The “HIV” Symposium was conceived and born partly as an answer to the politics of the Rethinking AIDS organization (RA). We will therefore begin by recommending Anthony Brink’s newly published six-part series about RA, its history, its Board of Directors and its politics. In the first three parts Brink gives us new insight into one of the biggest scams perpetrated on the AIDS dissident community. The revelations presented would be enough to end careers in the real world, but HIV/AIDS dissidents are by and large a meek, politically naïve lot, who are at heart uncomfortable with challenging authority. The wolves among them, like Stefan Lanka, have long since turned away in disgust from what has become “mainstream dissidence”, represented by RA, and now the Perth Group, led by Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos, have officially done the same.
In these circumstances a power grab by those in a position to and with an interest in doing so is almost guaranteed to go unchallenged, and the current RA is just such a power grab by David Crowe, an ambitious businessman and politician, who has thrown in his lot with venture capitalist Bob Leppo, Peter Duesberg’s financial backer. This ensured from the outset that RA was heavily invested in Duesberg’s “Harmless Passenger Virus” theory, even as it claims to represent all dissident scientific opinions.
The result is that RA has become in many ways a scientific gatekeeper. In Part 6 of the History of Rethinking AIDS, Brink documents how several of RA’s Board members, notably Peter Duesberg himself, David Crowe, David Rasnick, Henry Bauer, Christian Fiala and Helen Lauer, have expressly, by word or deed, opposed themselves to scientific progress in blocking the resolution of the central issue in the scientific controversy about the HIV theory of AIDS: whether “HIV” has been proved to exist or not.
Suppressing the “HIV” isolation/existence question was from the beginning synonymous with suppressing the Perth Group and their extensive original work on the subject. In his History Brink shows how RA has defined itself by its opposition to the Perth Group and their central observation that “HIV” has never been purified and thereby shown to exist, as evidenced by the lack of a gold standard for the “HIV” tests and the impossibility of defining “HIV” infection in molecular terms.
In Part 1 Brink describes the rise and fall of RA’s predecessor, The Group for the Scientific Reappraisal of the HIV/AIDS Hypothesis, and various events up until the South African Presidential Panel in 2001. The summary of events documents the tensions between the Duesberg partisans and the Perth Group, which was later to result in the Perth Group’s formal disassociation from RA and its president David Crowe ”due to irreconcilable scientific and ethical differences”.
In Part 2, Brink explains the radical differences between the original Group for the Scientific Reappraisal of the HIV/AIDS Hypothesis formed in 1991 and the present Rethinking AIDS Group created in 2005. He recalls how Crowe came to be chosen by Duesberg associate David Rasnick to organize the new group, and he reveals the exclusive, non-transparent and non-democratic nature of the group that poses as an “umbrella organization” for all AIDS dissidents.
The (dys)functionality, which is to say the intended function, of the RA Board is exposed and amply documented, for example in the words of then president, Prof. Etienne de Harven: ‘the problem with our Board members is that they just don’t respond or react. They just stay put! I barely hear from them!’
But the current President and prime organizer of the group does not consider “staying put” to be the real danger to the internal democracy of his group. When the Perth Group requested representation on the RA Board, his forthright reply was that it “can’t happen until the existing Board members can conclude your participation will be cooperative. I certainly don’t want to see your participation come at the price of Duesberg’s.”
That is to say, the Perth Group could not be counted on to be as unresponsive and passive as those Board members described by de Harven, and whom Crowe alleges were able to summon just enough energy and interest to vote that the Perth Group lack sufficient understanding of the intricacies of party politics and hierarchy.
Brink’s case comes together in Part 3, where he gives us an almost unbelievable account of how Crowe, presumably with the blessing of Duesberg, Rasnick and Leppo, manoeuvered to shape RA and fortify his own position, beginning with the 2006 meeting of what had now become the RA “Board of Directors”.
At this meeting, Bob Leppo, Duesberg’s as well as RA’s main financial backer ( “sole financial backer as far as the IRS is concerned”, according to Brink), was made a “director” along with Duesberg and Rasnick (who has also enjoyed Leppo’s financial backing), while Duesberg’s wife, Siggi, was put in charge of the funds. With this incestuous arrangement, Crowe had accomplished without a peep of protest the complete merger of faux public representation, corporate financing and the ambition of scientific elites represented by Duesberg. In other words, RA had successfully duplicated in miniature the political structure it claims to be fighting.
After their request for representation on the RA Board was rebuffed, the Perth Group asked that at least a notice summarizing their scientific work be posted on the RA website. But Crowe and his Board refused because it would have forced RA to recognize the Perth Group’s undisputed scientific priority in most areas of dissident science. A presentation by Duesberg comparing the infectious and chemical theories of AIDS was posted on the RA website instead. There was no mention of the Perth Group’s prior scientifically comprehensive theory of AIDS, their oxidative stress theory, or the fact that it subsumed Duesberg’s chemical AIDS theory.
This was a sign of things to come, since by sidelining the Perth Group, RA had created a space soon to be filled by a seemingly endless cast of opportunists and plagiarists, several within its own rank and file. Among the latest to take advantage of the Perth Group’s lack of representation in RA to claim original work, new theories or independent discoveries, which are all dumbed-down versions of various parts of the Perth Group’s scientific corpus, are journalist Janine Roberts, Prof. Etienne de Harven, Prof. Henry Bauer and Prof. Andrew Maniotis.
One of the most compelling parts of Brink’s account of the 2006 RA meeting is how, with a stroke of a pen, Crowe made the signatories of the original 1991 Group for the Scientific Reappraisal of the HIV/AIDS Hypothesis, along with those who had subsequently signified their support for it, members of his new Rethinking AIDS Group by simply writing a “bylaw” stating: “Signatories, past and future, of the initial 1991 RA statement shall automatically be considered as ‘Members of the RA Group.’”
By this imperial decree, pretending that the original Group for the Scientific Reappraisal of the HIV/AIDS Hypothesis is identical with the Rethinking AIDS group, Crowe swelled the ranks of his group of a dozen or so self-selected Board members by some 2 500 AIDS dissidents, including the otherwise excluded Perth Group. And it was not only on paper: Crowe takes his self-invested powers over his involuntary RA members so literally that in 2009 he wielded them to deny a request from the Perth Group that he announce their dissociation from RA.
But David Crowe had more innovative “bylaws” still. In Brink’s words: “Seeing as Leppo had been funding Duesberg’s and Rasnick’s cancer research, Crowe figured he’d make a grab for some of his cash for himself too. It was as easy as writing a new ‘bylaw’ requiring the treasurer to divert some of the organization’s operating funds provided by Leppo into Crowe’s personal bank account – for which favour, and to still any objection, Crowe also stipulated in his new ‘bylaw’ that the treasurer could help himself to some too. With a slice of the cash also paid to the webmaster. Since why should they spend their valuable time working on the problem of AIDS for nothing? Like the rest of us do.”
As if the close relationship between RA’s scientists and financial backer, all fellow board members, wasn’t enough, Crowe tied the strings of the RA presidency, purse and official website to Leppo’s generous hand, ensuring that the only way to challenge Leppo’s (and thereby Duesberg’s) influence in the short run would be to outspend him. Thus Crowe was being quite literal when he wrote that “I certainly don’t want to see [the Perth Group’s] participation come at the price of Duesberg’s.”
These are some of the defining events leading up to the current controversy, which is the topic of Parts 4, 5 and 6 of Brink’s History. Here he increasingly focuses on Crowe’s well documented interference in the Parenzee court case and on the 2009 RA Conference in Oakland, from which he excluded the Perth Group and their supporters.
The three chapters are full of examples and quotations documenting Crowe’s continued machinations, as well as the RA Board’s herd behavior. Underlying it all is the recent metamorphosis of Duesberg’s untenable Passenger Virus theory from a scientific proposition to political wisdom: Nobody on the RA Board will defend the theory on its scientific merits, but all agree that it is eminently practical as official policy and public relation strategy.
The practicality of the Passenger Virus approach has already been tested twice. First in the Parenzee case, although Crowe and his RA Board have been trying to spin it to their advantage by pretending that it was the Missing Virus strategy that failed on that occasion, and second in Duesberg’s latest paper, HIV-AIDS hypothesis out of touch with South African AIDS – A new perspective. But the wisdom of the Passenger Virus theory and how it fared on these and other occasions will be the subject of future discussions. For now, please go read Anthony Brink’s History of Rethinking AIDS.