Document:Twilight's Last Gleaming

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The Twilight's Last Gleaming
by Celia Farber

Impression magazine
14 December 1998


In a decision that will affect millions, the CDC is forcing states to document everyone diagnosed with HIV, civil liberties be damned. As the AIDS hysteria scenario is getting played out to its logical conclusion, it's time to wonder: Where is the outrage?

Dean Monroe Price of the Cardozo Law School at Yeshiva University argued that AIDS may reorder the relation between the individual and the state. He even suggested that the need to provide AIDS Education, "suddenly to open windows into the minds and souls of millions...[may] be seen by powerful institutions as a moment for reshaping the American character in its totality, not just as a chance to adjust that character to the needs of the moment."

The most dangerous characteristic of the entity we call "The Media" is not that it omits important information, but that it has the power to single-handedly determine the proportion of events, to inflate and diminish at will. What gets lost is any kind of organic relationship to the size, scope and dimension of what is happening around us.

A wire story about AIDS this week fell unnoticed into the darkness, a pebble of news. But in fact it was a watershed event – one that will have incalculable consequences to the lives of millions of Americans.

The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has decided to "make states report all HIV cases either with the patient's name or an identifying code." This is, supposedly, "an effort to stem the spread of HIV and help those who are infected," by providing them with the new AIDS drugs, protease inhibitors. Another reason cited was that epidemiologists claim "the information is urgently needed because the public's understanding of the disease is dangerously out of date."

If states fail to comply, they will lose millions of federal dollars, which, by now, is a well-known form of coercion when it comes to AIDS policies.


An almost eerie silence followed this announcement, which had been feverishly debated for years, and perceived (even by confused, behemoth AIDS organizations) as an intolerable encroachment on the civil liberties of HIV-positive people. AIDS has always been posited as an infectious sexually transmitted disease like syphilis, but never combated, socially, that way. That's because powerful lobbying groups have succeeded in recasting AIDS as a disease of the disenfranchised, who require special protections. Opponents of this philosophy frequently cite the claim that the measures used to combat syphilis and "other infectious diseases" have included mandatory testing and "contact tracing" (locating, notifying and testing the sexual partners of those who are infected), so why not with AIDS?

Because, "activists" have countered, the HIV label is like a scarlet letter that triggers drastic consequences, such as loss of employment, health insurance and social isolation. It's simply not fair. And yet, these activists are the very ones who have fostered the notion of HIV as a deadly, rampantly spreading threat to all of civilization. The entire AIDS activist movement grew out of this kind of hysteria and we-are-dying alarmism. The impulse toward self-dramatization led to a code of discourse in which it was seen as counterrevolutionary and callous to suggest that HIV was anything other than deadly, infectious and out of control. It is a minor miracle that both tattoos and concentration camps were not employed, considering the level of HIV hysteria that was whipped up by all sides, from the far left to the far right.

The far right, specifically the Christian Right, loves to fan the flames of apocalypse, as they view AIDS as God's wrath upon homosexuals. But the AIDS lobby itself also casts AIDS as apocalyptic, in order to keep "awareness" (which is really fear), funding and compassion as high as possible. They have a paradoxical relationship to the disease, depicting it as the great enemy they're out to conquer, then using it as a kind of placenta which nourishes them, gives them significance, jobs, titles and also little halos.


If I sound cynical, it's because I am. I don't have it in me anymore to cloak everything in references to the valiant intentions, the sacrifice, the struggle, the pain of loss. Having your friends die in large numbers does not make you a great person – nor is it an excuse to distort reality.

What the so-called dissident movement in AIDS has fought for is a return to scientific grounding. That which is known should be acknowledged, and that which is speculation should be labeled as such. It's a massive discourse on the consequences of words, proclamations, and, ultimately, how an elite can seize control in the media age, if they just position their idea correctly.

The CDC announcing these HIV databases is only a logical and linear conclusion to the AIDS proponent's own slogans. You cannot perpetuate a climate of calamity and then expect not the slightest scratch on your civil liberties. This is why the dissidents have been begging and pleading for somebody to force the U.S. government to demonstrate their evidence for the rootless idea that HIV is the cause of AIDS. We have always seen within this bizarre pronouncement (made, let's not forget, in 1984, at a government press conference, with not a scintilla of supporting data) the seed for a totalitarian society so effective that it still looks like a benevolent democracy. Look at all that sprang from this one seed, this one announcement. Now sex is criminalized? Now sex is no longer a private matter? Now sex is equated with death and even murder? Now if you don't get tested you may be unwittingly carrying a murder weapon? Now disenfranchised groups are infected flesh, walking around infecting others? Now if you don't take the drugs you're not doing your societal duty to lower you "viral load" thus rendering yourself less infectious? Now you lose the right not to poison your own children with anti-HIV drugs? Now the government gets to ask you detailed questions about your sex life, and you have to answer truthfully? Now you have to take mutagenic, carcinogenic drugs throughout your pregnancy, and the police will come to your door if you breast-feed? Now even African and Asian women are forbidden from breast-feeding and forced to take AZT during pregnancy? Now, finally, every last damn person who harbors antibodies to this potentially meaningless virus will be ferreted out, targeted for "health care" (toxic drugs) and have their every sex act traced and put into a governmental database?

Lovely. All of that has happened or is happening, and all of it sprang from the unquestioned HIV-equals-AIDS hypothesis. This is just the moment where the net becomes visible. The net has been there all along.


Just before I sat down to write this, a red flag popped up on my mailbox, and I read with dread and alarm, a letter from a panic-stricken father in Oregon, written to the dissident group HEAL. Six days ago, his wife, who is HIV-positive, had a baby. They agreed that "the HIV/AIDS hysteria is completely unfounded" and refused to administer AZT to their son. They also decided he would be breast-fed. Nice try. The infant was placed in protective custody immediately. Now they have the child back only on the condition that they don't breast-feed and that they do administer AZT three times a day. (The authorities now have ways of testing children's blood to ensure the medicine is truly being given.) These parents feel they are killing their own child – it's either that or let the state take the child away and then poison him themselves.

This despite the fact that Valerie Emerson, the mother in Bangor, Maine, whose custody battle with the state we've covered, won a second victory two weeks ago. An appeal was denied, and a judge decided she could keep her son and didn't have to give him AZT.

The writing on the wall seems to say, "Civil liberties be damned." Precedent-setting legal cases be also damned – this is the totalitarian state of HIV prevention, and we'll do whatever we want. We'll intimidate, threaten, enforce medication, seize children from their parent's arms – just watch us. And we're the good guys! Because we are... Fighting AIDS.

There are currently legislators trying to usher in mandatory testing (this is already in place in New York for all newborns), followed by mandatory AZT for the HIV-positive. As the story above illustrates, such a system is virtually already in place – it's above the law and even above the Constitution, but good luck finding anybody who will fight it.


I called up my friend Charles Ortleb – former publisher of the New York Native, now an author – whose insights on AIDS are both terrifying and fascinating – and totally different from anything you'll ever hear on TV. Ortleb was the first publisher to print the views of HIV heretic Professor Peter Duesberg, back in 1987, in the New York Native, and has waged a one-man war against virtually the entire AIDS superstructure, in which he sees nothing but malignancy. Labeled "paranoid" and "loony" by the in-crowd of AIDS, his criticism of them is far more scorching. "The argument in my novel is that the real agenda of AIDS activism is to create a state of medical totalitarianism," he tells me, referring to his recent book Iron Peter, which I've called the "Animal Farm of the AIDS era" and highly recommend, if you can find it. Ortleb self-published the book after 35 publishers, including all the gay publishers, rejected it.

I was surprised to hear that the news from the CDC was so obscured; even Ortleb hadn't heard about it, and he reads everything that comes out about AIDS. Not surprisingly, he was not cheered by the news.

"This is going to tear apart our constitution, destroy our trust in science and medicine, and spark a civil war between doctors and patients." Then he paused for a moment and said, "I'm perversely excited because until things get this bad, people don't wake up to what is happening."

In our long and winding conversation – one of many over the years – he invokes without hesitation parallels to Nazi Germany, particularly Nazi medicine. "The Nazis enlisted public health experts to craft an emergency where the needs of the state pre-empt the rights of the individual. The first thing the Nazis did, which has already been done here, was to destroy science. In many ways, HIV has already destroyed science. It is science without controls, without logic and without dissent."

In Iron Peter, Ortleb depicts the AIDS activist movement as complicit in its own destruction. "Some of the activists are now going to be confronted with the contradictions in their own logic," he says. "They are the ones who have helped create this kind of environment in which state legislators are passing the most draconian laws. These people who have been calling for 'AIDS Czars' are really calling for someone to have extraconstitutional undemocratic powers."

It seems odd that the CDC would clamp down like this nearly eighteen years after the illness first appeared, although it does seem in keeping with the air of sexual persecution and totalitarianism that is currently frothing up around the Clinton/Lewinsky matter. If the President of the United States has no protection against the sex police, who does? I've said it before but it bears repeating – Orwell, in 1984, depicted a society in which the state would wage an all-out war on human intimacy.

New York State passed a law recently demanding that HIV-positive people be forced to name their sexual partners, and there have been laws insisting that doctors contact the lovers of HIV-positive patients, although doctors have been somewhat reluctant for fear of lawsuits. Ortleb concurs. "The whole sexual hysteria of Monicagate is driven by the unconscious sexual hysteria of AIDS that has never abated."

I don't know why there are no stormy protests, no buckets of blood, no righteous chants or clenched fists on the CDC lawn. This is one rare issue on which the activist group ACT UP and its opponents, the dissidents, would have marched together if ACT UP still existed, which it does only barely. But it is the logical conclusion of a scenario that has grown ever more Orwellian since its odd birth in 1984 when the government announced, in a bubble of dis-reality, that a virus called HIV was the cause of AIDS and was spreading sexually and rampantly, thus ensuring its own total domination over the illness and the population, not only in this country, but to every country it chooses to export this paradigm and its myriad of fears, tests and ghastly drugs.

One longs nostalgically for former times, when totalitarianism was overt and had the decency to present itself as such, rather than adding insult to tyranny by making the tyrannized bear blood-red ribbons that seem to say, "Thank you, thank you for caring."

© 1998 by Celia Farber
Originally published in Impression magazine