HIV skepticism, Nessies, homophobia, and racism
Posted by Henry Bauer on 2009/08/25
Some months ago, I had written: “One of the burdens that AIDS Rethinkers and HIV Skeptics impose on one another is that the HIV/AIDS groupies and vigilantes seize every possible opportunity to assert ‘guilt by association’. I’ve felt apologetic for some time that my fellow Rethinkers and Skeptics have been tarred by the brush of being associated with Henry Bauer, who is a believer in Loch Ness monsters (‘Nessies’)” [Henry Bauer and the Loch Ness monsters, 16 February 2009].
I was recently asked by a neutral observer about another guilt-by-association charge directed at me in vigilante blogs, Wikipedia, and no doubt elsewhere as well: that I am racist and that I am or was at one time homophobic. So I’ll explain here where these charges came from, which will demonstrate at the same time how ludicrously unfounded they are.
The cited basis for my alleged homophobia and racism are the memoir, To Rise Above Principle: The Memoirs of an Unreconstructed Dean [Urbana & Chicago: University of Illinois Press 1988, under the pen-name ‘Josef Martin’], and the newsletter (Virginia Scholar) which I edited for 7 years (1993-99) for the Virginia Association of Scholars.
It’s only now that I’ve come to realize what a remarkable coup it had been on my part to have the University of Illinois Press put their imprimatur on homophobic and racist remarks. It may be even more remarkable that the reviews of the book were so favorable, and that not one of them picked up on the homophobia and racism. It was yet another remarkable coup that the Council of Colleges of Arts & Sciences unblushingly invited this racist homophobe to address its Annual Meeting in 1989, and that the American Conference of Academic Deans had him give the keynote speech at its 49th Annual Meeting in 1993, where he even used the occasion to expound his racist views, namely, that every person should be treated as an individual and not as a generic member of some group.
It took two decades after the Dean’s Memoirs were published, and a decade or so after my editorship of the Virginia Scholar, before the homophobic, racist nature of their contents were discerned under an evidently very close reading by an enterprising albeit amateur literary critic, Kenneth W. Witwer, then a graduate student in biology who was minoring in AIDStruth.org. He first announced his discovery in a “review” on amazon.com of my book, The Origin, Persistence and Failings of HIV/AIDS Theory, a “review” that was subsequently withdrawn. The same discovery was also inserted into a “bio” about me posted on Wikipedia (see “Beware the Internet: Amazon.com ‘reviews’, Wikipedia, and other sources of misinformation”, 11 April 2009).
Witwer’s discovery is all the more remarkable when one considers the number and nature of the interested parties who had failed for a couple of decades to discern in those texts what he was able to discern. Since the late 1980s, political correctness has held prominent hegemony at my university (Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University, a.k.a. “Virginia Tech”), resulting for example in the resignation of the university’s best, most appreciated teacher after being charged with sexual harassment on the basis of a joke told in class that 496 students out 500 did not find inappropriate let alone objectionable [“The trivialization of sexual harassment: Lessons from the Mandelstamm Case”, Academic Questions, 5 (#2, Spring 1992) 55-66; letters and response, ibid., 5 (#4, Fall 1992) 5-6; “Affirmative action at Virginia Tech: The tail that wagged the dog”, ibid., 6 (#1, Winter 1992-93) 72-84]. Yet in that hotbed of political correctness, those homophobic, racist memoirs and newsletters somehow brought no complaints, though the newsletter was widely distributed and the university’s president and provost had each received an author-inscribed copy of the memoirs hot off the press. This homophobic, racist author even continued to receive very satisfactory salary raises and a semester of paid leave (sort of a “sabbatical”) to write two books. Of course, political correctness pervaded and pervades academe as a whole, not only Virginia Tech; one of my favorite illustrations is that when I suggested to that collection of Deans in 1993 that every person should be treated as an individual and not as a generic member of some group, a number of individuals complimented me afterwards on having the courage to say such a thing.
The memoirs have long been out of print, but a PDF has long been freely available at my website. The Virginia Scholar is also freely available. I invite anyone who wants to decide at first hand about my views on affirmative action, homosexuality, race, or anything else to read and judge for themselves.
I was never homophobic, which properly means fearful of or averse towards people who happen to be homosexual. I was, however, guilty of accepting the then-generally-held view that homosexuality is in some way aberrant. When in later years I began to actually think about it, I came to a better conclusion, for reasons that I described in a book review in 2005 (Journal of Scientific Exploration, 19 #3, 419-35) and cite on my personal website. That guilt, of having accepted thoughtlessly a societal shibboleth, is comparable, I suggest, to the guilt of those who accept thoughtlessly other societal shibboleths, for example, that “HIV” causes “AIDS”, which is accepted so thoughtlessly that its believers are unable to cite any proof for it.
As I’ve remarked ad nauseam, when someone seeks to assassinate characters instead of arguing the substance of an issue, it reveals that those someones are unable to prove their case by substantive argument. All the HIV/AIDS vigilantes and groupies have to do to shut me up is to cite the scientific publications that prove HIV to be the cause of AIDS. They don’t do that because those publications don’t exist, and they acquired their belief not by looking at the evidence but by just accepting “what everyone knows”.
Further, as again I’ve remarked ad nauseam, even the most assassin-worthy characters may nevertheless be right about something. I could be wrong about Nessie, homosexuality, racism, and much else and still be right about HIV/AIDS. The charges are beside the point as well as unfounded.