Or: Now more than ever!
Much has happened in the last three days. I can’t possibly describe how often my feelings have gone up or down, how often I felt helpless with rage in a way that I have not done for a very long time! One thing that has helped me enormously were the words of comfort and support by many kind people who only know me via Twitter or Email. I can hardly express my gratitude for this!
Let’s get together!
The media coverage of the Newtown rampage, especially the tendency to connect crime with autism has enraged many people with autism. And there is no doubt that such un-reflected spouting of half-truths can cause enormous damage. But I need to keep focusing on the positive aspects, for there is no darkness without light. I for one have the distinct feeling that the German bloggers have rallied around the issue – isolated voices of protest here and there have united to form a powerful choir! I hope that in the coming days, the media will notice this protest. People who have been believed to have no voice can now be heard loud and clear!
So when a terrible crime was committed a few days ago, when careless, ignorant people imprudently presented the perpetrator as autistic, thus producing a wonderfully facile explanation for the rampage, voices were raised; voices that I did not even know existed.
People who are different, raised their voices in order to put a stop to prejudice. In order to educate, in order to demand the space and the respect that their idiosyncrasies deserve.
Now more than ever!
It hurts when you see the picture of a person on a rampage in the media, and right next to it, the word autism in large letters. And it makes me afraid! It makes me fearful that autism might be even more stigmatized than ever, creating a chain of associations that are not only wrong but also hurtful. All that for a few more clicks on your website, a few more newspapers, magazines or subscriptions sold. Is it really worth it? Is taking advantage of other people (and I say “other people” rather than “autistic people” because it can hit us all one day) in order to boost your sales? Has it come to this; has the much vaunted “journalist opposition” sold out just to be one step ahead of the competition? How low does a system have to sink before the tenets of journalism cease to count for anything? How can you still call this “quality journalism”? It is becoming perfectly clear to me that “quality” is very much in the eye of the beholder. Sometimes, when I feel especially helpless, it helps me to reread by blog articles. Last night, rereading my very first article reminded me of the vow I had made:
If you do not want to be destroyed by the system and by the demands of functioning in a neurotyical world as a person with autism, you have to stand up and defend yourself! And this is what I am going to do! Until something gives in this society, until autism is no longer a swearword but seen as an enrichment, as another facet in the jewel of reality, until we no longer have to be afraid to admit that we have autism! And it I can only walk a small step toward this long road, I will make every step count because every step is better than standing still!
Maybe it is defiance but I have come to realize that we have to act now more than ever! The more the public tries to stigmatize autism, the more energy I will invest in educating people about our condition!
Can it get any worse? Always!
And just when you think that it can’t get any worse, you learn that it can. Always.
Take the following headline in a well-known newspaper, which will remain unnamed (although I am confident that everyone will recognize it):
The demented amok killer of Newtown
Cold as ice.
Medium explains the Asperger Syndrome.
My first reaction, excuse my French, was: Fuck You!
But that would lower me to a level that does not befit me. Much better to hold a mirror to those writers!
The demented amok writers of Germany
Cold as ice!
They stop at nothing!
Autistic People teach the Media their Job!
Rays of Hope
But amid all this darkness, there are rays of light. First of all, as I already mentioned, there is the unprecedented solidarity of Twitter users in the face of this type of journalism. One newspaper was sued and a political party, the Pirates, have issued a statement regarding the issue. Apparently, many people have complained to the German Press Council. As you can see, not all of society reacts indifferently to the exploitation of minority groups by the press in order to boost the sales.
Out of sheer coincidence, all this took place during the nomination period for the Golden Blogger 2012 Award. My blog had already been nominated in the newcomer category. While I was extremely flattered to have been nominated, I also felt this to be a small victory for the discussion of autism in the media. After all, I thought, autism is not that popular a subject and hence not all too frequently encountered in the blogging world. But lo and behold! During the election broadcast, it became clear that there fare more autistic bloggers than expected! And what is more, they now have an audience. A great turn of events in my opinion! I am sure that I owe the fact that I ended up being awarded first prize to the support of all the people to whom autism is as important a subject as it is for me. Thank you very much, all of you who worked together to give autism a voice!
Let me plead with you once more: Please remember the ethics and principles of journalism! Please do your homework, do your research carefully in order to attain the standard of your profession: Quality journalism!
When scared autistic children have to ask their parents why “an autistic person has killed so many people”, more damage has been done than we can hope to undo!
While today, it is autism that the media are flogging to death, I fervently hope that the tables may be turned and we can show this “quality journalism’ for what it is. Please do write about this; protest; shout about it loud and clear so it can’t continue! Speak out against discrimination, against prejudice and needless demonization of disadvantaged groups!
Some voices in the choir of protest(german):