David Horowitz, one of the radical leftists of the Sixties, spoke at the 56th annual meeting of the AAPS in October 1999. His message had many medical references. His book, The Politics of Bad Faith, traces society's political conflict from the French Revolution, when radicals sat to the left in the National Assembly and their opponents sat to the right. Today, he feels, the Left has become all but invisible, and this has made them dangerous. The Right does not fully comprehend that we are at war with the Left. Physicians became a part of this conflict with the AIDS epidemic and are guilty of mass murder for not using conventional public health measures to stop AIDS in its tracks.
Although this book has six distinct essays, it is in the fifth, "A radical holocaust," that Horowitz takes on the last refuge of the discredited Marxist Left. It is the specter of "queer theory," the latest version of the radical "identity politics" that has replaced economic struggles. For the new revolutionaries, the enemy is no longer a ruling class but the sexual order of nature itself.
Horowitz lays the tragedy of the AIDS epidemic at the source. Who but a sexual radical would have failed to realize in 1969, the year of "Gay Liberation," that promiscuous anal sex, conducted with strangers, was unsanitary and dangerous and a threat to public health? Yet, gay liberation was so defined, that sex was transformative and challenged the heterosexual and monogamous norms of the Judaeo-Christian culture. Gay activists rejected the idea of integration into a normal functioning civil order, and instead maintained a defiant promiscuity in order to overthrow bourgeois morals and sexual restraints and, consequently, bourgeois standards of public hygiene.
The effect of this radical agenda was immediate and unmistakable. "One effect of gay liberation," a prominent gay doctor noted, "is that sex has been institutionalized and franchised. Twenty years ago, there may have been a thousand men on any one night having sex in New York. Now there are ten or twenty thousand..." These establishments were not viewed by gay activists as threats to community morals and health, but as homosexual "liberated zones."
The gay male community lacked the restraint normally imposed on heterosexual encounters by the less sexually-promiscuous female gender. In 1978, a survey revealed that only 14 percent of gay males were in a monogamous relationship, while 43 percent had 500 lifetime sex partners and 33 percent had 1,000. By the early Eighties, when AIDS was first identified, the prevalence of syphilis and gonorrhea among gay men was several hundred times that among comparable groups of heterosexuals. Easy treatment for these diseases, as well as the cooperation of public health officials, imbued the gay men with a cavalier attitude toward venereal diseases. Gay men made up about 80 percent of the visits to San Francisco's VD clinics where they could get a shot, and a date.
Edmund White, coauthor of The Joy of Gay Sex, proposed that "gay men should wear their sexually transmitted diseases like red badges of courage in a war against a sex-negative society." When Michael Callen heard White's triumphant defiance of nature's law, he thought, "Every time I get the clap I'm striking a blow for the sexual revolution." In his book Surviving AIDS, Callen, (who died in 1996) recounts his medical history. He talks of his 3000 different sex partners and his various sexual infections including hepatitis, herpes, warts, syphilis, gonorrhea, cytomegalovirus and, eventually, cryptosporidiosis.
Where were the public health officials? Don Francis of the Centers for Disease Control, a leading figure in the battle against AIDS, admitted: "We didn't intervene because we felt that it would be interfering with an alternative lifestyle." Although AIDS must be reported in all fifty states, most states do not even classify HIV as a "sexually transmitted disease" to avoid reporting HIV infections.
The gay liberationists not only thwarted measures to control the epidemic in their community, where 95 percent of the AIDS was found, but denounced the screening of blood for blood banks as infringing on the "right" of gays. Thus AIDS was allowed to spread among hemophiliacs and drug-using heterosexuals, and the black and Hispanic populations soon accounted for more than 50 percent of the infected.
We need to expose our entire profession to this message and guard against becoming part of the medical Left. Horowitz makes it clear that the AIDS epidemic is due to our profession forsaking our basic medical principles. We must understand the forces that are changing medicine and health care --- changes that are neither in the interest of our patients nor our profession. We must have the courage to not forsake our medical obligation.
Reviewed by Delbert H. Meyer, MD
Dr. Meyer, a pulmonologist practicing in Sacramento, is on the Clinical Faculty of the University of California Davis School of Medicine, and serves on the editorial boards of Sacramento Medicine, and the Medical Sentinel. E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published in the Medical Sentinel 2001;6(1):34. Copyright © 2001 Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS).
(The Politics of Bad Faith --- The Radical Assault on America's Future by David Horowitz. 214 pp., $25.00, ISBN: 0-684-85023-0, The Free Press, New York, NY.)