It came to my attention that William Shatner – Captain/Admiral Kirk from Star Trek, the title role of TJ Hooker and most recently Denny Crane in Boston Legal – had posted his support for Autism Speaks on Twitter and attracted quite the reaction from those who know that Autism Speaks is not the supporter of Autism that he thinks they are. I asked someone to tweet this to Mr Shatner and I hope he reads this and understands (I have left Twitter myself).
Many in the Autistic community are offended by Autism Speaks. They have a history of hate ridden conduct, misrepresenting Autism as all world bad and needing to be cured and prevented. They claimed that Autism holds families prisoner (the Ransom Notes campaign), and causes many other family issues including divorce and other related issues (see the I am Autism video). These are offensive claims that are 100 percent false and they are claims that Autism Speaks have never apologised for.
Shatner claimed that we should report Autism Speaks to the IRS. Why? What can the IRS do? They are powerless because of something called the First Amendment. Further, the fact that Autism Speaks removed the words “cure” and “prevention” from their mission statement will now protect them if action could be taken. The reality is that the previous campaigns I mentioned were not withdrawn because of orders from authorities. They were withdrawn because of the backlash from people like those who have criticised Shatner on Twitter.
Now some of the language that was used wasn’t appropriate – such as this from Samantha Barnett;
@WilliamShatner And Autistic people have been opposing them for a decade. Shut the [beep!] up and listen to the people who actually have to deal with this shit
Now I can understand why Shatner would treat this with contempt and the same applies to anyone who dropped the F bomb or the S word. But this tweet from Latino Sci-Fi Geek was spot on;
@WilliamShatner That #AutismSpeaks Puzzle symbol is kind of the autism equivalent of a nazi swastika to jews.But people aren’t aware of that
Now here Shatner got it wrong, calling the analogy “offensive”. What’s offensive is the past history of Autism Speaks openly encouraging the eugenic elimination of the Autistic community. That’s exactly what the Nazi’s tried to do to the Jews. It’s historical fact. Looking for a cure and trying to prevent Autism is attempting to eliminate a section of the community. We are human beings and we are different in our own way. The Jews are human beings as well and different in their own way. It’s the same with every different aspect of the human race, and Autism Speaks wanted to wipe us out. That’s the reason why the analogy is correct.
Ari Ne’eman then tweeted this;
@WilliamShatner is yelling at Autistic people for trying to educate him about Autism Speaks. Not a good look, Bill.
I wouldn’t agree necessarily that Shatner yelled, but many would have seen his responses to those who tweeted him in the vein of anger and contempt. Words on a screen can be seen as yelling even though it isn’t intended. That’s the Autistic mind making a different interpretation, and Shatner didn’t see it – and blocked Ari in reply after accusing others of bullying him. As long as bad language wasn’t used, he wasn’t bullied. People were exercising their right to free speech and to educate as many tried to – and indeed as I am trying to now. Fellow ASAN member Amy Caraballo saw the issue and said this;
@WilliamShatner Yelling is necessary because history has proven many aren’t listening otherwise. Point in case. #learnsomething #nothingaboutthemwithoutthem
I can attest to that. There are many who are not listening and are harming the Autistic community. Again, this is the history of Autism Speaks – they have caused anger with their contemptible conduct, particularly from their co-founder the late Suzanne Wright. She produced videos that lied about Autism and promoted fear for the condition. Autism Speaks have relied on the fear factor to gain the donations they have. Fear creates hate, and hate leads to suffering. (Yes I’m quoting Yoda from Star Wars but it’s spot on)
Shatner queried “neurodiversity’s” tactics. A correction, Bill – neurodiversity is not a movement. Please don’t make that mistake. Neurodiversity is a concept, meaning “neuro” (as in brain) and “diversity” (as in difference). Also note that the vast majority of people on Twitter who had a crack at you were NOT members of ASAN. The goal of ASAN is to promote Autism in the correct manner, making it a competitor to Autism Speaks. Attacking Autism Speaks is just part of the job that is needed to stop the hate they have promoted, and it appears to be working as Autism Speaks is showing signs of change. And other organisations have also been attacked by ASAN, such as the Judge Rotenburg Center.
This tweet was Shatner was disappointing;
Complete misrepresentation of what actually happened but apparently they learn from the founder that if you misrepresent; you get sympathy.??
Bill, with all due respect you missed the point. This is a mess that started when you provided a symbol that is seen by many as offensive. It happens. Please understand that Autism Speaks has a history of misrepresenting Autism and that is what this is all about. You were seen as supporting said misrepresentation, and there are many who get angry automatically as a result. Anger doesn’t look good obviously, but I ask that you understand the anger. You don’t need to agree with it. That’s up to you. But if you understand it you’ll get the idea and realise why you were jumped on. Your late Star Trek co-star Leonard Nimoy portrayed a character that is seen to represent Autistic traits. Data from Star Trek Next Generation is seen in a similar light. Autism Speaks sees Autism only as low functioning and doesn’t recognise the sum of us who carry ourselves in similar ways to Spock and Data.
It’s a shame you felt you were being bullied. We have been bullied by Autism Speaks, and we’ve been sick of it for many years and know only one way to fight back. You got caught in the cross fire and I plead with you to review your support of Autism Speaks. I hope I have your understanding with this blog entry.