict the inclusion of the yuan will have a large impact over the following few years. Standard Chartered plc predicts the inclusion could spur up to $1 trillion of net purchases of China’s onshore bonds by the end of 2020. axa Investment Managers predict that about 10 percent of the $11.6 trillion of global reserves will flow into yuan assets.

    The Trumpet has long predicted that United States economic dominance will inevitably end. To find out the role of currency in this oncoming crisis, read “Deathblow to the Dollar.”

    Should You Take the Recommended Meds?

    Should You Take the Recommended Meds?

    iStock.com/Alxey Pnferov

    There are some questions you should ask before following the recommendation.

    “I’m writing you a prescription for drugs A, B and C,” the doctor says. “Take those from now on, and you’ll feel like yourself again.”

    This kind of medical recommendations are issued with increasing frequency in the United States, and patients are generally quick to follow the orders. Researches at the Mayo Clinic reported that almost 70 percent of Americans today are taking at least one prescription drug, and over half are taking at least two.

    A smaller percentage of Americans are on numerous prescriptions. In 2014, Americans were written a total of 4.33 billion prescriptions. For a population of only 319 million, that number is staggering. It pulls the average number of prescriptions per person up to 13.5. And with each passing year, these numbers are climbing, making the pharmaceutical industry ever larger and more powerful.

    Are You At Risk—From Your Meds?

    These expensive drugs often provide users with relief from some symptoms. But they also carry a host of health risks. About 16 percent of all hospital admissions are related to adverse reactions to prescription drugs.

    Women are at particularly high risk of complications from pharmaceuticals. That is in large part because although women take the majority of prescription drugs, many drugs are only ever tested on men.

    And here’s the big one: Pharmaceuticals—used as prescribed—are the fourth-leading cause of death for Americans. That puts medication-induced deaths ahead of diabetes, car accidents and aids. The death rate for prescription drugs is 10 times higher than the number of people killed by illegal drugs.

    Patient advocate Lisa Bloomquist says that, in far too many cases, “the pharmaceutical industry has effectively taken an acute problem … and converted it into a chronic problem.” She says these chronic problems “mean repeat customers, and the pharmaceutical industry makes billions.”

    In light of these risks, patients should ask their doctors some questions before blithely following all recommendations to take pharmaceuticals.

    ‘What’s the NNT?’

    First, a patient should ask the doctor about a statistic called the nnt, or the “Number-Needed-to-Treat.”

    The nnt is a piece of data doctors and pharmaceutical companies generally don’t like to discuss. It describes the number of people who need to take a certain drug in order for one of them to be helped by it.

    Consider the example of statin. Statin is a class of drug routinely prescribed to lower patients’ cholesterol levels. But the nnt for the most widely prescribed statin is a jaw-dropping 250. That means for every 250 people taking it, statin helps only one person.

    Dr. Jerome R. Hoffman, professor of clinical medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, explained: “What if you put 250 people in a room and told them they would each pay $1,000 a year for a drug they would have to take every day … and that 249 would have no benefit? And that they could do just as well by exercising? How many would take that?”

    Statin has an unusually high nnt, but GlaxoSmithKline estimates that 90 percent of all prescription drugs work for only 30 to 50 percent of people taking them.

    And in many cases, the effects of your medications are far worse than neutral.

    That leads to the second question a patient should ask.

    ‘What Are the Side Effects?’

    Before agreeing to a new prescription, a patient should also ask the doctor about the drug’s side effects and the percentage of people who suffer from them.

    To stick with the example of statin, the side effects are serious. They include joint pain, muscle pain and gastrointestinal distress. These are known to affect about 5 percent of people taking the drug. (In severe cases, it can also cause muscle breakdown and type-2 diabetes.)

    So, if you add the side-effect percentage to the nnt, you see that for every 250 people taking the most-widely prescribed statin, just one person is helped, while more than a dozen suffer side effects. This means each individual patient is 12.5 times more likely to be harmed than to be aided by the drug.

    ‘Doctor, Is the Drug Company Paying You?’

    It isn’t possible to watch tv without being bombarded by stressed-out women finally getting a good night’s sleep, depressed teenagers undergoing a transformation to joyfulness, and silver-haired men regaining long-lost virility.

    But pharmaceutical companies spend only a fraction of their marketing funds on directly targeting consumers.

    Unlike the situation with most products, consumers can’t buy pharmaceuticals unless they have a doctor’s approval. So the pharmaceutical companies know that doctors are the ones who actually have the power to get their drugs off the shelves and into patients’ medicine cabinets. So companies channel the bulk of their marketing directly to health-care professionals.

    Nine of the 10 largest pharmaceutical companies spent more on marketing than on research and development of new drugs.
    In 2012, pharmaceutical companies spent $3.5 billion on direct-to-consumer marketing. That same year, they spent about $24 billion marketing directly to health-care professionals.

    Pharmaceutical companies market to health-care professionals in two primary ways.

    First, they send sales representatives to routinely visit hospitals, bringing gifts and free lunches to doctors. Former pharmaceutical sales representative Jamie Reidy told Last Week Tonight that the lunches are more than just occasional offerings: “There are some offices that advertise in the front desk job description ‘free lunch everyday’—not because the doctors are paying for it, but because the drug reps are bringing it in everyday.”

    The National Physicians Alliance said that 83 percent of doctors report having accepted food and/or gifts from drug companies. One study showed that the United States has about 100,000 drug representatives, which means about one for every eight doctors—and the average marketing spent on each doctor is more than $12,000.

    In one case, a drug company spent $9,750 on a dinner for three doctors—in an effort to persuade them to prescribe its drugs.

    Drug company gifts to doctors can also include fishing trips, educational fees, sample drugs—and services such as building free websites.

    This problem is so widespread that the government recently launched a website that allows the public to see how much each doctor is receiving from various drug companies.

    The second way pharmaceutical companies market to doctors is by hiring doctors to talk to other doctors about their drugs.

    In 2013, federal prosecutors accused the Novartis drug company of spending almost $65 million to pay doctors to conduct more than 38,000 such “speaker programs.”

    The Wall Street Journal reported: “The speakers were paid an average of $750 to $1,500 per program, with some speakers earning as much as $3,000 a program, prosecutors said. In one instance, a Florida doctor was paid $3,750 for speaking to the same four doctors about a Novartis drug five times in a nine-month period, prosecutors said.”

    Novartis tried to defend itself, saying physician speaker programs are an “accepted and customary practice in the industry.”

    But that is the problem. The customary nature of the practice means the objectivity of many health-care professionals is corroded.

    When a drug company pays a doctor to act as a spokesman for its drugs, that doctor will often feel beholden to that company. It will cause him to make some recommendations based not on his best judgment but on the wishes of the drug company.

    So, the third question you should ask your doctor, if he recommends a certain prescription to you, is whether he is receiving money, gifts, speaking fees, or other benefits from the company that makes the drug. You may also ask if his opinion of the drug has been influenced by doctors paid to speak on behalf of its manufacturer.

    ‘How Can I Do My Part?’

    A final question you should ask is directed less at your doctor than at yourself.

    It is: What long-term changes could I make in my diet, exercise, and other lifestyle habits that could improve my health without pharmaceuticals? These kinds of changes often can be difficult, but they can make massive improvements in our lives. But take note: The side effects of this approach can include higher quality of life, clarity of thought, a larger savings account balance and a more abundant life.

    To understand more, read our articles “Help Yourself to Radiant Health” and “Belly On, Belly Off.”