The internet has opened access to many people. We read journals by people we don't know. We make statements on newspaper articles and have it seen by many. We say anything on Facebook or Twitter or our own blogs, with no censoring, no editor to decide appropriateness, and no filter for truth.
This access appears to be an equalizer, but it's not. It's a pull to the lowest common denominator. As a result, we are bombarded by garbage.
And it's not just garbage. It's brutal and hate-filled. It hits like a fist. But everyone does it, even the New York Times allows it, so it must be okay.
Except it's not. I used to think that journalistic integrity demanded that every one get their say, but even print newspapers refused to print violent attacks, obscenities, ad hominem insults, or lies. There were rules of rhetoric, rules of civil debate, rules of libel and slander. And there was something called social opprobrium.
When so many people put so many essays out to public discourse and there are no longer editors enforcing the rules, other people must step forward to do so. This enforcement is especially necessary when vulnerable populations are involved. Those characteristics that society marks as "different" demand protection from unedited brutality. Public discourse should not a place where anyone can say anything. It should not be a megaphone for hatred.
The public discourse surrounding autism is currently dominated by charities and parents who portray autism in a harsh light. Charities use fear and pity to motivate donations. Parents believe public discourse is an acceptable place to seek support and understanding for their situation. Neither group acknowledges the damage to autistic people from a constant negative portrayal and the prejudice that builds in the general public.
There was a time in the United States that another population was portrayed as violent, slow to comprehend, inherently different, and difficult to deal with. It was acceptable for another group to dominate public discourse with this negative portrayal, without regard for effect on the group or their treatment by the general public. Very few people reproached this portrayal and when they did, they were met by a public backlash. It took decades of direct confrontation before it became somewhat unacceptable to talk about black people with this kind of prejudice.
It is acceptable and expected for parents to want support for the kind of intense parenting that autism demands. But public discourse is not the way. When parents read public discourse as a way of support, they absorb the harshness, the brutality, and the negativity. They hoped for relief and they are fed negativity.
When autistic people are treated by the public as violent, slow to comprehend, and difficult to deal with, they feel it. Regardless of whether they read or listen to public discourse it, they feel it. It hits them like a fist. Every day, over and over. It is a never-ending trauma. They believe themselves unworthy of any other kind of treatment. They wait for the next hit. And they never get a chance to recover.
The media and charities are using parents to get a story. If it bleeds, it leads. They aren't concerned about the effects on autistic people or on families. If we don't stop this prejudice , who will? Who will protect our children, our friends, our loved ones from the damage?