BOOK REVIEW (4FRONT)
THINK FOR YOURSELF
Have you ever had the feeling you were watching a sham parade and wondered what would happen if you cried out, "Our emperor has no clothes!"?
Those who question the truths of the HIV=AIDS=DEATH construct are often thought to be desperate wackos leading some "cult of denial" away from the publicly proven Scientific Facts. However, in the new book The AIDS Cult, John Lauritsen counters that it is the authorities who are preaching faulty (even fatal) science and pushing public opinion astray through manipulation of data, and convoluted leadership. Have modern society and pseudo-science created a mass public Death Cult of millions, conducting ritual sacrifices of scapegoated outsiders? Have we become our own worst enemy?
In this and the next 4FRONT, I am examining the themes set forth in The AIDS Cult, and combining them with my own cultural touchpoints to stimulate discussion of some very challenging assertions. This two-part analysis covers many new and not-new ideas, yet cannot alone be an exhaustive review of the past fifteen years of AIDS history. Read the book for yourself, if you can. And think 4 yourself. (At your local bookstore, or send $15 to: Pagan Press, Box 1902, Provincetown, MA 02657.)
It occurs to me as a curious synchronicity that this book should appear now, fresh in the twinkling comet dust of the dramatic Heaven’s Gate cult suicide. Led by a mentally disturbed gay messiah, 39 Heaven’s Gate members willingly surrendered themselves to castration, cloistering, and a witty farewell party that featured poison applesauce dished out by mythic leader Marshall Applewhite. There are many interesting and frightening parallels to our public AIDS rituals.
The mark of the beast that today’s AIDS sacrifice victims accept is the "+" sign. A mini cross of their own, to hoist in shame and pride as they join the fabulous pageant of the doomed, zombies among us dreaming of an immortal public encryptment in our sacred AIDS quilt. ("Finally my life has meaning!") Religiously at ceremonies we intone their names and canonize them as martyrs and saints. There’s a special sexiness reserved for our untouchables, the blessed alien scapegoats walking bravely among us. (Hallowed by thy names.) those who "convert" to the plus sign are also showered with attention and special benefits as they step forward to swallow the prescribed communion medicines which may hasten their deaths.
Members of Christian Science groups refuse all medications. Lauritsen and the other writers here take a slightly less drastic approach as they counsel distrust of the AIDS medicines, but not total rejection of them all. HEAL and other "AIDS dissidents" usually don’t preach a message of medical "conspiracy", as much as a warning of numerous scientific frauds, herd mentalities and drug company research shortcuts. They warn that the government was under great pressure to find a quick answer to public hysteria in 1984 when they presented the virus theory as "the probable cause of AIDS" to the public. Overnight, with the media’s hypnotic repetition, the possibility became accepted as immutable truth, squashing theories that environmental toxins and specific behaviors had created the weakened immune systems of the first known victims: gay men. However, deep-seated self-hatred, depression, long-term use of illicit drugs, poor sleep and nutrition, frequent STD’s and the antibiotics used to treat them, may have all played roles, especially in the earliest deaths.
The AIDS Cult contains many gems, including a brilliant dissection of the insidious PR and ad campaigns that use smiling community role models to sugarcoat scare tactics designed to herd even today’s worried well into submitting to bold, new experimental treatments. Government and community organizations ally their leadership authority with multi-national drug firms, hosting pseudo-science AIDS updates that are little more than public indoctrination forums. After a long droning jargon-filled reading of the latest scientific scriptures, there’s little energy in the room left for tackling alternative ideas in the usually pre-screened "audience questions" section. No, duh. By now, only true believers and recent sero-"converts" even bother to attend these staged events.
One of the more disturbing and difficult-to-address theories of The AIDS Cult is that a combination of "psychological and toxicological" factors explain why gay men began getting sick. Psychotherapist Casper Schmidt’s still-relevant 1984 essay, which opens the book, posits "that AIDS is psychologically contagious, being spread through suggestion rather than through microbes." He calls AIDS "a typical example of epidemic hysteria" and cites historical examples of group psychosomatic illnesses as support. We may have seen several examples of epidemic hysteria firsthand here in the LA area recently, through the recent schoolyard outbreaks of a mysterious untraceable illness that befell several isolated individuals, killed two, then disappeared. The strange case of "Fumegate" may also fit: a woman died of cancer; someone fainted, saying the body was emitting fumes; then others fainted, seriously ill, though HazMat isolation never yielded a measurable suspect, airborne or otherwise. In the case of an HIV diagnosis, they hysteria currently preaches that HIV is always fatal, so we must take toxic anti-HIV meds to forestall sickness; however, these meds often mimic or create the very immune suppression they are supposed to treat.
There are fourteen aspects to Schmidt’s hypothesis, and they include the idea that "the epidemic has at its core an unconscious group delusion ... the group fantasy of scapegoating ... in which the poison feelings of the entire group" are relieved by projection onto despised group members. The resulting group trance supposedly explains the wholesale acceptance of "irrational" science methods and answers by the media and the public, including gays. (Negative is Good, Antibodies are Bad, Cocktails are Good, Trust in love and sex are Bad, etc., etc.)
In conclusion, Schmidt says, "since the epidemic is psychogenic ... the group will decide when it should be over ... and the epidemic will resolve." Perhaps the hysteria over the limited protease "cure" is our signal to ourselves and to each other that we’ve had enough sacrifices. I hope so. AIDS death statistics were fortunately already sliding downwards for three years prior to the protease "miracle". Maybe we’ve already "learned the lesson" we were trying to give ourselves. Maybe it’s time to stop dying, and stop killing ourselves. I’d like to see ALL of us - both sides in this debate - and YOU - asking questions, contributing knowledge and ideas. How about a public dialogue and debate on all these issues that is NOT paid for and controlled by the same old "leaders"? Would you attend?
Many of these ideas are difficult to entertain because our own psychological defenses are triggered. We may begin to feel "judged", and we may feel implicated in our friends’ deaths by silent collusion and neglect. It is easier to just go back to sleep, and leave things exactly the way they are.
Goodnight, Judy. Goodnight, Butch. Pleasant dreams. And remember - Think 4 Yourself.
(end of part one / beginning of part two)
The appearance of a challenging new book by John Lauritsen, The AIDS Cult, invites us to see the AIDS community as a death-worshipping cult just as dangerous to its members as Heaven’s Gate. The analysis of the psychological states of the Heaven’s Gate recruits noted that several of them seemed unlikely cult candidates because they seemed to have so much going for them. No, it isn’t necessary to be a depressed loser to join a cult.
But it sure helps!
Last issue I began discussion of the book and some of its major themes, along with my own observations. The various writers in The AIDS Cult suggest that a certain necrophilic death wish, shame, guilt and self-hatred have led gay men and drug users to hypnotically sign up for their own glorious suicide ritual called AIDS. Some of these themes are vaguely familiar, some are shockingly new, and all are attempts to deprogram a brainwashed society. To allow yourself to carefully consider the ramifications of these ideas may be the most difficult (diffi-cult?) challenge of your lifetime ... especially if you belong to the predominant church of HIV=AIDS=DEATH, whose leaders continue to stifle the free exchange of ideas.
The writers maintain that none of the 29 or 30 opportunistic diseases we track as "AIDS" are new diseases to the human race: only their frequency and grouping are new. Further, though there are high correlations of HIV antibodies and illness, there are thousands of cases of AIDS-like illness and death with NO HIV present. So while viral theories explaining this illness remain unproven, the constant repetition of the holy chant, "HIV=AIDS=DEATH", has hypnotized society to reject discussions of any other theories.
The AIDS Cult theorizes that gay men and others have been shamed into becoming scapegoats: willing, even desiring sacrifices to an unseen morality that requires it. The diagnosis of "HIV positive" in an otherwise healthy person has become a self-fulfilling prophecy of death. A voodoo hex in which we have become scared into immune-suppressing depression and dosed with immune-suppressing drugs that are supposed to combat the impending phantom illness. On the inside, feelings of doom, anxiety and repressed confusion about our faggotry, and from the outside, "antiviral" drugs that bring the relief of blessed death to a culture that cannot envision a life beyond the age of peak sexual attractiveness.
When the sexual revolution brought sex out of the closet, gay men flocked to big cities as places to disappear into and find themselves. Decades of confusion, shame and hiding resulted in many men collapsing into extreme cartoon caricatures of male and female behavior epitomized by drag Garlands and leather butches. After we declared ourselves free at Stonewall, some of us then joined the cult of gay ghettos, of alcohol, multiple drug abuse, and what we now term high-risk sex. We created a fast-lane "lifestyle" that collected and concentrated sharing of every sexually transmitted bug available, while amplifying sublimated homophobia traits that saw all men-as-meat. The relentless disco beat masked a deep depression for many. Depression alone has been shown to be immune-suppressing, and even more so when aided by poor nutrition and sleep habits accompanying long-term abuse of alcohol and drugs.
Anti-gay forces crystallized their counter hatred through icons like Anita Bryant, Jerry Falwell and others that smugly preached divine retribution and death to all homosexuals and drug abusers. Reagan was a major resurgence of this energy that counseled abstinence from extramarital sex and drugs. Just Say No (to life, to yourself). Grandpa Ron was treating us like children, and boy did we "act up" against that!
The first chapter of The AIDS Cult introduces a multi-part hypothesis that "AIDS" is a typical example of epidemic hysteria", powered by unconscious group fantasies of scapegoating gays with poison feelings. "The epidemic itself is a wished-for solution to pre-existing conflicts" that has society in a barely conscious "trance state" resulting in a "certain suspension of logic" in medicine and media. In short, we created the monster to kill off those who represent our most unacceptable feelings.
The idea of epidemic hysteria transmitting psychosomatic illnesses from one person or group to another is historically detailed in the book, yet the authors also submit there were roles played by both mental and physical conditions. As the book suggests, gay men and people with HIV/AIDS need to look at their lives ruthlessly, pruning out all toxins. Stop taking drugs, poppers, booze, AZT. Stop exposing yourself repeatedly to hepatitis and other STD’s. And very importantly—take control of the conversation in your mind that has been inundated with images of death, and take off that sacrificial pink triangle, unless you’re looking for a death camp. No more red ribbons. No more red ribbons.
In primitive cultures, the skulls of those taken in war or disease were all laid out on the ground to impress upon the cultural god above that perhaps enough had been killed. In modern America, we have stitched together a ritual graveyard called the AIDS Quilt. Ian Young, Lauritsen’s co-editor, ends his introduction with the exhortation to "Burn the Quilt!"
Have we had enough? I hope so. Ironically, many long-term survivors of HIV and AIDS diagnoses are now rushing forward to embrace the new hope, the miracle "cure" we call protease inhibitors. Many headline articles have trumpeted the anecdotal stories of "the Lazarus syndrome", where Joe AIDS bounded up from his deathbed to run a marathon. For those who choose them, i hope these new drugs have greater longevity than AZT finally did. Or maybe these miracle drugs are our signal to each other that we’ve had enough sacrifices. But even more, I hope we’ll see a day soon when we can destroy the myth that HIV=AIDS=DEATH.
So, how could we have all been so wrong, and for so long? Well, the gay press has certainly not been a helpful watchdog, for several reasons. First, the overwhelming majority of gay papers are NOT news-papers, but rather magazines. The distinction is an important one. There are almost no gay "reporters", per se. Most of our gay writers are "lifestyle reviewers", giving their own gay spin on books, plays and movies. The rest of the space between the ads is filled with xerox copies of news reports and public relations pieces generated by the mainstream press. And then there are the ads. Take a look. There are three main income sources for every gay rag in America: alcohol businesses, sex businesses, and now AIDS industry ads. Some of the gay papers may feel they are actually doing the community a service by providing a friendly avenue for the drug companies to speak directly to us. I don’t share this sentiment.
Adding to the difficulties of the gay press covering "AIDS" issues in an investigative, or even a non-biased way, is the science language barrier. There’s so much jargon and difficult to decipher cutting-edge science that most writers have left the field unattended, afraid to expose their own ignorance, surrendering it to "the professionals". (Now who would that be?) The local AIDS organizations aren’t set up to address these issues either. They’re full of earnest people who follow orders from on-high, pat your hand, and get their grant applications in on-time to survive another funding cycle in an ever-changing epidemic. Doctors and pharmacists simply feed us the latest approved meds handed down by the now-deregulated FDA and the powerful drug lobbyists who are in control. So, contrary to what has been said about "repeating a lie a thousand times doesn’t make it true", we are witnessing what happens when we swallow those little lies, and the big toxic get-well pills too. Feel like vomiting, anyone?
Now, Think 4 Yourself! *