Skepticism

AIDS Denialists Silence Critic

Over on YouTube, Myles Power has made a fantastic series of videos debunking the AIDS denialist film House of Numbers. The denialists have issued DMCA claims against him, and right now YouTube has pulled the videos. You can help by subscribing to Myles and signing the petition asking YouTube to restore his videos.

Of course, you can also subscribe to my channel and become a Patreon patron to support me. Just sayin’.

Close-enough transcript:

I haven’t really paid much attention to what’s happening on YouTube in terms of science and skepticism in recent years, thanks to suddenly realizing that a few of the people I subscribed to turned out to be gigantic bigots like Thunderf00t.

But I recently stumbled across Myles Power, who has been making some pretty high-quality videos about various sciencey and skepticky things, most recently debunking the movie House of Numbers.

House of Numbers is a 2009 documentary made by so-called “AIDS denialists,” a bit of a misnomer because for the most part they don’t necessarily deny that AIDS exists, but they deny that HIV is the cause of AIDS. Some of them do deny the existence of HIV, and others do deny the existence of AIDS. All together, though, they form a small movement of conspiracy theorists who are directly at fault for the deaths of many people.

It’s such a dangerous pseudoscience, in fact, that often when you see something like House of Numbers, you’ll note that many of the activists interviewed are dead by the time the film is even finished. Continuum was a magazine published by HIV/AIDS deniers, which shut down when the entire editorial board died of AIDS-related causes.

Christine Maggiore is featured prominently in House of Numbers. She was a famous denialist who started an organization to discourage mothers from taking antiretrovirals to protect their children from transmission. Her 3-year old daughter died of AIDS-related pneumonia and she herself died of the same thing at the age of 52, a year before House of Numbers was released. Small print at the end of the film lies, saying that Maggiore died of something unrelated to AIDS.

18 actual scientists interviewed in House of Numbers have complained about being intentionally misrepresented in the film. When a panel at a Boston film festival criticized the film for this, the panel was shouted down by HIV/AIDS denialists.

They have no facts to back them up, so shouting down critics is their primary tactic. Myles Power exposed House of Numbers’ lies in several well-researched videos. To respond to his criticism, the denialists have flagged his videos with DMCAs, basically claiming that he violated the filmmakers’ copyright by showing clips from the documentary while presenting opposing facts. Note that the entire documentary is available for free on YouTube, but those haven’t been served with DMCAs. Only the criticism.

Power claims that his use of the clips falls under fair use, since he’s using it to comment on the scientific accuracy of the documentary. I’m not a lawyer nor do I work for YouTube, so I honestly don’t know if he has a case. But I do think he should have a case, and I would certainly like YouTube to protect this kind of critical thought.

If you agree, there’s a petition you can sign to ask YouTube to restore Power’s videos. I’ve signed it, and I hope the videos are back online soon. Even if they’re not, I hope Power continues making important videos like these.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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4 Comments

  1. I’m surprised AIDS denialism is still a thing. (These days, I encounter more people who claim condoms don’t work, HIV is secretly put in condoms, and similar bullshit. And of course the meme that the drugs are worse for you than the disease persists.) It’s scary, AIDS denialists actually killed more black South Africans during the Mbeki administration than the entire apartheid regime. And one of my old friends (a history professor at U of Toronto who taught in Zimbabwe for a while), when I mentioned how Zimbabwe’s Health Minister has several extramarital affairs, but swears he’s immune to AIDS, he said “No surprise, given Mugabe.”

    On the legal front, YouTube presumes guilt on behalf of the uploader in case of any copyright violation. Anonymous even falsely claimed copyrights on material on the actual creators’ own channels (creators like Nelly Furtado and Justin Bieber at that!), just to embarrass YouTube, and they had their accounts frozen. Normally, this results in honor among thieves, so you can see the Red Wedding, or the cute Mexican girl from the Old El Paso ad who says “Why not both?”, or the “YEEEEEAAAHHH!” from the intro to CSI, since most users won’t bother to report it. (You may also note that trolls in the comments section are also not reported that often.) But of course, HIV denialists or $cientologists or whoever will use copyright law to silence critics.

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