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Casey Cohen asks John Moore to debate Christine Maggiore and Charles Geshekter

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September 5, 2006

Dear Dr. Moore,
I am helping to organize a debate on the issue of AIDS denialism to take place in January of 2007 in Manhattan. The goal is to effectively end all discussion of the matter with one live event that will be broadcast by radio around the country and shared over the internet around the world.
As it is currently planned, the event will take place in New York before a live audience of about 200 people. It will be audio recorded by engineers from WBAI radio and video recorded by graduate students at NYU film school. The entire event will run from 7 to 10 PM and we hope to include POZ magazine as a sponsor.
The debate has two representatives from each side, AIDS and AIDS denier, and we are inviting you to lead the AIDS side. We have already lined up a few potential partners for you, but of course, we encourage you to name someone of your choice to join you for the event. Location of any partner is not a problem as we have sponsors to cover air travel and hotels.
The denier side would be represented by Christine Maggiore who has already confirmed her participation, and the partner of her choice, Dr. Charles Geshkter (UC Chico), who is expected to confirm.
The event will take place in January, with the exact day yet to be firmly established, so we need only your confirmation in principle. We can work out the exact day, most likely a Saturday evening, sometime in the next few weeks, and you can pick one that suits your convenience.
We all forward to your participation in this historic event and hope to hear from you soon.
Sincerely,

Casey Cohen

September 5

Dear Casey,
There are no circumstances in which I (or any other bona fide AIDS researcher that I know) would ever contemplate participating in any debate, discussion, forum or event alongside people like Maggiore and Geshekter.
What you propose is damaging and dangerous, to public health, medicine and science. I urge you to think again about the consequences of allowing AIDS denialists any sort of public forum for their views. So, no, I will not participate in this event, and I will discourage any other AIDS researchers from doing so.
We will, instead, focus our efforts on repairing any damage you cause by holding this debate, should any AIDS researcher agree to take part.

John Moore

September 6

Dear Dr. Moore,

Thank you for your prompt reply.

Your disappointing response leads me to believe I failed to make the goal of the debate clear. Please allow me to clarify and to address your concerns.

  • The point of the debate is to answer challenges raised by AIDS deniers, effectively demonstrating in a public forum how and why they are wrong.
  • After this event is broadcast worldwide, no more discussion will be necessary. The facts will be laid out, simple and clear, in a way that reaches people most at risk of straying from desirable patterns of behavior.
  • A show down between facts and fiction cannot possibly be dangerous because the facts will become apparent to all.
  • The only damage the debate can cause is to Maggiore and the deniers by once and for all, proving them wrong.
  • Avoiding confrontation will lead to further loss of credibility. People are starting to question why their side is always willing to debate while our side is not. The position that debate is dangerous is becoming harder to justify for those of us on the front lines of this information war.

Dr. Moore, please reconsider your position on a debate. Ignoring the deniers claims gives them power. Proving their claims false will lay them to rest.

We feel certain that a debate is the most effective form of education and communication on the issue of AIDS and AIDS denialism, and that the participation of someone of your stature will guarantee its success.

Sincerely yours,

Casey

September 6

Dear "Casey" (or whoever you really are),

Let me make two things unequivocally clear to you.

  1. Hell will freeze over before I engage in any "debate" with AIDS denialists, people for whom I have only utter contempt for the way they cause the unnecessary deaths of infants and adults, in America, South Africa and elsewhere.
  2. There is nothing to debate, the facts are well established, and it is not my problem if the AIDS denialists lack the intellectual capacity to understand them. It is, however, my problem, a problem shared by other AIDS researchers and activists, to repair the damage caused to other people by the denialists' nonsensical, farcical opinions.

Even if you were what you say you are, an honest broker, your position is extraordinarily misguided. Of course, you're not really a honest broker, you are yourself a member of the AIDS denialist clique, masquerading as something you are not, in the way that the denialists so often do. You must think we're really stupid to fall for this kind of nonsense; we're not, so you've been found out, "Casey" and your "strategy" will fail, as it always does.

 

John Moore

September 6

Dear Dr. Moore,
Your anger is misdirected. I am in communication with Maggiore about the debate, perhaps somewhat less candidly, as I would like to see her position nullified.
Maggiore first suggested we invite Dr. Nicholas J. Bennett of SUNY to debate, but we could not find Bennett listed at the SUNY web site or find an email address for him through a Google search. I reported this back to Maggiore who copied our email to Bennett and copied back to us with his address. Since Bennett pretty much declined, we moved forward with another suggestion from Maggiore to contact you.
Your contempt for AIDS denialists is shared by many, but please understand, the debate is not intended to persuade them. The debate is for reasonable people caught in the middle of the conflicting sides. It’s the hearts and the minds of the audience that matter and that will be won with a debate.
We firmly believe that the only way to end the distraction and damage caused by misinformation is a dynamic public confrontation between the two sides. Surely, the facts will win.
You and Dr. Bennett were recommended by Maggiore because of your powerful stance on AIDS denialism and your strong public statements about her. Confronting Maggiore with the facts, in person, in public, cannot help but to end AIDS denialism.
Again, I ask that you please reconsider your position and help make our debate a resounding success.
Thanks,

Casey

September 6

Whoever you are, and whatever your real intentions, you’re really not understanding my answer. In very, very simple terms, what part of “NO” is it that you do not understand?
The very idea of a “debate” with people like Maggiore and Geshekter sickens all bona fide AIDS researchers that I have every discussed the notion with. It places them on the same level as legitimate scientists, and that’s not a position they deserve to be placed in by anyone.
If you want accurate information on HIV/AIDS to be disseminated to people who need to know it, publicize the AIDStruth.org website, and other sites such as the NIAID site.
But do NOT contact me again about this ridiculous “debate” concept.
John Moore

September 9

Dear Dr. Moore,
One last try.
What if we subtly but effectively emphasize the concept that Maggiore and Geshekter do not deserve to be placed on your level by having them speak from the floor of the auditorium while you and your partner are seated on stage?
We could also suggest their inferiority via lighting, ie, the bona fide AIDS experts under soft white spots while the deniers lurk in the shadows below.
Please think about it and let me know.
Thank you,

Casey

September 9

Casey,
You make an appropriate suggestion regarding the relative intellectual prowess and fundamental morality of the protagonists, but you are still missing the central point: There is nothing to debate. The facts on HIV/AIDS are clear, and that the likes of you, Maggiore and Geshekter don’t understand them is your problem, not mine or the morally responsible majority.
But it’s good to receive unequivocal confirmation that you are an AIDS denialist pretending to be what you are not. As I believe I previously noted, you guys are simply not very smart, and you fool nobody, at least not sophisticated people, anyway.
John Moore

September 16

Dear Dr. Moore,
If anything, I am a “debatist.” I believe confrontation between conflicting views reveals not only the veracity of the views, but the character of the parties presenting them.
I am certainly not alone in this belief. We have debates between political candidates before every major election in this country. Our legislative process and judicial system are based on confrontation and debate.
A “bona fide AIDS expert” would be eager to debate with purveyors of misinformation. Your position of avoiding direct confrontation seems cowardly and unbecoming to a scientist, and the name calling rude and unnecessary.
Casey

September 16

It’s extremely arrogant, and utterly foolish, of you to continue to think we should take AIDS denialists like you seriously on an intellectual level - we don’t, we simply act to prevent you all from further damaging public health and killing yet more innocent men, women and children.
People like you are not people we talk to, because we despise what you have done to harm other people that you either influence or have parental power over. I’ve told you, and I’ll tell you again, there’s nothing to debate about HIV/AIDS, and your personal ignorance is your own problem, not mine or other AIDS scientists’.
So take your pretentious, precious self to an environment where you can debate something like what color paint to use on your garden fence.

John Moore

© Copyright May 18, 2009 by Rethinking AIDS.