Steve Stannard talks with Claus Jensen on 'The "HIV" Symposium' blog about the London launch of Joan Shenton's film 'Positively False – Birth of a Heresy' and the issues that hinder us
22–3 November 2011
Plus Norman Finkelstein on civility in discourse (quoted below the exchange)
Yesterday evening (Monday 21 November) I attended the first screening – outside of the Lucerne Festival, the premier – of Joan Shenton’s and Andi Reiss’s film ‘Positively False – Birth of a Heresy’ at a small theatre in central South London, UK. About 100 people attended, including Joan and Andi, Neville Hodgkinson, Jad Adams and a number of long term activists in the ‘HIV’/AIDS dissidence community, as well as a significant number of people who have been ‘diagnosed’ as ‘HIV+’.
While it was a fairly faithful archival reflection of the filmed history of ‘HIV’/AIDS dissidence, aside from those relatively new to the question for whom it would give much food for thought, it did not, for me, mark a step forward in the message it was giving.
So why do I think my comments are relevant to this thread on your forum? Well, because the film gave great weight and time to the views of Peter Duesberg and that coterie of scientists who either agree with the harmless passenger virus theory, or simply fail to challenge it. Yes, there were a few snippets of archive footage with Eleni and Val, and an almost inconsequential few seconds of Anthony Brink – even when dealing with the South African history of Mbeki, and the Ekaterinburg Conference.
In that sense, the film adds nothing to HoN, let alone ENV where the central issue of the lack of scientific evidence for the existence of ‘HIV’ and the centrality of that to whole hypothesis, was dealt with far more effectively and far more usefully.
Immediately after the screening, the pre-announced ‘Q & A’ very nearly didn’t happen for seemingly ill-considered ‘social’ reasons. The pressure was very much ‘Let’s go to the bar’ (for the free drinks and ‘nibbles’) and reminded me of the comments here and elsewhere about the RA2009 conference and how ‘jolly’ it was to all meet together for drinks, chats and dinner.
In the event, it was agreed to have ‘five minutes’, and, apart from an innocuous question about the next screening of the film, I decided to intervene with some observations about the fault-line in the film, and the issue of the refusal of Duesberg (and the Duesberg coterie) to engage in disciplined, ethical and honest debate on the issue of the existence of ‘HIV’. I made plain my belief that the failure to do that – especially since 1996, the last time Duesberg answered any questions about it – had held back the dissident movement, continued to hold it back, and merely served to aid the ‘HIV’/AIDS hypothesis and benefit the worldwide establishment.
Joan Shenton had stated at the introduction to the film that she was sad and disappointed that Duesberg had felt unable to attend this first screening. It was clear to me, and I am sure many others there that, had Duesberg attended he would have had a choice of engaging in debate or walking out and for that reason I believe he did not attend.
The response to what others described as my ‘statement’ was very interesting. Just 3 people sought to defend Duesberg but only on the basis of his early intervention in the 80s and his subsequent career and funding punishment. Those responses were short, thin and weak and my replies about the ethics that are supposed to apply to eminent scientists seemed to be accepted.
It was immediately after that when a small stream of people – including Neville Hodgkinson – approached me to thank me for raising the question, how important it was that such an ‘Elephant in the room’ issue stops being ignored, and that they agreed it was probably the sole issue on which the movement had been derailed for so long. None of these people were previously known to me. Neville Hodgkinson made the point to me that he was glad, and thought it right, that the Perth Group had disassociated itself from RA, and I think that unsolicited comment was important for what it said – RA has no scientific credibility. I had been careful in the post screening discussion to avoid any mention of RA specifically, or David Crowe. References to them came out naturally without any coaxing from me.
In discussions I had with Joan Shenton, on the issue of Perth Vs Duesberg’s ‘harmless passenger virus’ theory, she made the (to me) astonishing statement that she felt David Crowe was the key to resolving the issue, that Crowe was a gargantuan figure of importance in any success on breaking the ‘HIV’ theory of AIDS.
We had a brief discussion on my calm contention that, on the basis of the Parenzee case and the problems Janine Roberts had with him (alongside many other cases of which there was a documentary record) Crowe, to the contrary, was a major obstacle and a person whose honesty and ethics simply don’t bear a judgement less than very harsh. I implored her to put aside her emotions around the tone and (justifiable) anger of Anthony Brink – which she cited as the sole basis for attacks on Crowe – and look at the proven documentary record that show lies and deceit, manipulation of multiple people and multiple actions in breach of RA Board decisions.
I don’t hold out much hope that the emotional ties that some people have with Crowe or Duesberg et al will not continue to stop them adopting a position that is a lot more honest and ethical in focussing on the wanton destruction caused by the ‘HIV’/AIDS, and away from their ‘friendships’.
Joan and several others could do a lot worse than study the history of the actions and words of someone like Israel-Palestine conflict activist and political analyst Norman Finkelstein, and recognise that our ‘friends’ will often need to be addressed with the same harsh truth that we also subject our adversaries.
Steve, thanks for the review of both the screening and some of the participants. One could argue that Shenton and Reiss are under no obligation to move the Perth/Duesberg discussion forward, and probably don’t feel it’s the right thing to focus on in a movie that is aimed at a new audience.
Any historian of dissidence must decide for him or herself what to emphasise, and it seems that the story of Duesberg’s heroism and fall from a great height is irresistible to anyone with a journalistic instinct. The proportion of Duesberg to Perth in these accounts reflects the narrator’s choice of the human story of an archetypal dissenter over the history of the dissenting idea itself. Because Duesberg is a perfect canvas on which to draw a noble martyr, the story-telling historian feels the need, for the sake of the Good Story, to attribute the dissenting idea to him as well, even if it means the wrong dissenting idea. Thus he becomes the central figure in every respect.
It is true that many dissidents have emotional ties to Duesberg, Crowe and RA, but alas, the ties are not only emotional. There is an advantage in terms of career and fortune in siding with RA and working to make the organisation strong. That is also the case with Joan Shenton, who is benefitting economically from her choices. As far as her reasons for not looking at the documentary evidence or the naked arguments, but using the dishonest and cowardly escape of focusing on someone’s “tone”, see our recent post “Lessons in Dissent”, in particular this part:
“Now, Christine Johnson is supposedly an intelligent woman, if she really made her decision in this matter of untold historical consequence based on whether “Anthony got mad at her”, what does that tell you about her?”
Thanks for that reply. I think you are right in that the decision made to simply chronicle the history of the filmatic record was their choice. But given Joan’s affiliations (and the fact the film was funded by Christian Fiala) it was no surprise it emphasised the noble martyr in Peter Duesberg.
I did indeed read the ‘Lessons in Dissent’ thread, and shortly after I attempted to engage in some discussion about it with [RD], and separately Christine Johnson, but I am still none the wiser about the ‘facts’ (if any) behind what is suggested.
Your point about the cowardly, and frankly dishonest nature of the use of someone’s ‘tone’ as a reason for making a decision (or avoiding one) is well made.
Steve, who knows maybe the Christine Johnson story really was about Joan Shenton, but the “facts” behind it are wholly irrelevant. The only thing that’s important to understand, and which [RD] apparently doesn’t understand, is that the discussion has now been diverted from the facts of the case to one about the “tone” and whether one agrees with it.
Resulting gossip and speculation like was this or that person put off by this or that person’s “tone” is a transparent attempt in the same vein at accusing Anthony Brink of being counter-productive to his own cause. The end result is the same, we continue to talk about Brink’s “tone” as if it were the only thing of interest. You mentioned Norman Finkelstein, here is Chomsky explaining how it works with reference to Finkelstein and Dershowitz, start at 2:47: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8ENawcSliA
The primary architects of this tactic are David Crowe and Celia Farber, assisted by Henry Bauer, who was the first to publicly advocate not even opening mail from Brink and Chris Rawlins or engage with them in any other way in protest against their “tone”. As you probably know, Chris Rawlins’ style is quite different from Brink’s (as is Gene Semon” or Eleni’s or mine), so it is easy to see that the “tone” is not the only reason why the RA top doesn’t want people to read what any of us has to say.
In “Lessons in Dissent” we are comparing with the OWS movement, so that everybody can see who uses such tactics of diversion. Charlie Gasparino of Fox News Business, for instance, claims that he has been told that if you get close to an OWS protester the stench is so unbearable that you cannot stay and listen to them. That’s basically Bauer’s argument right down to the “tone”: Don’t listen to the message if the messenger is disagreeable to you. http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/201110150002
And just as with Bauer, it builds on the systematic focus on how disorderly and counter-productive the OWS are, defecating everywhere and making the ordinary tax payer foot the bill.
Even the claim that Brink’s ire is misdirected for personal reasons or because he is tactically inept finds its analogy in Wall Street subservient pundits advising the protesters to occupy Washington instead – because Big Government is our real common enemy, you know?
Then of course there’s the “tone” of the protesters: marxist, anarchist, amorphous (no concrete or unified demands). violent etc. That alone tells you you shouldn’t listen to them, even if you can cope with the smell.
The attempts by the established parties and organisations to co-opt the protesters and turn them into an energizer for the base, vote-collectors, is paralleled by Crowe’s unceasing efforts to harness the Perth Group and their sympathisers, including denying them the right to disassociate from the RA party.
I agree with you that Joan Shenton’s productions are predictable propaganda for Rethinking AIDS and Duesberg, and that given the circumstances she really doesn’t have much of a choice. When you’re a member of a party you toe the line. She was also involved in a documentary about RA Oakland that was transparent propaganda for Crowe and Duesberg. The sandwich being served was this:
Loaf 1: Summarised by Roberto Giraldo explaining that we (the dissident scientists) all love each other even if we have our differences on the existence of the virus. The Perth Group is not to be found in the crowd surrounding him.
Meat: Duesberg, Duesberg and Duesberg, garnished with some more Duesberg.
Loaf 2: Hanson, representing the dissident on the street (as opposed to the dissident scientists), with a message from the trenches that he doesn’t care too much for the science, especially not the current debate whether HIV exists or not. All he cares about is Duesberg’s book and that good old gut feeling that kept him off AZT. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDjFuXeHqtU
We don’t begrudge the partisanship per se, only the hypocrisy of those who claim that they’re neutral, pro-multiplicity, apolitical, too grown-up to sink to Brink’s level, you know, the familiar litany of wishy-washiness, while at the same time actively participating in the endless stream of anti-Perth attacks, however subtle and well-mannered these good people might appear to themselves.
Norman Finkelstein on civility in discourse
Steve elaborated his report – ‘I implored her to put aside her emotions around the tone and (justifiable) anger of Anthony Brink – which she cited as the sole basis for attacks on Crowe’ – in a subsequent email:
At the recent London screening of Joan’s film, I tried to engage her in the need for a united dissident stand on ‘HIV’, and that if Duesberg himself wasn’t prepared to debate with Perth, then at the least the others (Fiala, Ruggiero, Bialy etc) should and RA should be actively working for that.
She responded by saying that Crowe was the key to that, that Crowe was a monumentally important and positive factor in resolving the division. I was gobsmacked and told her that my knowledge and research around Crowe led me to the opposite conclusion and that I considered him to be an obstacle to developing any resurgent and successful dissident organisation or campaign, and that I considered him to be little better than a crook. I referenced several incidences including Paranzee, Janine Roberts’ Science letter and a few others.
Her response was to say that was all about ‘Anthony’s anger, and I am not interested in that’. I tried to get her to explain that to me, and what bearing that had on Crowe’s documented actions but she would not continue the discussion.
Norman Finkelstein’s had several interesting remarks on civility in discourse, during his ‘In Defence of Academic Freedom’ address at the University of Chicago on 12 October 2007 (video in four parts: http://j.mp/syNPFt):
Professor John Mearsheimer raises the question: Does my incivility undermine my effectiveness and scholarship? It’s a reasonable question. My model is not his model.
There are many statements which have the appearance of incivility but which are factually accurate.
‘You’re a war criminal. You deserve to be charged under Nuremburg statutes’ is not an ad hominem attack and it’s not uncivil. It’s a factual question.
If I call someone a plagiarist, a falsifier of documents, and a hoaxer, it’s not ad hominem. This defines academic crimes and misdemeanours which can be proven true or false. If I said he was a plagiarist and falsifier of documents without documenting it, I think that would have been a serious violation of my responsibility.
Kapital is not written according to Chicago University Style. There is not a single contemporary economist he’s not very uncivil to. (Recites several examples)
Most of the talk about civility is a red herring when you consider that our best universities indubitably recruit war criminals. (Gives examples)
There are moments that require breaking out of polite discourse to sound the alarm. To speak the unvarnished truth and to give expression to the moral indignation warranted by the occasion.
A charlatan deserves to be reduced with ridicule.
Christopher Hitchens has no moral core; it’s just a game of words.
Speaking of which, Steve had this to say in a further email:
Indeed that position statement on ‘HIV’ generally, and the correspondence between Michael Nitsche and Duesberg in particular, led me to see more clearly the true ‘RA’ position and how dishonest it has been. Crowe reminds me so much of other figures I have come across in trade union and political party activism. Like Duesberg, Crowe’s thoroughly dishonest and destructive behaviour has only succeeded with the active or silent support of those around him on the RA Board, and aided by the shocking naivete of so many ‘dissidents’.