My Publicist Ate My Homework
Dr. Casanova has since posted on both the Autism Vox blog and the Aspies for Freedom forum, asserting that he was misquoted. He wrote:
"I never said that I was getting ready to wipe out autism. The attribution should go to the reporter. I never said most of the statements in that release, they came from the publicist who was there with me. "
He has maintained a polite and respectful tone in his discussion with autistic activists who questioned him about the interview, and I'm amenable to giving him the benefit of the doubt as to his intentions. Still, this debacle goes to show that anyone who is doing research on autism, or who is marketing products or services to the autistic community, needs to be very careful about how their work is presented. It's not enough just to hand the task off to a publicist who knows nothing about the autistic community. Anyone who employs a publicist to write a press release about a new discovery or product related to autism has the responsibility, first, to ensure that the publicist is reasonably well informed, and second, to review the press release before it is given to the media.
One person who commented on Dr. Casanova's posts on Aspies for Freedom pointed out that the autistic community has "become rather paranoid of late." I would describe that as a major understatement. The autistic community is in a desperate struggle for survival. We know that there really are influential, well-financed organizations spreading hate and prejudice against autistics—organizations that would like nothing better than to see every autistic person wiped out. We know that if the eugenicists had their way, the entire global autistic population, recently estimated at 70 million, would go the way of Down Syndrome—deemed categorically unfit to live, reduced to a few isolated survivors treated as subhuman curiosities, always facing the stares and whispers of strangers: "Didn't her mother know there was a prenatal test?"
So when we see a news story about someone proposing to wipe out autism, many of us take it at face value and respond accordingly. Anyone who wants to sell autism-related products or services had better be aware that using careless language with even the slightest whiff of eugenics could turn out to be a major marketing disaster. To the autism industry: Do your homework.