Hello and welcome back to the Autistic Writer. I’ve got a treat for you this time! The emotional eruption that constitutes this week’s edition is my love letter to the man, the legend, the force of nature, the unintentionally hilarious and obliviously sickening entity that is William “Bill” Shatner! But before I pull you into this verbal monument to the man who gave us the oddly staccato-speaking James T. Kirk, Captain of the fabled Starship Enterprise, I’ve got an entirely different subject to tell you about. Hold on. We’ll get to Bill soon enough. But first…
A thank-You to the A&E Staff at the Northern General Hospital
After my hospital stay of last December, when I was admitted with excruciating pain due to a spinal problem, I had to undergo a spell of physiotherapy. As well as the back pain, I had developed pain in my right leg and right shoulder. Physio and general recovery worked, and soon I was back at the gym, pushing weights, and feeling good. But then this week, in the early hours of Monday morning, I woke up in pain. My right shoulder was hurting badly. I took painkillers, but they didn’t touch it. I went into work, and couldn’t move my computer’s mouse properly with my right hand. It was so bad that in the evening that I messaged my GP, requesting an appointment. Tuesday morning, I was still in pain and struggling at work. My GP called me, prescribed some stronger painkillers for me, and asked me to come in to see her the following afternoon. She added, though, that if the pain got worse before she saw me, I should go to A&E. That night, when I got home from work, I went to get undressed, and tried to take off my shirt. The movement of my right arm sent a bolt of pain through me so severely that I almost passed out. And now, I had almost no mobility on that arm. When I recovered my senses, I went to A&E. Skipping forward, an X-ray revealed I have a calcified tendon in my shoulder. Usual treatment initially would be anti-inflammatories, but if I took those I would probably die, because allergies. *sigh* There is potentially some damage to muscles in the rotator cuff, too. There’s a plan in place going forward, and I’ll let you know how I get on.
When I was admitted via A&E last December, I was incoherent with pain, and then further incoherent with a potent mix of painkilling drugs. Much of what happened remains a blur. But I came away with a largely pleasant impression of the way I was treated. This week, I was fully aware, and I can say every aspect of my experience in A&E was excellent. The receptionist was polite and efficient. I waited no more than twenty minutes for triage, and was dealt with by friendly, sympathetic nurses. From there, I went to x-ray, where I waited no more than ten minutes before getting the scans. The radiographer was very professional, and took great care when positioning my arm for the scans, so as not to increase my pain. After x-ray, I had a bit more of a wait, forty minutes or so, before seeing a doctor, who was again highly professional, friendly, sympathetic, knowledgeable, and informative. She answered my questions thoroughly, and I left the hospital feeling like I had been very well looked after. Thank you to all the relevant people at NGH.
And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for… For the Love of Bill!
When I was a small, impressionable child, I loved Star Trek. When an episode came on TV, I would repeat the opening monologue alongside Captain Kirk. I thought the show, and William Shatner, were brilliant. My mother also loved the show, and continued to watch reruns of it all through her life. We even had the Star Trek theme played at her funeral. My son also got the Star Trek bug. As far as I was concerned, I knew Bill Shatner only as an actor, mainly from the Star Trek franchise, and also from one memorable episode of the Twilight Zone. I knew nothing else about him. Imagine my shock, then, when I came across an autistic person on social media badmouthing Bill as an enemy of autistic people! Ridiculous, right? I mean, he’s Captain Kirk, a cheeky, somewhat roguish Star Fleet captain whose unconventional methods might be questionable, and whose approach to women was even more worrying, but who, at heart dammit, was a good guy who got results! Erm, no. That is James T. Kirk, a fictional character. William Shatner is a real person, and is, it turns out, a bit of a dick.
I came across people saying that not only was Bill a supporter of Autism (hawk, spit) Speaks, but he was actively bullying autistic people on Twitter! Really? I mean, really? Oh, shit, yes. He really was. What the hell is it all about? First of all let’s have a quick summary of what was going on before I got involved. Then we’ll get to the good stuff.
It appears that a few years ago, Bill tweeted an image of a blue puzzle piece, on World Autism Awareness Day, along with light it up blue. For anyone not in the know, the puzzle piece logo, and the light it up blue branding are creations of the vile organisation Autism (hawk, spit) Speaks. I’ve talked at length previously on this blog about the problems with both Autism Speaks and the puzzle piece, but if you’re not familiar, you can always do a bit of google-fu for yourself. You don’t have to take my word for it that Autism Speaks are enemies of autistic people, despite styling themselves as an autism charity.
It seemed that when Shatner tweeted his light it up blue nonsense, it, erm, lit the blue touchpaper. Autistic people really started to call out The Shat on social media for his dodgy affiliation with Autism Speaks. Well, Bill wasn’t having any of that. He bit back. And so began the Twitter war between Bill and the autistic community. Many autistic people have been blocked by Bill. Many have been insulted by him, and called brainwashed, among other epithets. But many others still carry the Twitter fight to Bill, hoping to get him to see sense. This has proved difficult. So I decided to have a go myself. What resulted was a Twitter conversation of epic, nay monumental, proportions. I almost considered changing my Twitter handle to Khan!
My Twitter conversation with Bill attracted a bit of a pile-on from some of his admirers, with some tweets verging on the surreal. I’ll give you the fun-filled highlights here. Set faces to stunned, people. It’s a hell of a ride! But first, let’s have a taste of Shat Wisdom.
On with the action… It started innocuously enough, when I spotted a tweet from The Shat trying to deflect some criticism of his support for Autism Speaks by pointing the finger at ASAN (the Autistic Self Advocacy Network)…
Let’s unpack this. The “org” that The Shat refers to is ASAN; a group run by autistic people for autistic people, campaigning for acceptance and inclusion for autistic people. Shatner is a supporter of Autism Speaks which as we know is an enemy of autistic people. ASAN criticised Shatner for his support of Autism Speaks, and ever since then, Shatner has tried to belittle and demonise ASAN at every turn. So far, so pathetic. What about the rest of Shatner’s tweet? He talks about “those who cannot communicate or care for themselves”, which is a reference to some autistic people, but he seems oblivious to the fact that, as we shall see, he continually drowns out the voices of autistic people by telling them they are wrong about autism, that they are brainwashed, and that they are full of hate.
One of Shatner’s criticisms is that, he says, ASAN “pocket” 100% of their charitable donations sent to them, whereas Autism Speaks spends donations on “research ” and “treatment”. He even tweets this:
There’s a lot to unpack here. For the sake of argument, let’s just agree with Bill that ASAN “pocket” all donations as salaries for their employees. Autism Speaks, meanwhile, also pay their top people huge salaries, but put some of their donations into “research” and “treatment”. Shatner also mentions “cures,” but here he is referring to a criticism of Autism Speaks, that they used to be involved in the search for a cure for autism. They’ve since backtracked from that position (openly, at least), and so every time anyone mentions it, Shatner blows a gasket, insisting it’s in the past and people who mention it are “brainwashed.” We’ll come back to this in some of the funnier tweets, shortly. But if Autism Speaks are funding “research” and “treatment”, that is still a problem. Autism is not an illness, and does not need treatment. And the research is into treatment. Furthermore, the researchers who are doing the researching have to be paid salaries and expenses for their wholly unnecessary research.
Let me make it clear: Donations to Autism Speaks go to salaries for their employees, marketing, legal fees, and then to salaries and expenses of researchers who are working on unnecessary and harmful treatments and interventions, which perpetuate the medical model of autism. The medical model paints autistic people as lesser, damaged; as having something wrong with them. This creates a desire for treatments, interventions, and so on, which fuels a multi-billion dollar industry around so-called therapies, interventions, and yes, merchandise. People are getting rich off this. Why do I say treatments and therapies are unnecessary and harmful?
- Unnecessary: Autism is not an illness, and does not need to be treated. This is not negotiable. People like Shatner muddy the waters on this issue by pointing out autistic children who are suffering. Allow me to clarify: Autism often comes with co-occurring conditions. But these conditions and disabilities are not autism; they are co-occurring, and they can occur in non-autistic people, too. Some of these conditions require treatment and therapy. This is not the same as treating autism. By continuing to talk about treatments, therapies and interventions for autism, people perpetuate the medical model (see above).
- Harmful: Many autistic people have been traumatised, sometimes tragically, by therapies such as ABA (Applied Behavioural Analysis), and various other so-called treatments. A meta-analysis of autism research carried out in 2020 revealed serious problems within the field, including conflicts of interest, and lack of reporting of adverse events. The most common conflict of interest in research is, of course, financial. If you’re a well-paid researcher into autism, and your job depends on donations from Autism Speaks, an organisation committed to “treating” autism, then you’ve got a conflict of interest.
So Shatner really isn’t saying anything good about Autism Speaks when he makes his point about funding research. Furthermore, even if ASAN do spend all their income on salaries for their employees, well, that’s is what it’s there for. ASAN are not funding research and treatment. Their mission is clear. Their people are working to promote inclusivity and acceptance for autistic people. If you want someone to do that job – and the autistic community really does need it – then you’ll have to pay them. And guess what? The people you are paying in ASAN are autistic people, not exploitative NTs who are wringing every last dollar out of the lucrative worldwide autism treatment / therapy / merchandise industry. This is autistic people paying autistic people to help autistic people. See the difference?
Let’s talk briefly about the search for a cure for autism. Autism Speaks claim to have dropped this from their mission. Why? I mean, if autism is so bad that it needs their mega-dollars pumping into research for treatments and so on, why would they not want to cure autism? Autism Speaks have a habit of following zany ideas, then dropping them when the publicity gets too bad. So, at one time, they promoted the idea that vaccines cause autism, for example. Much autism research goes into looking for causes. Genetic causes have been identified, and work has been carried out showing physical differences from the norm in the brains of autistic people. The ultimate destination of such research is to look for preventions, perhaps through CRISPR gene editing. Eugenics to rid the world of autistic people. Research of this type is a stealth search for a cure.
Bill doesn’t like it when an argument against him is well made. Sometimes, he just gives up and ignores it:
Bill never answered my challenge: Is it possible Autism Speaks are still getting it wrong?
Okay, it’s time for some more Shat Wisdom:
Autism is a naturally occurring phenomenon. Autistic people are part of the neurodivergent set of humanity; our brains are different from the norm, basically. That’s just how evolution and nature works. Bill seems to think nature is perfect, and yet for him, there’s something not perfect about autistic people. According to him and Autism Speaks, we need to be treated medically. We need therapies and interventions. Which is it, Bill? Is nature perfect, or not?
Shatner continues, time and time again, to justify his support of Autism Speaks by pointing out the supposedly good work they do by pumping money into research and medicine, and by reminding us that they no longer back Andrew Wakefield’s crazy vaccine theories, etc. But he’s missing the point.
I tweeted one reply that was too long for the body of a tweet, so I did it as a screenshot of a note:
Let’s have a look at how some of Bill’s friends get in on the act:
Captain Sparklepants, above, is wallowing in ignorance, and like many in his situation, he is convinced he is in the right, despite being embarrassingly wrong. See this irony in his reply:
Sparklepants, like Shatner and many other neurotypicals who think autism is an illness that needs treatment, typically feel it is fine to tell autistic people what autism is, how it works, and what autistic people should think. They love their own opinions, but don’t think autistic people should have an opinion about autism. It’s odd, because, according to Shat Wisdom:
Let’s talk about ABA. Applied Behavioural Analysis is one of the cornerstones of “therapy” that Autism Speaks and The Shat support. Supporters of ABA like to point out that things have moved on since the bad old days when ABA involved giving autistic children electric shocks as punishments, or slapping them, or screaming in their faces. But they miss the point that the core concept of ABA is flawed. It is all about making autistic children behave as though they are not autistic; denying their true selves with modifications to outward behaviours that some parents find troubling. When those behaviours vanish, the parents are happy, and say the therapy worked. Meanwhile, the child is suffering internally from suppressing their natural selves. This is why so many autistic adults who went through ABA as children suffer from depression, anxiety and PTSD from the experience, and why some take their own lives.
Bill has some very odd people defending his views on autism. One guy with the handle Undead F Lee Bailey is a font of surreal comedy gold:
Autism Speaks was founded by non-autistic people. It was only fairly recently that they appointed any autistic people at all, after prolonged criticism for their exclusionism. In the past Autism Speaks backed the disgraced Andrew Wakefield and his bizarre vaccine lies, and pursued a mythical cure for autism. Autism Speaks still pursues research, treatments, therapies and interventions for autism. This perpetuates the damaging medical paradigm of autism, and their research is effectively still a stealth search for a cure for autism. William Shatner, along with other neurotypical supporters of Autism Speaks continue to shout down any autistic person who tries to reason with them. Shatner has claimed Autism Speaks helps autistic children who have no voices of their own. Not only is he wrong – AS are not helping – but he actively un-voices autistic people by rejecting their experiences of being autistic, and claiming they have been “brainwashed”. He actively derides actually autistic people. It’s impossible to know what The Shat’s real motives are. Is he plain stupid, or just misguided, or actually malicious? No one knows. But it is important to keep challenging him, and shining a light on his behaviour, for the simple reason that he is using social media to set back autism acceptance, and he’s doing it with a Twitter following of nearly 2.5 million people. This gives him influence. His behaviour is harming autistic people, and we should not let it go.
That’s all for this time, lovely people. I hope we’re all fully-fledged members of the Bill Shatner fan club, now. Until next week, take care, stay safe, and be yourself.
Why Do I Write This Blog?
When I first found out I was autistic, I was a middle-aged adult and I knew nothing about autism. I quickly learned that there was a serious shortage of information and resources for adults in my situation. With this blog, I aim to inform about autism and autism-related issues as I learn, hopefully helping people who are on a similar journey of discovery. Like anyone who writes a blog, I want to reach as many readers as possible; if you like what I’m doing, please share it with your friends and followers. I will never hide this blog behind a paywall, but running the website does incur costs. If you would like to support, feel free to make a small contribution at BuyMeACoffee.Com.
You might also be interested in David Scothern’s blog, Mortgage Advisor on FIRE, which covers a range of topics including mental health issues and financial independence.