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Detrimental Literary Structures

"The Smoking Gun" 12/3/06

Legal Notice(17)

A Close Read
by Jim West



Roberts' Description (12/3/2006)
Of Popovic's Draft (1984)

"The Smoking Gun" is a falsely argued topic originating in Janine Roberts' article, "HIVGATE".(4)  It is featured in various articles, books, and interviews – claiming that lab technician Mikulas Popovic sharply contradicted lab chief Robert Gallo over virus causation for AIDS within the first edited draft of their paper, published in Science Magazine, May 1984.(12)  

The Smoking Gun eventually became the core of "The Letter To Science", which demands the Popovic-Gallo paper be retracted from Science Magazine.  The Letter was written primarily by Roberts, edited by David Crowe and Christine Maggiore, promoted by Rethinking AIDS, signed by 42 professionals, and sent to Science.

Roberts fabricates(2) claims with drama, innuendo, false paraphrase, description, and omission.  (Synopsis available.)

The Smoking Gun, topic, by Janine Roberts
(version 12/3/2006, at SparksOfLight website)


Roberts omits the Abstract (Popovic's draft, page 2, displayed at left).

Roberts does not discuss Popovic's abstract.(3)  

Gallo's notation contradicts Roberts' portrayal of Popovic and Gallo as fundamentally opposed.

Gallo marked out the entire abstract and wrote, "This is rather trivial for a putative breakthrough paper for Science" ( i.e., a supposed breakthrough paper).

Thus, Gallo is obviously referring to previous discussions of concept.  There is little reason to assume they are fundamentally opposed, at this late stage, prior to publication.

Popovic and Gallo are presenting their research on HIV according to normal scientific protocol for a "putative breakthrough paper" (an assumed breakthrough paper).  It is not for them to explicitly make a heroic claim of "breakthrough".  That would be for others to judge in the context of four of their studies being published as a set in Science Magazine.

After Crewdson published his 2002 book Science Fictions, he made available many of the inquiry documents he had acquired much earlier under Freedom of Information legislation.

Roberts correctly refers to the archived collection of John Crewdson, journalist for The Chicago Tribune, who wrote the book on Gallo's plagiarizing of Montagnier.(6)

Roberts incorrectly states "after", when the documents were actually availed earlier.  This  allows a false sense that Roberts was accessing more recently availed work, rather than established, well-known documents.  There is even an allowed sense that Crewdson availed these documents directly to Roberts, especially in light of the following pretense of paper documents, which appear as a pile on the desk, wrapped in brown paper and tied with string.

I trawled through these, hoping to discover the Popovic draft of the lead Science paper – and was thrilled when it turned up at the bottom of the heap.

Roberts dramatically portrays special discovery of the critical Popovic draft, and takes credit with, "I trawled through... hoping...thrilled... ".

Roberts' phrase, "bottom of the heap", refers to online documents already at Crewdson's well-known site, where documents are clearly indexed on a single page.(5)

Roberts pretends little or no knowledge of prior dissident work.  Yet, why was Roberts doing this particular field of research if not already read and skeptical, as taught by ongoing dissident work amassed since the early 1980s?  Roberts appears to be plagiarizing the entirety of AIDS dissident research.

THE SMOKING GUN The Title, defined, means "conclusive proof", or "indisputable evidence".

The draft I found had been heavily edited by hand, with comments in the margin like 'Mika, you are crazy!' - Mika being what Gallo called Mikulos Popovic. The investigators confirmed the handwritten changes were by Gallo, and said these were 'highly instructive with respect to the nature and intent of Dr. Gallo's actions'. Fortunately the underlying typed text was still mostly legible. I started to read it very carefully. {p5}

1) Roberts portrays opposition between Popovic and Gallo.

Yet, Roberts omits page numbers.  Such omissions enhance the possibilities for dramatic misrepresentation.

Roberts does not even describe page position in relation to the topic.  Roberts presents this page out of sequence, even though The Smoking Gun is written in the style of a detective-sleuthing page-turner.

This is page 5.  Roberts' page sequence is 5, 3, 4.  It would be impossible for the reader to know the sequence without searching through the draft. 


2) Roberts' misrepresents ORI's scope.

a) Roberts truncates ORI's sentence, "highly instructive...", thus Roberts falsely modifies ORI's scope from the specific to the general.  The actual sentence is, "highly instructive with respect to the nature and intent of Dr. Gallo's actions in writing the disputed paragraph."  This pertains to the penultimate paragraph of the published paper, regarding phrases evidencing purported plagiarism of LAV. 

Roberts also omits the word "disputed", a word that ORI uses to maintain its narrow scope.

b) Roberts also modified ORI's scope by writing, "with comments in the margin like 'Mika, you are crazy!'"

Roberts' "like" is false.  There is no other such comment by Gallo in the draft.  His comment pertains to one specific comment about one specific sentence about LAV. 

ORI actually wrote:  "Dr. Gallo's handwritten note beside the deletion of the references to LAV states: 'Mika, you are crazy.' "  This shows clearly that ORI's scope is specific to LAV.

Oddly, Roberts and ORI attribute significance to Gallo's deletions, yet neither give significance to Gallo's deletion of his own comment.

On the very first page {p3} Popovic admitted the French virus 'LAV' was 'described here as HTLV-III' - thus saying that they were disguising it as their own virus. Gallo had crossed out this admission and noted alongside 'I just don't believe it.' This deletion was no surprise to me. It confirmed what the Investigators had said of this draft. It was conclusive proof that the French virus was secretly used.

The Introduction (page 3, HTLV associated diseases)

With the context out of scope,

Roberts demeans Gallo by dramatizing Gallo's plagiarism scandal.  Roberts mixes this acknowledged and resolved scandal with the virological proof scandal argument.

This item also dramatizes Roberts' claim of opposition between Gallo and Popovic.  Roberts writes, "conclusive proof" and "secretly used", though legal conclusions are that LAV had contaminated the Gallo lab, and led to Gallo's erred interpretations.(6)

Roberts writes, "On the very first page".  In a page-turner, the reader might assume, "On the very next page".  This was sensed when Gene Semon, while reviewing The Smoking Gun, noted something was wrong after initially being unable to find Roberts' subject matter in the draft.  Jim West encountered similar problems, which lead to closer readings and this review.

Popovic moves through the introduction with epidemiological and clinical summaries, towards the virological topics.

Note:  In terms of nomenclature, "LAV" (Montagnier's retrovirus) and "HTLV" (Gallo's family of retroviruses), are semantic precursors to "HIV".

I turned the page {p4} and was riveted. Popovic reported on the next page {still p4}: 'Despite intensive research efforts, the causative agent of AIDS has not yet been identified.'  I read it again and again. It was in the present tense - and thus apparently applied to their experiments with the French virus. Gallo had deleted it by putting a line through it - but every word was clearly legible.

The introduction (page 4, HTLV culture and isolation)

"The Smoking Gun" is discovered.

Roberts claims the sentence ("Despite...") shows Popovic is in opposition to Gallo.  For purposes of review, this is hereby designated sentence #1 (of the 2nd paragraph of the introduction, draft).  (See Draft-Overview)

Gallo deletes sentence #1:  "Despite intensive research efforts, the causative agent of AIDS has not yet been identified." 

Roberts indicates page 4, with, "I turned the page", then states, "the next page", which puts the reader incorrectly at page 5.  This maintains page-turner rhythm, though no page was turned.

Roberts has dramatized into existence the discovery of a great scandal without actually specifying a scandal.  At this point, it's hype, innuendo, supported by mischaracterizations.

Context is avoided.

Having claimed the scandal, Roberts is now required to review the surrounding context.  Instead, Roberts disconnects the next two sentences, in the next paragraph, as follows.

This was totally unexpected. Nothing I had read prepared me for this. No report, whether by the Investigators or by Crewdson, in scientific journals or in histories of AIDS science, had reported these words, let alone their deletion by Gallo.

Roberts dramatizes the great independent non-discovery of the scandalous sentence #1 ("Despite intensive...").  This puts psychological space between it and the adjacent next sentence #2 ("we have proposed...").  (See Draft-Overview)

Popovic's adjacent sentence #2 contradicts Roberts.  It reads, "we have proposed that [the agent] causing AIDS is a retrovirus from a family of HTLV." 

Together, sentences #1 and #2 represent status quo and proposed resolution.  The proposal, stated by Popovic, is supported by the four papers, which they are preparing, to be published as a set in Science, May 1984.(8)

I then checked this against the published version and found it was changed at the last moment to say exactly the opposite, When published it read; 'That a retrovirus of the HTLV family might be an etiological agent of AIDS was suggested by the findings'.

Instead of confronting the meaning of adjacent sentence #2, or interpreting it as the replacement for sentence #1, Roberts temporarily skips sentence #2, and packs in five more mischaracterizations of sentence #1, associating it with sentence #3 (as the replacement for #1), which makes The Smoking Gun itself (the deletion of sentence #1), a Red Herring. 

See detail, below.

Roberts claims sentence #1 is changed (in addition to deleted).  But no change actually occurred, just the deletion.
Roberts claims sentence #1 was changed to a new sentence ("That a retrovirus...").  Actually, this 'new' sentence already exists as sentence #3 in the draft and as published sentence C (It is important to refer to Published-Overview from here on).
Roberts claims sentence #1 was changed "to say exactly the opposite", thereby compounding a sense of opposition between Gallo and Popovic.  Yet sentence #1 declares a negative status quo, and any subsequent exposition, any proposal, would of course be oppositional.
Roberts' phrase, "at the last moment" has no relationship.  Roberts doesn't say when the supposed change occurred.  Is this "last moment" before submission or publication or what?  The draft is undated. 

The phrase implies another unspecified, unsupported scandal.  This implication functions as a non-sequitur, sidetracking the reader with more suspicions.  The phrase further disconnects the sentences. 

The phrase is fiction layered onto fiction, and thus it is doubly irrelevant to reality.

Roberts truncates perception of sentence C by omitting the required ellipsis ("..."), thus creating problems for the reader.
    Roberts quotes sentence C, like this:

'That a retrovirus of the HTLV family might be an etiological agent of AIDS was suggested by the findings'.

The sentence ends with an apostrophe and period the reverse of the normal. 


Readers might automatically correct or assume they are reading a complete sentence, like this:

'That a retrovirus of the HTLV family might be an etiological agent of AIDS was suggested by the findings.'


Thinking the correction was made, the reader might move on.  But the sentence is still incorrect, though its incompleteness is not indicated to the reader.  It is merely the first part of a lengthy sentence that includes supporting citations, like this:

"That a retrovirus of the HTLV family might be an etiological agent of AIDS was suggested by the findings (i)..., (ii)..., (iii)..., (iv)..., (v)..., (vi)..., (vii)..., (iv)... ."


At a minimum, Roberts should have included one elipsis, like this:

'That a retrovirus of the HTLV family might be an etiological agent of AIDS was suggested by the findings...'


The ellipsis invites the reader to look deeper.  Its omission protects Roberts.

Draft Overview

At left, placed for this review, is a copy of the introduction, the third paragraph, page 4 of the draft, marked up by Gallo.

Three sentences are particularly described in The Smoking Gun:

Sentence #1 ("Despite intensive...") is simply Popovic's description of a negative status quo, setting up sentence #2, which is their proposal.  It is presented as a solution to the negative status quo. 

Because sentence #1 apparently invites argument from competing studies, because it is too simplistic, absolute, and unnecessary, Gallo marks it out.

Sentence #2 is team member Popovic's introduction of their proposal, i.e., the underlying basis of their studies.  He writes, "...we have proposed that [the agent] causing AIDS is a retrovirus from a family of HTLV."  This was published.

Sentence #3 ("This assumption...") restates the proposal, which was stated initially in sentence #2, then cites a list of supporting studies.  This was published.

There is a high probability that any three adjacent sentences in the same paragraph of a scientific document are going to relate to each other.  The destruction of those relationships allows free reign without contextual limitations.(13)

Why was such a critical change not reported by the investigators? They must have seen it. They had cited passages before and after this deletion. Was it because it brought into question the cause of AIDS? Was this one step too far for them? 

Roberts hypes the non-discovery, the non-change, as "critical".

Roberts hypes with a series of questions that presume a valid object.

Roberts is marching in place, increasing psychological distance to the adjacent next sentence #2 with the words, "step", "far" and "too much".

Just a few lines further down Popovic described as an  'assumption' {sentence #3} (before Gallo deleted this word) Gallo's theory that  'the cause of AIDS is a retrovirus from the family of HTLV.' {sentence #2}

{Roberts = Black, Popovic = Blue, Gallo= Red}

Sentence #2 (Introduction, page 4, draft)

This may be evidence that Roberts is consciously working.

Roberts builds an unreal composite of Popovic-Gallo by fusing sentences #2 and #3, and fusing versions of Popovic with Gallo.  The net effect is a dismissal of both sentences #2 and #3 as mischaracterized Popovic/Gallo opposition. 

In detail, Roberts,

Distances adjacent sentence #2 from sentence #1 with, "a few lines further down...".

References "assumption" (sentence #3) in the process of misquoting sentence #2, with both Popovic and Gallo versions.

Demonstrates awareness that "assumption" (sentence #3) is the very proposal described by, "we have proposed" (sentence #2).  The claim that this is "Gallo's theory" could be evidence of conscious mischaracterization. 

Claims Gallo deleted "assumption".  He actually replaced it with "hypothesis".
Omits "we have proposed..." from  sentence #2 and inserts "Gallo's theory" to dramatize opposition.  Yet, if the omitted text is restored, it can be seen that Popovic wrote in the possessive plural, "we have proposed that [the agent] causing AIDS is a retrovirus from a family of HTLV."


Sentence #3 is omitted (except for "assumption").  The sentence is vital:  "This assumption, besides being a well-known precedence... is based on... (    ),... (    ), ...(    ), ...(    ), ...(    )...."  Thus the assumption (proposal, hypothesis) clearly includes Gallo, Popovic and many others.

I then looked to see how Popovic had tried to prove that the disguised French virus caused AIDS. Most of his paper described his efforts to grow the disguised French virus in cultures of cancerous T-Cells.

Roberts leaves The Smoking Gun by again mentioning Gallo's plagiarism of Montagnier, then transitioning to the topic of lab proofs for virus causation.

He wrote in the draft that he measured 'the amount of released virus' by measuring 'RT activity in the culture.'  There was apparently no need for any other test.

Roberts, still in first person mode of "I", discovers problems with Gallo's work, though this has been known for decades from other dissident research.(11)

Today any school child who has studied biology will know that this enzyme is present in every human cell. It is also in all human retroviruses, in bacteria and in cellular debris – or so I was emphatically told by 16-year old Loren Smith, the daughter of a friend – but nonetheless Gallo had maintained for years that this was the guaranteed way to detect HIV, claiming that wherever RT is found, there too is the AIDS virus. On this assertion he had founded much of his AIDS science.


Arrogation of prior research is rationalized by "any school child... will know..."

The phrase belittles Gallo, Popovic and intimidates Robert's readers, while flattering Robert's sympathetic readers.  Thereby readers are pushed to accept the RT argument in the abscence of context, quantitative and qualitative data, and related citations.  The phrase pushes the reader on, past any lingering doubts regarding The Smoking Gun topic.



The Fate Of The Three Sentences (Graphic Overview)

Popovic's Introduction
How It Was Published

Sentence #1 is deleted, not published.

Sentence #2 and #3 are published, as follows.

Draft sentence #2
Published sentence B

Draft sentence #2:  "...we have proposed that [an agent] causing AIDS is a retrovirus from a family of HTLV."
Published as B:  "We have proposed that AIDS may be caused by a virus from the family of human T-cell lymphotropic retroviruses (HTLV)..."

Draft sentence #3
Published sentence C

Draft sentence #3:  "This assumption, besides being a well-known precedence... is based on the facts that... [supporting studies are cited]... (   )..., (   )..., (   )..., (   )..., (   )..."
Published as C:  "That a retrovirus of the HTLV family might be an etiological agent of AIDS was suggested by the findings (i)..., (ii)..., (iii)..., (iv)..., (v)..., (vi)..., (vii)..., (iv)... .

Their proposal is stated in the first pair of sentences and restated in the second pair.

Each pair, however, extends differently beyond the proposal statement.

#2/B extends by citing studies of virus isolation.

#3/C extends by citing studies of associated diseases.

Roberts falsely claims,

sentence #1 was "changed to" sentence C, though #1 was merely deleted.
 sentence #1 "was changed to say exactly its opposite". 


sentence C is not located near sentence A, where sentence #1 would have been published. 
sentence C is located in the next paragraph.
draft sentence #3 ("This assumption..."), was modified for publication as sentence C, in order to restate the assumption (the proposal), to ensure clarity


Synopsis of Events


Synopsis of Events



Does not discuss Gallo's annotation of the Abstract, which contradicts Roberts' claim that Gallo and Popovic are in opposition.


Demeans Gallo with already acknowledged and resolved plagiarism charges.  Hypes Gallo/Popovic opposition in the context of those charges.


Falsely claims Popovic contradicts Gallo in sentence #1 ("Despite intensive...").  This claims discovery of The Smoking Gun.


Hypes false claims.


Falsely claims sentence #1 is replaced with text of "opposite" meaning when published.


Hypes false claims.


Dismisses sentence #2 and #3 by manipulation and false characterization of them as "Gallo's theory".  Sentence #3 is omitted except for one word.


Transitions out of The Smoking Gun topic, with reminder of plagiarism charges against Gallo, and more dubious claims.


Synopsis Of The Three Sentences

Simple Synopsis Of
Three Contiguous Sentences
Popovic's Draft, Introduction, Paragraph 2

Sentence #1

"Despite intensive research efforts, the causative agent of AIDS has not yet been identified."

Sentence #2

"...we have proposed that [an agent] causing AIDS is a retrovirus from a family of HTLV."

Sentence #3

"This assumption, besides being a well-known precedence... is based on the facts that... [supporting studies are cited]... (   )..., (   )..., (   )..., (   )..., (   )..."

Roberts falsely describes the three sentences as follows:

Dramatizes sentence #1 as a great dissident discovery, i.e., fundamental opposition to Gallo, i.e., The Smoking Gun, discovered.


Dramatizes Gallo's deletion of sentence #1.


Heaps further mischaracterizations of sentence #1.


Obliterates adjacent context, sentences #2 and sentence #3.


In Closing

This review of The Smoking Gun assumes Roberts' belief that Popovic's draft is pertinent to the article to be published in Science. 

"The Letter To Science" is shown to be an adaption of "The Smoking Gun".  See "The Letter To Science".

Roberts understands the nature of a first(ext12) or early draft, having written,

"[W]e co-drafted the proposed letter.  As it happened, I rewrote much of it as we worked on.  David more or less accepted my version."(10)



1. Credit for insightful contributions and editorial review goes to Gene Semon, Claus Jensen, and Anthony Brink (
2. Fabricates.  The working definition employed here is similar to the normal definition of "fabrication", as a form of scientific misconduct, because the action and resulting detriment is identical.  There is an important difference:  This working definition avoids subjective conclusions, for example, intent or motive, as they are difficult to verify.
3. Roberts superficially mentions the Abstract in at least one other version.
4. "HIVGATE:  A Voyage Into HIV Science", 12/3/2006;, accessed 10/16/2009.
5. John Crewdson's site with documents indexed on a single page,, accessed 10/16/2009.
6. The Gallo-Montagnier dispute, an orthodox history by PBS,, accessed 10/28/2009.
7. The Perth Group,; "The three original members are the leader, biophysicist Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos, emergency physician Valendar F. Turner and Professor of Pathology, John Papadimitriou."
8. The four papers set by the Gallo lab, published in Science, 5/1984, are listed in the Gallo bio by Wikipedia:
9. In other versions of The Smoking Gun, Roberts hypes the importance of Gallo's modification of "assumption" to "hypothesis".
10. Roberts and Claus Jensen, discussion, 8/26/09.
11. Examples of dissident HIV/AIDS researchPerth Group on Gallo, Perth Group Main Argument, and others.
12. M Popovic, MG Sarngadharan, E Read, and RC Gallo, "Detection, isolation, and continuous production of cytopathic retroviruses (HTLV-III) from patients with AIDS and pre-AIDS", Science, Vol 224, Issue 4648, 497-500
13. Richard Paul and Linda Elder, "How To Read A Sentence";
14. Truth is top priority for this website.  U.S. law maintains that truth is an absolute defense against allegations of defamation.  Falsehoods and ad hominem arguments are not condoned.


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