All of civility depends on being able to contain the rage of individuals. Joshua Lederberg
It was around 2008 when I first discovered there were people who did not trust the science of HIV. At that time there was a great amount of discussion (and fighting) between the two sides. There were many different blogs and websites advocating their particular views. Much of it was born from a feeling of need by the “orthodox” to counter what they (we) considered to be misunderstanding and untruths being perpetuated by the dissidents. There were comment threads all across the internet with both sides name calling and spewing hate. Nothing was accomplished. How could anything get accomplished when neither side tried to get to know their adversary or even acknowledge their humanness?
There were a few half-hearted attempts for civil discussion and a couple of pseudo-debates. When I wrote my first blog, Dissidents 4 Dumbees, I even tried to get the person who most reviled me to agree to a monthly Point/Counter-Point type of debate. He refused. But that was then and with time my adversary and I began a wary, barely-trusting-the-other attempt to communicate; a civil discourse if you will. His name is Jonathan Barnett and we started about two years ago with emails, worked up to phone calls and just a few weeks ago I met him at his home in Kansas City, MO. Jonathan videotaped our meeting and posted it to his website.
Two years ago when we first started talking like mature adults we found out some surprising things. For instance Jonathan was blown away when I told him that I went off my meds for almost a year. At the time I had changed my insurance to a Health Savings Account. I misunderstood how it worked and found that I would have to pay $3,000 out of pocket. I revolted against Big Insurance and Big Pharma and took a Drug Holiday. It went against every preconceived idea Jonathan had about me as being a staunch “drug pusher”.
Jonathan knew he would catch some hell from other dissidents for meeting with me. But Jonathan, as I have come to find, is someone who is not entrenched in a mind-set (as I had previously assumed) and is definitely not afraid to buck the system. Jonathan had been on and off ARVs several times and for years meticulously detailed his CD4 and Viral Load results at his website, Resistance Is Fruitful. That alone was heresy to many dissidents. But for the most part, Jonathan was still a member in strong standing. Then he started questioning the main dissident group, ReThinking AIDS. He questioned them privately about their leadership, lack of “affecteds” on their board as well as where all their money had gone. When he got no results, Jonathan started questioning them publicly. But the final straw may be his meeting with me.
Soon after the dissident community saw the video, the comment thread at ReThinking AIDS facebook page went haywire. Some of it has been passive-aggressive such as Elizabeth Ely un-friending Jonathan. Much of it has been vicious and directed at me. Elizabeth Ely crossed way over the defamation line when she accused me of a most heinous act:
Not only is it a bald faced lie, it is also hearsay. Either Ms. Ely pulled that out of thin air or she heard it from someone as she claimed. If she did hear it from someone else, why not name the source? That comment should never have been made public in the first place. If the moderators at RA had any decency or integrity they would not have allowed that comment to remain on the site.
In keeping with the success of my recent civil discourse with Jonathan, I requested membership to RA facebook page so that I could discuss this atrocious defamation like mature grownups. Naturally my request was denied. Why would they allow a bit of truth into their vacuum of negativity and lies? It seems to me they enjoy the feeling of being shunned by the general public and playing the victim. Unfortunately it shows just how little respect they have for anyone who does not ascribe to their beliefs and that it is OK to say whatever they want with no regard for facts, proof or the law.
I know you must be asking: Aside from their attacks on me and Jonathan what did they have to say about the video? What did they think about two former rivals coming together in show of respect and civil dialogue? Unfortunately it seems that they missed the point entirely.
Jonathan gets shit from fellow dissidents for not believing CD4 counts and Viral Loads are complete hogwash and for occasionally taking low dose ARVs. He gets pushed to the side and ignored when he questions the dissident authority. And when he fraternizes with the enemy he is all but thrown out with the trash. But when I tell others who believe in the science of HIV that I quit my meds for a year or that I am going to KC to meet with a dissident, they respect my decision, wish me well and that’s that. I am not chastised. My dignity is not called into question. I am not “unfriended”.
The real question has to be: Why do the dissidents have so much rage and disdain for fellow dissidents who do not fall into line? Until the rage of the individual is contained and not laser focused at those who do not believe as we do, I guess civility will never truly be reached.