Though the Frontline Club is a small venue we were happy to see bums on all seats for the showing of Positive Hell and the ensuing discussion which was followed by the signing of the new edition of Positively False. A good lot of books were shifted that day.
Yes, the book is self-published because when the book was mainstream published nearly 2 decades ago the orthodoxy stood-down Joan in promotional attempts which turned a hot potato into a cold one that no publisher interested in making money would touch. There are self-published books that promote the orthodoxy too.
We had been aware of some complaints for this screening (it was a public invite-only event and thus not backed or publicised by the Frontline Club – though there seems to have been a bit of paranoia on social media as to why panel members were photographed seated next to a vinyl blind with the FC logo [answer: because it’s just part of the furniture; it can be seen at all FC events].
A few prominent British critics of dissidents persist in using the term ‘AIDS denialists’ even though there have been attempts at educating them on the correct, albeit less sound-bite-y, terminology of ‘HIV sceptics’. The view promoted at the event was not of denying AIDS but of questioning the existence or pathogenicity of HIV as the cause. The trigger not the outcome is the focus. As an analogy, one who questions the cholesterol hypothesis of heart disease is not a heart disease denier, and that is not commonly misunderstood.
Ironic among our sceptics is the (otherwise deserved) champion of free speech Simon L. Singh who tweeted that the event was “disgraceful” and should be “cancelled”. He fought against the British Chiropractic Association who sued him for libel in an obvious attempt to silence his critiques. While no one commands Singh to support AIDS dissent, surely he should be uniform in championing free speech by allowing us to say what we want (and in return people can say what they want about us)? Is it not condescending to brush our audience as stupid and in need of having to be curated on what they should and should not see? (If it matters, children do not turn up at FC events) There were a few people who attended and left during an introductory speech – they made their mind up (from our view, prematurely), fine. No one was forced to our event and no one was discouraged from differing or arguing with us.
Ben Goldacre (and it should not surprise him that he is actually respected by many AIDS dissidents on other matters) also seems to have not done his homework by asking the Frontline Club if they were ashamed of themselves. But even if our event was an official FC event we would still fall under their ethos of ‘exists to promote freedom of expression and support journalists’ – and the event was created by the recipient of both a Medical Journalists Association and Royal Television Society award for her Channel 4 documentaries questioning AIDS. All Goldacre had to do was visit the FC site. If our event was blessed by them, they would have advertised us on their site. As a private event we were treated like all private events – we get the venue but we must promote it ourselves. Part of this undertaking was due to influenced pressure on the student union at SOAS to cancel a showing of the film I Will Not Go Quietly in 2014. Goldacre, like Singh, also thinks free speech is worth defending in some cases, but in others not:
The core of AIDS dissidents not only find 3 decades of failure timely, but none of us seek to force people off ARVs or to engage in base racism or homophobia. There is nothing fascist in the approach of AIDS dissidence. On the contrary, none of us have censored or physically abused proponents of the orthodoxy.
Because of the common life and death defining of AIDS it’s not particularly surprising that people – yes, most people – would think that anyone on the other side of those defined as heroes would be classed as villains. But many times in history it has been premature to call a cause noble without more information. While there is a healthy public culture of scepticism in regards to stereotypical politics, most people seem to have a misplaced respect for any scientific edict, holding it in much higher regard than they should. The arguments we have may not win currently in terms of subscribers, but what we have seriously irks an orthodoxy that has engaged in nearly 31 years of obvious failure. We do not oppose the people that dislike us, we have good grounds to think their sincerely held theory is bankrupt and represents a form of slow-genocide. They may disagree, but if they are so certain, they do not need to ever silence us. Silence is the weapon when debunking is falling flat. Even if they have to repeat themselves they should do so always rather than slap a red tape on our mouths.
The truth is that HIV has no proven pathogenicity (indeed, isolation) and no cure. If these conditions can be proved, then, and only then, will we be obliged to disappear.