Tuesday, August 25, 2009

On the Media

As I noted in a previous post, I had my wisdom teeth out recently. I'm only starting to come out of the narcotic haze of the painkillers now (and will need to take another shortly), so my plans to start job-searching will have to wait. No, this isn't because of the pain -- it's because of how badly the painkillers effect me. Still, while I have a few lucid moments, I might as well comment on all of the stuff I've missed.

For one thing, I haven't been able to read any peer-reviewed journal articles. This... really, really sucks, from my perspective. More than any of the other effects of the hydrocodone they gave me, the fact that it pretty much destroys my attention span to the point that I can't read research articles drives me ready to tear my hair out.

This does, however, present a somewhat unique opportunity as I go over the news I've missed. This entry is going to be of a special format -- as I catch up, I'm going to post a brief summary of each article dealing with autism, a link, and a comment on just how offensive the media coverage of the story was.

To start with, take this piece, whose main offence was to equate all developmental disabilities. As this is supposed to be reporting on abuse of persons with developmental disabilities... this really shouldn't be the case. The nature of the disability in question should be at least stated. It is insulting to spread the stereotype that all persons with developmental disabilities are "mentally incompetent".

Any broad category of disabilities covers a huge range of issues. The term "physical disability", for instance, can cover anything from a trick knee to quadriplegia. "Developmental disability" is only different in that it covers a greater variety of issues... many of which are only issues because of the lack of available societal supports.

On the other hand, the article does a good bit to highlight issues of abuse. I have mixed feelings about it.

Next, we have this piece, dealing with an Aspie contestant in a talent show, deserves particular mention for being exceedingly odious. For one thing, the entire piece is based not on what Mr. James (the contestant in question) can or can't do, but rather on a judge's prediction on whether or not he can cope with the stress of being on the show.

The language of the article itself, however, is so blatantly offensive it's absurd. Even the title is offensive -- "Asperger's sufferer will not..." indeed! The first line of the article repeats the theme: "The X Factor contestant Scott James, who suffers from Asperger's syndrome..."

Excuse me. Asperger's is a description of the way your brain's wired. You don't suffer from Asperger's (or autism) any more than you suffer from liking classical music (and, in fact, it's harder to separate "Asperger's" from the rest of you than it is said like). Saying that someone "suffers from" Asperger's (or autism, or...) is around as offensive as saying that someone "suffers from being Jewish".

Next, a local piece on the whole sign fiasco. Decent coverage... except I'm going to need to withdraw my earlier declaration of respect for Ms. Wallace. When the heck will these people realize that the cancer thing is even more offensive?

Then there's this piece which deals with an Aspie surfer... and deliberately calls up the whole lack-of-empathy stereotype. Enough said.

Next, this bit on the murder of a twelve-year-old autistic boy. This article actually manages to avoid being offensive. Way to go, UPI! Of course, the incident itself is another story, but at least the coverage wasn't bad.

This article on a summer camp for autistic kids actually looks pretty cool. Beyond its continuous reification of autism and oversimplification of the research, the article actually makes the program look decent... which should not be taken as an endorsement. All that really means is that the program isn't setting off any red flags based on this article.

This article covers the opening of a new school in a spectacularly uninformative fashion. Kudos to the author, though, for its opening line.

An article in the National Post details the (hopeful) end of a truly obscene saga of an autistic Canadian who got trapped in Kenya. Nothing too bad about the article, but, again, the story itself is pretty offensive.

According to this piece, an autistic child whose school was attempting to deny him the ability to bring his service dog with him won a victory in court. I do, however, feel sorry for Ms. Crook. While it involves skipping out of the chronology of the articles, it's worth noting that there's a considerably more offensive follow-up story by ABC here.

Really, when will the media learn that Autism Speaks doesn't speak for autistics?

Anyway, next up is a Salt Lake Tribune article on a couple who's been charged with abusing thier autistic son. Again, good coverage for a nasty incident.

This piece tries to hold out an autistic nineteen-year-old who recently became an Eagle Scout as an inspiration. At least it's better than most such attempts... which isn't saying much.

Finally, the Onion's latest effort in mocking Obama concluded with a pretty damn offensive bit about Biden and Asperger's.

Well... that's a few days in the news for me. No, this wasn't really atypical.

P.S.: It looks like the Psycho Donuts fiasco has come to an end. Cool.

Edit: It may just be the painkillers kicking in, but I find this incredibly amusing for some reason.

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