Saturday, December 15, 2012

And So it Begins, Blood Libeling Those with Autism

It never fails that the moment a terrible tragedy happens in our nation, the news media and the pundit class look for the easiest and most simplistic answers. In the horrific case of Newtown, CT they found one. Unfortunately it is also the same issue the world keeps coming back to time and time again...autism.

It began almost immediately in the aftermath of this tragedy. Piers Morgan the erstwhile ex-pat Brit who for some reason, people think possesses some kind of talent, started calling for confiscating all the guns in the USA. (As if that is the answer, because all the people who own the 100 million guns in the USA are violent psychotics. Or that the violent in our society would abide by more gun control legislation.) Then he had a doctor on his talk show, one who openly says he has no background in autism, but nevertheless discussed how the shooter could have done this because those with autism lack empathy. Watch HERE.

This morning I turned on Good Morning America and there was Dr. Janet Taylor discussing the risk factors for someone who would commit these crimes. She started off saying that there is no true way to know (good) but that you might want to look to see if these people were abused (good) or had an underlying psychological issue (good) like autism (seriously). Dr. Taylor is not an expert on autism. Dr. Taylor is not an expert on anything except feel good psychology. She has no credentials in the autism community. But there she was in front of millions of people telling everyone that those with autism are a possible danger to society.

Then the complete shmucks on Fox News Saturday started talking about aspergers and autism. They basically described my children's love of technology and being ubber smart as a reason that people on the autism spectrum may be dangerous. They said how the shooter was weird because he took a briefcase to school instead of a backpack. Then went on to say how someone who knew the shooter was not surprised and he should "rot in hell." I guess quoting some random individual who went to school with the shooter is a reliable source of information for Fox News.

This is what passes for reporting and information in our world today. A huge giant fail for the egocentric personality celebrity culture that has become our news media.

These so-called "reporters" fail to tell their audience that those with mental health issues are far more likely to be a victim of violent crime than commit a violent crime. They fail to tell you that autism is usually only one of a myriad of co-morbid issues that a person deals with and quite frankly it is the co-morbid issue that may be the cause of the violent behavior. These reporters and uneducated television doctors fail to explain that autism is not a violent mental health issue. These reporters and television doctors fail to tell anyone that they have no idea what they are talking about, that they have no background in autism, but still they just keep talking no matter whom they harm.

Society needs to find a reason that this evil tragedy occurred. This is understandable, but once again society is refusing to talk about the real issues:
The fact that the IDEA does not predict nor support those with mental health issues beyond the education setting.
The lack of support and intervention for those with mental health issues.
The lack of support and intervention for the families of those with mental health issues.
The lack of the ability of immediate family members to get help for adults with mental health issue without the effected individual's assent.
The fear that civil commitment for the potentially violent could lead to abuse of the system and is a civil rights violation.

Instead it is easy to blood libel an entire segment of the population who have a different way of  navigating the world in which we all live. This provides easy answers. But in truth it turns the nation into a society of ignorant-haters. Remember before the Nazis killed the Jews, they went after those with mental health issues and disabilities. Ask yourself, are these the people that America wants to emulate? Simply because you don't understand something or someone doesn't mean you have a right to scapegoat them. Sadly it's just so much easier to dehumanize an entire segment of the US population instead of looking for the real answers. In truth, the real answers are too hard to deal with since society itself may actually be to blame in the longrun.

Social Justice, Humanity and Autism

If you are truly interested in understanding autistics and how they deal with emotional issues go to:  Autism and Empathy a voice of the autism community.


UPDATE (1): Finally a real doctor (Dr. Baden) on Fox News told viewers that autism and aspergers is NOT associated with the kind of violence/aggression perpetrated in CT. Funny though, they cut him off really quickly.

UPDATE (2): Well Fox quickly returned to the autistic as psychopathic killer meme with some doctor from Columbia who claims he has studied mass killers. The hubby told me to stop watching Fox after I started yelling at the television. Yes I turned off the TV but what worries me is all the people that keep watching and then believe everything they hear. And no not just on Fox. The only television channel that hasn't attached itself to the autism meme seems to be CBS.

The hubby also said that I shouldn't turn this tragedy into something about the boys. It has nothing to do with them. I know that the reality is that in the immediate this horror doesn't have anything to do with us. I suppose my fear is that in society's need to rush and point blame for this situation that the boys will be scapegoated for just existing. That society will try to marginalize them and dehumanize them to an even greater extent than already exists.

UPDATE (3): Apparently Dr. Sanjay Gupta from CNN tweeted this earlier today:

Thank you Dr. Gupta for trying to put some reality into what has become a sensationalized tragedy.

I would like to continue to thank Dr. Gupta for his support of the autism community. Every time he has appeared on CNN he has made a huge issue out of the nonviolent nature of autism. I watched him during his appearance on The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer. He chides those who would pin this on anyone on the spectrum and takes the media to task.

UPDATE (4): Last night Bill O'Reilly of Fox News, defended persons with autism during his opening monologue. His basic point was that persons with autism are not violent and that in truth are simply different. That is all. He did mention the struggles that persons on the spectrum deal with and that they don't need this added stigma. He told everyone to leave our children alone and to stop trying to blame them for this horror in Connecticut. Thanks Mr. O'Reilly. Finally someone with some sense at Fox.

This morning there was a report on the Today Show (NBC) that also went on to explain that the kind of violence perpetrated in Newtown, CT is not indicative of autism. Thank you NBC.

UPDATE (5): People have begun to tweet me and email me links with positive articles about autism. I am going to add them here. If you find any let me know and I will add them to the list.

Don't Blame Autism for Newtown (New York Times)
Aspergers is a Red Herring to Explain Newtown (New York Magazine)
Asperger's, Autism and Mass Murder (Psychology Today) 
Misguided Focus on Mental Illness and Gun Control (New York Times)
Asperger's, Autism Not Linked to Violence  (US News and World Report)  
No Link Between Autism And Violence (Washington Post)
Asperger's, Misleading Connection with Violence (New York Times)
Autism is not Psychosis (The Atlantic)