"The following pages will ... reveal a shocking conspiracy of silence and cover-up..."
This subversive notion — extracted from a locally self-published book, The Truth about the Cause of AIDS — showed up recently downtown. Excerpts from the book, along with order blanks, were stapled to the plywood walls of pedestrian walkways surrounding the construction of the Emerald-Shapery Center on Broadway between State and Columbia, adjacent to the downtown YMCA. The self-described "author-publisher," J.F. Sandelien, who runs his distribution venture out of a private post office box in the Serra Mesa area, subtitles his work A Shocking Conspiracy of Cover-Up and Silence, wherein he implicates everyone from the surgeon general to Scientific American.
Sandelien's conclusion is relatively straightforward: "AIDS is the result of human intervention into the world of microorganisms by the use of immunosuppresive drugs." His solution is equally simple, if not simple-minded: "The use of immunosuppresive drugs must cease at once in order to prevent further spread of AIDS." As he explains in an appendix to his book, immunosuppresive drugs are used on cancer patients and organ-transplant recipients, not to mention animals; the improper use of these drugs has thrown immune defense systems out of whack; therefore, we have an AIDS epidemic.
His treatise is illustrated with schematic diagrams and Greek letters, bizarre metaphors, and appropriately scientific diction: "...microbes (M) causing these diseases (certain bacteria, fungi, viruses, protozoans) were unable to penetrate the immune defense system, except as noted under Group "A." On the surface, the treatise looks convincing enough: the drawings are rendered with meticulous care, and the prose — obviously produced on a manual typewriter — is amazingly free of typographical errors or misspellings.
But Sandelien's treatise explaining the cause of AIDS only takes up 14 pages of his 139-page book. The bulk of his narrative describes a personal and relentless quest to be heard, to be taken seriously, and to be acknowledged as possessing an irrefutable truth.
Beginning with a concise explanation for the AIDS epidemic, Sandelien goes on to build an incredible conspiracy theory, implicating everyone from Alan Cranston to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. He personifies the evil force behind all manner of world travesties as the HYDRA, "a tyrant capable of anything ... capable of committing any crime whatever under cover of some seemingly legitimate undertaking, and he has the power to hoodwink free and independent nations into his net of frauds and swindles." This HYDRA, according to Sandelien, is clearly responsible for "political and economic turmoil" in Central and South America, for the "gigantic swindle" of Eastern Europeans tricked "into believing that the grass is so much greener on the other side of the fence (or wall)," for impending U.S. plans to issue some sort of "new paper money" after milking the AIDS "cow as long as possible and then liquidate all debt, foreign and domestic," and for everything from Iran-Contra to Noriega to "large-scale migrations ... crossing the U.S.-Mexican border."
Prior to writing his book, Sandelien extensively promoted his treatise on AIDs, as shown in another appendix — a collection of photocopied correspondence, a variety of official letterhead, and a slew of certified and registered mail receipts.
He initiated this curious paper trail in the spring of 1985, beginning with the former United States Surgeon General C. Everett Koop; the managing editor of the New York Times, Seymour Topping; and the former Secretary General of the United Nations, Javier Perez de Cuellar. Polite thanks-but-no-thanks replies followed, written by subordinates, which only stirred Sandelien into a flurry of more letter-writing (all of which he documents with care). At one point in November of 1986, following four unanswered letters to Senator Alan Cranston, Sandelien writes a fifth letter in which he states plainly, "By your silence on this matter evidently you have relinquished your duties and responsibilities as United States Senator, and I ask you to please explain why you should not be impeached." A slender epistolary debate follows between Sandelien and the editor of Scientific American, Jonathan Piel, during which Sandelien suggests his letters are being intercepted by unknown others. This exchange is succeeded by a pile of unanswered mail: nine letters to Queen Elizabeth, ten letters to His Majesty King Olav V of Norway, and eleven letters to His Excellency Mikhail S. Gorbachev himself.
These letters span a five-year period. The accumulated lack of serious attention from his correspondence forces Sandelien to conclude that a massive conspiracy indeed exists. In the wake of his struggle to be heard, Sandelien reflects, "What monstrosity instantly appeared with is might tentacles reaching into every nook and cranny of this so-called democratic society to frustrate all my efforts? Certainly no tyrant of the past can measure up to the corrupted power, the arrogance, the insidious venom, and the streamrollering tactics of this monster. Hercules himself with all his might would be utterly helpless confronted with this brand of a HYDRA."
Upon first being contacted (next to his publicly displayed book excerpts, Sandelien stapled order blanks onto the construction-site plywood), the author forwarded a copy of The Truth about the Cause of AIDS along with a perfunctory cover letter. Later, Sandelien — who can only be reached by mail — declined to be interviewed. Each written request for a meeting was returned with photocopies of all previous correspondence. Curtly, Sandelien wrote, "The book must, however, speak for itself."