Since Celia Farber arrived in the cyber-offices as a closely associated presence a scant two Gregorian calendar weeks ago, life in those spheres has become generally much more interesting, and even more unpredictable than usual. Por ejemplo, each of her many memos contains a banner from our friend and teacher, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, in ever-changing colors and type that are never reproduced [like many of the HIV/AIDS results reported in Nature and Science over the past 25 years]. Although the calligraphy and color are as unpredictable as the biotech sector of The Market, the text invariably resolves to:
Inspired by the incessant neural impacts of these mantric syllables, and the I don't know what to call them goings on here the past days, I set out to undertake a bit of investigative journalism of my own. The story, as I like to say, goes like this:
A few weeks ago, the invisible and everywhere all at once [ubiquitous is a word for that, where I used to work, never mind where] Michael Geiger sent me the URL for a site that has been on the Bulletin Board sidebar ever since as The Real Rogue's Gallery of AIDS. If you have not looked at it previously, you may wish to take a strenuous relaxant before you do. it is not for the faint of heart nor high of blood pressure.
Shortly after I calmed down from a quick scan (I cannot afford to have my own BP raised excessively being no longer young by anyone's calendar), I wrote to the info email fully expecting a comraderly response, and maybe even a revelation as to the "real" identity/s of these deeply insider, knowledgeable, highly, web expert shillfactor.org whistle blowers.
What with one thing and another, I forgot about the matter entirely until the omnipresent Mr. Geiger "posted" (like they say) a comment to a scoop by Elizabeth Ely -- on the almost not to be believed lawsuit filed against Pfizer because Viagra and crystal amphetamines apparently do not go together like rum and Coke -- that stirred my sleepy, slow-conducting cerebral neurons:
"Please also take note that Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, filed suit against Pfizer immediately after Pfizer turned down Weinstein's request for more funding of his pharmaceutically financed AIDS Healthcare Foundation. He intends to make an example of any and every company that turns away from sending him unlimited amounts of money. This practice of harrassment of non funding pharmaceutical companies is one that many AIDS advocating groups, such as Larry Kramer's/Iris Long's ACT-UP New York, Mark Harrington's Treatment Action Group, Martin Delaney's Project Inform, etc, have done for many years. I think the idea is to make the companies pay one way or another. either through law suits and bad publicity, or through polite funding gifts to the AIDS advocates."
When the lightbulb finally lit up a few days ago, I lit off on some closer cyberscopic scrutinty of The Site.
Shillfactor, which contains damning information about AIDS, Inc., looks like another Kramer-esque shakedown operation. The site belongs to a "public education and advocacy organization" called Project Thames, and lists a Michael Barr as its CEO.
Barr once "served as editor of the monthly newsletter of the Treatment Action Group, and as a senior editor of Poz magazine. Two years ago, he "was summoned into the TAG office and fired on the spot," as noted by Michael Petrelis, and on Barr's own weblog.
So now Barr is courageously documenting the nefarious deeds of his former colleagues ... or is he just lobbying for a raise?
Harvey Bialy is the editor of "You Bet Your Life".