“War against the “denialists.” Nothing more.
When you’re in a war, there are no rules.
This IS a war, there ARE no rules, and we WILL crush you, one at a time, completely and utterly (at least the most influential ones; foot soldiers like you aren’t worth bothering with. )”
—Weill Cornell HIV researcher John P. Moore,
(in an email to an HIV positive man, Michael Geiger, who wrote to ask him an unorthodox question.)
Recently, British documentary film maker and colleague Joan Shenton asked me to address this question:
“Why do you think the scientific edifice that holds onto the AIDS orthodoxy has not yet been breached in spite of all the evidence of flawed science and terrible injustices that you and others have been exposing for 25 years or more?”
This is my answer:
I think we dissidents were in fact “denialists.” What do I mean by that? I mean that we denied the true nature of the forces that came together to form this “typhoon of unreason” (a borrowed phrase from Martin Amis, referring to Stalinism).
“The scientific edifice” has not been breached because it was not a scientific edifice. If it were, it would have never birthed itself without evidence, without struggle, without peer review, without meeting Koch’s Postulates, indeed, with no “virus” in evidence. I think the HIV/AIDS edifice is “post-scientific science,” which should not be called “science” at all.
So what is it?
It is ,of course, domination—a domination paradigm. Domination operates on fear.
What is this word, “abuse?” I want to be scientific about it.
The hidden psychic spindle (“…the rod on a spinning wheel by which the thread is twisted and on which it is wound”) of the HIV-Causes-AIDS paradigm is, I argue “abuse,” in every sense of the word: From the day it was born, it demanded abject subservience, no sound of protest; It permitted no exit, and set itself up to be above reproach and infallible. A dictatorship without borders.
Its other bizarre and characteristic feature was elasticity. An elasticity so great it could accommodate any and all circumstances in which its predictions failed, abjectly. It did so by systematically occluding what those predictions had been (for example, the elimination of upward of 90 million Americans by the year 1990), and by assuming a posture of rightness and goodness that never had to be either right or good. A sui generis halo around the whole contraption that took it off the scale of fair play, reality, conventional morality, and certainly off the scale of scientific form, which it abhorred, in favor of its crisis mentality, fueled by the notion that there was no time to demonstrate or prove anything, because people were “dying.” This cast the one who asked for “proof”—of anything—in the role, insanely, of “murderer,” which is what we have all been labeled since we took our positions of skepticism. (In my case, I began chronicling and reporting on the rift between the camps the year it broke out—1987. This was my first assignment in journalism, still not finished.) The entire time was spent in flight from whips and chains aimed at one’s core self-esteem, which you could kiss goodbye. And I did.
It wasn’t until I read Daniel Shaw’s stunning book Traumatic Narcissism: Relational Systems of Subjugation that I finally struck the chord of awakening—understood where I had been all these years. Shaw managed to leave a spiritual cult after ten year of strict obedience and silence, when he spoke up against sexual abuse by the cult’s leader and was punished and shunned.
In the chapter “Traumatic Narcissism in Cults,” Shaw renders a description that any surviving dissenter of the HIV/AIDS wars (be they scientists, journalists, or HIV positive individuals seeking answers) will recognize: “…grandiose, overinflated narcissists who seek hegemony for their subjectivity by weakening and suppressing the subjectivity of others.” He then cites, “…the relentless use of sticks, such as humiliating character assassination and threats of expulsion, meant to persuade the followers that their own subjectivity is inadequate and corrupt compared to the leader’s, and therefore in need of extensive correction that only the group and its leaders can provide.”
Shaw refers to “the hallmarks of abuse” as follows: “…the use of power to intimidate, seduce, coerce, belittle, and humiliate others—not to strengthen, uplift, and enlighten, as advertised, but for the more base purposes of psychological enslavement and parasitic exploitation.”
The abuse directed at the HIV positive customer/follower, though presented as a form of protection (against death, no less), was sinister in the extreme:
“If I can scare you, I have power over you. Then I can start to charge you for the partial exit strategies, passageways, and tunnels, out of the fear you are now overcome by.”
It is a brilliant, classic, demonic (“Ahrimanic,” more accurately) economic domination model–a domination model with spectacular economic rewards for those willing to do the bullying. What was taken, seized, robbed from people who got snared, at the outset, was nothing less than the individual’s birthright–the promise and hope of life itself.
This was an unprecedented hostage drama:
“I’ve taken all hope from you. I’ve already declared you dead.” The Promethean promise that all humans should be blinded from knowledge of “the day of their deaths …so that they might aspire,” has already been removed. Nothing is more fundamental, as a human “right” — or better to say, a natural condition — than the right not to be sentenced to an imminent death. Worse, a cloudy one, that only expands, but never breaks. Worse still, a death sentence from a “virus” that was never proven to exist, that is spectral.
This is the stuff of Goethe’s Erlkonig, of ancient folklore. It is precisely its bizarre qualities of superstition, fear, sacrificial occultism, and 16th century witch-terror that make it so paralyzing, so seemingly hopeless to confront, to bargain with, to attempt to dissuade or counter.
Any presence of “fog” is the presence of menace, fog being also the prelude to subjugation. Clarity, by contrast, is love itself.
From a translation of Goethe’s Erlkonig, or “Erlking:”
–Father, don’t you see the Erlking? The Erlking with his crown and tail?
–My son that is a streak of mist!
[I skip the middle of the poem and go to the end:]
“In dread, the father gallops fast, he holds the moaning child in his arms—he galloped home with all his might—in his arms the child was dead.”
So–Goethe would understand us. Goethe who brought German culture to its highest peak, before the emergence of the Reich, which, the good listener observes, is the word Peter Duesberg uses for the “it” we have all battled so hopelessly (or has it been?) all these years.
What have I learned, in the end? How has my mind changed?
I learned that I was fighting something I encountered long ago, as so many of us do. I was fighting for my own right to “live,” in a neutral space, not hunted by abstract clouds of “sin” which is really other people’s abjected self-acceptance. They were, of course, abused too, in early life.
I don’t presume to speak for any other “dissident” when I say, here, now, what it is I believe I was actually confronting: not “flawed” science, but rather, de-sensitization, brutality, and finally, sheer sadism.
Cruelty, not “science;” Abuse, not “science.”
Abuse, as any survivor of abuse knows, is not trying not to be abuse, is not trying to become understanding—not seeking its “aha” moment when it can grasp what the “other” means to express, or why.
“Oh now that I see what you mean, or, (common dissident fantasy) now that I have read your paper attentively, I will call for all beatings to cease, and your wounds will be tended to by our staff. Step over here.”
Yes, there was a crucial difference between the camps, the groups. One was campaigning for a debate, while the other had already pathologized and demonized “debate” and was waging overt, covert, and brutal war against the different-thinkers, in the name of the very “hegemony” Shaw invokes. We were never able to popularize the idea that scientists who posit something in the midst of great scientific mayhem should be protected from violence. Few stepped forward, in this terrifying climate, to argue for the preservation of scientific discourse. It was a battle over science—over the very soul of science in the politically correct era: Should science be free or should it be totalitarian? What should we do with those we deem to be wrong? But “wrong” did not mean incorrect—it meant wrong.
The answer came before the question: Beat them mercilessly. Disappear them. Abject, humiliate, de-fund, and at every turn terrorize and demoralize them. Whoever’s left standing will be “right.”
“…The overinflated narcissist,” Shaw writes, “can experience himself as cohesive and alive only at the expense of devitalizing his objects. To achieve this goal of “devitalization,” the traumatizing narcissist virtually colonizes others, using the other as a host, as it were, onto whom to project and control his unwanted and disavowed affects and self states connected to dependency–especially the shameful sense of neediness and inferiority.” In one of the most stirring moments in the book, Shaw writes simply: “One step along the way toward attaining freedom from emotional enslavement to the traumatizer can be the demystification of the traumatizer’s power.” He identified the “punishing grip of the moral defense,” that ties the abused to the traumatizer, and says that breaking this tie, freeing these particular patients, is, “among the most daunting task in any analytic therapy.”
The years following publication of my most penetrating article, Out of Control: AIDS And The Corruption of Medical Science (Harper’s, March 2006) — especially 2008 to the present — have been spent seeking relief from the psychological shattering that was finally (by 2008, 21 years after I embarked on the story) complete. I lost, of course, my “reputation,” my livelihood, my self-esteem, adrenal health, identity, ability to concentrate, and finally, will to write, or even in the full sense of the word, live.
In the winter of 2013 I was finally diagnosed with “Complex PTSD,” which cleared the way for gradual healing, now that I had the concept of “trauma” to work with. I was not “depressed,” I was traumatized. It wasn’t actually the overt death threats, the explicit fantasies published online by detractors of how they dreamed of murdering me, cutting me up, filming my slow death, “selling tickets”—nor the blood-splattered photo of me that till hangs on the main anti-“denialist” website that did me in. It was the asphyxiating presence of perpetual condemnation—the sense of being trapped, hunted, inside a sick domain that reserved the proud right to inflict fear and punishment—and the realization that nobody would or could protect me. Or any of us.
Why do we persist with this childish fantasy that any of us have been involved in a “scientific debate,” when in fact it was a squalid pit-bull dog fight, something out of A Clockwork Orange?
And as for the money—how can one even find the words to describe the monetary aspect of this monstrous, global industry that sells salvation from a deadly entity that does not exist. Or perhaps, as The Perth Group would correct that phrase: “Has never been proven to exist.”
I step away from every intra-dissident esoteric battle about which inaccurate version of the spectral “scientific” paradigm is more wrong than the other. I step away because I believe it to be a fundamental misreading of both what is upon us and what is called for. What is called for is all contained in the works of a living hero of mine, Marshall Rosenberg, who teaches around the world on the principles of “NVC,” which stands for non-violent communication. If there is a human being whose work could dismantle this vast, dense “misunderstanding,” which is at root, what it is, it would be Rosenberg. In his radical peace work, he gets at the essence of violence on our planet, which resides in our language. The very way we address one another, steeped in what he calls “jackal.”
The language of jackal seeks to dominate, conquer, separate, abuse, and accuse. On the other hand, the true language, the one buried in the steel and concrete of this dying age, which Rosenberg calls “giraffe,” is one composed of only two things: Feelings and needs.
“Any evaluation of others that implies wrongness is a tragic, suicidal expression of an unmet need. Say the need,” Rosenberg says.
He quotes Krishnamurti: “To observe without evaluating is the highest form of human intelligence.”
I do think “they” were erroneous, destructive, domineering, and dangerous. Yes. And yet, if I had it to do over, instead of focusing my thoughts and intentions on exposing and laying bare the “bad guys,” I would have focused on increasing the peace in myself that would make it possible for me to convey a sense of safety and love to those trapped, as I myself always have been, inside a cloud of co-created victimhood.
I am not here to save anybody.
We are free. But this is very hard to discover.
It may be that our highest purpose in life is actually “joy,” as it accords others their greatest freedom as well, when we transcend the need to dominate, coerce, or conquer. Happy people don’t need to do any of that.
Love, which contains no accusation, is the sustaining force of life. And that too is scientifically demonstrable. “Love,” the sun, and chlorofyll, all vibrate at the same frequency, which is 528 hz. (Unless that isn’t actually true, and how could I ever know?)
The opposite of love (again, the comprehensive word for the life force, the good)—is it really apathy? I think it’s accusation.
Evil is accusation. Can accusation not be evil?
No. Redress can be not evil, but accusation is always evil. Its frequency is pure destruction, disharmonious with nature.
HIV-AIDS is a miserably complex cacophony inside a typhoon powered by upward of $400 billion—but the Alpha and Omega of it, its dominant and inescapable frequency, is accusation. You can’t overcome the spirit of accusation with more accusation, or even blue-ribbon correction.
The way out, then, is to leave the cult of fear—uproot it at all levels, until we are genuinely interested in peace, and disinterested in being right, or validated by sick systems.
The Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky wrote a line in his last film, “The Sacrifice,” which for me is the most accurate summation of evil I have ever heard. One character asks another:
“What is evil?”
There is a pause, then the stunning response comes:
“Everything that is not necessary.”
New York, March 2014