Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll-Kalichman and Mr. Hyde-Newton — Chapter 1
Posted by Henry Bauer on 2009/04/04
It’s a common enough experience, to wake up in the morning with the answer to a troubling problem or at least a fresh insight: when one’s conscious, systematic, objective, scientific mind is asleep, the subconscious seems better able to exert its creative powers. I’ve benefited from it when I was doing electrochemistry, and when I was an administrator, and when I was writing about science studies, and when I was analyzing “HIV”-test data. And it’s still happening. The other morning I woke to another Eureka moment:
The reason that I was reminded of “Joe Newton” so often while working my way through Kalichman’s book was because the persona of Newton, which at first Kalichman could summon and dispense with almost at will, had at last taken him over irrevocably, just as Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll had succumbed to Mr. Hyde after he had summoned him up once too often. That’s why Kalichman’s book attributes to me and other Rethinkers and Skeptics things said by “Newton”, not by us; and why the book finds it necessary to use so many “!” to emphasize what it regards as telling points; and why there are as many untruths in the book as there were lies in “Newton’s” e-mails and deceptions in his personal interactions with us.
The first fateful step, it’s obvious by hindsight, was to the top of a very steep as well as slippery slope. Professor Kalichman, perfectly well versed in the rules of conduct that govern his profession, would never dream of deceiving the subjects of his research; or if he did dream of it, he would have obtained advice and approval from the Human Subjects Board or Institutional Review Board at the University of Connecticut before actually doing so.
But a little imp seems to have whispered to Professor Kalichman: “Wouldn’t it be interesting, maybe even a bit exciting, to find out from the inside what those so-evil-seeming denialists are really thinking and doing? Why not pose as someone sympathetic or at least open to denialism? What harm could it possibly do, just to try a little experiment? Anonymously, no one need ever know. ”
So Kalichman gave birth to an alter ego, “Joseph C Newton”, who registered in August 2007 as an HIV-positive individual on a website maintained by Stephen Davis.
At about the same time, “Newton” in very different guise was requesting information from the new Rethinking AIDS website:
“From: Joseph Newton <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: “email@example.com” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Thursday, August 9, 2007, 9:28:31 AM
I have visited your website and I am keenly interested in your views. As a medical professional I have often questioned the AIDS establishment as we stand by and see people get sicker from the highly toxic medications we use.
Can you direct me to other information so I can learn more about alternative theories of AIDS.
Perhaps the “Newton” persona had not been well thought out (Kalichman evidently lacks a novelist’s understanding of human psychology, as earlier noted — “How not to create a persona: Kalichman’s Komical Kaper #4“), or Kalichman was not keeping track of what he was doing, or perhaps he had designated several people to chase information under “Newton’s” name, or he thought foolishly that the several contacts being made by “Newton” would never compare notes; for no sooner had he signed up as an “HIV-positive”, and then told the RA website that he was a medical professional, than he described himself, again to the RA website, as a mere student:
“From: Joseph Newton <email@example.com>
Date: Friday, August 10, 2007, 9:18:02 PM
Subject: joining you
I have been reading quite a bit about alternative theories of AIDS and as a student of Public Health in the USA, I would like to joinn your list of Rethinkers. Can you tell me how I might apply?
Joseph C. Newton, Connecticut, USA”
On the same day, “Newton” started an e-mail correspondence with Henry Bauer, who had just published the latest denialist book (see How not to create a persona: Kalichman’s Komical Kaper #4). And five days later, Joseph Newton, “student in public health, Bridgeton, USA”, signed as a member of the original Group for the Scientific Reappraisal of the HIV-AIDS Hypothesis.
Although “Newton’s” professional and “HIV-positive” status was so varied in these different approaches, what was constant was a predilection for typos and a rather unnatural or stilted style. My guess is that the imp suggested that typos would create an image of hurriedness, lack of concentration perhaps, at any rate of someone with whom one could safely let one’s guard down.
Some weeks later, things at last seemed to become more productive. “Newton” queried Bauer about a supposed HIV-positive friend, and was introduced to Tony Lance and his theory of intestinal dysbiosis.
Now temptations began to multiply for Hyde-Newton. Instead of merely observing, perhaps he could inveigle some of the denialists into delivering up words with which they could later be thoroughly discredited — for example, if they could be enticed into advocating unsafe sex:
2 October 2007, “Newton” to Tony Lance:
“But my question has to do with safer sex. If my friend believes that he has tested positive because of instestinal spewing of antibodies, should he even care about using condoms or serosorting??
I appreciate your sharing this with me and your insights.”
[Notice, by the way, not only “Newton’s” trademark of frequent mis-spellings and exclamation marks, sometimes multiplied, and question marks that often come in duplicate, but also his odd, unconvincing mixture of feigned naivety and simultaneous familiarity with such rather uncommon phenomena as “serosorting”; I’ve commented before on the inept choice of a graduate-student persona that types like a rather hysterical elementary-school pupil — “How not to create a persona: Kalichman’s Komical Kaper #4“]
Huge disappointment. 2 October 2007, Tony Lance to “Newton”:
“As for your question about safer sex, I think condoms are a good idea regardless of what you believe about HIV’s relationship to AIDS. To put it simply, until any alternative theory of AIDS causation wins out the smart thing to do is cover your ass (and your cock!) and play it safe.”
But maybe there’s still something to be ferreted out from Lance:
20 October 2007, “Newton” to Lance:
> Hi Tony
> I jjust saw on the Alive and Well website that you are heading up
> an Alive and Well support group in NYC. True?
> I would like to know more about it.
[Only one “typo” this time, but another doubled !!]
[As I was reviewing the exchanges by “Newton” with Bauer and with Lance, I experienced once more the comforting reassurance that if one has nothing to hide, and tells the truth, then one is not likely to put one’s foot in it. That always reminds me of the time when I, as Dean of Arts & Sciences, had rejected a request for a large salary raise from a faculty member who was waving offers from Elsewhere as a threat. A little later, I heard from his Department Head, whom he had approached in similar fashion. Chortled the Head: “When I told him we don’t bargain like that, he was stunned, and said, ‘But that’s exactly what the Dean said!’ Isn’t life simple when you just tell the truth? You don’t have to keep trying to remember what you said to whom”.]
28 October 2007, “Newton” to Lance:
I am actually in Connecticut, but I come to the city now and then. Maybe I can come to a meeting. When and where are they held?”
A dilemma. “Connecticut” was a natural, to make plausible the possibility of visits to NYC. But “Connecticut” was also an unfortunate slip, because Professor Kalichman wanted no connection to be known between himself and “Newton”; so when he first posted his “review” of Bauer’s book on Amazon.com, he showed his location as “New York” (Kalichman’s Komical Kapers — 1: Introducing the author, 8 March 2009).
By now, the apparent opportunity to glean from Lance information for the Kalichman opus was just too much to resist. So “Newton” continued with some $64K questions:
“Tony, I am also wondering if you might know anyone who was of dissident thinking and then changed to accept the orthodoxy??
I would like to know mor about the cycles that people may go through, between questioning HIV=AIDS and taking HAART??”
But Lance’s group was for “HIV-positives” only, so “Newton” couldn’t attend meetings.
29 October 2007, at 10:09 AM, Joseph Newton wrote:
I do not have HIV, so I fully understand not being welcome to the group. I do not think it is good to have people who are negative in an HIV support group.
But I am interested and I have a close freind who is HIV positive.
It sounds like your group may not differ from most. I know support groups require members to respect each other’s choices and beliefs. They are not usually dogmatic, are they?”
By this point, “Newton” was perhaps wishing that he had kept to his original idea of “being” “HIV-positive”, for “Newton’s” increasing inquisitiveness about Lance’s group and its members brought an obvious query:
“Joe, What is your personal motivation in this matter?”
Whereupon “Newton” prevaricated once again; lying was becoming easier all the time:
“I am just trying to understand.
If the one thing you have in common is that the HIV/AIDS hypothesis flawed…how is it that some of the members are currently taking the meds or are consdiering taking them?
I understand that people can have ambivolent feelings and the openness of your group surely will allow for that.
But like using condoms, if you guys believe that the HIV = AIDS hypothesis is flawed, why take the meds??
If it possible that there are more extreme groups? Like barebackers are sort of the extreme condom rejectors — is there an extreme dissident group and you guys are sort of moderate??”
But Lance persisted:
“From: Tony Lance <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: October 30, 2007 11:35:27 AM CDT
To: Joseph Newton <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Hello again
Why is condom usage amongst dissidents important to you personally if you are negative? Why are you asking me if there exist other dissident groups that are more extreme than ours?”
and “Newton” just kept on lying:
“On Oct 29, 2007, at 4:17 PM, Joseph Newton wrote:
First and foremost I am someone who cares about AIDS.
I am an HIV- person who is trying to understand both sides of the issue.
I have freind who are positive and I know taking treatments can be hard going.
I am personally motivated, I do not have a political agenda. Just trying to understand.”
What Dr. Jekyll discovered too late was that indulging too often in “Hyde” was the same as morphing into Hyde, and apparently Kalichman was morphing into “Newton” and becoming increasingly prone to prevarication. This is how Kalichman describes his interactions — which of course were actually “Newton’s” interactions — with the AIDS Rethinkers and HIV Skeptics who were the subjects of his research (p. xiv):
“So I started corresponding, conversing, and visiting the insiders of HIV/AIDS denialism. I posed questions and gained insight into the inner workings of denialism. . . . Not really knowing who I am, they took me under their wing to enlighten me about the truth about AIDS. . . . It is through these cordial and inquisitive exchanges that I learned most about this problem.
My relationships with denialists created some complicated arrangements that allowed me to experience denialism face-to-face.”
Despite the strange “Not really knowing who I am”, the unwary reader would hardly gather from this that Kalichman deliberately tried to deceive several of those with whom he corresponded, that he tempted them to make self-incriminating statements, and that he even posed as “Newton” in person in some of his meetings with “denialists”. More examples of these distasteful Kalichmanian-Newtonian doings will be documented in future chapters of this cautionary tale.
This entry was posted on 2009/04/04 at 9:29 am and is filed under HIV skepticism, Legal aspects, prejudice. Tagged: “Denying AIDS”, Henry Bauer, Jekyll-and-Hyde, Kalichman "Denying AIDS", Kalichman as “Newton”, prevarication by Kalichman-Newton, Stephen Davis, Tony Lance, unethical conduct by Kalichman. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.