Saturday, August 7, 2010

Alex Plank: The Sycophantic Saga continues

I have been following a rather interesting thread on that aptly named website that has banned your humble blogger from commenting, Wrongplanet. Though Alan Griswold was the exception to the rule of ND's who criticized Dr. Laurent Mottron for holding out his hat to collect money from the organization whose goal he claims is nonsensical and his statement that autism is a harmless condition and no ND's to the best of my knowledge have taken Michelle Dawson to task for accepting money from the organization she so clearly despises, there do seem to be some denizens of Plank's own website that have taken him to task for his consumption of cooked crow and accepting money from the organization he so clearly has opposed and maligned in the past. Ironically enough Plank once wrote a tongue-in-cheek April's fool joke essay about how he had taken over autism speaks-the likelihood that this represented wishful thinking on his part. As my former psychoanalyst would have said, the shoe appears to be on the other foot with wrongplanet not being above accepting donations from autism speaks and perhaps changing their tune in terms of their attitudes towards autism speaks, details to follow.

Of course Plank tries to rationalize his actions to the wrong planet denizens. However, he does not seem clever enough to come up with anything original but rather utilizes the excuses of his predecessors who partook of the forbidden fruit of the autism speaks trough. His statement that autism speaks does not influence the content means he is not a sellout, is reminiscent of what one of the more unsavory characters in the ND movement told me justified Michelle Dawson's accepting money from AS for research. This means that the DNC should accept money from republicans even if the republicans are not influencing policy.

He also makes the fallacious statement that autism speaks has a person on the autism speaks board of directors who is on the spectrum. Of course it is possible that Plank may be stretching the truth a bit in that he means that his partner's father, Robison, sr. is on a scientific advisory board of autism speaks which is not the same thing as the board of directors. Robison also certainly has no understanding of what 99.999% of autistic persons in the world go through as these experiences are clearly an abstraction to him.

Plank also steals Michael John Carley's thunder by claiming that autism speaks is changing and is starting to support autistic persons. He claims this person whose post he is responding to can call him on the phone to get the details privately yet does not want to release this info publicly on wrongplanet. Interesting that he is saying autism speaks does not influence the material in his videos, but I am wondering if the underwriting of his expenses in making the videos have influenced these statements of praise for this organization which he previously had nothing but bad things to say about, including implying that they were engaging in eugenics of autistic persons. Why would Plank insist on just confiding this to a friend in a phone call, why not tell the entire world in the thread of these details if they have any veracity?

Plank also seems to imply that his accepting funding for his videos means that anyone else with an ND perspective who is an ND proponent can now have a say in how the organization they detest so much will spend their money. Well, wrong planet members, I have this bridge in Brooklyn and......

Last but not least John Robison himself steps on the soapbox. I will paste the part of his statement that I find particularly offensive and dissect it:

When I joined the Autism Speaks board earlier this year I made the point that they should be working with other groups, and this affiliation with Alex is one such example. Many of you have been quick to criticize Autism Speaks for not having autistic people working for them . . . I held out Alex and Jack for video production, and you criticize them them for taking up the offer. Well, Jack and Alex are on the spectrum, and they are going to help Autism Speaks with video production. That's the kind of inclusion you asked for, and I think it deserves support, not ridicule.

First of all, John Robison, it is misleading for you to say you are on the board of autism speaks. You only serve on one of their scientific advisory committees and not on the board of directors itself. You are just trying to give credence to Plank's phony statement.

No, John, this is not the inclusion that I asked for. I suspect it is not the inclusion anyone else asked for either. I have criticized autism speaks' autism in the workplace dog and pony show on multiple occasions. Giving your son and his friend money to have a good time going around the country making videos of various people is not giving an unemployed autistic person who needs to make a living a job. The two are totally different. No, I do not believe that autism speaks should work with people whose goals are completely different from theirs and who in fact are working against the noble goal of trying to cure autism and prevent newborn children from becoming autistic (no not abortions) or who are at least using science to try to mitigate this horrible disability while cure and/or prevention are still not possible. Some may find this inflammatory, but autism speaks should no less be involved with neurodiversity than the local police department or FBI should be involved with the Mafia. There is no justification for including the evil ND's in their game plan.

I realize that autism speaks (including board member Jon Shestack) have made justifications for Mottron's funding claiming he was doing work that might help nonverbal autistics or help autistics achieve more educational potential or help with parenting and employment.

I am still trying to understand what possible justification there is for AS to be funding these videos and these kids in their early 20s who are barely affected by their autism if at all who come from affluent backgrounds and can find ways to pay for the videos themselves. In fact, if John Robison thinks these videos are so important and he has made money from his book (his second book coming out soon as well) and his various entrepreneurial endeavors then why he can't pick up the tab for these videos since his own son is one of the people involved? This way the money AS is spending on these videos could go for really important things like helping autistic people find jobs or finding friends or lovers or doing scientific research to help autistic people function better if not cure them or prevent autism in the first place.

I don't understand how these videos are helping autism speaks as Robison claims they are. In fact I don't understand how they are helping anyone except for Alex Plank, "Cubby" Robison and Steve Silberman plug his future book.

Well again I guess in spite of my now five and a half decades on this planet there are some things I will never understand.

I have also been told there may be some problems in commenting in autism gadfly by one of my readers. I am not sure what is causing this and I have checked it out and it seems to be okay. However, if anyone has trouble commenting or deserving comments on this thread don't get published I apologize in advance.


Socrates said...

Excellent post...

Steve Silberman said...

I'm not sure if you actually watched the interview with me, but if you didn't, I mostly talked about the circumstances that gave rise to my 2001 article "The Geek Syndrome" (, not "plugging my future book," which is so far in the future (I haven't even written the proposal yet) that "plugging" it, as you put it, would require anyone who saw that interview to have a very long memory.

I can't speak to your beef with Alex Plank and Jack Robison, since I only met them when they interviewed me. But if you're going to insinuate that I gave them that interview for commercial purposes, you're simply incorrect. I gave them that interview because they seemed like nice kids who asked me about an article that touched many autistic people's lives -- and still does, judging from the amount of email I've gotten in the last week or so from autistic people and family members who had never read the article before.

Only one person who wrote to me mentioned the book -- and wasn't that you, actually? Everyone else talked about the article, which was what I had in mind when I gave the interview.

jonathan said...

Thanks for reading my blog post and commenting here, Mr. Silberman. The point actually is that an organization that fundraises, telling prospective donors that they consider autism a horrific disease has subsidized the funding of a video that helps publicize a future book that in part deals with the idea that some aspects of autism are somehow gifts to humanity and have contributed to discoveries in chemistry and perhaps other scientific research.

I appreciate the nice response you gave me in our private email and look forward to reading your book whenever it comes out. I will remember the old cliche about not judging a book by its cover and won't comment further until I have read your book if and when it is published, as I know you have stated that I may have the wrong impression of what your book is about.

Anonymous said...

You are all alike. Prima Donnas. Wannabe Celebs.

Cussing out any guy who or gal who beats you in the ratings.

Alex (thick as two short) Plank and Jonathan (Victor Meldrew) Mitchell.

Non entities in a world where Robbie William marriage makes the headlines and Lady Gaga is (well 'gaga', what more can be said?)

None of you are going to fill David Beckham's underpants.....

Steve Silberman said...

Thanks, Jonathan.