German AIDS Campaign Uses Hitler in Misguided Effort

Shawn Syms

An AIDS campaign in Germany equates AIDS with mass-murder. But it is a health condition caused by an untreated viral infection and can be prevented through real information and education, not scare tactics.

This article originally appeared on xtra.ca.

It’s two-thirty in the morning and the bedroom door bursts
open. To a thumping disco beat, a man and a woman enter, clearly in the throes
of lust. Within seconds, they’ve torn one another’s clothes off. Seen through
peculiar clouds of mist, they begin to have passionate, rough sex to a strange
soundtrack of eerie noises.

 

Their faces are obscured but guttural gasps and moans fill the room. As the
rutting hits a fever pitch, the deep-thrusting Romeo’s face is suddenly
revealed. You’ll probably recognize this sex machine. Is it Fabio? George
Clooney? Brad Pitt? Guess again.

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It’s Adolf Hitler. Complete with trademark kooky mustache, gasping for breath
with a demented look of orgasmic lust on his face. I’m not joking.

Why has Der Führer risen from the grave to pick up a woman at a nightclub in
2009 and taking her home to “do the nasty”? Because, to the people who came up
with this ludicrous AIDS TV commercial, unprotected sex that could lead to HIV
transmission is just like getting screwed by Hitler. Still scratching your
head? It’s because "AIDS is a mass murderer." And so is Hitler. Get
it?

Wait, there’s more. The lurid advertisement, soon to grace TV and movie screens
across Germany, is accompanied by an equally tacky poster campaign. It seems
Adolf is not the only one getting some — the imagery depicts innocent German
women being defiled by Saddam Hussein and Joseph Stalin.

And in case the history angle starts to feel tired, there is also a rap song,
in German, "Aids ist ein Massenmörder" by Big Danny. I have to admit
that it’s pretty catchy. The music video is shot — of course — in a cemetery.
There’s a banner ad for websites featuring a conveyor belt of body bags. The
"AIDS is a mass murderer" campaign is even on Twitter (@AIDSMASSMURDER).

"The campaign is designed to shake people up," according to its
creators, AIDS-awareness group Regenbogen e.V. and ad agency Das Comitee, who
prepared the materials for World AIDS Day (December 1) but have unleashed them
on the public a bit early. Das Comitee’s creative director Hans Weishäupl told
the (UK) Telegraph that the thinking was that the ad’s shock value could help
prevent new infections.

But scare tactics and misrepresentations of people with HIV
will not help anyone protect themselves, according to German journalist, Rainer
Hoermann. "Fear is never a good advisor," he says, noting that the
campaign suggests those with HIV/AIDS are "oversexed mass murderers."
Describing the Hitler debacle as "a step backward," he recommends
another German HIV campaign, "I Know What I Do." This site (http://www.iwwit.de/)
focuses on personal responsibility and normalizes HIV, allowing people to talk
realistically about their fears and their health, he says.

This campaign is a joke. There is nothing shocking or cutting edge about it.
Its horny Hitler is hilarious. The fact that he, Hussein and Stalin are all
deceased adds a certain necrophiliac irony to the whole cartoonish exercise.
For a campaign with a digital component, they seem to have forgotten the
lessons of Godwin’s Law, which points out the absurdity of making online
comparisons to Adolf Hitler. If anything is disturbing, it’s the fact that the
"logic" behind this campaign makes sense to anyone — especially an
AIDS-awareness group like Regenbogen, whose members include people with HIV.

"AIDS" is not a "mass murderer." It’s a health condition
caused by an untreated viral infection. HIV is the virus that can lead to AIDS,
usually after many years and in the absence of medication. HIV is a significant
medical condition, and there are countless reasons why anyone who doesn’t have
that virus should avoid getting it, and that anyone who does have it should
avoid passing it on to anyone else.

But it doesn’t help anyone to confuse HIV and AIDS with one another, or to
exaggerate the impact of HIV by inextricably linking it to death. Dr Joseph
McGowan of North Shore University Hospital recently counseled a parent about
her 10-year-old son’s HIV infection on the medical website TheBody.com:
"If he is monitored carefully there is no reason your son ever has to
progress to AIDS. He can expect to live a very long life." This is the
current reality of HIV for most people in developed countries. The constant,
hyper-emotional assertion that HIV equals guaranteed death ought to be calmly
challenged every time it rears its insistent head. Neither is it
"murder."

And since "AIDS" is not a person, let alone a "murderer,"
who are we really talking about here? Of course, we are talking about people
who have HIV in their bodies. The Regenbogen campaign isn’t actually about AIDS
itself at all. It’s about the risks of (presumably unprotected) sex with regard
to HIV transmission, arguing that passing on HIV is akin to Nazism, and
suggesting that the other person engaging in sex has no role other than that of
victim. Notably, the mass murderers in the campaign are all men and their
victims are all women. Meanwhile, the most recent high-profile
HIV-criminalization case in Germany targeted a woman, Nadja Benaissa of the pop
group No Angels.

Indeed, the women depicted in the Regenbogen advertisements
are basically treated as objects, as vessels of infection. As sexual educator
Leanne Cusitar points out, “Women are not helpless. Women have agency over
their bodies. They may struggle with that like anyone does, especially given
power inequities with men—but that doesn’t mean that agency ceases to exist.”
Of course it was easy for this campaign’s creators to rely on standard Western
cultural tropes about female sexuality. I’d love to see a mainstream AIDS
campaign that could embody a vision of women’s sexuality that eschews
victimization.

And did the campaigners not think twice about wrongly comparing human sexual
behaviour to the Holocaust, and inappropriately demonizing people with HIV in
the process? The insistence on seeing HIV transmission as villainy obscures the
most stubborn fact about the epidemic — far from being the realm of malevolent
or sociopathic people, HIV is transmitted through behaviors that are otherwise
completely natural and normal, such as penetrative intercourse — or behaviors
that may often be hard to control rather than "intentional," such as
needle sharing in the context of addiction. We already know that those most
infectious with HIV usually don’t know they have it, and that most women and
men with diagnosed HIV take great pains to prevent further transmission.

Of course, Regenbogen and Das Comitee don’t have a monopoly on hyperbolic
exaggeration about the impact of HIV, or on promoting the idea that HIV
transmission is the work of bad people. In Canada, the legal system adopted the
surreal notion that when HIV transmission occurs, this means one person is
attempting to murder another (Canada was the first legal jurisdiction to use
the charge of “murder” in relation to HIV transmission, in the case against
Johnson Aziga).

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU),
roughly half of U.S. states have HIV-specific laws criminalizing sexual contact
by people with HIV. Internationally, the Global Network of People Living with
HIV (GNP+) is tracking such laws around the world, and the picture is not
pretty. As GNP+ points out, these laws are based in an exaggerated sense of the
risk and harm of unprotected sex, and do little to prevent transmission.

The "AIDS is a mass murderer" Hitler campaign
isn’t the first time the phrase "mass murder" has been applied to the
AIDS pandemic. In 2003, Stephen Lewis, then the UN’s special envoy for HIV/AIDS
in Africa, described the crisis as "mass murder by complacency." He
wasn’t talking about people’s sex lives though. He was talking about treatment
access. Medical advances mean that HIV is no longer necessarily fatal — if you
have access to drugs. For so many people around the world, that still isn’t the
case, and that is something that’s truly shocking and worthy of our anger and
righteous indignation.

Let’s stop clouding the issues with scare tactics and Swastikas — and focus on
what we really need: realistic sex education targeting specific at-risk
communities, new prevention tools beyond condoms to help people play safe, and
access to medical treatment so all people with HIV can be as uninfectious as
possible and live long, healthy lives.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Trump Selects Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to Join His Ticket

Ally Boguhn

And in other news, Donald Trump suggested that he can relate to Black people who are discriminated against because the system has been rigged against him, too. But he stopped short of saying he understood the experiences of Black Americans.

Donald Trump announced this week that he had selected Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) to join him as his vice presidential candidate on the Republican ticket, and earlier in the week, the presumptive presidential nominee suggested to Fox News that he could relate to Black Americans because the “system is rigged” against him too.

Pence Selected to Join the GOP Ticket 

After weeks of speculation over who the presumptive nominee would chose as his vice presidential candidate, Trump announced Friday that he had chosen Pence.

“I am pleased to announce that I have chosen Governor Mike Pence as my Vice Presidential running mate,” Trump tweeted Friday morning, adding that he will make the official announcement on Saturday during a news conference.

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The presumptive Republican nominee was originally slated to host the news conference Friday, but postponed in response to Thursday’s terrorist attack in Nice, France. As late as Thursday evening, Trump told Fox News that he had not made a final decision on who would join his ticket—even as news reports came in that he had already selected Pence for the position.

As Rewire Editor in Chief Jodi Jacobson explained in a Thursday commentary, Pence “has problems with the truth, isn’t inclined to rely on facts, has little to no concern for the health and welfare of the poorest, doesn’t understand health care, and bases his decisions on discriminatory beliefs.” Jacobson further explained: 

He has, for example, eagerly signed laws aimed at criminalizing abortion, forcing women to undergo unnecessary ultrasounds, banning coverage for abortion care in private insurance plans, and forcing doctors performing abortions to seek admitting privileges at hospitals (a requirement the Supreme Court recently struck down as medically unnecessary in the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case). He signed a ‘religious freedom’ law that would have legalized discrimination against LGBTQ persons and only ‘amended’ it after a national outcry. Because Pence has guided public health policy based on his ‘conservative values,’ rather than on evidence and best practices in public health, he presided over one of the fastest growing outbreaks of HIV infection in rural areas in the United States.

Trump Suggests He Can Relate to Black Americans Because “Even Against Me the System Is Rigged”

Trump suggested to Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly that he could relate to the discrimination Black Americans face since “the system [was] rigged” against him when he began his run for president.

When asked during a Tuesday appearance on The O’Reilly Factor what he would say to those “who believe that the system is biased against them” because they are Black, Trump leaped to highlight what he deemed to be discrimination he had faced. “I have been saying even against me the system is rigged. When I ran … for president, I mean, I could see what was going on with the system, and the system is rigged,” Trump responded.

“What I’m saying [is] they are not necessarily wrong,” Trump went on. “I mean, there are certain people where unfortunately that comes into play,” he said, concluding that he could “relate it, really, very much to myself.”

When O’Reilly asked Trump to specify whether he truly understood the “experience” of Black Americans, Trump said that he couldn’t, necessarily. 

“I would like to say yes, but you really can’t unless you are African American,” said Trump. “I would like to say yes, however.”

Trump has consistently struggled to connect with Black voters during his 2016 presidential run. Despite claiming to have “a great relationship with the blacks,” the presumptive Republican nominee has come under intense scrutiny for using inflammatory rhetoric and initially failing to condemn white supremacists who offered him their support.

According to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll released Tuesday, Trump is polling at 0 percent among Black voters in the key swing states of Ohio and Pennsylvania.

What Else We’re Reading

Newt Gingrich, who was one of Trump’s finalists for the vice presidential spot, reacted to the terrorist attack in Nice, France, by calling for all those in the United States with a “Muslim background” to face a test to determine if they “believe in sharia” and should be deported.

Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton threw her support behind a public option for health insurance.

Bloomberg Politics’ Greg Stohr reports that election-related cases—including those involving voter-identification requirements and Ohio’s early-voting period—are moving toward the Supreme Court, where they are “risking deadlocks.”

According to a Reuters review of GOP-backed changes to North Carolina’s voting rules, “as many as 29,000 votes might not be counted in this year’s Nov. 8 presidential election if a federal appeals court upholds” a 2013 law that bans voters from casting ballots outside of their assigned precincts.

The Wall Street Journal reported on the election goals and strategies of anti-choice organization Susan B. Anthony List, explaining that the organization plans to work to ensure that policy goals such as a 20-week abortion ban and defunding Planned Parenthood “are the key issues that it will use to rally support for its congressional and White House candidates this fall, following recent setbacks in the courts.”

Multiple “dark money” nonprofits once connected to the Koch brothers’ network were fined by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) this week after hiding funding sources for 2010 political ads. They will now be required to “amend past FEC filings to disclose who provided their funding,” according to the Center for Responsive Politics. 

Politico’s Matthew Nussbaum and Ben Weyl explain how Trump’s budget would end up “making the deficit great again.”

“The 2016 Democratic platform has the strongest language on voting rights in the party’s history,” according to the Nation’s Ari Berman.

Roundups Politics

Trump Taps Extremists, Anti-Choice Advocates in Effort to Woo Evangelicals

Ally Boguhn

Representatives from radical anti-abortion group Operation Rescue praised Trump’s commitment to its shared values during the event. “I’m very impressed that Mr. Trump would sit with conservative leaders for multiple questions, and then give direct answers,” said the organization's president, Troy Newman, who was in attendance at a question-and-answer event on Tuesday.

Making a play to win over the evangelical community, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump met with more than 1,000 faith and anti-choice leaders on Tuesday for a question-and-answer event in New York City and launched an “evangelical advisory board” to weigh in on how he should approach key issues for the voting bloc.

The meeting was meant to be “a guided discussion between Trump and diverse conservative Christian leaders to better understand him as a person, his position on important issues and his vision for America’s future,” according to a press release from the event’s organizers. As Rewire previously reported, numerous anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ leaders—many of them extremists—were slated to attend.

Though the event was closed to the media, Trump reportedly promised to lift a ban on tax-exempt organizations from politicking and discussed his commitment to defending religious liberties. Trump’s pitch to conservatives also included a resolution that upon his election, “the first thing we will do is support Supreme Court justices who are talented men and women, and pro-life,” according to a press release from United in Purpose, which helped organize the event.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-choice Susan B. Anthony List, told the New York Times that the business mogul also reiterated promises to defund Planned Parenthood and to pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a 20-week abortion ban based on the medically unsupported claim that a fetus feels pain at that point in a pregnancy.

In a post to its website, representatives from radical anti-abortion group Operation Rescue praised Trump’s commitment to their shared values during the event. “I’m very impressed that Mr. Trump would sit with conservative leaders for multiple questions, and then give direct answers,” said the group’s president, Troy Newman, who was in attendance. “I don’t believe anything like this has ever happened.” The post went on to note that Trump had also said he would appoint anti-choice justices to federal courts, and repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Just after the event, Trump’s campaign announced the formation of an evangelical advisory board. The group was “convened to provide advisory support to Mr. Trump on those issues important to Evangelicals and other people of faith in America,” according to a press release from the campaign. Though members of the board, which will lead Trump’s “much larger Faith and Cultural Advisory Committee to be announced later this month,” were not asked to endorse Trump, the campaign went on to note that “the formation of the board represents Donald J. Trump’s endorsement of those diverse issues important to Evangelicals and other Christians, and his desire to have access to the wise counsel of such leaders as needed.”

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Much like the group that met with Trump on Tuesday, the presumptive Republican nominee’s advisory board roster reads like a who’s-who of conservatives with radical opposition to abortion and LGBTQ equality. Here are some of the group’s most notable members:

Michele Bachmann

Though former Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann once claimed that “women don’t need anyone to tell them what to do on health care” while arguing against the ACA during a 2012 appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press, her views on the government’s role in restricting reproductive health and rights don’t square away with that position.

During a December 2011 “tele-town hall” event hosted by anti-choice organization Personhood USA, Bachmann reportedly falsely referred to emergency contraception as “abortion pills” and joined other Republican then-presidential candidates to advocate for making abortion illegal, even in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. During the event, Bachmann touted her support of the anti-choice group’s “personhood pledge,” which required presidential candidates to agree that:

I stand with President Ronald Reagan in supporting “the unalienable personhood of every American, from the moment of conception until natural death,” and with the Republican Party platform in affirming that I “support a human life amendment to the Constitution, and endorse legislation to make clear that the 14th Amendment protections apply to unborn children.

Such a policy, if enacted by lawmakers, could outlaw abortion and many forms of contraception. A source from Personhood USA told the Huffington Post that Bachmann “signed the pledge and returned it within twenty minutes, which was an extraordinarily short amount of time.”

Bachmann has also claimed that God told her to introduce a measure to block marriage equality in her home state, that being an LGBTQ person is “ part of Satan,” and that same-sex marriage is a “radical experiment that will have “profound consequences.”

Mark Burns

Televangelist Mark Burns has been an ardent supporter of Trump, even appearing on behalf of the presidential candidate at February’s Faith and Family Forum, hosted by the conservative Palmetto Family Council, to deliver an anti-abortion speech.

In March, Burns also claimed that he supported Donald Trump because Democrats like Hillary Clinton supported Black “genocide” (a frequently invoked conservative myth) during an appearance on the fringe-conspiracy program, the Alex Jones show. “That’s really one of my major platforms behind Donald Trump,” said Burns, according to the Daily Beast. “He loves babies. Donald Trump is a pro-baby candidate, and it saddens me how we as African Americans are rallying behind … a party that is okay with the genocide of Black people through abortion.”

Burns’ support of Trump extended to the candidate’s suggestion that if abortion was made illegal, those who have abortions should be punished—an issue on which Trump has repeatedly shifted stances. “If the state made it illegal and said the premature death of an unborn child constituted murder, anyone connected to that crime should be held liable,” Burns told the Wall Street Journal in April. “If you break the law there should be punishment.”

Kenneth and Gloria Copeland

Kenneth and Gloria Copeland founded Kenneth Copeland Ministries (KCM), which, according to its mission statement, exists to “teach Christians worldwide who they are in Christ Jesus and how to live a victorious life in their covenant rights and privileges.” Outlining their opposition to abortion in a post this month on the organization’s website, the couple wrote that abortion is wrong even in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. “As the author of life, God considers an unborn child to be an eternal being from the moment of its conception,” explained the post. “To deliberately destroy that life before birth would be as much premeditated murder as taking the life of any other innocent person.”

The article went on to say that though it may “seem more difficult in cases such as those involving rape or incest” not to choose abortion, “God has a plan for the unborn child,” falsely claiming that the threat of life endangerment has “been almost completely alleviated through modern medicine.”

The ministries’ website also features Pregnancy Options Centre, a crisis pregnancy center (CPC) in Vancouver, Canada, that receives “financial and spiritual support” from KCM and “its Partners.” The vast majority of CPCs  regularly lie to women in order to persuade them not to have an abortion.

Kenneth Copeland, in a June 2013 sermon, tied pedophilia to the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, going on to falsely claim that the ruling did not actually legalize abortion and that the decision was “the seed to murder our seed.” Copeland blamed legal abortion for the country’s economic woes, reasoning that there are “several million taxpayers that are not alive.”

Copeland, a televangelist, originally supported former Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (TX) in the 2016 Republican primary, claiming that the candidate had been “called and appointed” by God to be the next president. His ministry has previously faced scrutiny about its tax-exempt status under an investigation led by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) into six ministries “whose television preaching bankrolled leaders’ lavish lifestyles.” This investigation concluded in 2011, according to the New York Times.

James Dobson

James Dobson, founder and chairman emeritus of Focus on the Family (FoF), previously supported Cruz in the Republican primary, releasing an ad for the campaign in February praising Cruz for defending “the sanctity of human life and traditional marriage.” As Rewire previously reported, both Dobson and his organization hold numerous extreme views:

Dobson’s FoF has spent millions promoting its anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ extremism, even dropping an estimated $2.5 million in 2010 to fund an anti-choice Super Bowl ad featuring conservative football player Tim Tebow. Dobson also founded the … Family Research Council, now headed by Tony Perkins.

Dobson’s own personal rhetoric is just as extreme as the causes his organization pushes. As extensively documented by Right Wing Watch,

Dobson has:

Robert Jeffress

A Fox News contributor and senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, Jeffress once suggested that the 9/11 attacks took place because of legal abortion. “All you have to do is look in history to see what God does with a nation that sanctions the killing of its own children,” said Jeffress at Liberty University’s March 2015 convocation, according to Right Wing Watch. “God will not allow sin to go unpunished and he certainly won’t allow the sacrifice of children to go unpunished.”

Jeffress spoke about the importance of electing Trump during a campaign rally in February, citing Democrats’ positions on abortion rights and Trump’s belief “in protecting the unborn.” He went on to claim that if Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) or Hillary Clinton were elected, “there is no doubt you’re going to have the most pro-abortion president in history.”

After Trump claimed women who have abortions should be punished should it become illegal, Jeffres rushed to defend the Republican candidate from bipartisan criticism, tweeting: “Conservatives’ outrage over @realDonaldTrump abortion comments hypocritical. Maybe they don’t really believe abortion is murder.”

As documented by Media Matters, Jeffress has frequently spoken out against those of other religions and denominations, claiming that Islam is “evil” and Catholicism is “what Satan does with counterfeit religion.” The pastor has also demonstrated extreme opposition to LGBTQ equality, even claiming that same-sex marriage is a sign of the apocalypse.

Richard Land

Richard Land, now president of the Southern Evangelical Seminary, was named one of Time Magazine‘s “25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America” in 2005 for his close ties with the Republican party. While George W. Bush was president, Land participated in the administration’s “weekly teleconference with other Christian conservatives, to plot strategy on such issues as gay marriage and abortion.” Bush also appointed Land to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in 2002.

According to a 2002 article from the Associated Press, during his early academic career in Texas, “Land earned a reputation as a leader among abortion opponents and in 1987 became an administrative assistant to then-Texas Gov. Bill Clements, who fought for laws to restrict a woman’s right to an abortion” in the state.

Land had previously expressed “dismay” that some evangelicals were supporting Trump, claiming in October that he “take[s] that [support] as a failure on our part to adequately disciple our people.”