Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I Am Autism Video: (Autism Speaks Gets It Wrong Again)

Reminiscent of the failed Ransom Notes campaign, the latest video in the Autism Speaks arsenal uses a disembodied “voice of autism” that uses threat tactics, aimed at parents of autistic children.

“Voice” of autism: The “voice” speaks in a creepy, gloating, clipped tone, accompanied by the type of music reserved for scary movie scenes, saying repeatedly “I will” do (something particularly nasty) to “you,” the parent of a child on the autism spectrum.

The litany of threats listed by the “voice” give an air of criminality to “autism.” Some of the threats include robbery, pain, and “relishing desperation.” “You ignored me… and that was a mistake,” threatens the voice.

“I am autism. I have no interest in right or wrong.” “I know no morality.” How dare Autism Speaks say that we have no interest in right or wrong? Yes, I know the creators of this video would say “It is autism that is speaking, not autistic people.” Think again: You cannot separate autism from the autistic individual; you impute immorality to us by pretending to speak “our” language. It’s offensive and it is damaging to us.

“Voices” of parents: The second half of the film is the “voices” of parents and others who are “fighting back.” A list of people who will fight against “autism” follows. “Parents, grandparents, schoolteachers, pediatricians, friends”, etc. Everyone but anyone on the spectrum.

“We speak the only language that matters,” the voices of the “autism community” assert. The “community” envisioned here is a monolithic community of fighters-against-autism and not the real-life community of parents (including autistic parents), families, and communities, many of whom are disgusted by Autism Speaks’ dehumanizing tactics.

The voices of real autistic people, and of families who do not subscribe to the personification of autism, and therefore their family members, as something sinister and criminal, clearly do not matter to Autism Speaks.

United Nations: Near the end of this section we hear repeated by many voices: “We are the United Nations.” It’s pretty clear that Autism Speaks is trying to gain a foothold in creeping out people in other countries.

The United Nations, by showing this film, violates its own principles in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities:

“As a change of perceptions is essential to improve the situation of persons with disabilities, ratifying countries are to combat stereotypes and prejudices and promote awareness of the capabilities of persons with disabilities (Article 8).”

Finally, a voice of a parent/autism community member asks: “Autism, are you listening?”

Yes we autistics and our families and friends are. We are listening to myths, negative stereotypes, the co-opting of our very real and human voices, being made, ironically enough, to say things that we would not say, threaten people in ways that we would not threaten them, and participate in our own stigmatization. And we will not rest until this sort of Ransom Notes-esque “autism awareness” campaign is thoroughly discredited.