Excerpts from The Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Epidemic Cover-up now available at Amazon here.
Because Sonnabend did not buy the government’s party line on HTLV-III, he was gradually elbowed out of an AIDS organization and an AIDS journal that he had help start. The AIDS Medical Foundation, which he started with millionairess and scientific researcher Mathilde Krim, moved toward an alliance with the HTLV-III establishment at Harvard and the National Cancer Institute. Sonnabend resigned when the organization sent out an alarming press release by Terry Beirn, a man with a public relations background that Sonnabend had hired as the administrative director. The press release said, “Nobody is now safe from AIDS, it’s on the loose.” Sonnabend was offended that the press release suggested that AIDS was being casually transmitted. It broke Sonnabend’s don’t-scare-the-horses rule.
After his break from the Krim organization, Sonnabend grew increasingly dissatisfied with what Mathilde Krim was saying publicly about the epidemic and privately mocked her rather uptight and puritanical attitude toward sex. What I didn’t like about her organization was that it was a private organization that took money from well-meaning people and then used it to basically back research into the exact same ideas that the government was promoting about AIDS. Over the years it increasingly seemed to me to be a very big part of the problem of the real epidemic rather than a solution. Her organization had essentially privatized the Big Assumption.
On July 22, Phil Donahue hosted a panel of guests on his talk show that discussed the topic of AIDS in the workplace. Near the end of the show, inspired by all the stories about AIDS and African swine fever (and showing the impact the Native had on the issue), he asked, “What about pork?” Dr. Mathilde Krim, who was one of the panelists, told Donahue that the involvement of pork and African swine fever virus in AIDS was an outlandish theory that was being investigated. I wrote an open letter to Donahue about the show in our August 4 issue: “I wish that Dr. Krim had given you an answer that was more thorough and more honest about her feelings about this theory, with which you are obviously familiar. I sat in a room with Dr. Krim a few months ago while she listened to a presentation of data on African swine fever, given by Drs. Jane Teas and John Beldekas. It is my understanding that Dr. Krim encouraged Beldekas and Teas to make the long presentation to her board, and she also urged them to apply for a grant from her foundation to continue their research. Shortly after the presentation, Dr. Krim sent a letter to Beldekas encouraging him to continue his work. I was under the impression that Dr. Krim had become quite fascinated by the swine fever theory.
August 15, 1987
In the same issue of the Native, we ran an article by Phil Zwickler about the reaction to a book by Dr. William H. Masters, his partner Virginia Johnson, and Dr. Robert Kolodny. Crisis: Heterosexual Behavior in the Age of AIDS, which was published by Grove Press. The authors concluded, “Authorities are greatly underestimating the number of people infected with the AIDS virus in the population today.” The writers had strayed off the AIDS reservation and dared to tell truths which came very close to outing the real epidemic behind the political veil of the HIV epidemic. Zwickler wrote, “While stating that AIDS is ‘now running rampant in the heterosexual community,’ they maintain that three million Americans, more than twice the number claimed by public health experts, are seropositive.” The authors shocked the nation by asserting, “Infection with the AIDS virus does not require intimate sexual contact or sharing of intravenous needles; transmission can, and does, occur as a result of person-to-person contact in which blood or other body fluids from a person who is harboring the virus are splashed onto or rubbed against someone else.”
Masters, Johnson, and Kolodny seem to have inadvertently glanced into something closer to the real epidemic and were more in touch with what was going on behind the jerry-built paradigm than even they realized. They paid a price for trying to tell it like it is. A series of reactions gathered by Zwickler did a stunning job of catching in real time the vicious political correctness that was forming around the government’s paradigm. It also showed how an unholy alliance between AIDS activists, quasi-governmental AIDS organizations and the gay community was forming. Masters, Johnson, and Kolodny had called for something draconian which helped cement an unholy alliance of opposition. According to Zwickler, “The authors call for mandatory HIV antibody testing for couples seeking a marriage license, pregnant women, convicted prostitutes, and all hospital in-patients between the ages of 15 and 60, as a way of stopping the epidemic.”
Dr. Stephen Joseph, the New York City Commissioner of Health, told Zwickler that the authors raised “all the old ‘bugaboos’ about transmission.” Interestingly, Joseph inadvertently caught the constantly shifting landscape of information about the epidemic when he said, “The book is damaging in that it takes us off on a swing. In the media, nine months ago, a heterosexual explosion of AIDS was cited. Three months ago Cosmopolitan said heterosexuals were not at risk. Now, Masters and Johnson write this book. It does confuse people. Heterosexual transmission is a real problem, but rampant spread, an image of diffuse spread—that’s not happening.” That was of course very true if you didn’t factor chronic fatigue syndrome into the paradigm of AIDS. If the public was confused, it is because of the unsteadiness and lack of consistency at the very heart of the public relations image of the epidemic that the CDC was promoting. Masters, Johnson, and Kolodny were hopelessly trying to make sense out of a paradigm that was half self-deception and half noble epidemiological lie meant to keep everybody pacified.
Mathilde Krim, the founding chair of the American Foundation for AIDS Research, told Zwickler, “I believe it is an insult for Dr. Virginia Johnson to suggest that the time-tested methods of medical investigation have resulted in ‘benevolent scientific deceptiveness’ concerning AIDS, its modes of transmission and its rate of transmission.” Peter Drotman, an epidemiologist with the CDC’s AIDS Program told Zwickler, “The book is not helpful. It is not a scientific contribution to our understanding of AIDS. It stresses some far-fetched scenarios that seem designed to provoke anxiety rather than to make useful suggestions. . . . AIDS is pretty clearly not running rampant among heterosexuals.” He was right of course because the form of acquired immunodeficiency that was running rampant in the heterosexual population was simply renamed chronic fatigue syndrome. Epidemiological rebranding was an instant cure for AIDS in the heterosexual population.
Unfortunately, the gay people Zwickler interviewed performed like a perky backup chorus to the AIDS establishment. Christopher Babick, Acting Director of People With AIDS Coalition, said, “I think their book is a reckless piece of literature. AIDS continues to affect mostly the communities it always has—namely, gay men, IV-drug users and their sexual partners.” Maria Maggenti of the Women’s Committee, AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power went even further, telling the Native, “I’m pretty horrified by the whole thing. Major actions should be taken against the book because it is only fueling the misinformation out there.” (The gay community developed a very unfortunate and self-destructive taste for “major action” censorship during the epidemic.) Lori Behrman, the spokesperson for Gay Men’s Health Crisis said, “Masters and Johnson have squandered their credibility to exploit a grave public health issue. Every AIDS researcher in the country will tell you that HIV cannot be transmitted casually. Their conclusion that mandatory testing is the answer overlooks the less expensive, more effective tool, which is education. The gay community has proved that safer sex and not testing can provide protection.” In truth, the least expensive and most effective tool was actually the CDC’s political epidemiology, which used public relations and a biased anti-gay paradigm to keep the disease from appearing to spread in the general population. This was just another example of the gay community having to do its abject “education is protection” minstrel show in the face of the draconian, spiteful call for mandatory testing. Every time the word “mandatory” was used it had more than a nasty little soupçon of “Get the gays” to it. The gay community, in such a dire situation, had to make a pact with the AIDS establishment to accept all the elements of its very political epidemiology—or else! Had the gay community called it out for the biased “homodemiology” that it was, everything would have been different.
Masters, Johnson, and Kolodny were threatening to expose what Daniel Goleman (after Ibsen) refered to as a “vital lie” which, Goleman describes as “a family myth that stands in place of a less comfortable truth.” In this case it was a “vital lie” about the AIDS epidemic that prevented social anxiety. In Zwickler’s survey of the AIDS and gay elite, one could see the social construction of a comforting false reality, a psychological phenomenon explored at length in Goleman’s book, Vital Lies, Simple Truths. This moment in the epidemic captures Goleman’s central thesis: “We are piloted in part by an ingenious capacity to deceive ourselves, whereby we sink into obliviousness rather than face threatening facts. This tendency to self-deception and mutual pretense pervades the structure of psychological life."
You could say that a kind of conspiracy of self-deception had begun on a massive scale in America and Masters, Johnson, and Kolodny (like the Native) were playing the role of unwelcome truth-tellers who needed to be neutralized by a kind of thuggish mockery. This moment was yet more evidence that, during the epidemic, there was never any such thing as what Goleman refers to as “acceptable dissent.”
I also let Mathilde Krim have it in the editorial: “In Omni magazine’s November 1987 issue, Mathilde Krim said, ‘In today’s system of science, I think at the top there is less difference between men and women because those of both sexes who are different have already been eliminated. At the top all have learned to play the same game. And it’s a bit of a con game.’ My question to Krim is: Which con game are you and the American Foundation for AIDS Research playing this week? How difficult would it be for amfAR to admit that AIDS research has revolved around the wrong virus for five years, and that we have a lot of work to do with African swine fever virus? The best course of action at this point would be not to continue throwing good money after bad. Krim has an opportunity to lead our nation out of this huge scientific mistake. Americans can live with mistakes, but will face total catastrophe if the lies about African swine fever virus continue much longer.”
I asserted, “Gallo’s scam of trying to sell African swine fever virus as HHV-6 is yet another example of his crookedness. He doesn’t want Teas to get credit for figuring out the cause of AIDS from both her epidemiology and the lab work she did with researchers John Beldekas and James Hebert. Gallo’s lies are dangerous to himself, his staff, and the nation. A source close to Gallo’s staff has told the Native that the wife of one of Gallo’s associates is sick with the chronic disease (CFS) that may be caused by African swine fever virus. Is Gallo telling the poor woman that she’s infected with HHV-6, when in reality she’s suffering from a chronic infection with swine fever virus—which is absolutely not a herpesvirus. (Even Dr. Pearson of George Washington University told me that they’re not certain [HHV-6 is] a herpesvirus.)”
Again the eternal optimist who thought change was right around the corner, I wrote, “There are at a least dozen scientists in America who have done extensive research on African swine fever virus. They should be summoned to the National Institutes of Health to help the nation figure out what to do about the virus Gallo tried to con the nation into believing was a herpesvirus.”
August 1, 1988
Michael Dukakis was running for president against Ronald Reagan that autumn, so I was concerned about the person who might become his Secretary of Health and Human Services if he prevailed. In an editorial titled “An Open Letter to Mathilde Krim,” I wrote, “There has been a rumor around for some time that you want to become Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Dukakis. In fact, a few weeks ago, a source in the White House told me that he thought it was your obvious objective. I’ve had many arguments about your motives over the last few years. When I first met you, I found you to be intelligent and charming and witty. Over the last seven years you have come to be celebrated as a great humanitarian. I may be the only person in the world to stand up and say this: I don’t trust you or your organization. Nonetheless, I would like to make the following suggestion to you: Let’s stop the fraud of HIV once and for all. Your organization has turned out not to be an independent critical force in the epidemic, but rather the handmaiden of the government’s lying. Now amfAR has been able to extend its web of lies into Senator Edward Kennedy’s office by sharing your Director of Programs and Special Projects, Terry Beirn, with Kennedy’s staff, in the capacity of Legislative Aide. I assume that Beirn is there to keep Kennedy from asking the hard critical questions about the real cause of AIDS and Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome [CFIDS]. I believe that Beirn did everything he could to discourage research into the link between AIDS and African swine fever virus. . . . Let’s face it, Mathilde, science and life are full of surprises. Who would have thought that after all the pronouncements about HIV, and all the testing, and all the research, and all the conferences, and all the celebrations of the discoverers, that it would turn out that HIV is not the cause of AIDS? While it is a tragedy for the human race, it is kind of a reminder to scientists that they should always keep an open mind and know that experiments—not powerful individuals like Gallo and Myron Essex—are what determine the truth in science. The cost of the HIV mistake and the African swine fever virus cover-up is the Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome epidemic. Now that scientists have spent years lying about the cause of AIDS, they are being forced to lie about the cause of Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction.”
January 22, 1990
In the January 22 issue, John Hammond reported on a troubling development in New York City. The mayor, David Dinkins, was considering appointing a man named Woodrow A. Myers as New York City Health Commissioner. Myers had been the head of the Indiana’s Board of Health. Hammond noted, “Despite having acquired a national reputation for liberal progressivism, in his home state Myers has been involved in enforcing some of the worst AIDS legislation in the country.” Hammond reported that Myers had originally been recommended for consideration by Mathilde Krim of amfAR.
Hammond wrote, “As reported by Michael Tomasky in the New York Observer this week, the Indiana Health Commissioner ran afoul of the gay community and civil libertarians in 1985 when, ostensibly to protect public health, he sought to have regular health department inspections, not only of gay bathhouses, but also of gay bars and bookstores.”
Hammond also reported, “In 1987 Myers supported legislation that allows draconian quarantine measures to prevent the spread of infectious disease, including ‘AIDS.’ The law, according to Marla Stevens, of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union’s Gay and Lesbian Task Force, allows officials to warn, then place in counseling and ultimately in forced, involuntary quarantine—either in a hospital or in jail—anyone who engages in behavior that could contribute to the spread of disease. . . . The standards of evidence under which a person could be quarantined are considerably less stringent than would be required for conviction in a criminal case: by direct confession, by accusation from two corroborating sources, by being arrested for a crime that could spread disease, or accusation from a single person who has the disease and says it could only have been contracted from the accused person. Evidence from any of those four sources would be enough to permit the Indiana Board of Health to act.”
February 5, 1990
In the February 5 issue, I took Mathilde Krim to task after we learned that Myers was on amfAR’s board of directors: “Mathilde Krim has been generally treated by the press and ‘AIDS’ activists as someone for whom canonization would not be enough. This paper has never quite bought into the halo however, and the recent discovery that our next health commissioner, Woodrow Myers, was on her board of directors only increases our distrust of her motives and her agenda. The names on amfAR’s ‘scientific’ advisory board read like a Who’s Who of the HIV/AZT establishment. The illustrious list includes one of the biggest scientific crooks in America, Dr. Robert “I-didn’t-steal-it” Gallo, and the incompetent Margaret “Let-them-eat-AZT” Fischl. And with Bill Haseltine and Jim Curran also on board, Gallo and Fischl are not alone in their sleaziness. We predict that while Krim and her cronies may be fooling some members of the gay community and some in the health activist community, history will sort out amfAR’s real agenda from its public persona. Back in the early part of the epidemic, Harper’s publisher Lewis Lapham got a whiff of the agenda. On May 10, 1985, he wrote about Krim (without naming her) in The Washington Post: ‘AIDS so conveniently fits the political and theological specifications of the Reagan administration that a prophet of the ascended right might be pardoned for welcoming it as the long-awaited scourge of God. On a television program, I heard a doctor say with more than a hint of comfortable righteousness in her voice, that the affliction was impervious to medical science. ‘No,’ she said, ‘we know of nothing that can cure it except a change of behavior. I’m sorry, but people will just have to learn to mend their ways.’ It is possible that I do the doctor an injustice, which is why I refrain from mentioning her name. I know nothing of her motives, her religion, or her politics, but her pious manner reminded me of the way in which the Reagan administration has elected to deal with the outbreak of AIDS. Several government spokesmen have managed to convey the unfortunate impression that the victims of the disease deserve what they get. . . . Here is a secular authority preaching a sermon of sexual Armageddon, and as I listened to her foretelling of doom it occurred to me that AIDS was a disease uniquely suited to the American temperament.”
Well, at least uniquely suited to Mathilde Krim’s temperament. And agenda.
Excerpts from The Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Epidemic Cover-up now available at Amazon here.