I am trying to maintain some sense of perspective at the moment, but actually I am seething. I cannot believe what I have just read on the Internet. Anybody who knows me knows I love kids, particularly kids with disabilities – probably because I was a kid with disabilities. I have a soft spot for them, and really rejoice when they achieve something which previously that had struggled with, even if that achievement may be mundane for other children. I also know that by and large children with disabilities have the most generous spirits and are,for want of a better word, more loving and accepting of others.
This is why when I read the words of a savage, I mean of Dr. Savage, I am shocked to the core. Before I continue, I need to point out that I had never heard of this Dr. Savage previously, and so I have no axe to grind. Well, I didn't but now I do. You bet, I do. Before reading on, I need to say that the following quote contains language that is defamatory and unkind and is sure to upset many readers. If you choose to read on, do so, knowing that the author of this article distances himself from it entirely and only quotes it in order to give the reader some context. If you have read his words before, I suggest you jump over it and read after the quote.
Now, the illness du jour is autism. You know what autism is? I'll tell you what autism is. In 99% of the cases, it's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out. That's what autism is.... What do you mean they scream and they're silent? They don't have a father around to tell them, 'Don't act like a moron. You'll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz. Straighten up. Act like a man. Don't sit there crying and screaming, idiot.' Autism—everybody has an illness. If I behaved like a fool, my father called me a fool. And he said to me, 'Don't behave like a fool.' The worst thing he said—'Don't behave like a fool. Don't be anybody's dummy. Don't sound like an idiot. Don't act like a girl. Don't cry.' That's what I was raised with. That's what you should raise your children with. Stop with the sensitivity training. You're turning your son into a girl, and you're turning your nation into a nation of losers and beaten men. (The Savage Nation: 16 July 2008)
He speaks as though illness were a fashion accessory. Whichever way you turn it, Autism is an illness – and it is a widely researched illness, with sufferers all over the world. People do not generally go shopping for an illness, as Dr. Savage implies. Even if they did, I doubt that Autism would be the “illness of choice” as he implies. From the testimonies of many parents of children with Autism, one learns that the arrival of a child with autism in the family results in one's life being turned upside down. Friends desert you because they can't handle it – and why should they? – It's not their kid. The child is emotionally very disturbed and needs lots of patient and loving reassurance even after the parent is at the end of their tether. One can't leave the child with a babysitter – or drop him off at Granny's because he will be too traumatized by the separation. Who in their right mind would wish that on themselves, to say nothing of the kid.
He asks “You know what autism is?” Sure – I think I have a better idea than you, Dr. Savage. I would however not claim to have encyclopedic knowledge of the condition, although I have done quite a lot of reading on the matter. As a teacher, I had to work with a lad with Autism. It was not easy, but he was in his teens and so, despite his intellectual challenges , I guess he was easier to deal with than a younger child. From his comments, it is clear the Dr. Savage has little understanding or exposure to children with Autism.
His claim that 99% of cases where the diagnosis has been made, it was a “brat” who was acting up just leaves me cold. I think that the specialists should take him to task and sue him for slander – he has quoted a 'statistic' which he should therefore be able to prove statistically. i.e. He should be able to prove with actual case histories that 99% of diagnoses are incorrect. If he can't then he should be sued until he has to sell the shirt on his back and live on food stamps. Making a statement you cannot back up with fact is called slander and when you slander somebody or a group of people, you cannot say it is “free speech” - it is lies and you are responsible for your speech and the consequences of that speech.
Dr. Savage should be held accountable and made to pay for this deep deep insult to already hurting people. I don't know how much he is worth in terms of his personal wealth but I reckon it must be a six-digit figure. I reckon that since he sucked this percentage (99%) out of the air, he should be required to pay 99% of his personal wealth to an organisation that will fund research into autism and help families who are battling because of the financial burden of Autism.
Let us look at some of the inflammatory language employed by this public speaker.
BRAT: an ill-mannered child. What can be more ill-mannered than the incendiary statements made by this man. Polite people do not use the words that he used. He has no right to make blanket generalisations about people he does not even know.
MORON: interesting that he should use this term – it actually is an obsolete term for a mentally retarded person with a mental age of between eight and twelve years old. Given that many autistic children are also developmentally delayed, it is like insulting a blind person by saying “You blind idiot” - nice one.
PUTZ: I dare not put the meaning of this word in this blog – it is so obscene. Look it up if you must – but I am completely gobsmacked that he would dare use such language – I can only think that he never bothered to find out what this word actually means – if he did, and his father really called him that, I would say, he would hate his father. I hope his father is not still alive because he is probably mortified by his son quoting him in this way. Well if he is embarrassed he should be. What a terrible thing to say to one's own child. I can only guess this affirming speech is what set the young savage on his way – like father, like son.
IDIOT: No need to look this word up, it is all too common in daily use, but I must admit, it is not the sort of word I associate with fathers speaking to their children.
FOOL: Well this is giving us an interesting insight into the father-son relationship in the Savage household.
GIRL: (directed at a boy) Well, Savage must have been crying and in the book of social conservatives like Savage, “Boys don't cry!” and so to cry is to be effeminate? This gives us some insight into the emotionally stable Mr. Savage.
THAT'S WHAT I WAS RAISED WITH. THAT'S WHAT YOU SHOULD RAISE YOUR CHILDREN WITH. Really? And so on what basis should we choose to model our parenting on that of your father, Mr. Savage? I know you have a high opinion of yourself, but this arrogance takes the biscuit. If anything, you are proof that that parenting style is bad for children.
LOSERS AND BEATEN MEN: You are a loser, Savage. You have nothing better to do than attack defenseless people who have done nothing to deserve it.
While I believe that appropriate discipline is necessary when bringing up a child, and where a child throws a tantrum in order to get his or her own way, that child should be disciplined, with a smack if necessary. Even in cases where parents have to take a strong hand with their children, the parent should definitely not sink to the level of that child with the name calling and general nastiness and vindictiveness that Savage is suggesting is proper parenting. They say a child learns a lot from what they see their parents doing. When children see their parents modelling good behaviour, they tend to behave well themselves. Equally a child sees his father behaving inappropriately, and children tend to see a lot more than parents often realise, that child will behave inappropriately too. “Daddy smokes, so I will smoke.” “Daddy gets drunk and hits Mummy, so I will drink and hit people” “If Daddy wants something he shouts, so if I want something I should shout too.” However, I am speaking about rearing children without the challenge of Autism – when this comes into the picture, child rearing is a completely new ball game, and basically each parent has to work it out for him- or herself. However yelling at the child is probably the one thing every parent of an autistic child will say does NOT work. It is akin, in my book, to beating and shaking newborn babies because they cry too much or because they mess their nappies/diapers.
Not surprisingly, Savage's words gave rise to a howl of protests. One advertiser has wisely withdrawn their advertisements from stations that air the program and there are calls for Savage's dismissal. I tend to agree that such a malcontent needs to be silenced, or at least have his megaphone taken away. However what is fascinating is this numbskull's defense of words that he spoke and are indefensible. He said,
It is The Savage Nation. The autism controversy is very important because true autism is extremely heartbreaking. I have devoted my entire life, even as a child, to defending the helpless, mainly the helpless children because of a tragedy in my own family, and it's ironic that people who hate families and children -- a group called Media Matters, filled with anti-family individuals who do not marry; they're men who like men -- would take out of context comments that I made last week directed at the misdiagnosed, the falsely diagnosed, and the outright fakers in the autism field and try to make you, the parents of the truly autistic, attack me.1
This man is in the media – he knows, or should do anyway, that what he says on his show becomes a matter of public record. Anybody can get hold of the broadcast in which he spoke those words and see if indeed Media Matters took his words out of context or not. If they had taken an excerpt where he was quoting some other idiot and then cut it off before he has the chance to say that those are idiotic words I would have to say, his words were taken out of context, but as far I can see, those were his words and the only “context” was that they were part of one his “Savage nation” commentaries – he said 99% - not Media Matters – He said that they were brats, morons, etc. He, as a person in media himself, must be held accountable for his own words. His judgment of Media Matters personnel is clearly an attempt to cloud the issue and to distract from the issue at hand. He said that his words were directed at the “misdiagnosed, falsely diagnosed, and outright fakers” which Savage had himself had attributed to 99% of the cases. I'm not saying that there are NO misdiagnoses, or even fakers, though, as I said I find it very hard to see why a parent would put himself and his family through such a trauma. However to suggest that this comprises 99% of the cases is ludicrous.
All Media matters had to do was say, “Listen to this!” – and anyone with half an ounce of brain in their head would realise that what this guy is saying is complete and utter garbage. What's more, I don't think it was ONLY Media Matters who objected to the commentary.
I try to give a balanced outlook on this matter and therefore include the following excerpt from the Emaxhealth website:
Dr. Savage has clarified that his July 16th statements concerning autism were not directed at those who are in fact challenged by this horrible affliction, but were instead addressing efforts to broaden the concept of autism beyond those who truly are autistic to a broader "autistic spectrum" of behavioral symptoms which are also manifested by persons who do not suffer from autism, and his concern that many children are being misdiagnosed as autistic due to the subjective nature of autism diagnosis (due to the lack of known biomedical indicators, such as blood tests, to definitively confirm or deny the actual existence of autism). Dr. Savage has also explained his belief that there have been efforts by certain professionals and professional organizations to expand diagnoses of autism more broadly, for various reasons, and his concern that this victimizes and stigmatizes children who are misdiagnosed as autistic. On multiple other occasions Dr. Savage has expressed his concerns that other conditions, such as ADD and ADHD, are overdiagnosed and result in improper medication of young children, which Dr. Savage regards as abusive.2
Dr. Savage claims that his words on July 16th do not constitute his whole opinion on Autism, but this I'm afraid does not absolve him of the responsibility for the hurtful words used in that broadcast. If anything, his admission that he knows more about autism than we previously had suspected, makes the utterance on the 16th more odious. Just because a biomedical test, such as a blood test or an MRI cannot define Autism does not mean that the condition is imaginary. I am not a medical man, but from what I have read about autism, it is a very complex process that involves not a single doctor but a team of specialists over a period of time to conclude that a child is Autistic.
Whether Dr. Savage likes it or not – there is an “Autistic Spectrum” and and it is for this reason that diagnosing Autism is very complex, it does not manifest in only one way but affects different individual differently.
I have just discovered that Michael Savage is not his real name. His real name is Michael Weiner, which sounds like whiner – no wonder he changed his name – though his choice of “Savage” is mystifying – it is obviously how he charaterises himself – though if you ask me – he sounds more like whiner.3
I wondered what kind of doctorate Weiner has – it turns out it is a doctorate in “medical botany and medical anthropology.”from University of California, Berkley.4 That certainly qualifies him to address the highly complex field of Autism. I'm sure the university is proud of its proud of their alma mater. It seems he is nothing more than a homeopathist – in Africa we call them n'angas or sangomas.