Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

O.K., Now I Wish Wright Had Shut Up

While I agree with Elizabeth Edwards’ editorial, “Bowling 1, Healthcare 0″ that media coverage of flag lapel pins, whisky shots, and Rev. Wright are distracting and keeping voters from the real info. that they need to make informed electoral decisions, I also agree that Obama had no choice now but to cut ties with his former pastor, who seems to have gone off the deep end.  This is not the Jeremiah Wright that I heard preach, either.

I don’t much want to get into this, and prolong the controversy, but I do want to say a few words about the “U.S. Govt. behind the HIV/AIDS epidemic” conspiracy.  1) I don’t believe it.  There is no evidence for it. In the early ’90s, I met a woman doing a Ph.D. in biomedical ethics who was tracking down the most reliable version of this theory: that HIV was a mutation from one version of the smallpox vaccine (the one Jonas Salk refused to have anything to do with) that was tested in Africa, and she found no evidence to confirm, even using the Freedom of Information Act.  2) Rev. Wright, as a highly educated person, should know better, but white theologian David Ray Griffin should know better than to buy the conspiracy theory that the Bush/Cheney admin. masterminded the 9/11 attacks–instead of simply misusing the attacks opportunistically to ram through their own rightwing agenda, which they did. Sometimes people who should know better buy wild conspiracy theories about people and institutions that they distrust (sometimes for good reason) on other grounds.

3) This HIV/AIDS conspiracy theory is widely believed in many African-American communities, as I found out when I was on staff at a black church in the early ’90s.  What leads to such paranoia? Simply the fact that the govt. HAS done germ warfare against non-white races before, of course.  U.S. soldiers gave Native Americans blankets infected with polio as part of the attempted “final solution” to “the Indian problem” in the 19th C.  African-Americans in Tuskeegee, AL were used as unwitting guinea pigs in the notorious Tuskeegee syphillis experiments (told that they had “bad blood”) which did not end until 1972!  Further, while the U.S. govt. did not create the HIV virus, Ronald Reagan blocked all funding for research, prevention, treatment or cure for YEARS (back when we could have at least prevented the plague from becoming so widespread) because he believed it was God’s judgment on gays and lesbians and just killing “all the right people.” (See Randy Shilts’ classic, And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic.)  Further, as Mike Broadway points out, in the Neo-con document Rebuilding America’s Defenses (2000, put out by the Project for a New American Century and signed by such rightwing Bush folk as Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Elliot Abrams, Jeb Bush, and with contributers that included Lewis Libby and Paul Wolfowitz), serious foreign policy folk with connections to this administration advocated developing new biological weapons that would only target people with certain genes–that is, designed to kill only those of certain races or ethnicity! (Let us not forget that Rumsfeld and the first Pres. Bush sold Saddam Hussein the biological weapons that we later claimed as one reason we were invading–to punish him for using them.) To my knowledge, those race-based designer bio-weapons have never been developed, but it was urged by many in this administration.

Given this as background, one can easily see why African-Americans could easily believe the HIV/AIDS conspiracy theory.  Just because I believe it to be false doesn’t mean there is no reason for paranoia. It’s not like America has never been guilty of similar atrocities–and advocated similar ones in very recent history.

But, like the woman in North Carolina said, recently, I am tired of the controversy around Rev. Wright. I want the news to cover candidates on the ISSUES: ending the war/occupation; ending torture and restoring the defense of universal human rights; ending poverty and hunger; slowing, then reversing global warming; rebuilding our public schools and making university available for all; universal healthcare, etc.  Every time the news focuses instead on polls, flag lapel pins, “Obama is a secret Muslim” lies, or Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s most controversial statements, the media then undermines our democracy by denying voters the information they REALLY need for informed voting.  This is nothing new, of course, but it is part of why we are losing our democratic republic and slipping into a plutocratic oligarchy.


May 1, 2008 - Posted by | U.S. politics, Uncategorized


  1. I think your comments are well taken. I support Obama, but feel that many bloggers who support him are going overboard in demonizing Senator Clinton. This campaign by the democrats has been mild compared to some 50’s and 60’s campaigns. So the code today is: If you like Obama, you must hate Clinton. Jack

    Comment by John Haynes | May 1, 2008

  2. Interesting. I found these Wittenburg Door articles helpful too:



    Comment by Jadon | May 1, 2008

  3. I wrote a bit about this on my blog. It’s a huge media distraction. I agree that the HIV conspiracy is ridiculous, but I don’t really know why this is a huge deal. Most everyone has at least one weird thing about them.

    Comment by Steven Kippel | May 2, 2008

  4. You are all a bunch of sell-outs. This is not paranoia. this is the truth. the US government has tried to committ genocide against the african-american community. You have sold your souls just to defend Obama, who has sold his soul for power. Rev Wright has told the truth!

    Comment by randy P | May 4, 2008

  5. Randy, would you please cite evidence of such attempted genocide? I gave the evidence for similar programs that could lead African-Americans to believe this, but I have not seen any direct evidence of the claim of attempted genocide–with or without HIV/AIDS. And the scientific origins of HIV/AIDS are now well enough known to preclude this particular conspiracy theory.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | May 4, 2008

  6. For the record, on the CPAN interview at the National Press Club, when asked about the HIV/AID conspiracy, Wright did not affirm it as fact, but as something that was certainly conceivable based on other facts, like the ones Michael has cited above.

    Comment by Thom Stark | May 4, 2008

  7. Rev Wright claims it is true. He is a prophet. To deny that the government introduced aids would be to suggest that Wright is a false prophet and a demogogue. Since he is a true prophet and not a demogogue, then it must be true.

    And since when do the prophets of black liberation theology have to give “evidence” to white guys.

    Comment by DON | May 5, 2008

  8. Thanks, Don. That was an exceptionally helpful comment.

    Comment by Thom Stark | May 5, 2008

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