New: Spectator pulls AIDS denialism screening!


9:16 am - October 26th 2009

by Sunny Hundal    


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Update: Just got off the phone with someone in Spectator magazine’s events department.

The screening of the film House of Numbers has been cancelled as of today because several panel members pulled out at the last minute. They said that would have left the discussion “unbalanced”.

[hat/tip: Sunder on Twitter]
——–

Last week I blogged about a piece by Spectator magazine editor Fraser Nelson titled ‘Questioning the AIDS consensus‘.

It promoted the AIDS denialism film House of Numbers that has been eviscerated by the New York Times among several other places.

Spectator magazine’s promotion of the film was also picked up earlier by science blogs including by gimpy and Richard Wilson.

Now this week’s Spectator magazine has published an essay by Neville Hodgkinson titled: Does HIV mean certain death?

It starts off with:

In the quarter century since the world was introduced to the idea that a new sexually transmitted virus was the cause of Aids, HIV has been generally regarded as one of the biggest killers of our time. HIV/Aids has not been the mass disease in Britain that people were led to believe in the 1980s, but the death toll from immune deficiency diseases ascribed to HIV in Africa has been staggering.

The scale of death there is an ongoing tragedy that tests the moral resolve of the rich world. How much do we care? Enough to ask hard questions about it? Enough to challenge the orthodoxy about the treatment, diagnosis and even the causes of Aids?

Brave warriors challenging the ‘orthodoxy’ once again. The article goes on to praise the film House of Numbers.

Hodgkinson was named earlier by Ben Goldacre as the Sunday Times health correspondent who drove [AIDS] denialist reporting in the 1990s.

Goldacre had earlier written about Hodgkinson:

Maggiore’s views on HIV were driven by the work of Peter Duesberg, a well-known Aids denier. He was unable to persuade other scientists that his views on HIV were correct, but he did very well with journalists, most notably Neville Hodgkinson, former science correspondent of the Sunday Times.

Over two years in the early 1990s the paper published a series of lengthy articles rejecting the role of HIV in causing Aids, calling the African Aids epidemic a myth. It was all a scam to make money and defend reputations, they said. Things got so bad that Nature, probably the world’s most important academic journal, published an editorial describing the Sunday Times coverage as “seriously mistaken, and probably disastrous”.

And what impact has this denialism had?

Sunder Katwala asks: Why has the Spectator become Mbeki’s unlikely ally on HIV-AIDS? and points out that:

A peer-reviewed Harvard study published last year suggested that, had South Africa followed similar policies to Botswana and Nambia, then around 365,000 premature deaths might have been prevented. (This estimate was described by other leading epidimologists to the New York Times as ‘reasonable’ and based on ‘truly conservative assumptions’).

Even some right-wingers are alarmed.

Writing on ConservativeHome, Graeme Archer says: “I was particularly disappointed to see the Spectator promoting the views of people whose agenda is to suggest that HIV doesn’t usually lead to AIDS”

What next by the Spectator? ‘Questioning the evolution consensus‘ perhaps?

More: AIDS Truth

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


– “Is the Earth really spherical? It looks round to us. Legitimate questions need to be asked about the post-Colombus Consensus that one does not fall of the edge of the world if one keeps sailing west.”

– “Is the Sun really at the centre of the solar system? If you look at the sky, you can clearly see that the sun revolves around us! Is it acceptable to have a debate about whether Copernicus pulled off the longest-running con in world history?”

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– “Dinosaurs: are we being tested by God?”

– “Gordon Brown: born and raised in Scotland? Or born and trained in Afghanistan? It’s time to ask: is the PM really British, or part of a sinister foreign terrorist conspiracy?”

– “Revealed: NHS death panels execute “unproductive” elderly. Truth about 60 year mistake unveiled.”

etc

What’s seriously sad is that he’s got a couple of factual points correct but then manages to misinterpret them. For example:

“He estimates the total number of Aids cases at between 20 to 30 million — while the advocacy agency UNAIDS has claimed 42 million.”

Yes, true. For UNAIDS was (they’ve since admitted the error and changed their numbers) measuring the spread of an STD by measuring incidence in pregnant women. The one group in society that we know absolutely have been having unprotected sex. It’s a blindingly obvious point that you cannot simply transfer that incidence to the general population which is what the difference between those numbers is all about.

He also says something about single exposure not leading to infection: something that is also blindingly obvious. We’ve actually got average figures (which I’m not going to try and dig out now) for how many exposures, on average, it takes for exposure to lead to infection. And I wouldn’t be at all surprised if these were different for those with healthy immune systems and those already weakened with other diseases. Certainly, (as Elizabeth Pisani has shown) we know that infection with other untreated STDs leads to a much higher incidence of exposure leading to infection.

Those might be interesting points to make: and they are indeed being made by serious and sensible people (I’m just repeating them of course, not claiming to be either sensible or serious). But to go from them to the HIV ain’t a problem, or that it doesn’t cause AIDS, positions is ludicrous.

Worth reading Pisani:

http://www.wisdomofwhores.com/

Tim Worstall 2.

Pisani is rather good and she has raised good points about exaggeration of statistics and methodological flaws in data interpretation which would benefit from a wider public airing. It is a shame that ludicrous concepts, such as those in ‘House of Numbers’, seem to be given a greater airing in sections of the press.

However, there is a counter argument that the finicky details of HIV epidemiology and risk factors are best left discussed in academic circles because the subtly of the science can be difficult to understand for the average layperson and may run greater risk of misinforming than informing public health campaigns. The best advice is use condoms, if you are high risk get tested regularly, and if you are HIV positive take ARVs. imho, the public debate should be over how best to communicate this.

Anyway, it seems the Spectator might have cancelled the whole thing.

Once these idiots hit a rich vein of bigotry they love to keep mining it don’t they?

What next by the Spectator? ‘Questioning the evolution consensus‘ perhaps?

http://www.spectator.co.uk/melaniephillips/3573761/creating-an-insult-to-intelligence.thtml

The event seems to have been cancelled, or so rumours have it. Unverified … I did ask for confirmation late last night, but have no reply.

One possible issue is whether it was possible to get a viable panel.

It is no longer on the Spectator events page, though the global warming debate with Ian Plimer remains available
http://www.spectator.co.uk/shop/events/

It was there last night at this link, which is now dormant
http://www.spectator.co.uk/shop/events/5402473/spectator-debate-a-world-without-aids.thtml

Some tweets as to possibly why here, with one of the billed speakers said to have said it have said it has been called off… Several earlier suggestions that Norman Fowler had pulled out,
http://www.quoteurl.com/1jrik

Personally, I criticised the thinking behind the event – which I think is countering speech with speech – and didn’t argue for them to pull it. I hope almost all of those who think the film is rubbish don’t think it should be banned …

just spoke to them now and updated the story – they’ve pulled the event.

I think I’ve found the Spectator’s next article…

http://www.theonion.com/content/node/39512

And let’s add MMR vaccine wingnut conspiracy theory to the charge-sheet:

http://www.spectator.co.uk/melaniephillips/731746/the-debate-that-wont-go-away.thtml

Love that “debate that won’t go away”. In the manner of persistent athlete’s foot.

I’m going to the Ian Plimer event. I am hoping it will be a proper debate rather than a load of denialists congratulating themselves on how clever they are to see through the global AGW conspiracy. Here’s hoping…


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Spectator mag publishes more AIDS denialism http://bit.ly/4fsDh1

  2. sunny hundal

    Spectator magazine publishes more AIDS denialism http://bit.ly/4fsDh1 – what next? creationism?

  3. sunny hundal

    @bengoldacre – I just rang Spectator mag and they confirmed screening has been cancelled. More here: http://bit.ly/4fsDh1

  4. Evidence Matters

    Spectator scng House of Numbers cancelled bc panel members pulled out & "would have left the discussion “unbalanced”": http://bit.ly/4fsDh1

  5. Holford Watch

    RT @EvidenceMatters Spectator scng House of Numbers cancelled bc panel members pulled out http://bit.ly/4fsDh1

  6. Liberal Conspiracy

    Spectator mag publishes more AIDS denialism http://bit.ly/4fsDh1

  7. sunny hundal

    Spectator magazine publishes more AIDS denialism http://bit.ly/4fsDh1 – what next? creationism?

  8. Tweets that mention Liberal Conspiracy » Spectator mag publishes more AIDS denialism -- Topsy.com

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by sunny hundal, Liberal Conspiracy. Liberal Conspiracy said: Spectator mag publishes more AIDS denialism http://bit.ly/4fsDh1 […]

  9. sunny hundal

    @bengoldacre – I just rang Spectator mag and they confirmed screening has been cancelled. More here: http://bit.ly/4fsDh1

  10. Evidence Matters

    Spectator scng House of Numbers cancelled bc panel members pulled out & "would have left the discussion “unbalanced”": http://bit.ly/4fsDh1

  11. Ivan Cabrera

    Liberal Conspiracy » New: Spectator pulls AIDS denialism screening! http://bit.ly/b6bKx

  12. Holford Watch

    RT @EvidenceMatters Spectator scng House of Numbers cancelled bc panel members pulled out http://bit.ly/4fsDh1

  13. uberVU - social comments

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by libcon: Spectator mag publishes more AIDS denialism http://bit.ly/4fsDh1

  14. Alejandropapa Dumago

    Liberal Conspiracy » New: Spectator pulls AIDS denialism screening! http://bit.ly/374NMW

  15. Manual Spectator Headline Generator « Bad Conscience

    […] Posted in Conservatives, History, Hysteria, Media, Other blogs, Politics, Society at 10:08 am by Paul Sagar After previously supporting the vacuous (and dangerous) nonesense that there is a link between the MMR vaccine and autism, and after recently deciding to join the ranks of the global warming deniers, The Spectator editor Fraser Nelson has decided to go for Aids denialism as well (and again). […]

  16. Anthony M

    Liberal Conspiracy » New: Spectator pulls AIDS denialism screening!: It was all a scam to make money and defend.. http://bit.ly/4i4hCi

  17. Ivan Cabrera

    Liberal Conspiracy » New: Spectator pulls AIDS denialism screening! http://bit.ly/b6bKx

  18. Tweet Tank

    Liberal Conspiracy » New: Spectator pulls AIDS denialism screening! http://bit.ly/19k9xW

  19. Welfare 2 Rich

    Liberal Conspiracy » New: Spectator pulls AIDS denialism screening! http://bit.ly/1iqr9D

  20. Alejandropapa Dumago

    Liberal Conspiracy » New: Spectator pulls AIDS denialism screening! http://bit.ly/374NMW

  21. Anthony M

    Liberal Conspiracy » New: Spectator pulls AIDS denialism screening!: It was all a scam to make money and defend.. http://bit.ly/4i4hCi

  22. Tweet Tank

    Liberal Conspiracy » New: Spectator pulls AIDS denialism screening! http://bit.ly/19k9xW

  23. Liberal Conspiracy » Spectator tries to airbrush out AIDS denialism screening

    […] out AIDS denialism screening by Sunny H     October 27, 2009 at 3:30 pm Yesterday I revealed that Spectator magazine had hastily cancelled its screening of the film House of […]

  24. Pickled Politics » Mutiny at the Spectator?

    […] is certainly true when you take into account their new editor’s recent decision to promote AIDS Denialism. They do the same with Global Warming denialism all the […]

  25. Liberal Conspiracy » Mutiny at Spectator against wingnuttery?

    […] is certainly true when you take into account their new editor’s recent decision to promote AIDS Denialism. They do the same with Global Warming denialism all the […]

  26. sunny hundal

    At least S. Africa's Zuma is open HIV-AIDS link: http://bit.ly/bXhJVc – someone tell Spectator mag! http://bit.ly/1iqr9D

  27. sunny hundal

    @martinbright perhaps you forget the time the Spectator was pushing AIDS denialism http://bit.ly/4fsDh1 @davidallengreen

  28. sunny hundal

    On World Aids Day: remember when UK's top right-wing mag, Spectator, promoted HIV-AIDS denialism? http://t.co/L7pVlqoH

  29. sue

    On World Aids Day: remember when UK's top right-wing mag, Spectator, promoted HIV-AIDS denialism? http://t.co/L7pVlqoH

  30. Mona Eltahawy

    On World Aids Day: remember when UK's top right-wing mag, Spectator, promoted HIV-AIDS denialism? http://t.co/L7pVlqoH

  31. ©Abdirahman Tamaam

    On World Aids Day: remember when UK's top right-wing mag, Spectator, promoted HIV-AIDS denialism? http://t.co/L7pVlqoH

  32. Rob Ford

    On World Aids Day: remember when UK's top right-wing mag, Spectator, promoted HIV-AIDS denialism? http://t.co/L7pVlqoH

  33. Jack Parsons

    On World Aids Day: remember when UK's top right-wing mag, Spectator, promoted HIV-AIDS denialism? http://t.co/L7pVlqoH

  34. Alan Kantz

    On World Aids Day: remember when UK's top right-wing mag, Spectator, promoted HIV-AIDS denialism? http://t.co/L7pVlqoH

  35. sunny hundal

    @byrobdavies wonder if they were behind this… AIDS denialism is alive and well! http://t.co/L7pVlqoH





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