The Rethinking AIDS 2009 Conference is now over, and in honour of this illustrious event Snout is announcing a prize* of $50,000† and a signed copy of Henry Bauer’s magnum opus The Origin, Persistence and Failings of HIV/AIDS Theory‡. This will be awarded to the first person who can provide a coherent account of what, for the love of Mike, conference presenter Marco Ruggiero was on about in his talk HIV and the Italian Ministry of Health.
[Note: * conditions apply, see future post for details; † Zimbabwean dollars or its equivalent in a nominated currency; ‡ unit offered as prize is slightly soiled, and some of the binding has come adrift. A bit like its author].
In the afterglow of RA09, Henry has been waxing lyrical on his blog:
"RA2009, the conference held by Rethinking AIDS (RA) in Oakland, 6-8 November, was an extraordinary success in every possible way. It exceeded wildly any reasonable expectations.So blissed out by this unforgettable bit of human history was Henry that he declared:
"That’s not just my opinion. The RA Board meeting on Sunday evening, the later get-together for speakers at the Duesberg’s, various "au revoir"s on Sunday, all assured me that my own feelings were fully shared by many others. In the last few days, e-mails and Facebook threads and the like have further underscored how many of us remain incredulous over the blessing of having participated in this unforgettable bit of human history."
"We discovered ourselves to be members of a very large and very close-knit FAMILY."And oh boy, what a family the "rethinkers" are. A deeply dysfunctional family, as anyone who has been following the goings-on between the Perthians and the RA mob will have realised by now. See, notably absent from the Love Fest in Oakland were the Perthians and their supporters, including Anthony Brink, Claus Jensen, Michael Ellner and many more. Apparently they were unhappy with RA’s decision not to allow Eleni Eleopulos-Papadopulos’ chosen representative Brink a slot to speak. Seems there was no room on the program, even after Noreen Martin pulled out at the last moment.
Ellner himself delivered a bunch of flyers to Oakland under the HEAL letterhead outlining his own reasons for "boycotting" the shindig, and finished off by quoting a brief exchange between Eleni and Val of Perth, and RA president David Crowe:
"In closing, I offer you a brief statement from the Perth Group. It was sent to David Crowe with a request that he make their disassociation from RA public.There’s worse - you get the picture. But Celia Farber doesn’t (or is pretending not to):
"Perth Group: 'Because of irreconcilable scientific and ethical differences we wish to formally disassociate ourselves from the Rethinking AIDS Group. Signed: The Perth Group'.
"David Crowe: 'Dear Val, no, I will not read this statement at the conference. It is not true, for example, to state that differences are irreconcilable when there has been no attempt to reconcile or even to determine whether differences do actually exist.'"
"Today I turned myself over to a healing place high in the hills, where they have built a box capable of emitting the same frequency as pure love. I plan to get myself into this box every day I am here, and twice on the last day.This person who has turned herself over to spend a long weekend in a magic box claimed to douse her in the frequency of pure love - apparently it’s 3 Hz, in case you were wanting to try it at home - is the same person who announced a meritless libel lawsuit in the gossip pages of the New York Post (where else?) accusing her detractors of unfairly claiming that she is lacking in... well... umm.. well, lacking in scientific rigor.
"My point, Henry: I told you in person, and I want to say it again: What you have already been through is what makes you unique in this "movement," which is, I believe, turning its pyramid structure inside out, FINALLLY, thanks to the very forces, frequencies, and real people you mentioned.
"I thought your talk was not only "excellent," but connected to a spirit movement I was able to perceive.
"It was not lethally academic, as I feel most of the dissident elite wishes to be, to its great detriment if not downfall."
Hope the box helps, Celia, but Snout isn't sure that "spirit movements" are acceptable witnesses in libel cases. Snout also loves the euphemism not lethally academic. Perhaps it means ill-informed, rambling and half-witted. Certainly neither Farber nor Bauer could ever be accused of being lethally academic...
So anyway, despite the brave faces in the rethinkers' "family" of Bauer, Farber and others, the reality is that it's divorce – ugly, messy and very, very public . So what's behind all this?
Well, it's been brewing for a while now, coming to a public head with Anthony Brink's "tokoloshe" letter published on AIDS Myth Exposed and its subsequent thread back in July-August, in which he shoves RA president David Crowe into a hessian sack, drags him out into the street and proceeds to lay into him first with fists, then with steel capped boots, and finishing off with a sturdy bit of four-by-two. (For legal reasons then AME site owner and Perthian sympathiser Rod Knoll removed the thread, but it can still be read on Brink’s TIG site).
But the unpleasantness has been going on a lot longer than that, probably dating back to Peter Duesberg's pointed and contemptuous snubbing of Eleni Eleopulos-Papadopulos in South Africa back in 2001. Duesberg makes no effort to conceal the fact he thinks the Perthians are incompetent fools in stubborn denial of the obvious fact that HIV exists (only it’s a harmless passenger virus). The Perthians think that Duesberg's "HIV science" is woeful, and that the supposed non-existence of HIV should be the central argument of the HIV/AIDS denialists. The Perthians have been feeling increasingly marginalised from Rethinking AIDS, which has been touting itself as the centre of gravity of the denialist movement. They want their debate about the existence of HIV with Duesberg and his supporters, and they’ve been denied not only this but what they see as their rightful place among the denialist cognoscenti.
So who are the Perthians and their supporters? Well, there's Mrs Eleopulos-Papadopulos and Dr Turner in Perth, of course. There’s Claus Jensen in Phuket, Thailand. There’s Brink in South Africa, and numerous lesser supporters like Sadun Kal, former AME site owner Rod Knoll, Ellner from HEAL and a number of others. And they are Not Very Happy At All about the direction "Rethinking AIDS" has taken under the presidency of Crowe.
The RA board is principally a US/Canadian affair, gathered around their tarnished hero Duesberg in California. Although Crowe has been the principal target of the Perthians, other board members like Etienne de Harven, our mate Henry H. Bauer, David Rasnick and even former board member and sycophantic biographer of Duesberg, Harvey Bialy have all been the targets of their animus, as revealed by the chief architect of the divorce, Anthony Brink.
Things came to a head during the run up to RA09. Mrs Eleopulos-Papadopulos wanted to present what her supporters see as the centrepiece of the Perthian position – that HIV does not exist and all the rest of the science... umm... *waves hands around dramatically* umm... falls down from there. Rasnick, who was choosing the speakers, wanted none of this, particularly as Duesberg was presenting his "in sum HIV is a harmless passenger virus" South African crap (see previous entry). Rasnick offered to let Eleni speak provided she submitted to limiting herself to the subject of HIV testing, but EPE suddenly remembered she had to wash her hair that weekend, and suggested the Perthian attack-dog Brink might be a suitable replacement to speak on behalf of her and her followers. Rasnick said, umm... no, and so Brink went ballistic, initially on the semi-private HIVAIDS Paradigm email list frequented by most of the prominent denialists of both camps, then later on AIDS Myth Exposed, and then on his own TIG site where he has preserved some of the choicest exchanges for posterity and for the amusement of anyone with an internet connection and an appreciation of colourful invective.
(Brink's Index page is called The Unbelievable Mediocrity of David Crowe. Snout highly recommends a visit it to anyone who wants to truly understand the depths of denialist psychopathology and has a couple of spare days to fossick around the sludge piles).
For example, in a note to Henry Bauer, Brink is his usual diplomatic self:
"If you are referring to Crowe's delegation of Rasnick to pick the topics and the speakers for the conference (presuming Rasnick didn't just give himself the job), then his delegation of this critical, extraordinarily politically sensitive function to Peter's lapdog guaranteed disaster. And it resoundingly demonstrates Crowe's utter incompetence as a director. The worst of it was Crowe's lack of appreciation for the potentially explosive consequences of rejecting Eleni's request that I present her science on her behalf, concocting and putting up the most stupid and transparently dishonest justifications for supporting Rasnick's shit-brained, mala fide decision (she had to present herself in person to be interrogated on whether a lot of semen in your backside may be immunosuppressive (as the literature tells))."As Brink would have it, the differences between the Perthians and RA go beyond the mutual personal contempt shared by Duesberg and Eleni, his refusal to publicly debate their "science" with them or their feeling of being snubbed by the mainstream of RA.
There’s also the matter of the embarrassingly inept "public relations" fiascos that RA churns out on a regular basis. Prime among these have been:
"The Letter to Science", a ridiculous letter to the editors of Science by half-baked "journalist" Janine Roberts demanding they retract the four 25 year old papers by Gallo’s team claiming to have demonstrated that the retrovirus that became known as HIV was the likely cause of AIDS. The grounds for retraction however (as many of the more scientifically literate denialists realised, some after they signed) were based on Roberts’ complete failure to understand the papers in question (it’s not clear if she even knew there were four of them or read any but the first). The net result was that many of the senior denialist "scientists" red-lighted themselves as ignorant loons, as a few of them later realised to their regret. The letter was never published in Science, of course, and Snout's guess is that it’s still pinned up in the lunchroom noticeboard in their “cranks corner”
The pamphlet The AIDS Trap, penned by some medical and scientific illiterate and "endorsed by the board of Rethinking AIDS". This piece of idiot disinformation (with illustrations by R. Crumb that are as stupid as they are insulting) is a tort-lawsuit-waiting-to-happen if anyone actually acted on its advice. Snout's first thought on seeing it was to check if there were any actual practising physicians on the RA board (with the possible exception of Christian Fiala there aren't) because for a physician to endorse such drivel is to invite a hearing with ones relevant Medical Board for incompetence. Apparently Valendar Turner was thinking the same thing, and he pointedly asked to be distanced from it describing it in a private note as 'second grade primary school pathetic'.
The grossly incompetent Duesberg Medical Hypotheses paper, co-authored by three of his colleagues on the RA Board including Henry Bauer, and ignominiously retracted shortly after its net publication. Readers might recall its skewering on this blog and others back in July. Now Perthian Claus Jensen has published his own critique, and it is Not Kind, although much of it seems to be cribbed from Reckless Endangerment, albeit more elegantly written, and obviously from an HIV-doesn’t-exist perspective.
That’s not to forget the bumbling takeover of the Semmelweis Society in order to engineer a Clean Hands award to Duesberg and Farber – a PR nightmare that quickly turned to red faces, farce and lawsuits. As if anything involving Clark Baker in a prominent role could end up otherwise.
And of course there’s the repulsively dishonest House of Numbers which has drawn the ire of film critics, physicians, public health officers and the general public, not to mention the 17 scientists who claimed they were deceived into taking part, including Nobel laureates Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and David Baltimore. The media and the blogosphere have been scathing, particularly in the UK.
But the number one bone of contention between the Perthians and RA, particularly with its president, is to do with its handling of the Parenzee appeal hearing back in 2006-7. Apparently, the Perthians believe that their failure to have themselves taken seriously as "expert witnesses" in HIV/AIDS has nothing to do with the fact that they are entirely uncontaminated by actual training, qualifications or practical experience in any relevant discipline, nor their complete lack of insight into the role of expert witnesses in a legal setting. Nor did it have anything to do with the fact that the presiding judge, John Sulan, twigged very early on that:
"The evidence given by Ms Papadopulos-Eleopulos about the Perth group demonstrates that she is promoting a cause. She is not independent. She is motivated to create a debate about her theory. The Perth Group will use whatever means available to promote that debate, including encouragement of persons such as the applicant, to promote their theories in courts of law."
Something of a no-no for a would-be "expert witness" Snout thinks. Or that she...
"...lacks independence. She is an advocate for a cause. She chooses to rely upon opinions of others which she often takes out of context and misinterprets. She lacks objectivity. If faced with evidence which does not support her views, she simply refuses to acknowledge it, or dismisses it without any basis for so doing. Examples of her refusal to acknowledge evidence which does not support her views include her response to the epidemiological evidence which she says is not proof and which she dismisses as unreliable."No, apparently the reason the Perthians failed at getting recognised as expert witnesses was because of something David Crowe did. Apparently Crowe contacted Parenzee's barrister during the case and suggested involving Duesberg and de Harven as back up expert witnesses, thus confusing the thrust of the defence which was supposed to be HIV doesn’t exist, not Duesberg's well it does, but it doesn’t cause AIDS or de Harven’s yup, that’s definitely a retrovirus, but I reckon it’s endogenous. And in Brink’s words:
"...the President of RA scored the most catastrophic own goal in the history of the dissident movement since Harvey Bialy fucked up Mbeki's AIDS Panel experiments."The obvious question is why Brink is choosing to make the conflict so public, posting the dirty laundry where anyone can read it and marvel at the depths of stupidity, narcissism, incompetence, ignorance and sheer bloody-minded viciousness that characterise the principal activities of the HIV/AIDS denialist movement. Brink is no fool (well he is, but not in this way), and is perfectly aware of how damaging this is to the reputation of the movement as a whole, and particularly to those individuals - Duesberg, Crowe, Bauer, de Harven, Rasnick - he has singled out to haul into the town square for a public kicking. Erstwhile allies are at each other’s throats (see fellow moderators Brian Carter and Rod Knoll on AME for example), and the rank and file are becoming distressed and demoralised (or as Sadun Kal would put it "demotivated").
But Brink is quite clear as to his intentions, and those of his Perthian friends:
"Yes, I propose to reduce RA in the military sense of the word."Why?
To answer this it’s worth going to the homepage of what they call The Perth Group HIV-AIDS 'Debate' Website. Of course it is nothing of the kind – they don't allow comments and the closest they come to real debate is when they publish their long tedious trolling emails to actual, you know working, scientists and the replies they receive which are generally on the lines of "piss off and stop wasting my time with your undergraduate-level existential sophistry. I’ve got real work to do".
The Perthians make their "strategy" crystal clear:
"What is needed to prove or disprove the HIV theory of AIDS?The "isolation experiments" proposed by the Perthians will never be performed for the simple reason that they are impossible to do to their satisfaction in practice ("nope, that’s not pure enough for our liking") and no actual virologist considers them necessary in establishing the presence of any virus. They’re a classic example of what Caj on the Daily Kos calls "the eternal request" beloved by denialists of all stripes from Obama birthers to 9/11 Troofers. You know: the one study, the one experiment, the one document that will “prove” things one way or another. Classic crank stuff. In fact, the existence of no pathogenic human virus has ever been demonstrated according to the Perthians' criteria.
There are four ways to resolve this debate:
"The first is to perform isolation experiments to prove whether or not a retrovirus HIV truly exists in AIDS patients or in anyone. These experiments are documented in the Presidential AIDS Advisory Panel report. The report can be read or downloaded HERE. The cost of such experiments would be modest by AIDS research standards. Approximately $US50-100K and take 6-12 months to perform."
"The second is to garner enough public opinion to mandate a public debate between a small number of protagonists and dissidents. This debate should be international, public and adjudicated by a number of disinterested scientists of Nobel Laureate class who must present the international community with a resolution as to the way forward."Way forward for who? It's the Perthians who have been stuck in a 1983 timewarp, not anyone else. It ain't gonna happen. The Perthians can't even get their fellow denialists to "debate" them, let alone real scientists who are well aware that such public spectacles have never resolved any scientific controversies, merely provided a platform and vicarious credibility to cranks.
"The fourth is to perform EXPERIMENTS--Click HERE for details and an invitation to donate funds for experiments."Well, this is basically the same as the first, only trying to hit you up for donations. Oh, and they won’t tell you exactly how they intend to spend your dosh. Coz It’s A Secret. But point three is the revealing one:
"The third is for HIV seropositive individuals to have the evidence for their diagnoses of "HIV" infection examined in courts of law."Ah, here it becomes clear. Having failed utterly to convince any literate scientists of their hare-brained beliefs, the Perthians are taking the well-trodden path of all serious nutcases with a chip on their shoulder – they want their day in court. And if they bomb out spectacularly as they did in Adelaide in the Parenzee hearing they want another day in court. And then another, and another. As many as it takes, irrespective of the damage they do in the process.
In the future, Snout plans to write a little more about how this strategy plays out in practice, in particular the denialists' history of serially grooming vulnerable HIV positive people to act as forensic fodder for their own personal quixotic tilt at scientific glory – via the courts. Parenzee wasn’t their first attempt, and if the Perthians and other denialists have their way he won’t be their last.
But understanding this strategy makes clear what former barrister Brink is up to in very publicly distancing the Perthians from the "tumbling farting clowns" (as he puts it) of Rethinking AIDS. They’re an embarrassment to the Perthians’ grand legal ambitions. As Brink puts it:
"When the useless results of the [Mbeki's AIDS Panel] experiments he screwed up came out, Harvey [Bialy] phoned me in the blackest depression over what a total failure they'd been.Bialy and the AIDS panel fiasco is another story for another time, but you get the point. The "rethinkers" movement is anything but the one big happy family that Henry Bauer is trying to make out it is. And as with just about every deeply, screamingly unhappy dysfunctional family there is a large amount of – well - denial.
"Later he claimed they were brilliant and put them up on his blog.
"I should have realized then that whatever we do, wherever we live, no matter how distant, the Californian Mafia and their stupid henchmen will always come charging in uninvited and screwing everything up."
Meanwhile, fresh from the Rethinker’s conference, Henry gushes:
"There could not be a more convincing demonstration that the endless diversity among human beings need be no barrier to productive commitment to a shared purpose."What a tool. What a "family". What a bunch of narcissistic, self-important, delusional cranks.