Mitt Romney

Stop Using Autism as a Political Insult

I am Autistic and I vote.


Let's go over this carefully, because it just happened again.

Autistic people are real people who are have to fight every day to make a place for ourselves in a world which is often hostile.  Using "autism" as a insult shows a lack of empathy for us.  People with real, actual empathy do not turn the word for a disenfranchised group into an insult to attack what they see as a lack of empathy in a political opponent.

Mitt Romney may have difficulty showing empathy in effective ways as a politician.  That does not mean he has Asperger's syndrome, no matter how many liberals say he does (see here, here, and here).

This is one of the problems with awareness for awareness sake.

We get turned into an insult, like Paul Wallis does today in a piece which asks "Is American Conservatism a Form of Autism?"

Autism is described as a medical condition whereby people are self-centred, uncommunicative and at a remove from their social environment. There are many different types of autism and degrees of it. A type of “social autism” is also quite possible.

Autism ticks all the boxes for behaviour in relation to social issues by conservatives. It seems that there is no society except the one they choose to acknowledge. This is “social autism”, and it comes in many forms...
After listing 21 supposedly autistic positions that he thinks conservatives take, like opposing all regulations, he adds:
Can this possibly be considered anything but an autistic viewpoint? Even the lying is based on the same mentality as a 2 year old who thinks they can get away with anything. Apparently anything which doesn’t directly benefit or relate to oneself isn’t on the conservative radar. That’s autism, incarnate. There’s 312 million people in America, and evidently most of them are just nuisances according to this mindset.

Wallis is not a major figure, but current Democratic Maine Senate candidate Cynthia Dill has done the same thing.

This is bigotry against autistic people, and it also comes in many forms.  And from both sides of the political divide. 

People have said Barack Obama must have Aspergers, too.

And conservatives have said that striking teachers must have autism.


And every time we are used to score cheap political points, the likelihood that we will be treated decently decreases.


"Be Afraid! Mitt Romney Has Aspergers! And I Know Because My Son Has Autism!"

Democratic Underground user Heather MC picks up on the idea that Mitt Romney has Asperger's syndrome and says some disturbing things:

This would explain so much, the mean sprited jokes he thinks are funny. His inablity to connect with people. The make him human issues his campaign is having.
And is inability to connect empathically with a Women standing right infront of him who just became homeless in an instant.

I am not posting this to make light of Autism or Autistic people, my youngest son is on the spectrum. I truely believe this is what's wrong with Mitt. And I think he has gone his entire life undiagnosed. And if someone is Running for President with any kind of health issue we need to know about it. He could say the wrong thing to a world leader and we could all pay the price for it.

So-- Heather has a son on the spectrum.  And she thinks autistic people are "mean spirited" and that something is wrong with us.  And someone with Asperger's should never be president because he might "say the wrong thing to a world leader."

This is similar to what Joe Scarborough did when he claimed that he just knew the movie theater shooter in Colorado had to be on the "autism scale." He also made sure his audience knew that his son has Aspergers, so he knew what he was talking about.

They are both using their status as parents of autistic people to make bigoted statements more convincing and more palatable.

It's hard for me to say how angry this makes me or how morally wrong or harmful to autistic people I think it is.  When parents teach people to fear their own kids, they are stealing opportunities from them.

Heather has gotten 117 replies so far, a few calling her out for her bigotry, many agreeing.  She has inspired a copycat thread about Joe Biden:

As we know, Aspies often make clueless and inappropriate comments and bad jokes. They tend to blurt out exactly what they think without considering (or being aware of) how it will come across. Joe is well known for these. As much if not more so than Romney and his opinion of cookies. Do we all remember Joe's "articulate and clean" comment about Obama? Here is a list of "Bidenisms."


David Shuster Suggests That Mitt Romney Has Asperger's Syndrome

David Shuster, a TV news personality who has worked at CNN, FOX, and MSNBC, suggested that Mitt Romney has Asperger's syndrome during an interview on Stephanie Miller's radio show:

DAVID SHUSTER:  Every time you hear Mitt Romney speak these days I keep thinking about I have an uncle who specializes in the field of Asperger's, and people with autism, and has been making the point to me for several years that there’s some very brilliant creative people who have Asperger's and he’s suggested perhaps that Mitt Romney has some sort of form of Asperger's because he’s so socially inept in terms of being able to connect with people.

Click here to listen.

High School Student Mitt Romney Bullied Disabled Teacher

Published in

The Washington Post runs a disturbing article today about Mitt Romney's career as a teenage bully.  He thought it was funny to pretend to help a disabled teacher, then let him hurt himself:

One venerable English teacher, Carl G. Wonnberger, nicknamed “the Bat” for his diminished eyesight, was known to walk into the trophy case and apologize, step into wastepaper baskets and stare blindly as students slipped out the back of the room to smoke by the open windows. Once, several students remembered the time pranksters propped up the back axle of Wonnberger’s Volkswagen Beetle with two-by-fours and watched, laughing from the windows, as the unwitting teacher slammed the gas pedal with his wheels spinning in the air.

As an underclassman, Romney accompanied Wonnberger and Pierce Getsinger, another student, from the second floor of the main academic building to the library to retrieve a book the two boys needed. According to Getsinger, Romney opened a first set of doors for Wonnberger, but then at the next set, with other students around, he swept his hand forward, bidding the teacher into a closed door. Wonnberger walked right into it and Getsinger said Romney giggled hysterically as the teacher shrugged it off as another of life’s indignities.


Head of Yale Writers' Conference Tweets "Does Romney Have Aspergers?"

Terence Hawkins is a lawyer, a writer, and the head of the Yale Writers' Conference.  He  also tweeted this a few days ago:

Does Romney have Aspergers? Think: disconnectedness; fractured speech; success in numbers driven field?

I don't think it's funny to use Asperger's syndrom as an all-purpose insult for political points.  I didn't think it was funny to listen to someone repeatedly saying Obama should "Get his head out of his aspie ass."  I didn't think it was cute when Cynthia Dill suggested that Republican lawmakers must have Aspergers.  I don't think it was okay when The Idaho Mountain Express said striking teachers had autism.

I don't want any of us to be a joke.


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