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Letters to the Editor 

Week of Wednesday, May 12, 2004

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Secret Service (from editor John Mecklin)

As you may or may not have noticed, our Dog Bites column has a relatively new MC -- the incomparable Matt Palmquist -- who has over the last few months filed its teeth, added new comic features, and extended its reach around the globe.

OK, so we haven't gotten any letters from Baghdad yet (that's a shout-out to you, Proconsul Bremer), but we did get a note from the nation's capital, complaining that Dog Bites didn't tell the whole truth when it made fun of a golf outing planned for this year's ultrahip convention of alternative weeklies in San Antonio:

Golf -- isn't that a Volkswagen?: In your haste to poke fun at our golf tournament ["You Know the Altpress Is in Trouble When ...," May 5], you neglected to mention a crucial fact: The annual event was founded in 2000 by New Times, when the gentlemen who own your company graciously hosted our convention in Phoenix. Sadly the croquet competition never caught on.

Richard Karpel
Executive Director
Association of Alternative Newsweeklies
Washington, D.C.

As I've already informed Mr. Karpel and Richard Ben-Veniste, there was no cover-up. Had Dog Bites known its parent company was involved in the golfing of alternative journalism, Dog Bites would have -- I can assure you -- acted accordingly. Very accordingly.

Since we last communed here on the Letters page, I've received multiple e-mail messages that seem to come from Michael Petrelis, one of the more intense members of San Francisco's resident gadfly swarm. He, too, complains that the full truth about a matter of import has not been made public.

Toward the end of his digital onslaught, I asked for clarification:

Past imperfect: Why are you sending me these messages, none of which seems to involve recent issues? Just curious as to the point.

John Mecklin
Editor
SF Weekly

I got this response:

What was that again about Sweat and Inspiration?: Just to inform you about a part of [Jeff] Sheehy's past with the FBI, and others, like [U.S. Rep. Nancy] Pelosi, who played a role in trying to have me charged under the PATRIOT Act for domestic terrorism. Thought you'd want to be informed about some activities of Newsom's soon-to-be named AIDS czar.

And I read the letters in the SFW, along with your comments, and got inspired to send you stuff.
Michael Petrelis
Via the Internet

It's nice to have fans, but I think, on the whole, I'd prefer not to inspire Mr. Petrelis. Here's a short history of why:

Petrelis and a cohort, David Pasquarelli, were arrested in the fall of 2001 on a variety of felony and misdemeanor charges related to threatening and/or annoying phone calls they made to public health officials, including the aforementioned Mr. Sheehy, a press officer for UCSF's AIDS Research Institute, and newspaper reporters, among them a San Francisco Chronicle scribe. Both Petrelis and Pasquarelli subsequently pleaded guilty to misdemeanors and were placed on probation.

This greatly compressed account does not do justice to the activities these two men were involved in. According to a variety of press reports, both men styled themselves as AIDS activists. But their "activism" has been, to put it nicely, scary and perverse. When Petrelis' e-mails began arriving, I was already at work on a column about Pasquarelli, a member of the loathsome group ACT UP San Francisco, who spent much of his adult life advocating the crackpot "theory" that the human immunodeficiency virus is not the cause of AIDS, and who died in March.

I could go into detail about this "theory," but won't, because if I did, someone, somewhere might just begin to believe the "theory" has a tiny little sliver of an iota of validity. It has none. HIV causes AIDS, and the exchange of bodily fluids, especially during anal sex, spreads the malady; there is damn near scientific unanimity on the subject. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say on their Web site: "AIDS is caused by infection with a virus called human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)."

Despite this proven reality, Pasquarelli and others associated with ACT UP S.F. put out a very tight rap for a very long time, telling the credulous, the naive, and the psychologically broken that it was not HIV, but AIDS treatment drugs developed by evil corporate interests and hawked by the AIDS-prevention community, that actually caused the epidemic. By encouraging unsafe sex and avoidance of AIDS drugs, this rap has, in my opinion and in the opinion of others, led to many premature deaths, here and elsewhere. It appears that the deadly HIV-denialist myth even spread to Africa, where the AIDS epidemic rages with nation-threatening consequences, and where, not so very long ago, then-South African President Thabo Mbeki was investigating the "theory" while straightforward efforts to deal with the plague stalled.

Besides giving people "information" that, if believed and acted upon, might kill them, Pasquarelli and his ACT UP S.F. friends spent great amounts of time disrupting the efforts of legitimate AIDS-prevention experts to spread the word about ways to avoid HIV infection and ways to live longer, should infection occur. The disruptions were accompanied by a truly frightening campaign of telephonic harassment.

It was, in the end, the recorded phone messages Pasquarelli left that finally got him prosecuted. Because people on the left always want to come down on the side of free expression and "activists," I think it's probably a good thing, just now, to quote one such message, as a way of distinguishing it from anything decent people do:

Where is your so-called study published, you sawed-off, syphilitic Nazi fuck? Queers are so fucking sick of you going to the media and scapegoating our community and collaborating with the enemy so that now we have proposals of quarantine. So you sawed-off fuck ... you better shut your face and not go to the media anymore if you want to keep talking. Queers are going to revolt. [emphasis mine]

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