Friday, November 7, 2014

Seinfeld on the autism spectrum?

Renowned comedian Jerry Seinfeld has apparently recently decided that's he's somewhere on the autism spectrum.  The reason is that he does not pay attention to the right things, takes things literally and has trouble with "social engagement".  I'm not sure what that term means, but I presume it's his ability to relate to people and make friends and find significant others, which is frequently if not almost always impaired in autistic people. (I'll discuss this further later in the post).    Mr. Seinfeld has apparently diagnosed himself rather than bothering to consult a clinician.  One of the reasons for this may be that he seems to believe his autism is not a dysfunction but an alternative mindset.  He joins John Elder Robison in insisting that he's on the autism spectrum in spite of not having a disability of any kind.  This makes his belief similar to what members of the neurodiversity movement have been saying about autism for years.  Or that it is only a dysfunction because it is not adequately accommodated.

Will ASAN, the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism and other pro-neurodiversity organizations adopt Seinfeld as one of their own, ask him to endorse their cause and help them raise money?  The answer is not entirely clear since about five years ago or so, Mr. Seinfeld along with Bruce Springstein hosted a benefit for autism speaks and helped them raise nearly two million dollars.  This contrasts with the nearly fifteen thousand dollars that ASAN lost in one of their fundraisers not long ago.  Because of this, Seinfeld and Neurodiversity  had previously been at loggerheads as I've written in the linked post.  In the post I linked to a video that ASAN made in which Seinfeld is harassed by various ASAN members as he enters the concert hall in New York City to give his Autism Speaks benefit performance.  Unfortunately, this video has been made private on youtube and can no longer be viewed by the general public.  Of course, AS put Robison on their science advisory board, funded Alex Plank and Robison junior's Autism Talk TV and gave half a million dollars to neurodiversity scientist Laurent Mottron.  So, I suppose I should not be surprised if Seinfeld decided to do a benefit for ASAN.  It is certainly a fund raising idea for Ari Ne'eman to think about as he may not be able to afford to give himself another 62% annual salary increase if ASAN can't think of a way to raise additional revenue.  Perhaps Mr. Ne'eman will consider getting Jerry to switch over from autism speaks and give a benefit for ASAN.

Neurodiversity has never cared about people diagnosing themselves.  Economist Vernon Smith diagnosed himself using a self-administered quiz, yet that has not stopped them from promoting him as an example as to why autism should not be cured.  As well as using him to claim autism has some sort of benefits to society.  

Since Seinfeld and I are almost the same age, I wonder how he'd have felt if he had to attend special education schools (and sometimes being abused there) in the sixties.  If he'd had to spend more than ten years in psychoanalysis because Bettelheim's theories were in vogue at the time.  How he would have felt if he had a phobia of birds, had been a chronic bedwetter until age 13 and could not get things done during the day because he was compelled to engage in twiddling (or some other self stimulatory behavior)  I wonder if he had the same rejection from peers as I did as a child or how he'd feel if he had.

Seinfeld claims that he has trouble with social engagement.  I wonder why this did not impair his ability to meet and date women and eventually marry one.  One way that we are different is in popularity with women.  I'm nearly Seinfeld's age, and though I have some casual dating with women, i've never had a full-fledged girlfriend.  Seinfeld in his late thirties dated Soshana Lowenstein who at the time was only seventeen when she first started going out with the celebrated comedian.  Next came girlfriend Carol Leifer.  Seinfield finally settled down and married Jessica Sklar at the ripe age of forty-five. 

As for a contrast in our abilities to support ourselves, I no longer work and am supported by family in contrast to Seinfeld who has made millions.  I wonder how Seinfeld would feel if he had to spend more than four years unsuccessfully trying to get disability and know that he'd end up being homeless if he didn't have a supportive family. 

Interestingly, Seinfeld is admired by an individual on the autistic spectrum who has also been quite unsuccessful with women and has gone out of his way to advertise for a girlfriend, sometimes in a crude manner.  Christian Weston Chandler has made a you tube video in tribute to the comedian he admires.  Chris Chan has often been a foil for various members of the ND movement.  I've written about Chris previously.  I never really understood why the neurodiversity movement always preached for acceptance of autistic individuals yet a good number of them always wanted to criticize this individual or even ridicule and make fun of him.  The fact that he's such a huge fan of Seinfeld's might discourage ASAN from approaching the comedian to do a fundraiser for them, but I don't know. 

Compared to most on the spectrum though, I've had it quite good and have worked in the past and am pretty high-functioning though it has impaired my life to a significant degree.  There are others with intellectual disabilities, who can't talk, engage in self-injurious behavior and smear feces on walls.  I don't think it is helpful for celebrities such as this man to trivialize this condition which affects so many people.   


Anonymous said...

Apparently, Autism is the new cool in Hollywood. I guess anyone with personal quirks & oddities can self-diagnose themselves with anything they want. Either that, he's doing a half ass job of trying to relate to autistics &/or their families with his fundraising activities for autism speaks. Another possibility is this maybe just some kind of joke. IDK! Anybody who's unconventional,a hipster or belonging to an alternative subculture can feel autistic, because they feel the need to be so far out there as possible. I bet you 10-1 if they went even just half an hour going through the autistic spectrum, especially as someone more severely affected as you & I, they would be crying & screaming to come back to being normal.

w ford said...

I am darn tired of elitist prick self diagnosing "autism" i have real high functioning autism with nf1 disease. Both suck and like mr gadfly i am on ssdi and have failled at jobs and school. We high funct autistic are going the rare exceptions not the norm.

hdlmatchette said...

no one is saying autism is "cool". lot of "lower functioning" autistics don't want a cure either. read "two houses" by henry frost