Dallas Buyers’ Club Says It’s OK to Hate AZT Now

November 9, 2013

(NEW YORK)—Toward the end of Dallas Buyers Club, Matthew McConaughey, as dying AIDS-drug bootlegger Ron Woodroof, prays over some candles.

“Show me a sign,” he says.  “Show me a fuckin’ sign.” 

Too bad for Ron that he’s living and dying about 25 years ago, because the only sign he gets is a beautiful but medically useless flock of monarch butterflies.

Nonetheless, even in 1987, this Texas rodeo rider might have noticed the first emerging questions about his HIV-positive diagnosis.  Ron is reading reports on clinical drug trials in The Lancet but apparently hasn’t noticed Dr. Peter Duesberg’s first dissident journal articles.  Or perhaps Ron is making so much money smuggling drugs and hustling “memberships” in his “buyers’ club” that he hasn’t found the obvious ticket out of this mess: If, as Duesberg and John Lauritsen wrote, a disease plus HIV equals AIDS, but a disease minus HIV equals just the disease, Ron might just treat his diseases and live.

imagesCACCWEZEHe couldn’t have known, but we can, that the “HIV test” on the basis of which someone told him he had 30 days to live is thrown off by at least 70 documented conditions.  These include vaccinations, liver problems and drug use.  The list encompasses the kind of hard living that had pretty much summed up Woodroof by then.

This poor guy looks for every substance, natural and artificial, that might be rumored to extend the lifespans of people like him.  Too bad he cannot, to save his life, fully grasp that the body is a system that responds to toxins and heals when they leave.  (He does, at one point, lecture his transsexual business partner against junk food, though.)

To my comments on the review and trailer of Dallas Buyers Club, someone suggested that I might see the film first.  Fair enough.  I saw the film the next night.  But I’ve been watching it for 25 years, both before and after I knew the truth about AIDS, in the Oak Lawn neighborhood of Dallas from 1988 to 1990 and in New York during the eye-opening summer of 1992.


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What has been most fascinating is not the flawed science.  I mastered the basic logic of all that by learning that the “risk groups” of AIDS tended to get these diseases before AIDS was even invented as another layer of meaning placed on them.  Then there was the fact – not opinion, and uncontested to this day – that the so-called “HIV tests” don’t detect virus.  They only measure higher concentrations of proteins common to everyone.

If the hoax was so easy to understand, why did almost nobody, including myself a couple of years earlier, want to hear it?  Why did the mere mention of it invoke hysterical tantrums, as I was soon to learn?

People like Woodroof, who had made a career out of researching new approaches to AIDS and any and all rumors of miraculous, lifesaving drugs – they were so blind to this, indeed betting their very lives on ignoring it.  Woodroof “died of AIDS” the same September 1992 that I finished reading my first “dissident” book.

The answer, finally, to why people don’t hear is in Dallas Buyers Club.  The answer to how people are going to not hear it from now on either is also in Dallas Buyers Club.

This is propaganda so artfully constructed that it can safely tell the truth of the other side and still win.  All it has to do is tell the story in such a way that almost no one can understand its implications and act on them.

We see Ron reciting the side effects of AZT – the very ones that I learned in the summer of 1992 – and saying that these were not AIDS-related conditions (they were written into the definition later), and no one in that theater recognizes just how big that fact is.  Because if AZT is causing the symptoms of AIDS, there is no AIDS, or at least nothing that the latest drug smuggled from Mexico is going to fix.  (If the real-life Woodroof got that information from John Lauritsen’s articles on AZT in New York Native, he would have learned about the AIDS fraud in general.)

You’re spending two hours watching a movie where nearly everyone is shooting up or snorting or smoking or drinking or trying to defend their homosexuality against their own father if not denying it in front of their homophobic drinking buddies.  You’re supposed to get that these characters might have a bigger problem than a virus stalking them – and yet not get that their suicidal habits and troubled relationships are AIDS.  A nod to that fact, as Ron tries to keep his transvestite friend off junk food and heroin, only serves to neutralize it, as if to say, We’ve dealt with it, now let’s move on.

Ron even gets a blood transfusion after experimenting with AZT, early on – the first time I’ve ever seen a movie script admit that the drug causes anemia so severe that it requires blood transfusions.  The evil company that makes AZT, called here “Averex” instead of Burroughs Wellcome (now GlaxoSmithKline), leaves unflattering clinical study results out of its press releases, he announces.  If you’re the person who has known that for 20 years, and is still angry about it and hopes that someone will pay for that crime, you’re not the ideal audience for this film.  The statute of limitations has passed, which is probably why it famously took the writer two decades to get this film made.

What happened in that theater was frightening: Everyone changed their minds about the biggest hysteria of the 1980s and 1990s, without a fuss, when given the signal.  They did so without learning the lessons of history or blaming anyone significant.

Dallas Buyers Club is probably the first Hollywood movie to go anti-AZT, but it’s one long legal disclaimer.  If you’re looking for someone to sue, you won’t find them here.  This is Hollywood’s attempt to rewrite history while taking no responsibility for it.  In 2013, Hollywood, like the CDC and the NIH and all those research universities, is desperately looking for a face-saving way out of this mess.  It’s why we have a Mississippi AIDS-cure baby, a “functional [fictional] cure” from taking early, massive doses of AIDS drugs and then stopping, and calls for universal testing when new cases are diminishing.

It’s why the Hollywood villains of this film are FDA bureaucrats who look like aging, out-of-touch nerds while trying to protect us from God-knows-what toxic chemical some rodeo cowboy will haul in from Mexico.  The heroes are the cool, raunchy, cross-dressing, loveable, law-breaking, three-way-sexing renegades of the Dallas Buyers Club.

We are not responsible for the meds we give you,” Ron tells a “member.”  “You croak, you croak.” 

Nowadays, that’s more or less the extent of an FDA warning.  The supposedly happy ending for this film is when the FDA lowers its standards for clinical testing.  The epilogue also tells us that after Woodroof died the U.S. government finally lowered the recommended AZT dosage.  (AZT is still on the market, and the film doesn’t mention that new AIDS drugs are tested against it, so that, if they’re better for you than a drug akin to rat poison, they’re good to go.)

The clever propaganda technique here is one you didn’t learn in freshman college rhetoric, but one that the AIDS establishment has used for three decades to stop us from suspecting they are any kind of establishment at all.  The sex, drugs and hard liquor are there to remind us that these people are so edgy and nonconformist that they must have considered every angle, thought outside every box and changed up every script written for them.

Yet they pray for a sign, and they get . . . pretty butterflies.  Kind of like what this movie does to you.  You get to weep because somebody should have told these poor saps certain things in 1985.  And then the movie turns around and withholds lifesaving information from you in 2013.

Watch enough of this movie and you might forget to ask if Ron had a right to sue his doctors for giving him an unauthorized HIV test while he was unconscious.  If you are HIV positive and ask if it’s worth it to document just how fraudulent your own diagnosis is and sue your doctors and hospital, you didn’t get that idea from Dallas Buyers Club.  And if you’re facing criminal charges for not disclosing your HIV status, you’ll have to look elsewhere even to know there’s help available.

I kind of wished that McConaughey, praying for a “sign,” had been hit in the head with a flying copy of Duesberg’s Inventing the AIDS Virus to research this role some are calling “career defining.”  Duesberg’s 30 years in retrovirus research led him to conclude that nobody transmits retroviruses sexually, and they don’t attack “immune systems.”

Back in Dallas in the 1980s, Joe Bob Briggs, “Drive-in Movie Critic of Grapevine, Texas,” used to give his famous inventory.  So we have here four breasts, six women in hot sex scenes, two three-ways and two crotch shots.  Six mentions of “faggots” and two Confederate flags.  Four fistfights, seven fifths of whiskey, nine cigarettes and five lines of cocaine.  One blood transfusion and three people with Kaposi’s sarcoma (skin lesions).

No kung fu.  But we have doing-the-nasty-while-watching-a-guy-get-gored-by-a-bull fu, transsexual fu, clunky cordless phones fu, evil drug company fu and boring bureaucrats fu.

Drive-in Academy Awards to McConnaughey for saying “Screw the FDA – I’m going to be DOA”; to Jared Leto for demonstrating how to wear pink eyeshadow; to Jennifer Garner’s Sweet Polly Purebread act as Dr. Eve Saks, lecturing on the necessity for controlled trials and giving up on controlled trials; to the old fuddy-duddy FDA official for being made out of wood and still being able to walk; to the writers for honestly exposing the fraud and patient cheating in drug trials and mentioning that AZT was a shelved cancer drug in the 1960s; and to whoever made the decision at least not to drown us in the usual groundswell-of-emotion music while being emotionally manipulated anyway.

Four stars.  Beth says check it out, just to find out what truly masterful mind control feels like.

Elizabeth Ely