Students of HIV history may know that I have picked a number of public fights with our ex-President, Thabo Mbeki: chief among these was when two colleagues and I took him to task in Nature for being an unashamed AIDS denialist (see Retroid Raving link).
Now it appears that he has found more things to deny: it appears that as of six days ago, he does not believe in:
- the year 2000 (Y2K) scare
- that Muammar Khaddafi was about to slaughter Libyan civilians
- the 2009 H1N1 “swine flu” pandemic
These disbeliefs are part of an argument he developed at a prestigious “Knowledge Management Conference” in Stellenbosch, South Africa, on January 16th 2012: he used them as examples of “false knowledge”, propagated by everyone from the Western Powers (Libya) to the pharmaceutical industry (flu pandemic),
“…which illustrate the grave challenge all humanity faces to confront the critical issues that are the subject of this important Conference, of the management of knowledge in the interests of genuine human advancement”.
His comment on the H1N1 pandemic was as follows:
The Council of Europe has asserted that false ‘knowledge’ was propagated during 2009, which resulted in billions of tax-payer dollars being spent in many countries to respond to a fictional ‘swine flu epidemic’, which benefited the globally dominant and highly profitable pharmaceutical companies.
How. Breathtakingly. STUPID!! a comment. Right up there with how he knew no-one who had died of AIDS, or how a virus could not cause a syndrome. Amazing thing, that being ready for something can mean you can forestall it – like the Y2K problem, Crazy Muammar’s intended genocide – and flu pandemics.
As I have done before, then, an open letter to the ex-President.
Dear Mr Mbeki;
It appears that, once again, you rush in where angels fear to tread – and disbelieve the existence of a major human disease. This time, it is not quite as serious as not believing in AIDS – however, calling into question the existence of a pandemic which killed a significant number of people, simply to further a laboured and rather contrived argument about “false knowledge”, not only betrays your profound ignorance about ANYTHING to do with viruses and disease, it also illustrates a profound and invincible antipathy to conventional medical and pharmaceutical science.
I refer, of course, to your disbelieving in the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic – which according to you, was a “fictional swine flu pandemic, which benefited the globally dominant and highly profitable pharmaceutical companies”.
Really? A fictional pandemic? So the WHO was completely incorrect in its repeated assessments of the global spread of a novel virus? And the following statement from a reputable source must obviously be false?
“In the United States, there were 2,117 laboratory-confirmed deaths, yet the Centers for Disease Control estimate actual deaths in the US alone at between 8,870 and 18,300. Applying similar multiples to laboratory-confirmed cases around the world would yield 72,000 to 162,000 deaths. But that number, since it is still based on confirmed cases, still understates the deaths by a wide margin”
So are the folk who died not actually dead – or not dead of pandemic flu? The fact is, Mr Mbeki, that we were lucky with that pandemic: it turns out the virus was actually reasonably similar to the one which was circulating prior to 1958, meaning anyone born prior to that who had that flu, was probably protected – meaning far fewer older people died than normally do in a flu pandemic. Which, if you consider that more than 250 000 people die in any NORMAL year of influenza, means a disproportionately larger number of YOUNG people died.
From a flu pandemic which, according to you, did not happen.
You were probably lucky, Mr Mbeki: you were born prior to 1958, and so were probably immune. You may well not be so lucky the next time – and there WILL be a next time; flu is like that. It is not, and never has been, an invention of pharmaceutical companies – and in any case, the WHO raised the alarm, not Big Pharma. They just made the vaccines they were asked to.
I am reminded of a famous graffito from London, sometime in the 1960s – that you may even have seen. It went something like “God is dead – Nietzche. Nietzche is dead – God”.
My version would be “Flu pandemic is fake – Mbeki”.
You can fill in the rest.