Autistics Helping Autistics

Medical Express has a piece on an autistic man, Kyle Barton, who lives in the Plano area and who attended UTD who has had a hard time finding a job. The title of the piece is Man with Autism Helps Design Virtual World to Make Life Better for Adults like Him. The entire thing is well worth reading, and I don’t want to summarize it. The article not only discusses his project, but goes into the struggles he’s had finding a job.

I certainly understand that struggle. Barton certainly should not be unemployed. He is a graduate of UT-Dallas and, very obviously, very intelligent. And yet, he’s struggled to find work. I have a Ph.D. from UT-Dallas, and yet the only work I’ve managed to get have been adjunct professor jobs, and temporary and part time work. I’m incredibly thankful I now have a full time job, but it’s as a paraprofessional (don’t get me wrong, I love the work I’ll be doing, but I should be making far more given my education and abilities).

While I do hope that Barton’s work will help many autistics navigate the world better and, hopefully, find and keep work, there’s a certain absurdity to someone like him or me having trouble finding employment. We seem to mostly be guilty of being socially awkward, spending too much time working at work, being too creative, and treating too many people as equals. The fact is that most people are completely intolerant of any real differences in thinking and behavior and only tolerate superficial differences.

 

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A Pathological Look at Neurotypical Behavior

When you read about autism, you typically read about it as a pathology. Autistic people are viewed as being normal people with pathological deviations from the norm. Every so often you will come across an article that delineates a few of the special abilities of people on the spectrum, but even in doing so, it comes across as “well, at least there are a few positive things that come out of this tragedy.”

Autism is a structural variation in the brain’s architecture that gives rise to differences in processing and in different abilities. One may even argue that it gives rise to a different kind of mind. The vast majority of those people are in the “mild” end of the spectrum, though a great deal of focus is on the “extreme” end, with those who often cannot speak and seem to be particularly mentally disabled. This focus further pathologizes the spectrum precisely because it does not fully or even properly represent the reality for most people with autism.

To fully understand my point, I want to treat those not on the spectrum as though autism were the norm and what we now call neurotypical behavior were the minority. That is, I want to treat neurotypical people the way they treat people on the autism spectrum, from the perspective of someone on the spectrum. Because, from our point of view, you are full of deficits.

The Pathology

Irrational behaviors are one of the primary aspects of neurotypical people. Very often decisions are made without a great deal of thought or, certainly, research. This is especially true when it comes to their opinions. Whereas a sensible autistic person will do a great deal of research before developing an opinion or coming up with a proposed solution, neurotypicals have been observed to have an immediate opinion on things without, apparently, knowing the first thing about the topic. This is different from the kinds of errors autistics make from managing to miss something in their extensive research; rather, the neurotypicals carelessly won’t do any research at all before making a decision. And if they do any research, it will be at best a truncated version, as if they are impatient to come up with any answer at all rather than to make sure they have the right one.

It seems that a strong reliance on emotions is a typical reason for this immediate, almost knee-jerk, way of making a decision. As a result, it is not uncommon for them to agree with a solution that sounds good, sometimes regardless of the overwhelming evidence against the proposal, rather than something that has a track record of actually working. This seems to especially be the case in the areas of economics, the social sciences, and government. While this same tendency does allow them to respond more quickly to others, sometimes that is done at the expense of properly assessing the social situation. Fortunately, they do seem to have a particularly strong ability to make that proper assessment, so we must admit that in this particular case their pathological tendency toward immediate conclusions is often beneficial.

Having said that, there are some very strong negatives of that ability that seem to be combined with a kind of empathy that makes them more likely to identify more with people like themselves than with different people. While we autistics have a tendency to not be judgmental or biased, neurotypicals are terribly judgmental and biased. They judge people on things like race, sex, gender, deviations from the way they themselves think, culture, religion, and pretty much any difference one could possibly imagine, often to the point of hating members of other groups. Some autistics who have been raised with these people have learned these behaviors themselves, even though they are not typical to us. This makes associating with neurotypicals potentially dangerous, unless we remain on our guard against their biases.

This note on this particular moral deficit brings me to the topic of the large number of moral deficits commonly associated with neurotypicals. They have an under-developed sense of loyalty, and many do not seem to show any degree of loyalty at all. Further, they seem willing to lie about just about everything. The primary use of language for them seems to be to lie to each other. They will tell each other they look nice when they don’t; they will say one thing to one person, and another to another; they will backstab; they will tell their friends they are right when they know their friends are wrong. I could go on and on with the ways they lie to everyone.

They will also exaggerate and say things they don’t really mean. They will sometimes use words to mean completely different things. For example, I recently heard one of them say, “Give me a smack.” Which seems an odd request. But then I saw their neurotypical partner give them a kiss in response. How strange to ask for the opposite of a kiss and then to get a kiss! As a result, it can be very frustrating to deal with neurotypicals. You never know if they really mean what they are saying, you do not know if you can ever really trust them, and if you make the mistake of thinking they think the way you think, you will too often find yourself screwed over without your understanding what just happened.

Another odd behavior neurotypicals exhibit is their habit of “small talk.” From what we can tell, small talk appears to be talking just for the sake of talking. A “how are you doing” results in the same non-answer of “fine.” It seems unlikely everyone everywhere at all times is truly “fine,” so it seems that that is a non-answer to what is in fact a non-question. It has been observed that if you give an actual answer to the question, the questioner gets frustrated and impatient, as though they are annoyed that you would actually answer them. A whole conversation can actually go on like that, with general questions giving rise to pat answers so that you could actually change out any pair of people and you would end up with the same conversations each time. The vast majority of their conversations are not about anything of any substance, and, again, they seem positively annoyed if you try to engage them in such a conversation. As a group neurotypicals seem positively frivolous most of the time.

This frivolity extends to their work. They treat work as a social experience rather than as work. They don’t seem to treat work seriously or to engage in it with the kind of attention we autistics do. How any of them can keep a job is a mystery. Perhaps their ability to lie to their bosses and to pretend deference to them is what keeps them employed despite their inherent laziness. They also do have a tendency to do things exactly as they are told to do them rather than to find new ways of doing things. While one could view this as a lack of creativity on their part, in many cases it is useful to have a group of people who will unquestioningly do what they are told. If you can keep them from wasting their time socializing, businesses could make good use of this tendency to conform and engage in groupthink.

How It Feels to Be Made a Problem

I’m guessing you didn’t like the above description of yourself. You no doubt agree with many of the things listed, that they are all-too-often traits of the typical person. And no doubt many of you have made positive efforts to overcome those things—especially such things as racism and sexism. Indeed, we on the autism spectrum also make an effort to overcome what are perceived to be deficits. And yet, there are no doubt things I discussed above that you would argue are unusual, to say the least, interpretations of your behaviors. Well, guess what? That’s how we feel about many of the things we read about people with autism.

For example, we read that we do not have empathy or a theory of mind. That’s utterly ridiculous to us. We fully understand you have a mind—we just treat you like you have a mind like our minds, which results in a number of errors on our part. But guess what? You do exactly the same thing. You treat us as though we ought to have your mind, and when we obviously do not, you actually go so far as to declare that we don’t have a theory of mind! In the past people used to dehumanize others from other races and cultures using exactly this same logic. Since the person from the other culture does not act like us, they must not be human like us. We now know this to be untrue—and to be outright racist—but this way of thinking still manages to creep into studies of people with autism.

Yes, there are studies of young children involving hiding a toy, removing the child who saw where the toy was hidden, then moving the toy elsewhere and bringing the child back in where the young autistic children do not properly recognize who knows what, but where are the studies of older children and even adults? Why is it that we autistic adults don’t make this mistake? Could it be that the development of this ability is simply delayed rather than absent? Indeed, I see a great deal of evidence that people with autism have a tendency to have to learn through direct instruction many more things than do neurotypical people, who seem to have a large number of instincts that allow them to learn certain things more quickly. This is a difference in learning, not necessarily a disability or pathology. It is slower, but more accurate. As with anything, there are tradeoffs.

Finally, I want you to consider something else we autistic are always hearing. Given the negative aspects of neurotypicals listed above, what would you think of calls to fix you? From an autistic’s perspective, you would be much better people if you were more autistic. You would lie less, be less biased and judgmental, and be less frivolous. You would waste less time at work and get more work done. You would say what you mean and mean what you say. From our perspective, life would be much better for you if you were more like us. Now how does that make you feel? I can describe you as a pathology, as a problem that needs to be fixed. I am certain you didn’t like it one bit. Well guess what? Neither do we. If people would spend more time talking to us rather than studying us as some sort of black box that can only be understood by external observation of our behaviors, you may have known that by now.

Different Isn’t Worse

People with autism aren’t broken normal people. We are different. Our brains have different architectures, different biochemistry. It is driven by differences in our genes. All of which give rise to a different way of thinking and thus to different minds. Some of our minds are closer to neurotypical minds than others. It is a spectrum, after all. And some people with autism are definitely disabled when it comes to living in the neurotypical world. But then, there are extreme examples of the neurotypical mind as well—people who are pathological liars, people without morals, people who cannot seem to tell the difference between themselves and the external world. The difference is that they are closer to you, and thus seem more normal to you. To me, a man whose autism would be considered “mild,” those with severe autism seem more normal. I get how they are thinking. It is different, not wrong. And if people were more accepting of those differences, I would predict that many of our extreme negative traits would lessen considerably. We are frustrated, and that frustration comes out in a variety of negative ways. But then, consider what would happen if everyone treated you as a disease needing to be cured and not as someone who needed to be truly understood in the least?

Coming to this understanding between autistics and neurotypicals matters. Given the negative social consequences felt by pretty much everyone on the autism spectrum, we can only conclude that autism is one of the last ways of being human for which it is still completely acceptable by everyone to discriminate against. We are punished in the schools, discriminated against there, with the result that only around half graduate high school. Those who go to college don’t do much better. And even if, like me, one not only graduates from college but gets graduate degrees, one finds upon graduation that the work world is almost completely hostile to you. Not because we can’t do the work—because not only can we do the work, we will likely do it better than the average neurotypical person—but because we don’t interview well, we don’t acknowledge hierarchies, we are blunt, we come across as arrogant, and we aren’t social in typical ways.

I wrote this piece in order to help the average person understand what it’s like to be treated as a pathology. It can just as easily be done to you as it has been done to us. Does that mean you are a problem that needs to be fixed? Or does that mean we ought to be considered fellow human beings whose minds are part of the natural variation among human beings, whose contributions to society are vital for social health? We correctly recognize that acceptance of cultural, ethnic, racial, and sexual diversity results in a healthy society. Perhaps we can one day soon include different ways of thinking, different kinds of mind as well.

Neurotypicals Have a Communication Disorder

I generally disdain the very idea that ignorance is bliss, but I may have come across an example of where it is most definitely true.

It is one thing to have everyone constantly misunderstand you and misinterpret what you do or say, but it is quite another to understand that everyone is doing that while also knowing there is almost nothing you can do about it. How do you control unconscious behaviors? If someone brings your attention to them, you can practice not doing them, but even that will only get you so far when it’s a natural reaction to you.

It is remarkably easy for someone on the spectrum to get into the flow state. The flow state is one where you are mentally completely committed to what you are doing. The rest of the world drops away when you are in this state. And for me at least, it is a state of happiness.

Pop my bubble, and I can literally feel my brain cringe in annoyance. I may then immediately appreciate your popping my bubble (if, say, the house is on fire), but you’re still going to get a flash of annoyance from me. I cannot help it. And even having it pointed out to me that I flash annoyance at you probably won’t do anything to help me fix it. It’s a gut reaction.

In the past, if you popped my flow state bubble, that was guaranteed to result in me having a meltdown and chewing you out. The fact that I have moved from that reaction to a momentary flash of annoyance means I have in fact improved in my reactions. I am sure my wife appreciates the fact that I had stopped having the strong reaction years before I met her. But I’m equally sure I have annoyed her with my look of annoyance at being brought back to the real world.

The problem is that people don’t understand why I have the reaction I do, and they misinterpret it to mean that I’m annoyed at them. I’m not. I’m momentarily annoyed I was broken out of the flow state. If they did it to help me, I’m grateful and appreciative–and I try to let that be known. But all too often people care only about the nonverbal communication and not the verbal one. I cannot help the former one, and the latter one is always going to be honest. But people take it the opposite way.

Because of this, autism is considered to be a “communication disorder.” However, if I was in a flow state and I was brought out of it by someone on the spectrum, they would understand my look. And they would accept my expression of appreciation as honest. We would communicate to each other quite clearly. It becomes disordered when it takes place between an autistic and a neurotypical person. And the disorder works both ways. To me, neurotypical people have a communication disorder. They do not communicate well, or even honestly, most of the time. You think you’ve smoothed things over with them, and they are still harping on it the next day. I supposed they communicate clearly enough to each other, but to me, they can’t communicate jack squat most of the time.

If I weren’t completely aware of all of this, life would perhaps be less frustrating. I would go through life unaware of all of these things, occasionally confused about why something has fallen apart socially, but mostly being blissfully unaware that there’s anything wrong. I got by in that state for 40 years.

But now I know. I know, and there’s little I can do about it. Unless I manage to educate every single neurotypical about autism and the fact that there are a whole lot of people out there with whom they are constantly miscommunicating. But I supposed that’s the Sysiphian task set for me. The world is less because of this lack of understanding.

In the Interest of Justice

About a year and  half ago I had to go to court because I had forgotten to put in a bulk pickup request in a timely manner.

If you are on the spectrum or if you know someone who is, you are likely familiar with the issues with short term memory. I can intend to do something, and forget completely that I need to do it. I can see the limbs or bulky trash set out on the curb as I turn into my driveway, think to myself, “I need to make the bulk pickup request,” and forget between getting out of the minivan and opening the front door (everything is behind me, so out of sight . . .). And naturally, I will remember to do it when I’m at Starbucks, a week later, randomly.

I had received letters telling me that I need to make the bulk pickup request. I was not sure how many, though I learned it needed to only be one before they would issue a citation.

I have written about institutional discrimination against people with autism before. This is the very kind of thing I was talking about in that post. Legislation that requires good short term memory from its citizenry is necessarily discriminatory against people on the spectrum. Worse, it ends up resulting in the harassment of people who already feel imposed upon by everyone. Unless the person goes to court and points out that they are on the spectrum and that they have short term memory problems as a result, a fine is likely to be imposed. To impose a fine on someone with autism because they forgot to do something is the same as fining them for having autism.

Either way, I had to go to court. When the judge asked me if I was going to plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest, I said, “Well, let me explain my situation first . . .” I then proceeded to tell her that I had Asperger’s and that meant that I had short term memory problems that affected my ability to remember to do things like put in requests. I then asked her, “What is the purpose of my being here? The purpose of imposing a fine is to ensure that I will remember next time, right? But imposing such a fine on me won’t have the desired outcome, because I simply cannot remember.”

The prosecutor suggested that my cased be dismissed “in the interest of justice.”

The judge agreed, but said next time I would be fined.

I was hardly going to argue with her, though the problem nevertheless remains. However, since I did in fact go read the ordinance (which oddly left out the number of warnings and any mention of a fine), there is a certain probability that my exceptional long term memory will aid my short term memory and I’ll actually remember.

To avoid an absurdly high $280 fine, let’s certainly hope so.

So the good news is that justice in this case prevailed. If I forget again (so far, so good), it won’t. And worse, how many people are out there on the spectrum who consistently forget such things and find themselves fined? My guess is very few if any have enough self-understanding and presence of mind to make the argument I did in court today. As a result, there are likely hundreds of thousands if not millions like me who are being fined for having autism. And that is hardly in the interest of justice.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m certainly not arguing that one should get a “get out of jail free card” for every and all expectations. If there is a job, for example, that requires one to have a strong short term memory, I would hardly argue that I should be given that job. However, when it comes to government, the law should always apply to equal people equally. But what about when you have a truly unequal situation?

There are situations where equal isn’t fair. If any law assumes that everyone is identical in every way, then that law cannot be fair. Exceptions certainly are made all the time to accommodate people’s disabilities.

In a case like this, one should ask whether or not my disability creates a danger for anyone. In this particular case, it clearly does not. No one is harmed if I forget to request trash pickup for a few days. Sometimes the trucks come by for other pickups, and there’s literally no reason they shouldn’t stop when they see something. I shouldn’t have to pay out an obscene amount of money because I have a bad memory. I don’t find that accommodation ridiculous in the least. I find the legislation itself ridiculous.

It’s not about excuses. It’s about the fact that my brain works in a different way from neurotypical people’s brains, and there really should be reasonable accommodations for that. I would even argue that it would be entirely reasonable for them to leave me alone and not harass me over this issue. Would they make an exception for a forgetful elderly person? I think they should, and I suspect they would. Because that, too, would be in the interest of justice.

Autism and Behavior, Choice and What Cannot Be Helped

There are a great many thing about human beings that we think can be helped and/or chosen. The most obvious that comes to mind is homosexuality. Many consider homosexuality a “choice,” meaning homosexuals choose to be gay. Anyone who actually knows anyone who is gay knows this to be nonsense—most have known they were gay since at least puberty hit. They felt a natural attraction to members of the same sex that is as natural as the majority’s attraction to members of the opposite sex. I no more chose to be straight than a homosexual chose to be gay. Our sexual orientations and subsequent behaviors are natural, no matter what those orientations and behaviors are.

But we forget—or don’t realize—the degree to which many of our personality traits are genetically wired into our brains. Degrees of aggression or passivity, argumentativeness or agreeableness, curiosity or lack of interest in new things—one could go on and on—are primarily genetic in nature, and are often reinforced by the environments they create by the expression of those personality traits.

The same is true of people on the autism spectrum. We all have personality traits that are inherent to our brain structures and neurochemistry—which is also true of neurotypical people and their brain structures and neurochemistry—that strongly affects what behaviors are natural. And we cannot help those behaviors any more than a neurotypical person can help theirs. I mean, let us face it, the autistic ability to concentrate for long periods of time on one thing of high detail is something neurotypical people ought to be able to do, right? There are plenty of jobs out there that require those skills. All you have to do is change your behaviors and you should be able to do it, right?

Of course, the majority of neurotypical people (perhaps all of them) are horrified at the very thought. They would complain that it’s boring, inhumane to make someone sit for hours and pore over highly detailed text or computer programs or whatever else fits the above description without much of a break, but the fact is that someone like me loves to do just that. The best job in the world for me has been the occasional proofreader jobs I have gotten, where I just looked for errors in texts. Eight hours of that is great. Love it. I am accurate and I am fast. It’s a great job.

But I’m equally sure that almost nobody else would want that job. Is there something wrong with you if you would hate doing that? I can do it because of how my brain is structured. And most cannot do it because of how their brains are structured. It is neither better nor worse, just different. And you should be thankful people like me exist, to do the jobs that you don’t want to do (and perhaps cannot do), but which need to be done. Probably everyone who writes code is somewhere on the spectrum. Certainly editors of code are.

So keep these things in mind when you see how someone is behaving. They almost certainly cannot help it. Which doesn’t mean that behaviors cannot and will not change. If there is enough negative feedback (in both senses of the term), a person can be nudged one way or another. But even so, we shouldn’t be surprised if there is some residue of the original behavior, or that we find it cropping up here and there. I have had to adjust to the realities of a neurotypical world that is outright hostile to many of the ways I behave—even those that we commonly give lip service to being positive traits, like creativity and “thinking outside the box” (two things most people actually deeply despise).

The current shift toward acceptance of homosexuality as a structural difference that results in behavioral differences does give me hope, though. We just need to help people to understand that being on the spectrum means we have structural differences that result in behavioral differences. It will probably help as we learn that autism doesn’t mean just the most severe versions, but means people like me, people who have college degrees and are married and have always been considered a little “odd” or “quirky,” but who find that the demands of society make living in society difficult at best.

All of this reminds me of the movie about Alan Turing, who was ostracized because of his homosexuality. People thought him a bit odd because of his autism, which was harder to hide than his homosexuality, but it was the latter for which he was punished. The feeling one gets from the movie is a feeling of outrage that a society that benefited so much from this man would then turn on him because of a trait he couldn’t help.

It seems to me that we need to see some movies where the situation is as I have found it—that a society that benefits (or could benefit) from someone turns on him because of his autism. Because that is the reality right now for the vast majority of us on the spectrum. We are either directly punished if we admit to being on the spectrum (as has happened to me) or we are indirectly punished for our autistic behaviors, despite whatever benefit we may be bringing. We are deserving of a movie that will elicit such outrage.

At the same time, If the Alan Turing movie had been made in the 20th century, it wouldn’t have elicited the same degree of outrage. Many if not most would have considered the sin of his homosexuality to outweigh his contribution. The movie could make its point precisely because we don’t need the point made.

The same is likely true of autism. We will have to have a revolution in the way we think of autism. We will have to depathologize it (for the vast majority of people on the spectrum), and recognize that our “sins” are behaviors we cannot help, and which others need to learn to accept. We will have to have the autism version of Ellen and Will & Grace and change the cultural attitudes. We are different and our behaviors are odd—but no more or less odd than homosexuals’ behaviors were considered within the lifetimes of most people (and still are by too many)—but we are humans of a different kind, and we deserve to be treated as such.

Nancy MacLean: It’s a Libertarian Conspiracy!

About a month ago, I wrote a piece in which I discussed comments made by Nancy MacLean about autistics lacking empathy. To say that post blew up is an understatement. It was picked up by Reason Magazine and spread across the internet, through Reason‘s link to my post was dropped by most other outlets. I further discussed  the fact that intellectuals like her tend to be anti-autistic, and I discussed some further discussions of MacLean’s comments. But although I had read that she had apologized via email to a few people, I had not heard anything from MacLean herself about the controversy. Until now.

C-SPAN did an interview with Nancy MacLean March 11 in which the interviewer asks her about the autism controversy. The question occurs at the 20:26 mark.

INTERVIEWER: NOW, LAST MONTH THE HEADLINE CAME OUT THAT SAYS “DUKE PROFESSOR SAYS ARCHITECTS OF MODERN LIBERTARIANISM SEEM TO BE ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM.” IS THAT A…IS THAT A FAIR QUOTE

MACLEAN: THAT QUOTE WAS … AND I REGRET THAT I SAID THAT. IT WAS ASKED AT THE END OF A LONG EVENING. IT WAS AT THE 100 MINUTE MARK OF A SPEECH THAT I GAVE AT A LIBERTARIAN CHURCH, AN INVITED SPEECH. AND IT WAS A YOUNG MAN WHO  HAD LISTENED TO MY WHOLE TALK. HE UNDERSTOOD THE POLITICS, HE UNDERSTOOD THE IDEOLOGY, BUT HE COULDN’T UNDERSTAND HOW PEOPLE, THESE TWO INDIVIDUALS IN PARTICULAR, JAMES BUCHANAN AND CHARLES KOCH, WOULD DO WHAT THEY ARE DOING TO THEIR FELLOW CITIZENS. HOW THEY COULD BE SO UNFEELING AND HOW THEY COULD NOT SEE THAT THESE MEN ARE BRINGING INTO BEING A SOCIETY THAT’S UTTERLY UNSUSTAINABLE. SO, IN TRYING TO GET TO THE DEPTH OF THE QUESTION HE ASKED — I MENTIONED, AND ACTUALLY THERE WERE THREE FIGURES, ONE WHO IS AT GEORGE MASON, TYLER COWAN, HAS SAID HE WAS ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM, CHARLES KOCH AND JAMES BUCHANAN, ONE COULD HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT THAT, BUT I SAID IT’S PURE SPECULATION. BUT NOW HERE IS A POINT WHERE YOU SEE HOW THIS NETWORK WORKS. BECAUSE TWO GEORGE MASON PROFESSORS, EITHER THEY WATCH EVERY APPEARANCE I DO OR THEY HAVE UNDERLINGS WHO DO, SO THEY WATCHED TO MINUTE 100 AND THEN THEY STARTED TWEETING THIS OUT TO PEOPLE WHO HAD AUTISM ORGANIZATIONS, TRYING TO WEAPONIZE THEIR PAIN, AND TURN THE PAIN OF THOSE PEOPLE AGAINST ME AS AUTHOR. AND I ACTUALLY, ON PAGE 232 OF MY BOOK, TALK ABOUT HOW THEY GLOAT, THEY TALK ABOUT UPPING THE TRANSACTION COSTS OF DISSENT FOR THE OTHER SIDE, UPPING THE TRANSACTIONS COSTS FOR THE OTHER SIDE. SO THEY WEAPONIZE THE PAIN OF AUTISM SUFFERS AGAINST ME. AND I APOLOGIZE. I HAVE SINCE LEARNED ABOUT AUTISM. AUTISM SUFFERS I HAVE LEARNED DO HAVE EMPATHY, DO FEEL COMPASSION, MAY NOT BE ABLE TO EXPRESS IT AS WELL. I STAND BY WHAT I SAID ABOUT THESE LIBERTARIAN ARCHITECTS OF THE STEALTH CAUSE. BUT WHAT WAS SO GROTESQUE IS THAT WITHIN 48 HOURS, AGITATED FOLKS WITH AUTISM, SENT THEIR GROUP CAMPUS REFORM AGAINST ME. AGITATED OTHER PEOPLE, TRIED TO GET ME FIRED, TRIED TO GET ME PUNISHED. THIS IS THE KIND OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE THE GALL TO TALK ABOUT FREE SPEECH IN OUR SOCIETY. THEY ARE GIVING OUT CAMERAS TO YOUNG PEOPLE ON CAMPUSES TO TAPE THEIR PROFESSORS. AND THOSE STUDENTS ARE BEING TRAINED BY JAMES O’KEEFE WHO IS THE PERSON WHO TRIED TO ATTRACT THE WASHINGTON POST, DESTROYED THE CAREER OF A WONDERFUL CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVISTS NAMED SHIRLEY SHERROD WHO WORKED FOR THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION, WITH UTTERLY DISHONEST EDITING. AND CHARLES KOCH-FUNDED ORGANIZATIONS ARE BRINGING SOMEONE LIKE THAT TO TRAIN OUR YOUNG PEOPLE ON CAMPUSES ON HOW TO ATTACK THEIR FACULTY. I WAS JUST SPEAKING IN FLAGSTAFF, AT NORTHERN ARIZONA UNIVERSITY WHERE STUDENTS FROM THAT ORGANIZATION, CAMPUS REFORM, TRAINED BY A KOCH-FUNDED ORGANIZATIONS HAD CREATED THROUGH THEIR DISHONESTY AND MISREPRESENTATION OF THE SITUATION, A DEPARTMENT CHAIR OF THAT UNIVERSITY RECEIVED MULTIPLE DEATH THREATS. IT ALL CAN BE DOCUMENTED. IT’S…FRANKLY IT’S DISCUSSING WHAT THE CHARLES KOCH FOUNDATION AND THE OTHER ORGANIZATION THAT THAT MAN FUNDS IS DOING TO OUR HIGHER EDUCATION SYSTEM IN THEIR, AGAIN I WILL SAY IT, BECAUSE I BELIEVE IT, THE MESSIANIC DETERMINATION TO TRANSFORM OUR POLITICAL SYSTEM WITHOUT BEING HONEST WITH THE PEOPLE OF WHAT THE TRUE SOCIETY IS THAT THEY AIM TO GET TO. SORRY, THAT PUSHED A BUTTON, BECAUSE I HAD TO SPEND MANY, MANY, MANY HOURS ANSWERING HATE MAIL AND ANSWERING MAIL FROM PEOPLE WHO WERE UPSET. AND WHEN I APOLOGIZED TO THE AUTISM SUFFERERS, I RECEIVED BEAUTIFUL MAIL BACK. ALL THEY WANTED WAS THAT RECOGNITION. BUT THOSE PEOPLE ON THE PAYROLL OF THE KOCH NETWORK UNDERSTOOD THAT THEY WERE ACTIVELY WEAPONIZING OTHER PEOPLE’S PAIN IN ORDER TO HARASS SOMEONE WHO IS A PROBLEM FOR THEIR CAUSE. IF WERE ONLY ME, I WOULDN’T EVEN TALK ABOUT IT, BUT IT’S A CONSCIOUS STRATEGY THEY’RE DOING TO PEOPLE ACROSS THE COUNTRY. AND IT IS BENEATH CONTEMPT.

To keep things in context, she gave her talk in which she made the anti-autism comments on Feb. 7, and I posted about it Feb. 10. Now, I cannot speak as to what may or may not have happened on Twitter prior to my post, but I only learned about the talk Feb. 9, when it was posted on Facebook by a Facebook friend. After watching it, I made my post. And yes, I did then engage in a Twitter campaign that did include many autism organizations, because I believe that as many people as possible needed to know such a high-profile person as Nancy MacLean was saying what she was saying about autism. But my Twitter campaign doesn’t at all resemble what she claims happened.

The first mention of Nancy MacLean’s talk in the libertarian mainstream media was, as far as I have been able to discover, the piece in Reason Magazine that cited my blog post. The same day the Reason post came up, I received an email asking for an interview, which I was happy to grant. That interview came out in PJMedia several days later. The majority of outlets criticizing what MacLean said seem to be primarily based on the Reason piece, but fail to cite my blog.

The bottom line, though, is this: Nancy MacLean says she apologizes to the autistic community, but she buries that apology in a strange conspiracy theory in which she blames the Koch Foundation, or some sort of Koch network, for having the audacity to point out that she was being an ableist bigot! Don’t get me wrong, there’s no question they pointed out her bigotry precisely because it benefited them to do so. Of course they did. But that doesn’t mean she didn’t say what she said, and it doesn’t mean she shouldn’t have been roundly criticized for what she said. And whatever others’ motives may have been in pointing it out, she was still wrong in what she said–both factually and morally.

Further, while MacLean doesn’t mention me at all, since it seems that I was Reason‘s primary source it would then follow that it would seem she would think I’m part of this Koch-funded network. This would be a great surprise to both me and my bank account! For her, it seems to be outside the realm of possibility for an informal, decentralized network without anyone funding anything to discover her talk and for me to randomly see someone’s sharing of the talk, watch it myself, come to my own conclusions, and decide entirely on my own to write about it on my autism blog as an example of the kind of ignorant bigotry we on the spectrum have to face.

As far as I’m concerned, if she did learn anything about autism–she says she has since learned we do have empathy, and I’ll take her word that she now understands that–she did not learn quite enough about us. We are not “sufferers” of autism–other than suffering from having to live in a society controlled primarily by people exactly like her. In that respect, we do suffer quite a bit–we suffer discrimination, we suffer unemployment, we suffer from the spread of misinformation and ignorance about us. We aren’t in pain, we are not suffering. We simply want to be accepted for who we are–and the language MacLean continues to use against us is the language of rejection, the language of mere pity, the language of a refusal to truly accept our humanity.

MacLean doesn’t actually take responsibility for what she says in this interview. She says she apologizes, but she spends most of her time blaming some “Koch Network” that would have to include me in order to exist and which, therefore, does not exist. The problem, according to what she says in this interview, isn’t with what she said, but with the fact that the villains of her book have had the audacity to point out that what she said was wrong. I have to wonder if she would think that those on the Left who accuse anyone and everyone they disagree with of being racists, sexists, and homophobes are weaponizing other people’s pain and therefore are beneath contempt. I somehow doubt she would be willing to extend those principles to those she supports.

Finally, although she says she reads Reason, and although if she read Reason she would know I played a significant part in outing her for her comments, she makes no mention of me. Why? It’s simple: I don’t fit in with her theory.

Oh, and while she did email an apology to the Duke Chronicle, that apology completely misses the point of my complaint. So, I’m still waiting for a proper apology from her. You know, one where she doesn’t blame others–or the lateness of the hour–for a comment that she had very obviously thought through (because if, as she said in the initial comments, she had chosen, for some reason, NOT to put it in the book, that means she had thought about putting it in the book).

I’m still waiting, Nancy MacLean. I’m still waiting.

Joyce Carol Oates Insults Autistics on Twitter

Around the same time Nancy MacLean was making her anti-autistic comments, Joyce Carol Oates tweeted quite the ignorant insult about autistics:

So we are apparently identical to psychopaths and don’t “even seem aware of others.” I don’t even know where to begin with such a comment. First, there is no overlap between psychopaths and autistics. None. If anything, we are anti-psychopaths. A psychopaths is so socially aware and even charming, that he or she could get you to vote for them (any very many have). But you won’t find a great many of us autistics in politics.

Also, I’ve never known a single autistic person–even among the many severely autistic people I’ve known over the years–who weren’t aware of others. We may have a tendency to prefer objects–or even ideas–over people, but we’re not unaware of others. Of course, Nancy MacLean and Joyce Carol Oates seem intent on making it clear why we may not particularly care for people, given the way we’re so often treated. Particularly, it seems, by people like them.

I’m wondering how many more people like them are going to make ignorant, disparaging comments about autism before people start getting outraged by it. I’m also wondering if and when any of them are going to show the empathy, morality, and conscience to apologize to the autistic community for their discriminatory comments. I find it very disturbing that we cannot seem to get a single apology from anyone for comments that nobody would tolerate if they were made about practically any other group.