Comment Wars – Border Skirmish Edition

December 21, 2012

*yawn*

Casually objecting to the tiresome, if ever-so-slightly amusing title at FireDogLake, “Less an ideology than something that should be in the DSM-V” (a trivial posting, BTW), I posted the following comment:

“I’m guessing you’ve never been labelled with a ‘mental illness.’ I think it’s about time we lay that particular genre of all-purpose retorts to rest — one instance at a time, one person at a time, day by day, from now on. I’m ready to start doing my part. How ’bout you?”

An unremarkable comment on my part. And unremarkable lameness ensued:

Person1: “I have been labeled with a mental illness, straight out of the DSM-IV and I have no problem with the characterization.”

Feh…

Person2: “So have I. Note that neither [Person1] nor I put the words mental illness in quotes–that’s because we know from hard experience that it’s bloody well real.”

Presumption building…

Person3: “Represent! I as well, (multiple ones in fact). Mr./Ms. dkmnow is suffering from Butthurt by proxy, very similar to Münchausen’s by proxy except that Münchausen’s involves actually seeing a health professional.”

Done. Full Blown Misrepresentation. In Three Easy Steps.

*sigh*

Person3’s all-too-familiar sneer was posted while I was busy writing my reply to Person2, as follows:

Decades ago, homosexuality was officially recognized as a mental illness. If it was a real illness then, why isn’t it an illness today? Likewise, Gender Identity Disorder has finally been removed from the upcoming DSM-5. Now, this will create significant funding problems for a large number of very vulnerable people, but at the same time, it will help to reduce the stigma that society has long heaped upon transgendered persons. But the question remains: Is GID a Real Mental Illness, or isn’t it? And this is hardly an uncommon question to ask about DSM-defined conditions. Virtually anyone who has studied the process of how DSM diagnoses are derived can tell you that such conundrums abound in connection with virtually every DSM label.

But this is peripheral to my point. I’ll put it another way. Is it ethical to condone and participate in a popular cultural behavior that entails using people who have been labeled with “mental illnesses” — be they real, imagined, or falsely assigned — by equating them with any or all of the biggest a$$holes in our vaunted “normal” society? Is this not an ill-considered and casually dismissive way of exacerbating the stigma already heaped upon those who suffer from mental illnesses?

Not clear enough? Okay. How about when several million of society’s least criminal, most law-abiding, and most uniquely vulnerable citizens suddenly find they are being categorically equated with mass-murderers by tens of millions of others, and, in addition to their pre-existing disadvantages, are now being routinely targeted with a terrifying escalation of slander/libel, discrimination, harassment, assault, and worse?

Or is the casual promotion of stigma and the sustaining of popular biases against any & all labelled “mentally ill” not really a Real™ problem? Perhaps you’ve gotten all comfy with the notion that it’s not your problem. I would hope that the gratuitously predatory media-driven fallout from the Sandy Hook incident might have shown you otherwise by now. “First they came for the communists…”

While you’re busy not standing out, one group is standing up. But after they’ve rounded up all the autistics, who will be left to stand up for you?

Do I have to show you my scars now?

. . .

Again, I yawn. What follows will not likely be of any consequence. Few will see any of it. I may check back in a day or so, but I doubt I’ll bother with any further replies. Still, it was pretty disappointing. Emblematic of our culture, and even of most who identify as mentally ill, apparently. We do as we’re told, math is hard, and Barbie™ can go on being proud.

.


To Autism Speaks, on the Next Wave of Sandy Hook Victims

December 18, 2012

[I deliver the following without a trace of irony. There is no humor here. Only pain … and one more crumb of hope.]

Dear Autism Speaks,

In the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, my sorrow for you is immeasurable. You are now seeing your very own children demonized in the popular media, and thus, in the minds of an entire generation of Americans. You are beginning to see how this will make your children’s lives even harder. You are seeing how the stigma and social burdens already heaped upon them are now doubled and redoubled with each new slur. And you are seeing how this newly amplified social prejudice and discrimination against your children will not go away. It’s heartbreaking.

Doubly so for us.

We, the adult autistic community, have been trying to warn you about this for years. We have endlessly demanded, pleaded, even begged you to drop your bombastic rhetoric about how “monstrous” autism is, how it “destroys families,” how it’s “a burden on society.” When the public is fed this sort supercharged emotional imagery, they do not connect it with some abstraction called “autism.” They connect it with real people. They connect it with US. All of us, including your children. When the public looks at us, they see our faces and feel the “monstrous” imagery you have instilled in them. In this way, WE become the Monster. And when they see us in this way, they treat us badly. They treat your children badly, as you are now seeing, and as you will continue to see for years and decades to come.

This is how dehumanization works. This is the process called “scapegoating.” This is how paranoid societies wipe out whole populations of innocents without feeling a trace of guilt. This, in all its glory, is the the face of injustice.

And this is what we tried to warn you about. This is what we asked you to help us stop. But you didn’t see any point in listening to the people you claimed to speak for.

For today, at least, it is not you who are doing the demonizing. Indeed, several of your officers have been quite vocal in trying to fight back the “mass-murderers” hysteria by which we have now been permanently branded. But your voices are now swept aside by the media’s torrent, just as our voices have always been swept aside by yours. And it is now too late to stop the tsunami of prejudice that today threatens to drown your very own children. Oh, Autism Speaks, if only you had listened.

But it’s not too late to start.

We are still here. We will always be here. Waiting. It’s time for you to take up the burden in a new way, by learning from us how to be a little bit ‘autistic’ yourselves: by saying what you mean, and by meaning what you say.

And, above all, it’s time for you to listen.

Please.

Love,

One Unheard Autistic Adult

. . .

For more background and a roundup of responses to the media’s assault on the autism community, please visit:
I Speak of Dreams: Gun Violence and the search for a scapegoat, autism edition


NYU’s “Ransom Notes” campaign: How Will It Work?

December 18, 2007

[UPDATE: NYU’s controversial “Ransom Notes” campaign has now been officially halted. Huge thanks and congratulations are in order for Ari Ne’eman of ASAN, and everyone in the disability, self-advocacy, and ‘neurodiversity’ communities who pulled together to convince NYU to rethink their approach. Still, there are crucial aspects of our message that have simply not been heard. This must change …]

To family, friends, neighbors, activists, weblog readers, and other fellow travelers on Planet Weird,

The advertising agency BBDO, which represents numerous US and multinational corporations including Pfizer and Glaxo-SmithKline, has produced pro bono a public service campaign, as conceived by New York University’s Child Study Center whose stated objectives include eliminating stigma and promoting awareness of what they call an epidemic of children with psychiatric illnesses.

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For Posterity: Troy Duster’s “Conditions For Guilt-Free Massacre”

December 17, 2007

[reposted from my old (now-deleted) LiveJournal account]

“The most general condition for guilt-free massacre is the denial of the humanity of the victims.”

The essay below by Troy Duster is something of a buried classic in social science, as is its forerunner by Harold Garfinkel. This is a relatively brief exploration of some of the dynamics whereby individuals and whole populations are routinely manipulated into a position of consensus in favor of their own government’s participation in any atrocity, up to and including genocide. While it is obviously a bit dated, and was never intended to be an in-depth treatment of the subject matter, I know you’ll find its relevance to present-day geopolitics to be unmistakable.

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