Thursday, December 11, 2014

Will Neurodiversity provide the #mssng link?

Several months ago it was announced that Autism Speaks had partnered with Google to sequence of the genomes of 10,000 persons on the autism spectrum and their family members.  It was hoped that the project would find clues to the etiology of at least some forms of autism as it is quite possible if not probable that they partially originate from some form of genetic mutations.

When I first heard about the partnership between AS and Google I wondered if, to be consistent, whether or not the members of neurodiversity would boycott Google.  If they urge boycotts of other organizations involved with autism speaks perhaps they should not use a google search engine, not use blogger blogs and never again view or post a video on youtube.  As far as I know, none of them have done this yet.  Nor, to the best of my knowledge, have they written a letter to Google urging them to severe ties with the organization they hate so much as they've done with Sesame Street and other groups who have had an association with autism speaks.  Or even if they would claim that this project would result in eugenics.  Now, apparently they have taken some action.  

Autism Speaks has used a promotional gimmick to advertise this partnership of using the term mssng with certain letters deliberately omitted.  They have also used #mssng as a hash tag on twitter.  They apparently meant that certain information was missing in autism and were not directing it at autistic people.  Only hoping that missing answers could be found to help autistic people.

Predictably, members of the neurodiversity movement have taken umbrage.  They have responded angrily, that they are not mssng, there is nothing wrong with them, autism speaks are evil ogres who are insulting them and are even trying to destroy them.  They have added their own hash tag on twitter, #notmssng.

Others have provided more tempered responses stating that what is mssng are supports and services.  At the forefront of this is one of ND's most prominent proponents John Elder Robison.  He's written a response to the mssng campaign.  Interestingly enough he states that he favors genetic research of this sort, but says it would not be a priority of his.  Then he goes on to state we are spending money in the wrong places and should not be looking at the "autism riddle".  He states that we need therapies and other services to fill in the gap and that these are obtainable.  He not only stated that there should be funding for these endeavors, but that it should be administered by autistic people.  If he has such great ideas with all of his money, power and influence, and he does not agree with Autism Speaks' spending priorities why he doesn't start his own 501(c)  organization and attempt to do this and fund certain projects or suggest what and how they can be funded?  How can someone disabled by autism be accommodated so they can have a job, a lifetime partner and other goals.  How can a nonverbal autistic be treated and accommodated so that they can speak?  What research can be done that will help autistic people in the here and now, since Robison complains that genetic research will not help anyone in the foreseeable future.

ASAN is now a 501(c) organization run exclusively by autistic people, exactly the type of enterprise that Robison is talking about.  They have made similar claims that acceptance and accommodations will solve everything and that if AS spent their money more wisely we could achieve the goals that Robison has discussed.  In Gadfly's opinion, ASAN has failed miserably in this regard.  I have read their stuff and yet, I can't recall them having written what accommodations and therapies can help autistic people.  They only want to tear down autism speaks and persons, like myself, who want to find a cure.  They demonstrate against autism speaks and talk about how terrible it is, yet don't seem to want to provide any solutions of their own the problems autism causes, regardless of whether it's a medical disability or a social disability.  Out of their $300,000 dollar budget $65,000 alone goes just to pay Ari Ne'eman's salary.  Much of the rest of the money goes to other staff members pay and rents on offices.

I realize that ASAN's response to this is that since people wrongly perceive autism to be a disease or a defect rather than neurodiversity's description of an alternative form of brain wiring they will donate money to autism speaks and if ASAN had the millions that AS does and not merely a few hundred grand in assets perhaps they could provide research into supports and accommodations and therapies that would help autistics now and not decades from now.  I don't believe that poor capitalization is an excuse.  I'm still waiting for suggestions from Robison, ASAN, or any other members of the ND movement for that matter as how this can be done.  They are saliently lacking in those suggestions.

 Will the ND movement at some point in time provide the #mssng link?  I won't hold my bated breath.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

What does current supreme court free speech case bode for and its members

There's a story in the news that's been gaining some traction as of late that has piqued my interest.  It is about an individual named Anthony Elonis, a former amusement park worker, who wrote lyrics in the form of rap poetry threatening to kill his estranged wife as well as an FBI agent who questioned him on Facebook.  There are federal laws against making such threats and Elonis was prosecuted and convicted.  He is now going before the Supreme Court stating that these laws against posting idle threats that he did not intend to carry out violate his first amendment right to free speech and are therefore unconstitutional.  Elonis claimed that these weren't actually threats but were in fact rants he was making in order to blow off steam and that a reasonable person would not believe these were actual threats.  His attorney, John Elwood gave these as arguments.  From what I've read, SCOTUS won't render a decision on this matter probably until next summer, but based on their responses to Elwood, they don't appear to be ruling in Elonis' favor.  Hopefully they will render a verdict that threats such as these don't constitute free speech protected under the first amendment.  

Does this sound familiar to the few regular readers of Autism's Gadfly?  It should because one poster on did something very similar. Like Elonis, this person gave a similar rationale for his actions, stating it was only a rant to blow off steam and not an actual threat.  Apparently this person was not an American, but lived in Switzerland where the laws may be different.  He was apparently questioned by authorities and may have been subject to prosecution from what I gathered from reading what he said.  If he were in the U.S.A. he probably could have been prosecuted under the same laws that Elonis was.

In another instance, an individual named William Freund  posted on Wrongplanet that he was going to hurt some people.  These were not idle threats, but Freund actually carried them out and murdered two people.  Alex Plank and whatever other persons were responsible for running things at Wrong Planet neglected to report this individual to the authorities.  If they had, lives may have been saved.  I was the one who reported the second individual to the FBI and that is probably the only reason the Swiss authorities were investigating him.  This individual has not been banned from Wrong planet but is still a member in good standing.

I doubt very much that Facebook or any other website that Elonis posted such things would allow him to do so.  Yet Wrongplanet is fine in being complicit with illegal activities and not reporting actions such as these to law enforcement authorities and allowing them to continue to do so and allowing people who violate federal laws to be members in good standing.   

I believe that not only is it possible there will be a third such incident (assuming there have not been others that I don't know about) but I suspect based on the type of people who post on Wrongplanet it is highly probable that there will be.  I'm not sure what the law is, but I wonder if Plank or anyone else involved in the day-to-day administration of Wrongplanet can be prosecuted for complicity in these things.  I know that Plank and Wrongplanet were sued by the family of the persons Freund murdered, but I don't know what the outcome of the suit was, whether Plank settled with the family or whether or not a judgment was rendered and I'm not sure what Plank's and WP's liability is in such a circumstance.

However, I believe something should be done about this.  I'm not sure I have the time and inclination to monitor WP for such posts, but I believe this website and it's administrators should be watched.  I hope the Supreme Court won't allow this to be constitutionally protected free speech.  I am in favor of the first amendment and free speech, but I believe a line should be drawn somewhere and threats such as these should not be called "rants" or be constitutionally protected.

I can only hope that law enforcement authorities will be watching Plank and his buddies on WP.  If there is no law where these people can be prosecuted for this stuff, I hope that congress will enact one and if it happens again Plank and other staff members of Wrongplanet will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of that law.

However, this does not seem to be the case.  Plank was a keynote speaker at ASA, Autism Speaks funded his and John Robison junior's inane videos, he was also a consultant on the defunct TV show The Bridge.  Plank continues to bask in glory despite his misdemeanors.  I'm not sure I understand this, but I hope if  the SCOTUS does not render a favorable verdict in this case, that it won't bode well for Wrongplanet and individuals who write posts such as these and something will be done.