Daily Bread for 5.4.22: Ron Johnson Recycles a Soviet Conspiracy Theory About AIDS

Good morning.

Wednesday — May the 4th be with you — in Whitewater will be partly sunny with a high of 57.  Sunrise is 5:43 AM and sunset 7:59 PM for 14h 15m 53s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing crescent with 12% of its visible disk illuminated.

On this day in 1776, Rhode Island becomes the first American colony to renounce allegiance to King George III.

Ron Johnson’s recent openness to yet another conspiracy theory is a present-day recycling of a Soviet conspiracy theory. Henry Redman reports In interview, Sen. Johnson says it ‘may be true’ that COVID vaccines cause AIDS:

In a video interview published on the right-wing social media platform Rumble, Sen. Ron Johnson said it “may be true” that vaccines against COVID-19 cause AIDS. 

Johnson was being interviewed by anti-vaccine lawyer Todd Callender, who alleged that the shots induce AIDS and that the FDA knew so when the vaccines were approved for emergency use. 

“The way to approach this is from a criminal point of view because that’s what has happened. And until we start holding people accountable, [Dr. Anthony] Fauci number one, you’re going to see people still falling out, still getting sick,” Calendar said. “You’ve got more than a hundred doctors here, all of whom will tell you that these shots caused vaccine-induced AIDS. they purposefully gave people AIDS. They knew this.”

Johnson responded that it’s possible the allegations are true, but that anti-vaccine activists need to wait for public opinion to be on their side before criminally charging health officials. 

“Let me challenge you there, that’s way down the road,” Johnson said. “You’ve gotta do one step at a time. Everything you say may be true, but right now the public views the vaccines as largely safe and effective, that vaccine injuries are rare and mild. That’s the narrative, that’s what the vast majority of the public accepts. So until we get a larger percentage of the population with their eyes open to ‘woah, these vaccine injuries are real, why?’ You’ve got to do it step by step, you can’t leap to crimes against humanity, you can’t leap to another Nuremberg trial.” 

The claim that the COVID-19 vaccines cause AIDS is false

The false claim that COVID-19 vaccines cause AIDS is a refashioning of the equally false Soviet claim from the 1980s that the United States invented AIDS. Historian Douglas Selvage has studied this Soviet disinformation campaign

KGB, Information Nr. 2955 [to Bulgarian State Security], 7 September 1985. Source: CDDAABCSSISBNA-R, Fond (F.) 9, Opis (Op.) 4, A.E. 663, pp. 208-9.

In September 1985, the Soviet State Security Committee (KGB) informed other Warsaw Pact foreign intelligence agencies that it had launched a new, major disinformation campaign. “We are carrying out a complex of [active] measures in connection with the appearance in recent years of a new dangerous disease in the USA known as AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).” The KGB explained that “the goal of the measures is to create a favorable opinion for us abroad — namely, that this disease is the result of secret experiments by the USA’s secret services and the Pentagon with new types of biological weapons that have spun out of control.” Most likely, the KGB had initiated the disinformation campaign as early as 1983, but the September 1985 document — obtained by Christopher Nehring from the former Bulgarian State Security archive — is the earliest conclusive evidence that has turned up so far. (The former KGB foreign intelligence archive has never been accessible to researchers.)

Among the East European intelligence services that assisted the KGB in this effort was the East German Ministry for State Security (Stasi), which used the codename “Denver” when referring to the campaign. The KGB and Stasi relied on forged documents and inaccurate testimony from purported experts to suggest that HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, had originated not from infected animals in Africa but from biological warfare research carried out by U.S. military scientists at Fort Detrick in Maryland. Operation Denver proved remarkably effective, writes historian Douglas Selvage in an article featured in a recent issue of the Journal of Cold War Studies; indeed, even more effective than the KGB and Stasi had originally expected. Before long, immense numbers of people around the world (including in the United States) came to believe, falsely, that the U.S. government was responsible for AIDS.

See Lessons From Operation “Denver,” the KGB’s Massive AIDS Disinformation Campaign.

There’s nothing new with Johnson: it’s merely old lies and conspiracy theories, repackaged for our time, and placed in the mouth of a United States Senator from Wisconsin.  

Red-tailed Hawks Live Cam:

A Red-tailed Hawk pair has been nesting above Cornell University’s athletic fields since 2012. They make use of two different light towers for their nest sites. In 2012, 2015, and 2018–2021 they used a tower near Fernow Hall, and in 2013, 2014, and 2016, they used the tower nearest Weill Hall. We installed cameras at both of these sites to get a better look at the intimate behavior of these well-known birds as they raise their young amid the bustle of a busy campus.


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