Sadly, there are still many people who do not understand that irresponsible news articles, such as the one I mentioned in my previous post, can lead directly to actual murders by depicting parents who fantasize about killing an autistic child in a sympathetic light. I got a comment yesterday that defended the article as follows:
"In no way was the author of the article condoning the parent's impulsive thoughts, but rather she was illustrating the incredible depth of the frustration and pain that loved ones feel for their family member... It was a horrific event, and it hurt me to read it, knowing the intense emotional pain that the parent had to be experiencing in order to be driven to that point of desperate thinking."
What the author of that comment (and probably the author of the article, as well) doesn't get is that such "desperate thinking" is not a rare, isolated occurrence. It's part of a broad social pattern of devaluing the lives of autistics and people with disabilities. Although people who have strong feelings of emotional pain may indeed have a need to talk about their feelings, that doesn't justify shooting them off like the proverbial loose cannon, with no regard for their effects on society. If you are a parent who has thought about murdering your child, then you should be talking about those feelings with a therapist, a support group, and perhaps a minister or other member of the clergy. You may need to ask a psychiatrist for medication or consult with a lawyer or social worker about placing your child in someone else's custody for his protection. But for God's sake, don't give an interview telling the world that you think it would be easier for both you and your child if you killed him. Real people are dying because of attitudes like that.
And if you are a journalist writing about autism, be careful how you frame your story. You have an ethical responsibility to avoid inciting prejudice and violence against a minority group. A century ago, many journalists contributed to the lynch mob mentality by writing lurid stories about lynching that described the feelings of the participants. Don't write the modern-day equivalent of those stories.