Behind the Anti-Neurodiversity Articles: An Unholy Alliance of Usual Suspects34 min read

Editor’s Preface

This article is a collaborative effort with advocates from The Aspergian team, other autistic advocates and allies, and human rights organizations. 

This is a long article meant to serve as a primer to provide context and background for a series of articles written by The Aspergian team and other neurodiversity advocates.  These articles will be hashtagged #AltAutism on social media and will be hosted on various platforms.

The Aspergian team and our affiliates would like to invite non-autistic allies, disability rights activists and organizations, human rights organizations, academics, researchers, and neurodiversity advocates to use your own platforms and hashtag #AltAutism when writing articles exposing purposeful undermining, mischaracterization, abuse, or financial exploitation of autistics.

The Merry-Go-Round of Anti-Neurodiversity Propaganda

Another anti-neurodiversity movement article made its rounds last week, and that has fueled some discussion and given rise to many rebuttals.  “What is autism?  How the term became too broad to have meaning any more,” written by Thomas Clements and published in the UK’s The Guardian, typifies what the autistic community has come to expect from “The Usual Suspects.”

Tweet from thomas clements reading: Proof, if ever you needed any, that you should never take a Guardian writer's prognostications seriously.
Tweet: Thomas Clements username, says "Whiteys need not apply." Retweeting The Guardian about a "six-week summer internship open to candidates from a BAME or lower soc..."

In order to understand why autistic advocates might react strongly to what seems to be a rational examination of issues in autistic advocacy, mainstream society will need some background information.

This article isn’t written so much as a rebuttal, but as an exploration of what autistic people and our close allies see that most people won’t.

Tweet by Tom Clements: A neurodiversity advocate has written their own op-ed for the @Independent.  To be honest I expected a lot better than threadbare intersectional cliches about white male privilege etc.  Never mind.  Link to an independent article: "People are using Autism to excuse cruelty and white male vi.."

What is the Neurodiversity Movement?

The neurodiversity movement is not a social club or political ideology.  It maintains that certain neurological conditions are genetic variations and are not “diseases,” though they are usually disabilities.  These conditions cannot be separated from a person’s thoughts or core self.  It is how they are wired.

The neurodiversity movement seeks to humanize individuals who are “neurodivergent” (ND)—meaning they diverge from the neurological majority—to call attention to their support needs and to promote awareness and acceptance of how their needs and behaviors differ and how best to accommodate them and position them to self-advocate.

While it would seem that such a movement would be hard to fault, there have been detractors.  For the purpose of this article, they will be referred to as “The Usual Suspects.”

The Usual Suspects

1.  The genetics/cure lobby, the recipients of a substantial percentage of the trillions of dollars spent on autism.  This includes pharmaceutical companies, genetics researchers, corporate lobbyists, and investors.

2.  The applied behavior analysis (ABA) lobby, those promoting the primary “therapy” that is pushed as being needed to treat autism—not traits or specific areas of need, but the whole autistic person.  Behavioural therapy has been deemed abusive by the neurodiversity community.

3.  The “severe” autism lobby, those promoting a false dichotomy of “mild” and “severe” autism, which primarily leans on the falsehood that non-speaking autistics are severely intellectually disabled.  They dehumanize non-speakers by perpetuating misinformed assumptions about their competence and by positing that those with intellectual disability are incapable of self-advocacy or are less human.

4.  The anti-neurodiversity movement, many of whose members have been called the “Autistic Dark Web,” a troupe of people who are mostly regarded as trolls and are most visible on Twitter.  These people claim that the #ActuallyAutistic/Neurodiversity Movement is full of “social justice warriors” from the far left who want to turn autism into an issue of “identity politics.”

Tom Clements tweet: The notion of "presuming competence" i.e.  one must assume that a person with a set of profound cognitive impairments has the ability to think, learn and understand despite there being no evidence that that's the case, is pure #Neurodiversity propaganada.
Jill Escher tweet replying to @brucehallphoto.  Says The puppet is basically an extended costume.  Who the F cares?  Will these Autism McCarthyiets shut the freak up?  Leave the costume-puppet in peace.  The neurobullies can write and costume their own blasted play.  Puppets can be autistic too.
ABA Access4all on twitter says The ‘presuming competence’ bash mums who are realistic, even when they’ve never met the kid.  My son’s triumph is that he can ask to go places like ‘flip out’ (trampolines) or specific swimming pool, or white not brown bread.  These jokers need to shut tf up.  ASAN even support FC!

The first three of these four groups combine to keep capital flowing to the tune of multiple trillions of dollars internationally.  Autistic advocates have been changing the conversation about autism, though, asking for tolerance, acceptance, and accommodations (instead of cures or therapies that prioritize appearing “indistinguishable from a neurotypical child”) and educational options that cater to the specific needs of the individual.

Eventually—though having little in common—these camps merged and joined forces on the common ground of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”  The common enemy was the Neurodiversity Movement, which threatened to undermine the financial and ideological underpinnings of each of these groups.

And, they pick up stragglers: parents who believe strongly in cures and ABA, anti-vaxxers, the alt-right, “Aspie supremacists,” queerphobic people, body-shamers, racists, conspiracy theorists, misogynists who loved the “extreme male brain”/”gods of Silicon Valley” myth of Asperger Syndrome, martyr parents who become social media personas about how hard it is to raise an autistic child, and homeopaths and snakeoil salespeople.

 

The Tired Playbook

Their rhetoric is coordinated and scripted, moves in waves, and can be found cropping up in publications around the world all at the same time.  These talking points coincide with edits they make on Wikipedia and “research” they all pull out of a hat around the same time.

Former topics have been scatolia (smearing one’s own feces) and incontinence, epilepsy, pedophilia as neurodiversity, “indigo children,” self-injury, puzzle piece icons, facilitated communication, #puppetgate, rapid-onset gender dysphoria, elopement, and the list goes on.

Whatever is the talking point of the moment, suddenly articles crop up in multiple publications from representatives of each group of “The Usual Suspects.”

But why?

The whole aim is to discredit the neurodiversity movement.  It’s that simple.

This is not to assert that everyone who participates in the field of genetics, every ABA practitioner, nor every person who uses the phrase “severe autism” work together to upend the neurodiversity movement.  Many have no idea that the movement is even “a thing.”

This article references specifically those who have demonstrated antipathy against the neurodiversity movement and its proponents and who actively work to undermine it.

Autistic advocates and allies are quickly and dramatically changing the conversation about autism, and that threatens the narratives upon which the aforementioned have built their glass houses.

And, one of the most prominent (or infamous) figures in this scheme is Thomas Clements, whose presence is all over the anti-neurodiversity rhetoric.  Apparently, it was Thomas who coined the term, “Autistic Dark Web,” a moniker that many of its foundational members have chosen to distance themselves from in a bid to seem more moderate, logical, and relatable.

Thomas is a writer who started out as a neurodiversity advocate himself; however, his position switched at some point and he began adopting any position that might in some direct or tertiary way discredit the Neurodiversity Movement.

So, why the name, “Autistic Dark Web”?

Tom Clement tweets: The term was meant satirically, but of course our more literal-minded opponents took it all deadly seriously.  It's derived from Eric Weinstein's Intellectual Dark Web.  Links wikipedia link.

What’s the “Intellectual Dark Web”?

Since we’re talking about a piece in The Guardian, let’s examine The Guardian’s explanation.

In a piece entitled, “The ‘Intellectual Dark Web’ – the supposed thinking wing of the alt-right,” The Guardian states:

It’s a loose affiliation of individuals who believe their free-thinking embrace of “dangerous conversations” has shut them out of public debate.  Adherent and commentator Dave Rubin told the New York Times: “We’re fighting for our ability to agree to disagree before it’s taken away from us.”

By whom? Politically correct academia, the mainstream media, that lot. 

How do they hold their dangerous conversations?  Through some kind of shadowy underground network?  They go on Rubin’s YouTube show, which has 700,000 subscribers.  Or they host popular podcasts, attracting thousands in monthly donations. 

Talk about being sidelined. Who are these people? Among those often included are former Breitbart editor-at-large Ben Shapiro; husband and wife “professors in exile” Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying, who resigned from Evergreen State College after denouncing a planned Day of Absence, where white students were asked to leave the campus; and psychologist and political correctness scourge Jordan Peterson

You mean it’s all just …  terrible people? Professional controversialists, I would call them.  They come from both the right and sometimes left extremes of the political spectrum, but they all tend to combine some form of hardcore libertarianism with an unfortunate manner.

So, essentially, these (mostly white male) people feel they are being usurped as the primary stakeholders in conversations of all topics, so they’re fighting against not having enough time on the airwaves?

Among their ranks are conspiracy theorist blowhard Alex Jones, Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro, Milo Yiannopoulos, Sam Harris, and most notably, the pontificating Jordan Peterson.

The Male Fragility that Transcended Neurotype

According to an article entitled, “How Jordan Peterson helped me to toughen up and tell the truth,” Clements closed his account and withdrew, after he was called a “bigot” and “misogynist” on Twitter by a self-described “intersectional feminist.”  It was at this low that he discovered Jordan Peterson, who inspired him to embrace his cultural (and not religious) Judeo-Christian and Western heritage, despite the fact that he was non-religious.

His whiteness?

Quickly, as an aside, “Judeo-Christian values,” the phrase, is not meant to actually reference a religion.  It’s a dogwhistle to the alt-right.  Many people who frequently reference “Judeo-Christian” values just hate Muslims, ethnic minorities, immigrants, and social justice warriors.  This is not to say that all Christians or people who have Jewish or Christian values are supremacists, but it is a phrase often used by people who are anti-religious to signal their neoreactionary beliefs– it’s used an “acceptable” way to couch bigotry.

Lex (@thc4autism) tweets: When will the radical left get out of the way?  Freedom of religion unless you have Judeo-Christian values.  Title of article linked: San Antonio bars Chick-fil-a from airport, cites 'legacy of anti-LGBT behavior'

Clements writes, “The sword of truth is penetrating and it is my greatest weapon against those who, like the person I mentioned earlier, are so deeply convinced of their own moral rectitude.”

This is the person who accuses neurodiversity advocates of fanaticism all the time…

Thomas Clements (@tclementsuk) tweets: "You couldn't possibly know about racism because you're white", or so say the syphillitic SJW bedwetters in my mentions.  Perhaps they should tell that to my Irish grandparents who had their house firebombed & received shit through their letterbox when they arrived in Britain.
This is the person who is supposed to care about those with “severe” autism who wet the bed?

Enter the “Autistic Dark Web”

So, an incel was born… or rather, a troupe of them.  Taking the alt-right stance of the Intellectual Dark Web, which is ironically named, and merging it with other forms of supremacy, gave way to the entitlement brigade that has made autistic Twitter into a hotbed of anti-logic for more than a year.

If you haven’t heard much about incel ideology, here’s a brief background from the Southern Poverty Law Center:

Male supremacy was fundamental to the foundation of the racist “alt-right,” and in many ways served as its “gateway drug.” It is characterized by angry rants blaming feminism for the decline of Western civilization and deriding feminists as “Social Justice Warriors.”  Personalities like “alt-right” facilitator Milo Yiannopoulos, conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich, pick-up artist Roosh V.  (a.k.a.  Daryush Valizadeh) and Return of Kings and altright.com writer Matt Forney also constantly straddle the line between more formal “alt-right” circles and the male supremacist world.

Of note, it was Mike Cernovich who coined the term, “Intellectual Dark Web.”

Seeing a trend?

Then, there’s “Aspie supremacy,” or this “extreme male brain” hocus that Aspie incels have latched onto as it stoked their supremacist flames.

And here is where the Autistic Dark Web finds its footing.

From Dr.  Manuel Casanova’s blog, where he frequently hosts the most radical anti-neurodiversity proponents out there, Jonathan Ferguson (a.k.a Wallace Runnymede), writes in a post introducing the Autistic Dark Web (ADW):

This is a very exciting new anti-SJW, anti-postmodernist, anti-identitarian movement.  We oppose authoritarian identity politics and the culture of victimhood.  Please consider following as many of us as you can on Twitter, and do look out for relevant hashtags like #autisticdarkweb or #autisticsagainsthate or #westandwithautismparents.

I just want to finish by saying that the Autistic Dark Web are encountering a lot of hatred and opposition; but this only makes us all the more determined to beat the extreme viewpoints and perpetual bitterness and resentment of Alt-Autism. 

Be with us in our holy war against entitlement, victimhood and nihilism!

So, we are now looking at how a handful of autistics co-opted the alt-right and tried to make it a “holy war” against “entitlement” and “victimhood” by people who want to be cured of their autism and who are angry for being called names on social media.

A holy war…

Gamergate

Gamergate was an online harassment campaign originally started as a “culture war” to suppress diversity, multiculturalism, and feminism from penetrating into the videogame industry.  From The Guardian article, “What Gamergate Should Have Taught Us About the Alt-Right“:

The greatest strength of Gamergate, though, was that it actually appeared to represent many left-leaning ideals: stamping out corruption in the press, pushing for better ethical practices, battling for openness.  There are similarities here with many who support Trump because of his promises to put an end to broken neo-liberalism, to “drain the swamp” of establishment corruption.  Many left-leaning supporters of Gamergate sought to intellectualise their alignment with the hashtag, adopting familiar and acceptable labels of dissent—identifying as libertarian, egalitarian, humanist.  At best they unknowingly facilitated abuse, defending their own freedom of expression while those who actually needed support were threatened and attacked.  Genuine discussions over criticism, identity and censorship were paralysed and waylaid by Twitter voices obsessed with rhetorical fallacies and pedantic debating practices.  While the core of these movements make people’s lives hell, the outer shell—knowingly or otherwise—protect abusers by insisting that the real problem is that you don’t want to talk, or won’t provide the ever-shifting evidence they politely require.

Anyone who has paid attention to Twitter will recognize that these tactics—the logical fallacies, the ever-shifting goalposts, and the provocation of marginalized people is a sport for ADW or the broader “intellectual dark web” cohort, which is why most people reference them as “trolls.”  The fact that many of these groups identify as “socialist” or “moderate” or “liberal” makes their tactics more convincingly “non-political.”

Again, from The Guardian:

By leveraging distrust and resentment towards women, minorities and progressives, many of Gamergate’s most prominent voices—characters like Mike Cernovich, Adam Baldwin, and Milo Yiannopoulos—drew power and influence from its chaos.  These figures gave Gamergate a new sense of direction – generalising the rhetoric: this was now a wider war between “Social Justice Warriors” (SJWs) and everyday, normal, decent people.  Games were simply the tip of the iceberg—progressive values, went the argument, were destroying everything.

We begin to see a trend with these same names, Cernovich and Yiannopoulos, cropping up over and over in these extremist ideologies—the Intellectual Dark Web.  These tactics were employed by the Trump campaign in 2016, online and in the broader media, and later were evident in the behavior of the Autistic Dark Web.

There was no unifying set of views among the Autistic Dark Web.  There were anti-vaxxers, conspiracy theorists, parents, and a few autistic people.  The goal was simply to overthrow the neurodiversity movement.  Gamergate tactics known as “sea-lioning” and “torrancing” were mobilized on Twitter to terrorize autistic self-advocates.  From Urban Dictionary:

Sealioning or Sea-lioning

A subtle form of trolling involving “bad-faith” questions.  You disingenuously frame your conversation as a sincere request to be enlightened, placing the burden of educating you entirely on the other party.  If your bait is successful, the other party may engage, painstakingly laying out their logic and evidence in the false hope of helping someone learn.  In fact you are attempting to harass or waste the time of the other party, and have no intention of truly entertaining their point of view.  Instead, you react to each piece of information by misinterpreting it or requesting further clarification, ad nauseum.  The name “sea-lioning” comes from a Wondermark comic strip.

Torrancing takes online provocation a step farther.  In the Vox article, “Are right-wingers stealing tactics from fake anti-Semitism witch-hunters?“, torrancing is described as:

A technique used by the commentariat [news media] whereby they use an insulting headline, article, or comment to emotionally manipulate an angry reaction in people deliberately.  As you jump to defend the accusation, you are then blamed as attacking or bullying the commentator as they adopt the “poor me” victim role.

The article goes on about how this tactic has been co-opted and used by Twitter trolls.  I would say that the Autistic Dark Web and some of its associates have honed and mastered the craft of torrancing.

Then there’s the alt-right “shitposting” and “irony” or “satire.”

Shitposting
A classic forum term for flooding a thread with worthless or annoying posts, either because you’re bad at posting or because you do it on purpose to troll.  The alt-right uses shitposting as a derailing tactic, kind of like a digital filibuster.  The term is used flexibly to sometimes describe any kind of online posting: tweets, memes, etc.

These posts are not meant to be taken seriously or do not reflect any actual position they believe the other person holds.  They’re just posts to tie up the time and focus of the “opponents” so that they spend most of their time defending against false allegations and ridiculous claims.

Further reading:
Hiding in Plain Sight: How the Alt-Right is Weaponizing Irony to Spread Fascism
Alt-Right BANTZ: Satire Bros and Ho-Ho-Hos
“Deplorable” Satire: Alt-Right Memes, White Genocide Tweets, and Redpilling Normies
A Glossary of Far-Right Terms and Memes
Neo-Nazis are trying to spread hatred through comedy.  This isn’t funny

Here’s how shitposting, torrancing, and sea-lioning plays out on Twitter in the autistic community:

Someone non-autistic would post a comment along the lines of, “My nine year old son, Harold Crosley, is having a meltdown and running into walls because I wouldn’t let him eat a whole bag of dog food.  He shit on my new rug again and chewed a hole in my furniture, then pulled out his penis in front of the neighbors.  This is how it feels to be a mother of a child with autism.”

Even worse, they may include a video of a meltdown.  You can click here to read about why it’s a poor idea to broadcast your autistic child’s private moments online.

Of course, most autistic people would be upset by this invasion of privacy and removal of dignity from an autistic child.  What happens when the child’s peers and classmates or future partners or employers see these videos, blogs, and social media comments?

These comments were written to be provocative, though, triggering autistic people to come to the ardent defense of exhibitionist parents not respecting the privacy or dignity of their children.  They use all the language that might elude the general population as to why it’s so dehumanizing, but to say exactly what will most anger neurodiversity advocates.

Quinn (@ndcritical) tweets: He’s an altright neoNazi who thinks women are less intelligent than men, queer ppl are perversions, Islam is barbaric, immigrants are invaders, and white nationalism is the real anti-racism.  There’s piles of receipts where he’s said all this.  His intent is to troll and trigger people.  He uses his intelligence to conceal his aims and manipulate people, such as via his recent op-ed.  His aim is to tie the anti-nd people to the alt-right and recruit young autistic adults to altright extremism.

When the backlash from autistic people comes, the anti-neurodiversity merry-go-round begins.  They take every single position which might appeal to a parent distraught about having an autistic child:

“Mothers are allowed to seek support online.”
“Parents know their kids better than anyone.  You don’t speak for every autistic person.”
“You have mild autism.  Look at you bullying people on Twitter.  You don’t know anything about what it’s like to have ‘severe’ autism and smearing feces on the wall, masturbating in public, eating rugs and cigarette butts…”

The thing is, even though autistics are dramatically different from one another, they are overwhelmingly better at understanding autistic behavior, motivation, and triggers by virtue of experience; furthermore, those of us who are active in advocacy circles tend to focus on learning, studying, and specializing in autism with the same authentic dedication Greta Thunberg practices with conservation and climate change.

They aren’t just qualified to speak on the subject because they, too, are autistic.  Many advocates have made it their life’s work to help advance autistic well-being, acceptance, and self-advocacy.  But, in the Twitterverse, all of that can be negated and thrown away when a group of trolls comes in to say, “You don’t know more than this parent.”

For those autistics who jump into the conversation with rational and good faith advice about privacy and dignity, they would be caught in a back-and-forth, as more and more trolls jump in to make the autistic advocate seem like an irrational, abusive bully.

Somehow, words might be twisted into accusations of racism, child abuse, or other heinous offenses.  Gaslighting would abound, some people would swear and provoke while others maintained the appearance of a naïve and harmless—yet confused—perpetual interrogator.

Most autistics on Twitter will immediately recognize these tactics:

When the original person would finally lose their cool, the responses would be screenshot and replayed on several profiles, out of context.  Original tweets would be deleted.

These screenshots might surface days or weeks, even months later.

Comments from anti-ND proponents often contained references to women’s looks, racism, transphobia, homophobia, misogyny, fat-shaming, or even parallels to pedophilia.  These comments were “triggering” to the “SJWs,” who found themselves dogpiled by the alt-right, often in an attempt to paint them as the “real bigot.”

And, this gem…

Misinformation and Propaganda

Articles like the one that prompted this response are not unique.  Autistic advocates and allies are repeatedly dismayed to see the talking points of neurodiversity bastardized and misrepresented in mainstream publications using the same tactics as used by the “intellectual dark web.”

In these articles, partial truths are interspersed with direct misinformation.  Let’s revisit the usual suspects from the top of this article:

1.  The genetics/cure lobby

2.  The applied behavior analysis (ABA) lobby

3.  The “severe” autism lobby

4.  The “Autistic Dark Web”/”anti-neurodiversity” movement

For autistic people who are paying attention, each time someone from one of these unholy alliances writes an article discrediting neurodiversity advocates—which they use their shared platforms to signal boost—is another time the autistic community gets the message, “Nobody is listening to you.  Your words are being twisted.  Your efforts are meaningless.”

While those who oppose the neurodiversity movement are few, they are given the vast majority of the airwaves… and they use their position to make autistic advocates seem like they are hostile, irrational, and uncaring about the plight of those with higher support needs.

While some within the neurodiversity movement may be less focused on those unlike themselves and others are not well-informed, certainly the most prominent voices within the movement are disability activists with very real and active involvement in the lives of people with high support needs.  And some are themselves non-speaking and need considerable support in their daily lives.

One of the main platforms used to amplify the voices of those who silence autistic advocates is Spectrum News.  It can be seen as a hub or platform for the four above offenders to all advance their individual goals at the expense of autistics.

In an article heavily promoted by Spectrum News, “In search of truce in the autism wars,” the case is made that neurodiversity proponents describe autism as a “mere difference” and those against neurodiversity see it as a disability.  While a rare few individuals may not feel disabled by being autistic, most do.  It’s this provocative and purposeful misdirection of the truth that causes so many to object.

For two weeks, despite scores of autistic people patiently explaining that the position of neurodiversity was not fairly portrayed, the article was left pinned to Spectrum’s Twitter page.

Spectrum also has the practice of tweeting controversial articles afresh, thereby shaking off hundreds of exasperated responses from actual autistic people to the first posting.

In it, both Manuel Casanova and Thomas Clements are quoted.  Casanova is quoted as saying,

“I see many positives in the neurodiversity movement, including fighting for what parents of autistic children want: to get society’s acceptance of them and to get accommodations for them,” says Manuel Casanova, professor of biomedical sciences at the University of South Carolina.  But the loudest voices in the neurodiversity camp are causing an “upheaval” by insisting on a strict interpretation of autism and what autistic people need, he says.

“They see the world in black and white, and either you are with them or against them,” Casanova says.  And if these opinions ultimately sway public opinion, “it might end up hurting research, and hurting the delivery of services to those people who most need them.”

To the general population, this sounds moderate, rational, and like something most people would agree with; however, it’s from the man whose blog hosts this alt-right drivel:

The headlong anti-civilisational plunge into moral relativism and post-truth barbarism and savagery created a proliferation of oppressed ‘communities.’  This process of endless severing, fission and divisive sectarianism can be aptly named ‘community spiralling.’  There have to be more and more new ‘communities’ of ‘oppressed’ people.  Just as firemen will go out of business if they are too proud to commit arson, so also do social justice warriors need fresh pretexts for contaminating and infecting the body politic with their metropolitan high dudgeon and bourgeois outrage.

In the case of disability and mental illness, ‘Neurodiversity‘ strode arrogantly onto the stage, dripping with highminded middle-class sentiments, and the eternal rage of the mediocre and the resentful against the noble and the virtuous.

These are the people who are frequently used as confirmation bias about what an autistic person might think or say about a topic.  Can we stop bringing out Manuel Casanova to quote in all these articles?  And Thomas Clements, who has this gem in the aforementioned article:

Thomas Clements, a mildly autistic man whose brother is severely autistic, says he is dismayed by what he sees as neurodiversity advocates casting autism as a benign neurological quirk.  “It denies the very medical nature of autism and the need for research into ways of alleviating the most distressing symptoms of the condition,” he says.

Which, again, seems logical; however, it’s wholly inaccurate.

Also, if Thomas has a website and has profiles on multiple websites, why does Spectrum News link to his Twitter account?

The case cannot be made that Thomas Clements does not know this is the position of neurodiversity advocates, because they have been stuck in torrancing and sea-lioning schemes with him on Twitter trying to patiently explain that he’s wrong.

In another attempt to get Spectrum’s attention, autistic advocate Ryan Hendry made this tweet:

As time went on, Hendry continued to post as they made a 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th publication of the same article, each with different and misleading headlines.

The article’s author, Karola Dillenburger, a Board Certified Behaviour Analyst and Director of the Centre for Behaviour Analysis at Queen’s University Belfast, has a history. 

She was commissioned by the Northern Irish Government over three years to conduct a review about lifting autistic people out of poverty.  After almost £1 million pounds, 3 years and 5 volumes, the answer in her 2015 report: behavioural interventions, including Intensive ABA.

The John and Lorna Wing Foundation funded a rigorous scientific independent review of Dillenburger’s report, which was published in December, 2017 and discredited Dillenburger’s report.  The full 106-page analysis can be found here and demonstrates one of the most horrifyingly negligent abuses of “research” fathomable.

Page 20 sets out that BCBA Dillenburger’s report lacked transparency, ommitted key studies, lacked objectivity, misrepresented others’ research and had a strong ABA bias and high level of self-citation.

Dillenburger’s failure to disclose conflict of interest, seemingly common amongst the field, is elaborated on page 67 of the analysis:

The report authors’ personal and intellectual biases toward the need for early behaviour analytic intervention are not made plain at the outset, as quality criteria would demand.  Yet these permeate the report, repeatedly finding their ways into the findings and recommendations despite the participants not raising this issue themselves.  There is no reflection on how the research questioning and methods selected influenced the data presented; the report merely presents these as truths unadulterated by the subjectivities of the researchers.

So, while “The Usual Suspects” continue to write about the rigidity of neurodiversity advocates who do not accept treatments, there is never a mention that the only treatment widely rejected by autistic advocates is ABA.  There’s also never a mention of the widespread poor research ethics, peer review fraud, and wholesale refusal to state conflicts of interest.

Spectrum News aired an article entitled, “Partnerships with people on the spectrum yield rich research insights,” seemingly as a way to say, “Look, we’re including autistics in our publications.”  Yet, in the article, they did very openly what they always do: not include autistics.

Our allies in research spoke out.  From the University of Edinburgh,

On 22nd December 2017, Spectrum published an article with the headline: “Partnerships with people on the spectrum yield rich research insights.”

We had agreed to be interviewed for this article.  We felt it was an opportunity to inform Spectrum’s readers about the scope and importance of the roles autistic people may play in autism research.

Instead, to our disappointment, the two named autistic people in the article were subject to misrepresentation and a systematic exclusion of their voices.

Unlike all others named and featured in the article, neither Kabie Brook nor Michelle Dawson was interviewed, neither was directly quoted, and neither was provided any links to their work or online profiles.

The message is that autism research is not something these autistics can communicate about, much less contribute to as equals, and that autistics must always and only be spoken for by others.

The striking segregation of named autistic people in this article is inconsistent with journalist ethics.  The autistics who were misrepresented and denied a voice have been directly harmed.

The Fashion for Celebrating Neurodiversity

The article in question is “What is autism?  How the term became too broad to have meaning anymore,” published in The Guardian.  The excerpt reads: The fashion for celebrating ‘neurodiversity’ ignores those with debilitating severe autism, which has created a rift in the community.

Again, another article is published on how there are two sides, (there aren’t) and one side is a bunch of shiny, articulate, “fashionable” autistics ignoring those with “severe” autism.  They position themselves as those who care most about those more profoundly disadvantaged.

What readers need to know is that Thomas Clements and his cohorts are spin doctors with the express purpose of taking down the neurodiversity movement and its advocates, the “easily-triggered,” emotionally-laden “social justice warriors.”

Enter the Skeptics

Skeptics are supposed to be a group of fact-finding, myth-busting science lovers—but somewhere along the way, they started becoming an excuse to inject neoreactionary politics into science.

So, they took a turn against social justice warriors, feminists, Muslims, and other groups who were not experiencing parity.  Even some staunch liberals who hate religion jumped on the Skepticism Movement…  white comedians and even Black political commentators took their love of “facts” out on people who feel “triggered” by oppression.

I interviewed an expert on sociopolitical movements who preferred to remain anonymous for obvious reasons, and this is what he said about the Skeptics and the alt-right:

Content creators realized that if they do a YouTube video make fun of a “screamer” with blue hair or a professor in a humanities position who is easily triggered, then their video gets a ton of hits from the far right.  Even if they were primarily liberal, this contrarian tactic was drawing in that anti-SJW crowd. 

They realized that if they wanted to cultivate an audience, they could pander to the intellectual dark web by making takedown videos of people they claimed to be too emotional to be rational– especially of feminists.  They were growing their cause, and this was collecting an ever-growing base of neo-reactionaries, discord and reddit Gamergate trolls, 4chan and 8chan fascists, techno-commercial futurists, the list goes on…

Who are Neoreactionaries?

Though they frequently delete their Tweets, these people can be found all over Twitter spreading lies, misrepresenting research, bullying autistics, and doing petty, passive aggressive making fun of autistic advocates, especially women, queer folk, and people of color who are proudly or openly autistic.

The Dark Enlightment, or Neoreactionary Movement (often abbreviated as the NRx), is a part of the fringe political anti-democracy faction of the alt-right and the alt-left.  According to Jessica Klein’s “Here’s the Dark Enlightenment Explainer You Never Wanted“:

Just when you think you’ve reached the darkest, scariest, most occult corners of the crypto space, you find something even worse.  That thing is Dark Enlightenment, a disturbing philosophy espoused by the fringe-ier outliers of the crypto community that feels like libertarianism taken to the nth degree and applied only to the select, entrepreneurially gifted few.  It brings cyborgs into feudalism and merges Silicon Valley’s startup ethos with the “selective breeding” originally proposed by Plato.  It’s what would happen if more members of the alt-right read Nietzsche and H.P.  Lovecraft instead of Donald Trump’s tweets.

And, if that’s not weird enough for you, there’s a special sect of the Dark Enlightenment that appeals specifically to the Aspie supremacists, the “Geeks” who understand each other and have a special relationship with technology.

In Klint Finley’s “Geeks for Monarchy: The Rise of Neoreactionaries,” he states:

Many of us yearn for a return to one golden age or another.  But there’s a community of bloggers taking the idea to an extreme: they want to turn the dial way back to the days before the French Revolution.

Neoreactionaries believe that while technology and capitalism have advanced humanity over the past couple centuries, democracy has actually done more harm than good.  They propose a return to old-fashioned gender roles, social order and monarchy.

You may have seen them crop-up on tech hangouts like Hacker News and Less Wrong, having cryptic conversations about “Moldbug” and “the Cathedral.”

There is a nifty graphic made by an alt-right NRx that maps out their scope of reach (the “red-pilled” or those who can be radicalized for the alt-right).  None of these people really have much in common outside of the fact that they are anti-diversity– except biodiversity, which we’ll get to shortly.  From RationalWiki:

Bio-Diversity

The NRx love to assume the position of scientists, even if they’re not scientifically-oriented or factual.  They’ve learned that just throwing out big words, dog whistles, and intellectual arrogance is enough to garner them a following.  After all, if Trump can do it…

And they’re all about optics, or “respectability politics.”  If they want the “normies” to see them as rational, acceptable, friendly supremacists, they have to look the part.  No more tattoos and mohawks and leather jackets.  So, they couch their racism and fascism in flowery language, “civil discussion,” and big words.

They love to talk about “biodiversity,” which is shorthand for white supremacy or IQ supremacy.  Finley remarks:

So what exactly is the Cathedral stopping neoreactionaries from talking about?  Well, the merits of monarchy for starters.  But mostly, as far as I can tell, they want to be able to say stuff like “Asians, Jews and whites are smarter than blacks and Hispanics because genetics” without being called racist.  Or at least be able to express such views without the negative consequences of being labeled racist.

Speaking of which, neoreactionaries are obsessed with a concept called “human biodiversity” (HBD)—what used to be called “scientific racism.”  Specifically, they believe that IQ is one of—if not the—most important personal traits, and that it’s predominately genetic.  Neoreactionaries would replace, or supplement, the “divine right” of kings and the aristocracy with the “genetic right” of elites.

Further Reading:
The Alt-Right is Debating Whether to Try to Look Less Like Nazis
New Hate and Old: The Changing Face of American White Supremacy

“Severe” Autistics, ABA, Alt-Right Dogwhistles, Eugenics, #YangGang, and Optics

ABA is essentailly optics training—training to be the more acceptable autistic.  It is also a multi-billion dollar international industry and a powerful way to funnel government funds allocated for poverty and disability.

And, they paint “SJWs” as anti-science, hyper-emotional extremists.

BCBA and “Skeptic” Jason Travers insults and dismisses The Aspergian, with a rich team of scientists in multiple fields and an expert in neurodiversity and nonspeaking rights.
Anti-neurodiversity neoreactionary ironically claims that postmodernists (SJWs) don’t care about science while claiming that climate change is not an emergency.

Post-Modern Ideologues, or Cultural Marxists

That person you’ve found yourself arguing with on social media, to get nowhere and arrive at no conclusions, has likely accused you of postmodernism, or being an ideologue or cultural Marxist.  This, like an atheist whining about “Judeo-Christian values,” is just an alt-right dogwhistle.

From the New York Times article, “The Alt-Right’s Favorite Meme is 100 Years Old,”

According to their delirious foes, “cultural Marxists” are an unholy alliance of abortionists, feminists, globalists, homosexuals, intellectuals and socialists who have translated the far left’s old campaign to take away people’s privileges from “class struggle” into “identity politics” and multiculturalism.  Before he executes the professors, the protagonist of Mr.  Lind’s novel expounds on his theory to their faces: “Classical Marxists, where they obtained power, expropriated the bourgeoisie and gave their property to the state,” he says.  “Where you obtained power, you expropriated the rights of white men and gave special privileges to feminists, blacks, gays, and the like.”  It is on the basis of this parallel that the novel justifies carnage against the “enemies of Christendom” as an act showing that “Western culture” is “recovering its will.”

The article goes on to detail that this dogwhistling and terminology goes beyond just hating liberals, gays, and multiculturalism, and ventures into conspiracy theories about a small cabal of Jews who secretly rule the world and want to impose global communism.

While most of the skeptics don’t believe this particular conspiracy, they have no problem sending out the rat signal to call in all the neoreactionaries to scare off and troll the SJWs who interfere.

The fact is, they are an anti-awareness, anti-tolerance effort.  They do not want autistic acceptance.  They want autism to be seen as a disease which must be eradicated, and they capitalize on the struggles of autistics who are most profoundly disadvantaged so that they can push that narrative, setting themselves up as the rational and benevolent ones.

They’ve learned that they can’t be as open about anti-vaccine, cure, and “autism steals your children” narratives, because SJWs are “rude bullies,” so they have toned down their language.  They’ve scrubbed their Twitter accounts of the most damning evidence, too.

But, you can see this, from Wallace Runnymede/Johnathan Ferguson on Manuel Casanova’s blog (August, 2018):

But in the past few months, people have started to loosely organise around Twitter.  This has sent the dominant, hegemonic establishment of Alt-Autism into a panic.  The old guard of autism, the decrepit Ancien Regime of big disability, has responded with unbridled fury towards those supposed traitors who have dared to challenge their unquestionable supremacy.  The Diversitarian Plantation is guarded every bit as jealously as the Democratic Plantation.

Did he just say “big disability”?  In reference to a couple hundred autistic people on Twitter who have almost nothing in common with each other?

Somehow, autistic adults—one of the most marginalized, underserved populations in the world—have become the “elite bourgeois” in this rhetoric, and many people are buying this narrative.

Still, they want autism to be seen as a scourge that people loathe, so they focus their discussion on painting two ends of a non-linear, non-existent spectrum of autism.  On one end are eccentric genius introverts who are isolated for their intolerance to social convention and being more intelligent and logical than the “normies.”

On the other end of this non-existent linear spectrum, they focus talking points on a few of the most shocking and debilitating conditions associated with autism to make it seem unbearable and ghastly, a horrifying disease.  They talk about smearing feces (scatolia), eating non-food items, incontinence (having accidents related to toileting), self-harm, and being nonverbal or nonspeaking.

The ABA Lobby and the “Severe” Lobby

One of the most aggressive anti-autistic forces online is the ABA lobby.  Their disdain for autistics, especially non-speaking autistics, is palpable.  They treat autistic advocates like they’re not really autistic, just radical leftists who are avoiding being labeled as having a personality disorder and who “choose to be a victim.”

In fact, many want to cleave to the “Asperger’s” moniker as if it’s some indication of supremacy.  In nearly all of these articles, the “severely” autistic are burdens.

While the ABA lobby has no one leader at its helm, the “severe” lobby does.  Enter Jill Escher.

Jill Escher is the founder of the National Council on Severe Autism, or the NCSA.  She is determined to isolate epigenetic causes of autism, pushing for genetics research for everything from boomer generation fertility meds, grandfathers being in the coal mines, booze, cigarettes—whatever keeps those billions pouring in to the genetics lobby to waste and appropriate autism funds for eugenics.

Autistic people reject “severe” and “mild,” or “low” and “high,” functioning labels because they create a false hierarchy of how “human” someone is; whether they are capable of thought, complexity, and contributing value to the world.  Autistic intelligence isn’t demonstrable by how well someone can perform on an IQ test, and intellectual disability does not make someone less valuable to humanity.

When an autistic person is non-speaking, this does not mean he or she is less intelligent.  It means they do not have the neurological interconnectivity to coordinate the parts of the brain responsible for speech and those responsible for moving the mouth.  It has little to do with intelligence.

If someone is incontinent, or uses a wheelchair or mobility aids, this does not mean that they are unintelligent.  It means they don’t have the sensory perception to feel their internal needs and interpret them or they can’t control their motor function due to interconnectivity issues.

An autistic person with poor motor control may not be able to control what their body does.

But this is what Jill Escher has to say about her children who are non-speaking:

The text on the slide, regarding two of her three children, reads: “…incapable of talking, reading, writing, or any complex act or thought.”

Notice that for one of her children, there is no picture.  It simply reads, “Not autistic, b[orn] 1997.”  One of her children has a right to privacy, to not be turned into tragedy porn for the world, and to not have blogs and organizations and speeches and events revolving around the tragedy of their existence.  That child is the non-autistic child.

From an Assembly Budget Subcommittee No.  1 on Health and Human Services Hearing of 03-04-2015, Jill Escher referencing her son and autism fear-mongering:

Thank you members.  My name is Jill Escher.  I’m President of Autism Society San Francisco Bay Area and the mother of a son and a daughter who are both functionally incapacitated by severe forms of autism.  I’m glad to see so many clients here today but I cannot bring my 16 year old son. 

If he were here he would run about and screech.  He would rip off his clothes.  He would chew on your furnishings.  He would denude your carpet and then he would run out that door to Lord knows where and that would just be the start of it. 

I am here to bring up the elephant in the room and that is California’s autism population is exploding in a near exponential fashion.  California’s adult autism population will double over the next five years, and will triple over the next 10.

This narrative that non-speaking autistic children are “incapable of complex acts or thoughts” is damning and tacitly false.  Describing autistic people as if they are mythical forces of destruction, like some juggernaut chupacabra—is neither realistic, nor is it acceptable for a person whose life revolves around autism to characterize autistics this way.

The language is dehumanizing…  at the very least.

Many autistic people who were given access to communication choice that works with their neurology write about how they were liberated.  Philip Reyes, who writes with The Aspergian, wrote a piece called, “The Cage,” in which he relates,

Being able to communicate after many years of silence was like being let out of a cage.  I sat in this cage like a bird on display at the zoo.  People could not penetrate the glass of my cage. 

I did my best to make myself at home in the cage.  The cage was transparent and I could still sense the world.  I could lose myself in the world of colors, shapes, patterns, and rhythms. 

I did not share my experiences with others.  I had no means to share my thoughts.  I learned to keep myself occupied by teaching myself through my senses.  It was lonely not being able to communicate with anyone outside my cage.  I prayed I could leave the cage everyday.  My one comfort was talking to God.  I talked to him all the time. 

Philip is one of many autistic (and even non-autistic) non-speakers who has had success communicating with Rapid Prompting Method (RPM).  RPM and FC (Facilitated Communication) have helped empower many non-speakers to share their words and experiences.

Any reasonable person would celebrate methods of teaching communication that work for autistic people, but there is a cabal of behavior analysts and ABA lobbyists who bully and discredit not only facilitated communication and RPM, but those who have used the methods to build independent communication skills.

And they’ve been doing it for years.  Bullying children.  Bullying parents.  Their core argument: non-speakers don’t have the intelligence to be the authors of their own words.

Circling Back to the #YangGang

Ever wonder why so many trolls and neoreactionary autistics are obsessed with Andrew Yang?

Well, for one, he’s promised to funnel significant federal funding into early interventions, ABA, for autistic children.

But then, it goes beyond that.

Further Reading:
Here’s Why Andrew Yang’s Alt-Right Supporters Think He’s the 2020 Candidate for White Nationalists
The Alt-Right’s Love Affair with Trump Is Over.  Here’s Why.

Archive the Trolls

Go to archive.fo or the Wayback Machine and archive the Tweet(s) by entering the web address and clicking “save.”  You do not have to log in to do this.  This means that the Tweets are saved forever on an archive that is viewable online.  This increases transparency, too.  If they delete their bullying tweets, the world can still read them.

You don’t need to interact with trolls in order to archive their bad behavior.

Further Reading:

To learn more about alternative political culture and how they are subverting human rights, visit the following :

RE Skeptics and Men’s Rights Activists:
The Magical Thinking of Guys Who Love Logic
Too Many Atheists Are Veering Dangerously Towards the Alt-Right

RE the weird metaphysical Nazism of the Dark Enlightenment/NeoReactionary movement that aspie supremacists love:
Premises of the Dark Enlightenment
Here’s the Dark Enlightenment Explainer You Never Wanted

A Gallery of Bad Behavior from The Usual Suspects

Katie Wright is the anti-vaccine activist and daughter of Autism Speaks founder, Bob Wright.

 

8 Comments

  1. I’ve been watching the MRAs and adjacent twatwaffles for a few years, mainly by reading We Hunted The Mammoth posts, but I hadn’t realised they’d joined up with the other usual suspects.  I should have guessed but I’ve got a lot of the ADW blocked on Twitter. 

    I’m mostly concerned about young boys getting radicalised by these groups.  My nephew is at that age and it scares me.  I might have to share this article with his mum so she knows what buzzwords (because, oh my gods, they all use the same!) to look out for.

    Excellent job as usual, peeps.  Keep up the good work.

  2. I’ll begin by stating that I am pretty much clueless when it comes to the anti-neurodiversity movement.  So, I graciously applaud the efforts made in this article.  It was very informative and brings to light many things that I didn’t know existed (or at least didn’t know was such a big deal).  And, while I agree with most of what is written here, I can’t help but point out a few problems. 
    First, I think the grouping of people into say the alt-right is not wise.  What is the alt-right?  I am afraid the term is being used too broadly to cover people who are just conservative and/or have different political opinions from the writers of this article. 
    Second, the quote – [“Quickly, as an aside, “Judeo-Christian values,” the phrase, is not meant to actually reference a religion.  It’s a dogwhistle to the alt-right.  Many people who frequently reference “Judeo-Christian” values just hate Muslims, ethnic minorities, immigrants, and social justice warriors.”] – While this may be the case in some instances, it is not true for most cases.  I consider myself to have Judeo-Christian values, and almost everyone I know have these values.  Now, you may disagree with those values, and that is fine, but our society is based on them.  It is not a dogwhistle to the alt-right, and it does not express “hatred to Muslims, ethnic minorities, immigrants, and social justice warriors”. 
    Third, in the “Usual Suspects” category number 4, the “autistic dark web”, I have problems with the way the writers of this article decide who fits into this category.  I also disagree with the attack on the intellectual dark web.  Now, does it cause some people to come up with crazy ideas?  Yes.  But I would argue it is needed to have actual conversations about real topics in a civil and orderly way.  I also believe it is in poor taste to lump in Dave Rubin, Ben Shapiro, Sam Harris, and Jordan Peterson as enemies of the neurodiversity movement (or even as enemies, period.) From what I have read and watched from these four men, they would applaud this article and the speaking of the truth and sharing information.  They wouldn’t be our enemies.  In fact, in my own experience, Dr.  Jordan Peterson has been a great help to me.  So, I don’t know why they are mentioned here other than the fact that some people use them to espouse their own dangerous ideologies (e.g.  Tom Clements). 
    Overall this is a great article.  My thanks to all who worked on it.  – Ray

    1. From a Jewish perspective, even when it’s not being used as a dog whistle, it tends to be used by Christians paying lip service to inclusivity while erasing the very real differences between our beliefs and value systems.  It often goes along with the view that Jews are really Christians who “aren’t quite there yet”, which while not quite as bad as original-flavour supersessionism is still the same kind of awful.  You’re better off saying that your values are either Jewish or Christian – not only is it more specific (which we of all people should be encouraging) it carries a whole lot less baggage.

      1. I don’t disagree with you, and it might be better to specify either Jewish values or Christian values.  But if we begin specifying either Jewish or Christian, it could also slide into specifying Christians among Christians, as there are many different divisions in Christendom, and many differ on values as well.  For this reason, I believe most Christians use the term in reference to a certain set of principles or morality.  For even in Christianity, the foundational values come from the Jewish Law and believing that the Christian God is the same as the Jewish God, and therefore they both stand on the same foundation.  So, typically I think that Christians believe they have a lot of the same values as Jews since they come from the same God.  I think they all believe in a fundamental or foundational set of values and principles, beginning with the statement that all people are created in the image of God and each individual has intrinsic value.  But, yes, it is more complicated than this, and people have simplified it to its basic core of values and very often do misuse the term for their own personal bias.  However, I don’t think that it is fair to say that everyone who uses this term (or even the majority) is doing the same.

        1. You’re right, Ray.  I did edit the article to be more specific that some people are just using the term to couch bigotry.  This article isn’t meant to disparage anyone’s faith or political ideas outside of highlighting how people can be manipulative and can subtly influence good people to become radicalized without realizing it by using “acceptable” language and pushing people farther and father– gradually, into very toxic beliefs.  I do sincerely apologize if it seemed that we were insulting Christian or Jewish values.  And you’re right, what those values mean for each person is different.  There are three Abrahamic religions, and Islam is one of them.  So, putting Judaism and Christianity together and excluding Islam is like a purposeful separation for radical bigots. 

          1. Thank you Terra.

          2. Of course.  I very much appreciate your feedback.  There are many Jewish and Christian contributors at The Aspergian, as well as atheists, agnostics, Hindus, Muslims, and of other religious beliefs.  We even have clergy members (a Rabbi and a Christian pastor). 

  3. Thankyou for this.  The recent Aeon article had me wondering what was happening in this space.  It was like they had suddenly become Quillette while I wasn’t watching.  This fills in the blanks for me.

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