Monday, July 21, 2014

Politicizing AIDS Deaths: What The Christian Right Has Done From The Very Beginning

"Let me close by making one additional comment. On board Malaysian Airlines Flight MH-17 there were apparently near 100 researchers and advocates traveling to an international conference in Australia dedicated to combating AIDS/HIV. These were men and women who had dedicated their own lives to saving the lives of others, and they were taken from us in a senseless act of violence. President Barack Obama.

"How dare pernicious researchers and activists interfere with the machinations of God! It serves them right!" Or so the sentiment will go. Perhaps not quite as pointedly tacky nor as bourgeois (ok, that's mildly redundant, but the Right lives on redundancy), but the Right has already begun to take God into the MH-17 disaster and international crisis. Ala the American Family Association:

True, Bryan Fischer is a card-carrying God's Ambulance Chaser, but when criticized for the above tweet, he absolutely insisted that it was Obama who was politicizing the death of the AIDS researchers.

This attitude, of course, is delusional, but key to people like Fischer.


In the coming weeks/months, the question of motive for the downing of MH17 will be key to understanding the international crisis: it will beat like a heart throughout all the commentaries and articles, all the social media blasts and all the documentary preliminary discussions.

Some faction of Separatists had to make the decision to target an airliner. Why an airliner? Perhaps an inept attempt to call attention to its cause, like videotaping a beheading. It certainly could not have been an act of sheer stupidity, could it? An accidental push of a button by a Pixar-like buffoon? So MH17 was targeted?

Why? The next step is to consider who was on the plane. The positing of it being mistaken as Putin's plane is ridiculous: the Separatists shooting their biggest supporter and the supplier of all their armaments. Since most of the passengers were from the Netherlands, was it possible that Separatists thought it would make the best statement to shoot down the most liberal of European countries? Maybe.

Or did the Separatists know that one third of the passengers were going to an AIDS convention and that one of the world's chief researchers were on the plane?
"Among the many lost were two giants of the HIV research community. “Both Joep Lange and Jacqueline van Tongeren meant a lot to us, as colleagues and as friends,” an anguished Brandon O’Dell of the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development told me. Lange was once the president of the International AIDS Society, which organizes the conference. Van Tongeren, his partner, was a nurse and advocate and head of communications for the AIGHD."

All right, to go any further with a hypothesis involving AIDS researchers and (possibly) Russia's homophobia would be to go all Glenn Beckian. But the presence of so many passengers on one mission (and so many from one country) put emphasis on motives too important to dismiss.


When anyone strives to politicize a crisis or disaster, many times the deaths of the people involved become trivialized as well: Bryan Fischer's comment strives to trivialize the deaths by demeaning the work the researchers and activists were trying to accomplish.

The best of the backlash can be read at Forward Progressive, Wonkette, and Salon.

To be fair, not all of the Rights' political hacks have succumbed to politicizing the tragedy: when Todd Starnes tweeted "snarky" comments about Obama, FOX News' own Greta Van Sustern had some serious words of her own:
“I was just sent a Mediaite article with these tweets on it. I don’t know Todd Starnes (he works in NYC), but I do know he works at Fox News Channel and so do I. I don’t like his tweets. They are very bad taste. This is not the time to be snarky or have some pathetic attempt at humor. Let me repeat… 295 people died.”
Unfortunately, the Right (especially the Christian Right), has developed a very hard skin when it comes to criticism about their treatment of AIDS and AIDS deaths: it's as if they've never heard the facts about AIDS not being a "gay disease" and stories about their own hard-hearted Fundamentalists and Southern Baptists. For over 30 years, the Right has used AIDS and its deaths as political tools against the poor and the LGBT community, while giving itself kudos for "tolerance" if anyone survived the epidemic.

In 2006, PBS' Frontline produced an in depth series titled The Age Of AIDS. It's long, but riveting and chronicles the hopes and dreams of researchers like Joep Lange and the quest to politicize the crisis by politicians and Christian Right groups alike (think George H.W. Bush during the Republican Convention).

Sad to say, Bryan Fischer is still not alone in his attempts to feed the righteous arrogance of himself and his supporters: if any form of AIDS-phobic or homophobic motive comes to light...

Fischer will be crowing.

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