Hello, and welcome back to The Autistic Writer. I hope you’re all doing as well as you can. We live in difficult times. The pandemic rumbles on. Climate change is accelerating. And people keep killing each other – I’ll come back to that shortly.
Quite often, this blog covers troubling subjects, and things can get somewhat downbeat. I’d rather be cheerful, and sometimes I am just that. The thing is, the issues affecting autistic people are generally problematic. I’m not saying we never have cause to celebrate – of course we do. But there’s no getting away from the fact that we autistic people are in many ways an oppressed social minority. It seems like every time a problem needs to be pointed out, or dealt with in some way, someone in life will say, You’re just being negative. I can’t get on with blind optimism that relies on just pretending problems don’t exist, or that issues don’t need to be addressed. It’s not negative to face into difficult issues; it’s the responsible thing to do. It is cowardly to pretend problems don’t exist under the pretence of positive thinking. Over the last week, a number of troubling issues have plagued the autistic community. Some of them are old ones that just won’t go away. Some are newer. I’m seeing autistic people that I respect take breaks from Twitter because of some of these problems, and that sucks. Maybe we need to change the way we interact on social media. I doubt I’m the first person to think or say that, but we’re no closer to a solution.
This week, I’m going to give you Twenty Power Hits: twenty memes that will address some of the autism-related issues that have caught my eye this week. Why memes? Basically, I’m too mentally exhausted to go through all the arguments and explanations around these issues in words. That’s a hell of a thing for a writer to say; words are my craft, and that should tell you how I’m feeling. But also, sometimes memes say things in such a way that the point is made more quickly and effectively than a block of text. But before I get onto the memes, there is one subject from this week that has simply got to be talked about. There’s no getting away from it.
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On Thursday 12th August, 2021, five people were murdered, brutally shot dead, in Plymouth UK, with a further two injured. The killer, 22-year-old Jake Davison, then turned the gun on himself, taking the total number of deaths to six. I can’t begin to express the shock and horror of it. My heart bleeds for the families, friends, loved ones, and colleagues of the victims. I hope they can recover, and at some point find some peace and closure. I am concerned to be respectful of all the people caught up in this nightmare. The noise in the media, and especially social media, must be difficult for the people of Plymouth to face in the wake of this evil act, and I’m aware that, with this blog post, I’m adding to that cacophony. But there is a reason I’m talking about this incident in the context of a blog that focuses on autism issues.
Jake Davison has been widely reported as being linked to the incel movement. The word incel is an abbreviation of involuntarily celibate. The incel movement consists of men who have been unable to acquire a sexual partner, and blame this failure on women. The movement is an expression of misogyny, in which these misanthropes wallow in anger and self-pity, fantasising about inflicting violence on the women who they perceive as rejecting and excluding them, and the men these women choose. It is utterly sickening.
But just hours after the murders were perpetrated, speculation started to mount that Davison had mental health problems, and that also… he had received an autism diagnosis. At the time of writing, there does not appear to have been any official confirmation of this claim. But with or without any such confirmation, the speculation raises its own problems…
Most people who have suffered a mental health crisis will have experienced at least some of the stigma that comes with it. The trope that people with mental health conditions are dangerous is wildly inaccurate, but it just won’t go away. Autism is not a mental illness, although largely thanks to the trauma that most if not all autistic people experience as a result of being different, many of us suffer mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Regardless of any mental health problems, autistic people are also often regarded in society as odd, other, suspicious, and potentially dangerous. However, the truth is that autistic people, and people with mental health problems, are far more likely to be victims of violence and abuse than perpetrators, and are far more likely to be victims of violence and abuse than the general population. So we need to be wary of the harmful stereotypes that cast us in the negative light of suspicious, dangerous, and to be avoided. These stereotypes and misconceptions get shared and repeated in conversations, both in the real world and online. We autistic people are exhausted from navigating the reactions of neurotypicals who just don’t get it. So with that in mind, you’d think the autistic community would show solidarity in the light of the speculation about Jake Davison. Unfortunately, one high-profile celebrity, who happens to be autistic, tweeted something very damaging and misguided. This person, we’ll call them X, indicated that either mass-shooters, or incels generally (it was unclear which) may well be autistic, and that it is not their fault if they have theory of mind deficits. It wasn’t an attempt to justify the murderer, but it was a stunningly tone deaf, misleading, and dangerous thing to say.
Interlude: A brief message
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By using the old trope of theory of mind deficit in autism in this context, X propagated the ridiculous notion that autistic people could legitimately be seen as dangerous because they lack a theory of mind. Regular readers of this blog will know I shattered that harmful autism myth here. But the damage done by their tweet goes way beyond that. It’s bad enough that the stereotype of autistic people as dangerous is out there in the world, but when a high-profile autistic person, well-known in the media, and widely perceived as an intellectual, goes and throws oil on the fire, it’s only going to make the lives of autistic people harder. This constant drip-drip of negative coverage of autistic people and autism-related issues is never-ending, and X should have known better. But, clearly, X didn’t know better. Celebrity status and supposed intellectual prowess is no guarantee against mistakes, or failing to understand a given issue.
I am not naming X because I want to avoid encouraging a Twitter pile-on, or a cancellation. We are the autistic community, and we shouldn’t be doing things like that. There needs to be a process of education, here. X will not be the only autistic person out there with views like this, and we certainly know there are plenty of non-autistic people waiting to point the finger at us. So, we need to carry on with reasoned debate, and hopefully, one person at a time, we’ll begin the dispel the harmful stereotypes. We’re in this for the long haul, I’m afraid.
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Now we’ve got that out of the way, it’s time for the memes… twenty issues that have caught my eye this week:
Twenty Power Hits!
That’s all for this week. Until next time, take care, be good, stay proud.
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.