Officially, their stance is that they care little about the OPV/AIDS theory. They claim that it is but a minor annoyance that sometimes distracts them from their work for a few hours.
Sadly for them, the reality is rather different. Over the past four years, Hilary Koprowski and Stanley Plotkin have devoted a large portion of their time, and quite a bit of their incomes, to fighting the OPV/AIDS theory, and trying to ensure that it is suppressed in as many different fora (the halls of science, the media) as possible.
They are currently engaged in a new – and rather desperate – attempt to bury the OPV/AIDS theory once and for all. The major plank of this initiative involves making legal threats against broadcasters. This is supported by the sending of multiple letters to film festival directors and journal editors, enjoining them not to show, or publish, materials about the OPV theory. All these initiatives are based around false claims and misrepresentations.
Like its predecessors, this latest attempt will fail, because in all its essential elements it appears to be little more or less than an attempt to suppress the truth.
When it comes to defending their position, what doctors Koprowski and Plotkin especially like is the work of tame scientists like Beatrice Hahn, Bette Korber, Robin Weiss, Simon Wain-Hobson and Michael Worobey who, under the guise of making balanced scientific observations about the origins of AIDS, have falsely declared that the OPV/AIDS theory has been “destroyed” or “refuted”.
What Koprowski and Plotkin dislike are articles in the medical literature that either promote the OPV/AIDS theory, or which reveal that the theory has not, after all, been disproven. [For a recent example of the latter, see: Jim Moore, “The Puzzling Origins of AIDS”; American Scientist; November-December 2004; 92 (6); 540-547. Even though this article is actually quite strongly wedded to the “bushmeat plus contaminated needles” theory of HIV origin, Koprowski and Plotkin will still not like it, for it describes the OPV/AIDS hypothesis as one of four competing and viable theories of origin, and concludes: “headlines reporting the death of this theory remain premature”.]
However, what these two scientists really hate are films or television broadcasts about the OPV/AIDS theory. This is probably because they recognise the truism that a picture is worth a thousand words.
Presumably this is the reason for the latest legal onslaught by the two doctors (and by lawyers representing the two men) against television companies and film festivals which have shown (or are about to show) “The Origin of AIDS”, the 91-minute documentary that focuses on The River, and on my investigations since The River was published in 1999.
In recent months, I have been informed of several instances in which TV companies or film festivals have received legal threats from Koprowski, Plotkin, or their lawyers.
In one instance, a 67-page legal submission (a 15 page letter, and 52 pages of annexes) was apparently sent to a TV station.
Another television broadcaster was apparently given a finite number of days in which to broadcast what was effectively an on-air retraction – an opportunity which, it seems, it declined to take up. Some months later the company was informed by Koprowski’s lawyers that their client would not be proceeding further. Apparently no further explanation was given.
Since I only know of these legal initiatives at second-hand or third-hand, I shall not comment further about them, except to say that most of the so-called supporting evidence seems to be based around the tame articles written by scientists like Robin Weiss (“Polio Vaccines Exonerated”) and Michael Worobey (“Controversial Polio Vaccine Theory Refuted”), which are characterised by deliberate misrepresentation of the issues in the OPV/AIDS debate.
What this reveals is that as the vaccine-makers grow more and more desperate, their tactics get dirtier and dirtier.
It is all part of an ugly continuum, which reveals an uncomfortable link between scientific misrepresentation and full-scale legal bullying. Scientists like those mentioned above claim that they have refuted the OPV theory when they have not. [See accompanying article: Plotkin’s Chums (1).] They make over-grandiose claims, or misrepresent the significance of their data. Then attempts are made by doctors Plotkin and Koprowski to use these economies with the truth as a basis for legal action, and for intimidating broadcasters and festival directors so that (hopefully) they decline to show the film.
[Another analagous process has been occurring recently. This involves so-called “neutral scientists” who have, for whatever reason, decided to back Plotkin’s and Koprowski’s versions of events, and who then write identical letters to the directors of film festivals, claiming that the OPV theory has been disproved, and urging the festival directors to drop “The Origins of AIDS” from their schedules. The revelation of these letters shows that several of the leading scientists in this debate are acting dishonestly, and knowingly participating in an attempted cover-up. [Again, see “Plotkin’s chums (1)“.]
Hilary Koprowski has a long and ignoble history of trying to enforce his will on others through legal action, or the threat of legal action. In the United States, a land where the lawyer is king, he has enjoyed some successes in the past. How galling it must be to him that in the present circumstance, his normal method of shutting up opposition is not working!
I believe that, with respect to the “Origins of AIDS” debate, the legal threats made by (or on behalf of) doctors Koprowski and Plotkin are mischievous. I believe that their main intent is to intimidate and bully those with whom they do not agree into silence.
At present, the main thrust of their legal effort seems to be focussed on attempts to stop “The Origins of AIDS” documentary from being broadcast in the United Kingdom and the United States. I believe that they will not succeed.
Legal threats to the author of this piece
In the past, doctors Koprowski and/or Plotkin (or their lawyers) have twice threatened me personally, and Koprowski’s lawyers have once threatened each of my American and British publishers. Each of these legal threats has been seen off without too many problems: robust answers which contest the claims have been sent, and then nothing more has been heard from the good doctors.
However, last year Stanley Plotkin, who seems to be increasingly erratic, changed his tactics, and resorted to sending me a personal hand-written threat by post-card!
What deters doctors K & P from making further legal threats to myself is presumably the realisation that if they sue, I will certainly fight them – and that, unlike their good selves, I have rather copious evidence to support my case.
To begin with, I used to find their legal threats upsetting – and later on, they made me angry. These days, I just find them rather sad.
Just what do these two men think they are doing? Their scientific arguments are full of holes. They have repeatedly contradicted themselves in their own written statements. Their practice of leaning on European witnesses to persuade them to change key aspects of their testimony is now well documented. In Africa, their use of a proxy (Professor Dudu Akaibe) to do their bidding is again well-documented: he has used both his position (as Vice-Dean of Science at the University of Kisangani), and money (provided by Plotkin’s former employers, Pasteur Merieux) in an attempt to persuade some of our African witnesses to change their testimony, and he has kicked our African translator off his university course, without explanation.
Sadly, the more frightened these men get, the more lamentable their behaviour becomes. This same group of Plotkin’s helpers in Kisangani recently managed to obtain mid-1950s pathology samples from the old Stanleyville laboratory basement. Nothing publicly was announced about this, and all that one can say is that the intention in Plotkin’s mind was presumably not to discover a post-vaccination sample of HIV-1 and to announce it to the world. (The main fear, of course, is that if such an ancient sample of HIV-1 is discovered, it will instead be presented in another series, dating from before the days before the OPV trials.)
Stanley Plotkin promised more than three years ago to release into the public domain the letters and documents supporting his Royal Society articles. He has been reminded about this twice by Brian Martin. His excuses keep changing, but the promise has never been kept.
Once again, I call on Stanley Plotkin publicly to release these documents. Already, some of his source materials have been shown not to contain the evidence that he has claimed for them. One can only imagine the flaws and errors that must exist in those documents for Plotkin to continue to need to suppress them.
A Challenge to Dr Hilary Koprowski and Dr Stanley Plotkin
Here’s a challenge to the two of you good doctors. If you really are determined to disprove the OPV/AIDS theory, then for goodness’ sake go ahead and do so. Set aside the distorting and spinning, and the playground tactics that do you no credit at all.
Instead, just produce some real, substantive evidence to disprove the theory.
You see, gentlemen, I don’t think you have any such evidence. If you did have, you would have produced it long ago. The fact that you haven’t done so is not because the evidence has been mislaid (as Dr Koprowski claimed to me in 1993, when, extraordinarily, he said that papers pertaining to 1957-1968 got “lost in a move” to the Wistar Insttiute, a move which actually took place in 1957). It is because such evidence doesn’t exist.
Similarly, Dr Plotkin, I don’t think you will ever keep your oft-repeated promise to release the papers you cited at the Royal Society meeting. Why? Because they will reveal things that you would prefer not to be revealed.
Anyway, there it is, Dr Koprowski, Dr Plotkin. What are you going to do? Take up the challenge? Prove me wrong? Issue some more threats? Whatever you decide, I look forward to your response.
Edward Hooper. October 14th, 2004, updated November 21st, 2004.