Denying AIDS: Conspiracy Theories, Pseudoscience, and Human Tragedy

Seeking Stories of AIDS Denialism

Have you or someone you know been harmed by AIDS Denialism? If you, or someone you care about, have been advised to stop taking HIV meds, ignore HIV test results, purchase a 'natural' cure etc., please email me.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"Hello Professor, a Brent Leung is here to see you"

House of Numbers continues to be the talk of AIDS Denialism. There are many lessons to be learned from the AIDS Denialist crockumentary House of Numbers. The real lesson for scientists is that just because a guy has a camera crew does not mean you should agree to be interviewed by him. Thinking twice before sitting down in front of a camera is a worthwhile lesson indeed. The October 15 issue of Nature, a magazine well known for its excellent book reviews, published a great story on the hazards of scientists appearing in documentaries gone wrong. Too bad the article came out after House of Numbers was in the can. I post the article here for future reference.

And don’t forget to check out the new House of Numbers Website. Everyone should see House of Numbers.But be sure to read up before going.

UPDATE: Editors at Science Daily react to the misrepresentation (lying?) about T-Cells and AIDS twisted in House of Numbskulls.

UPDATE: Joseph Sonnabend, MD - Physician and AIDS Researcher speaks out on the fraud behind House of Numbers.

Caught on camera

What to do when you are interviewed for an unscientific documentary

Stephen Schneider, a climatologist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, has always had to deal with angry e-mails from people who think that global warming isn't happening, and that Schneider is part of a conspiracy to promote it. He has been vocal about the dangers of climate change for decades.

In the past week, however, Schneider has been deluged by furious messages. They have been provoked by a clip circulating on the Internet from Not Evil Just Wrong, a documentary film claiming that global-warming fears are 'hysteria'. The clip explains how Schneider did an interview — and then how the university informed the film-makers that it had rescinded permission for using any of the Stanford footage and that Schneider had withdrawn permission to use his name or interview. Schneider says he backed out when he realized that the film-makers were polemicists who had lied to him about their intentions. Some climate-sceptic commentators are accusing him of censorship.

Schneider is by no means the first scientist to feel hoodwinked by film-makers. British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins ended up in Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, a film purporting to show how academics who do not accept evolution are frozen out of academia. Dawkins says that he was conned — that the film-makers had presented the project to him as an even-handed effort entitled Crossroads: The Intersection of Science and Religion. Carl Wunsch, an oceanographer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, felt he was "swindled" in a like manner by the producers of The Great Global Warming Swindle. And Nikos Logothetis of the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen, Germany, let a seemingly objective film crew into his primate laboratory — only to see the footage used in an animal-rights documentary that slams him as cruel.

For many scientists, the natural response to such stories is to stop talking to the media. But that would be an overreaction. For one thing, such misrepresentations are rare. Schneider estimates that he has given some 3,500 interviews since the 1970s, and only twice has he been "set up". Most journalists and documentarians are honestly trying to report the facts, and scientists have a responsibility to tell the public about their work — especially if it is supported by public money.

Fortunately, scientists can do much to protect themselves. When someone asks for an interview, for example, a scientist should enquire about starting assumptions, the intended audience and the identity of the project's backers. And, if possible, researchers should check the earlier work of the journalists and any companies behind the film for a partisan tone, or unacceptable levels of sensationalism.

But if these efforts fail, and it is discovered too late that the film-makers are bent on using an on-tape interview to promote a view that seems unscientific, the question becomes what steps to take. There is rarely a way to withdraw an interview that was given on the record, for good reason. In any case, making a fuss can be a gift of publicity to film-makers. Schneider admits that he might have spared himself the deluge of e-mails had he just ignored the makers of Not Evil Just Wrong.

A better approach might well be to complain to the television channels and broadcasting regulators, many of which have standards for their programming. The Great Global Warming Swindle was censured by Ofcom, Britain's broadcasting regulator, for breaking several rules in its broadcasting code. And when the same documentary was aired by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, it was followed by a point-by-point debate and rebuttal.

In the end, this is perhaps the most effective way to limit the damage. Bad journalism is best met not with red-faced indignation, but with good journalism. The truth is the best revenge.


  1. Very nice. I like the new site you mentioned for the movie. When did that pop up?

  2. Thanks for the link to The complete transcript is available there.

  3. The closest thing to a rational argument I've ever heard from an AIDS denier was along the lines of "if they were stupid enough to let themselves be interviewed by Brent Leung, maybe they're wrong about HIV"

    None of the people in the film know how to use Google? His name was out there associated with Len Horowtiz and Boyd Graves.

  4. Regarding the Sonnabend link, he states that he did NOT back out of the Spectator panel discussion of House of Numb~Nuts.
    However, if you check out the comments at the Spectator, you will read an incredibly angry, emotional diatribe by Celia Farber in which she adamantly claims both the orthodox panelists pulled out.
    UHM, do you think that means that Farber does NOT do proper research before she prints her "Diarrhea Disguised As Journalism"???

  5. Todd, I think the Denialists assume that Sonnabend is one of them.

  6. One potential HoN interviewee luckily missed being conned by Leung by sticking to her principles about speaking to the media....she'll only agree if it's live. This is probably sage advice for all.

  7. Is that true Chris? Even now? If that is true then that is even better proof that they are Denialists!!
    That is soooo funny! WOW! I do not know if that makes them more pathetic or more sad?

  8. Ok enough.
    Are you guys insinuating that Brent Leung is a liar? In the pocket of Big Libertarianism? I will have none of that at my Blog. My BP is about off the scale right now, so just stop!

    Time for a coffee enema.

    I have to do something to reduce my stress or I will surely develop AIDS!

  9. An anonymous troll posts: "if they were stupid enough to let themselves be interviewed by Brent Leung, maybe they're wrong about HIV"

    Most professionals are fairly trusting of the stated bona fides of people who present themselves as fellow professionals, even in a different area (e.g., film making). There's a presumption of honesty and integrity, that is one of the bases of society (or should be). Leung was introduced to me and other AIDS researchers by an AIDS activist friend who had been fooled by Leung, fooled into believing that when Leung said something, it could be trusted and was accurate. I and others accepted the recommendation of someone we knew and respected, not realizing that he had been fooled. Did we do our own due diligence? No, we did not. Was that a mistake? Yes, in retrospect. Was Leung deceptive? Absolutely! Did he sit in my office, twice, and fail to disclose what his real agenda was? Yes! Did he answer my questions inaccurately? Yes he did! He told me and others that he was making a film about the true history of AIDS research, who did what and when; and about the basics of HIV science, to educate a new generation of young people. He specifically raised the issue of AIDS denialism with me, and categorically stated that he had no sympathy with these people, saying he thought they wrong and misguided. He even went so far as to tell me that he hoped his film would help debunk some denialist myths, and thereby save some lives. In other words, not only did he interview me while not disclosing that he was an AIDS denialist, he interviewed me from the perspective of someone who was trying to be an anti-denialist. Was I fooled by him? Yes. Do I feel bad that I was fooled? No. I'm used to dealing with people who display honesty and integrity, so in that respect, I can be fooled by those who disguise their agendas. However, I've learnt a lesson and won't make that mistake twice.

    During his two separate one hour, on camera interviews, Leung asked me the same questions he asked of other bona fide AIDS scientists. He used very, very few of the many long, detailed and scientifically accurate answers I gave him. Why did he edit most of my comments out? Because they were scientifically accurate and therefore not useful to his real agenda. In other words, he cherry-picked a few quotes from various people, but ignored the many other quotes that would not have been useful to his agenda and backers, including quotes made on the same general subject. That's what someone deceptive can do, when his goal is to deceive.

    John Moore

  10. Ok, John, we get it, we get it. Bona Fide HIV Scientists Good, Denialist Leung Bad. Now dry your eyes, I'll buy you an ice cream ok? Just give me your full name, address, phone, acc. no., date of birth and I'll send you $5 ASAP.

  11. I hope you aren't going to try to sandbag anyone into having their photograph taken with you, as you did to Peter Duesberg at the Anueploidy Conference. The organizers of the conference are aware that you might attend, and are prepared to prevent you (or your supporters) from disrupting the conference. Take all the photographs you want to, but don't approach anyone under the pretense that you are an unbiased observer. You might find yourself getting "sandbagged."

  12. "don't approach anyone under the pretense that you are an unbiased observer"

    At least your vaguely threatening post is appropriate to the topic of the thread.

  13. I actually received the Can'tbe Bothered comment as an email. I do not think it is vaguely threatening. I just took it as plain old stupid. So far the conference has been pretty entertaining. Nothing new of course. Just the usual mix of grandiosity and paranoia. Today should great though.

  14. Is the RA Conference going on now?
    Are you there?
    If it is going on and you are there, Seth, I would totally take that email as a threat!!
    It could very well be Clark Baker and I KNOW from experience that he is potentially violent from the emails he has sent me and the follow up he has done from threatening my mother and trying to get me fired, along with the help of Celia Farber's lies!!!
    Watch your back Seth as those people are totally unpredictable.
    Just look at the lies Elizabeth Ely has been posting about me!!
    Be careful!

  15. Luc's latest (from yesterday), odd how it doesn't bear any resemblance to what Bernt Lunge claimed he said. "Studying the resonance emission of low-frequency electromagnetic waves through high-water dilutions of DNA" does sound a bit crackpot, but not the same kind of crackpot. The therapeutic vaccine stuff is very legit AFAIK, look up the results recently reported by Argos.

    Nobel Laureate, man who discovered virus, gives Claflin address

    By DIONNE GLEATON, T&D Staff Writer Tuesday, November 10, 2009

    A world renowned scientist and 2008 Nobel Laureate for Physiology or Medicine outlined his latest research in controlling HIV/AIDS infection during a stop at Claflin University Monday morning.

  16. Aids disidents are idots, proof on!

  17. The new tactic is to try and get showings at Universities:

    University of Arizona: ttp:// (cancelled)
    University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse:
    University of Delaware:

  18. Yes, we attended at Trinity University in Hartford. 15 in attendance. Moving into Universities to get the word out is a common tactic of Holocaust Deniers.

  19. And another one:

    Hosted by Dr. Lee A. Cenquizca

    "Has weird theories: doesn't believe in vaccines, HIV doesn't cause AIDS, drug companies control the world. Always late. Lectures all over the place. Won't review for tests. Is no one in Administration watching?"