16 July 2003

South Africa: Cops Kill Aids Dissident

Durban — Prominent American HIV/Aids denialist William Cooper, whose bizarre book "Behold a Pale Horse" was circulated to South Africa's provincial health MECs, has been shot dead by Arizona police.

Cooper died during a pavement shootout when Arizona police tried to arrest him on public endangerment and assault charges in November 2001.

His death, previously unreported in South Africa, leaves a delusional legacy of conspiracy theories that dispute the link between HIV and AIDS, and instead claim the pandemic was artificially engineered to destroy part of humanity in preparation for an extra-terrestrial or alien colonisation of Earth.

National health minister Manto distributed extracts from Cooper's book to MECs in August 2000 in apparent support of the government's own questions about a causal link between HIV and Aids, and the effectiveness of antiretroviral drugs.

Tshabalala-Msimang later publicly defended Cooper's contentious theories during an acrimonious interview with 702 Radio host John Robbie. Robbie was widely criticised for branding Tshabalala-Msimang's views as "rubbish".

The insult was, however, a commonplace description of Cooper's work.

Cooper, who ran a syndicated American radio show, had been on the run from federal authorities in the United States since 1998 after allegedly defrauding a bank.

Local Arizona police initially advised federal agents to postpone arresting Cooper, who they described as "increasingly paranoid and delusional".

The delay allowed Cooper the space and time to win fame as the inventor of the "unified conspiracy theory" that purports to explain everything from John F Kennedy's assassination, to a supposed sinister struggle for world domination by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Jews, the Freemasons, aliens and ancient secret societies.

Cooper also frequently insisted he was the commander of a 'Second Continental Army of the Republic' in apparent reference to George Washington's command of anti-colonial forces, and claimed to be the leader of the far-rightwing Arizona Militia.

Cooper's website goes even further and praises the "Christian" ethos of the Klu Klux Klan, but letters to the Mail&Guardian during the height of his official popularity in South Africa vehemently denied membership of the racist order.

Cooper's central belief, as explained in his books and website, centre on the theory that a shadowy race of aliens have begun infiltrating Earth in preparation for a full-scale invasion. The charismatic 'radio jock' insists that Kennedy was killed when he threatened to blow the whistle on the pending invasion.

His books also argue that the aliens had determined that homosexuals, blacks and Hispanics were most likely to "cause trouble" and therefore needed to be wiped out using an artificually created Aids virus.

His growing paranoia appears to have prompted an unprovoked assault on a passing motorist on 06 November 2001, sparking the fatal raid by Arizona police that left Cooper dead and an officer paralysed after two shots to the head.

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