Friday, March 29, 2013

How does this comment on autism grab you?

First of all, credit to for all commentary I am about to quote from them. I'm a big fan of Cracked, so this is not a hate blog. Cracked has a solid reputation for putting real facts in their comedic writing. They have a knack for showing us how absurd the world really is when it comes right down to it. So, when I saw they had an article on some of the truths about guns, I had to read it. With issues of gun control in media hysterics, it's a perfect fit to the times.

5 Mind Blowing Facts Nobody Told You About Guns

That's so you can read the whole article at your leisure. And you should.

There's another fit to the times that I'm not sure they fully noted when they wrote the section I'm going to share with you today. I was reading through the section on mass shootings when one sentence brought the entire flow of the article to a screeching halt in my head. I literally had to stop reading right there and re-read the sentence again. Then I read it again. And I read it again. Then I re-read the whole paragraph. Then I finished reading the section and re-read the last two paragraphs. I actually had a hard time reading the rest of the article because I was so flummoxed in how this sentence read.

NOTE: I don't think this is what Cracked actually thinks of people with autism. My reading constipation comes from how the sentence makes its impact. The way it comes across leaves you wondering what they mean by the comment. It stands alone and its direction is unclear. If you, like many in the autism community, have been outraged by the idea that autism made Adam Lanza go on a killing spree; you'll understand why it could be such a raw nerve. That's why I think some expansion should go into the article on that.

So before I go any further, this is what I would like from you, dear reader. I would like to know how the content reads to you.  Here it is in it's full paragraph form:

"Let's play criminal profiler for a minute. Describe the next school shooter. We know he's out there; the stats prove that. We know he's a he. But we know more than that, right? If you pay attention to the news, this shouldn't be very difficult: These guys are all nerdy or autistic loners who get bullied at school and play violent video games at night until they can't tell the difference and finally lash out. The Columbine shooters are the poster boys: goth outsiders who even made a Doom mod to simulate the shooting. These kids get picked on and can't defend themselves, and they see guns as the only way to get even."

Now, the context is hard to grab until you get clear to the next paragraph where they share facts about the Columbine shooters you probably never knew. But nothing more is said to say that none of them were autistic. That comment floats unresolved forever. However, they do state there is "no typical school shooter profile", but you know how we like clarity and resolution. Check the next paragraph:

"Except it turns out that the Columbine shooters, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, weren't bullied and weren't "goth" loners. In fact, they boasted about bullying the "fags" in school themselves. They didn't target bullies or "jocks" who wronged them (the bombs were supposed to kill everyone, including their friends). It turns out that Eric Harris was simply a psychopath -- an intelligent, charming mass murderer like you've seen in a dozen bad serial killer movies. Dylan Klebold was just a depressed kid who went along with it -- so even the two people involved in the same shooting had totally different reasons for doing it."

So, while it specifies that these guys weren't bullied and thus resolves the idea of bullying as a cause, it doesn't do that for the mention of autism; one of the hottest nerves in the community today.

Let me repeat myself, that I don't feel it was their intention to slam autism in any way. I don't want people to plague the site with ugly comments (they get plenty of that and are quite used to it).  I want to know if I'm alone in how this hit me. How does it connect to you?  I do strongly recommend that you read the whole section to get a full feel for it before making any decision. In fact, I beg that you do so.


Seth Clayton said...

One of the things that really shocked me about how the media handled the whole Sandy Hook thing was their latching on to Adam Lanza's autism/Asperger's.

I think it stemmed from the lack of information about Adam and a comment from his estranged brother. That's all they had to work with, so they threw any possibility of comorbidity of mental illness out the window, since they didn't have anyone with other information (even flawed information).

I don't blame Cracked for including it. It was included in mainstream media. And while there was some backlash towards the mainstream media's handling things that way, that backlash didn't really make it mainstream. The Cracked author isn't trying to lampoon autism (or crusade for it), he's trying to speak to the absurdity of the gun control debate.

Did the comment need to be in there? No. But, it was present in mainstream media so the audience might question it not being there. It's amazing what kind of bad information people latch on to.

David Wilde said...

I agree, Seth. I don't blame them for having the mention either. I can see how you may be suggesting that they left it floating in space because the media sort of did the same. In recent reports though, they've been making sure to state that specialists say people with autism are no more inclined to gun crimes than anyone else. So they at least are trying to resolve the floating context. I'm looking for how other members of the autism community react to the way the comment impacts them. I also think they could have added something to that comment. It was a missed opportunity to twist the knife on the media and stereotypes if nothing else.

journeyoasis said...

Having a child with an autism spectrum disorder [ASD], I think the media was looking for a label to pin on something complicated and hard to understand. ASD kids are just one example of how mental health, physical health & spiritual health intertwine with one another.

David Wilde said...

journeyoasis: You are probably right. I think back when the theater shooting happened and they mentioned that man had Asperger's it got jumped on and infuriated a lot of people in the community. Then Adam Lanza comes along and they kind of do it again. I think they are better off saying that the guy was clearly disturbed and just stay away from the autism commentary all together.

What I really want to know in this blog though: did anyone else feel like something was missing or more could have been said by Cracked?