Whose Planet Is It Anyway?

Friday, January 19, 2007

A Delicious Rat Burger

There's a hilarious scene in the movie Demolition Man where Stallone, while walking through an underground rebel encampment, decides to stop and buy a burger from a Hispanic pushcart vendor. His companion points out that this might not be the best idea because, as anyone can see, there are no cows underground. Stallone asks the vendor what kind of meat is in the burger.

STALLONE: De que es esta carne?

VENDOR (cheerfully): Esta carne es de rata!

STALLONE (sputtering and looking disgusted): Rat? This is a RAT burger?!


Stallone, who ate some dull and tasteless health food in a previous scene, thinks about it for a moment. Then he wolfs down the rat burger and tells the vendor, "Delicious."

I was reminded of that movie when I read Kathleen Seidel's post about the new book by Professor Roy Grinker, Unstrange Minds, which explores the historical and cultural context of autism from an anthropologist's perspective and concludes that there has been no autism epidemic. In response to the book's publication, both Time and Slate have published articles sympathetic to the view that what is now called "autism" always has been part of human diversity throughout the world. Kathleen's post mentions that Professor Grinker's research on autism in Korea was funded by the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR), which has merged into Autism Speaks.

The post also discusses how Autism Speaks, after becoming aware of the book's content, reacted by employing an anti-vaccine consultant to solicit hostile parent comments about the book. Kathleen, who is a master of the art of understatement, describes this as "ironic." I'd say that the irony is so thick here, you could cut it with the proverbial knife. Or spread it on your rat burger with your ketchup and mustard.

Thanks so much for bringing the message of neurodiversity to the mass media, Autism Speaks/NAAR. Very tasty indeed.

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  • Effectively, Autism Speaks solicited feedback about the book from EOHarm, which is essentially a conspiracy theory mailing list. In fairness, the Autism Speaks leadership probably didn't know about it. Kevin Barry likely did it behind their backs.

    By Blogger Joseph, at 11:33 AM  

  • How many times have we heard criticism of Kirby's book answered by "Have you even read the book?"

    So how many in the EoH crowd have actually read Dr. Grinker's book? I know I haven't yet but I'm not about to comment on it until I have.

    As long as you brought up Stallone, back in the 80's some decent research was funded by the Stallone Autism Research Foundation. I guess his son is older now and I'm not sure if the foundation is still active, but I have to wonder how things would be different in the age of thimerosal.

    Judge Dredd II: Omnibus Hearings
    Cliffhanger II: 2006 Q4 CDDS report
    Stop! Or My Mom Will Write a Hypothesis
    Rambo V: Frist's Blood
    Tango & Cash esq.

    By Blogger notmercury, at 1:52 PM  

  • Joseph: You may be right... after all, the Autism Speaks leadership doesn't know jack about a lot of things...

    NM: I wasn't aware that Stallone had an autistic son or that he funded some research, but it doesn't surprise me. Stallone seems pretty autistic himself, both in his body language and in his speech.

    LOL at your thimerosal movie titles.

    By Blogger abfh, at 5:49 PM  

  • i THOUGHT there was something familiar about the dating scenes in Rocky Balboa. (^_^)

    By Blogger Natalia, at 6:57 PM  

  • Considering that the Wrights in particular are pretty new to all things autism, sometimes I wonder if they simply were misfortunate in making contact with so many conspiracy minded parents (and ended up with more than a few running the show in their organisation).

    Perhaps with time they'll figure things out for themselves? I mean, if they're so busy making money to fund research, eventually they're going to HAVE to pay attention to the findings, right?

    I'm sorry, I'm totally flummoxed by the 'rat burger' analogy. Don't explain...sigh. I'll think it through eventually lol :)

    By Anonymous Mum Is Thinking, at 5:52 PM  

  • Mum is Thinking: yes, the Wrights and many of the people at NAAR knew very little about autism when they got involved. So they declared war on autism before they even understood what it was, and they didn't have a clue what sort of research findings they were going to end up with...

    (I'm going to explain the analogy for anyone else who may be confused, so feel free to skip the next part of this comment if you don't want an explanation, MiT.)

    I find it marvelously ironic that Grinker's work, which supports the neurodiversity perspective, may turn out to be the most influential research project they've funded, considering that most of their dollars go to prenatal screening research and other rat-ugly stuff.

    Hence the rat burger analogy... one wouldn't have expected to find something so tasty from such a noxious source...

    By Blogger abfh, at 9:23 PM  

  • We can only hope their ignorance isn't the stubborn kind (you know how some people will continue to do the wrong thing, even after they've learned better, just because they hate to admit they were wrong.)

    It won't be only THEIR kids paying the price if that's the case, we all have to shoulder the burden of their mistakes.

    Thanks for the explanation. It makes perfect sense, I should have gotten that :)

    By Anonymous Mum Is Thinking, at 6:25 PM  

  • Grinker's book wasn't really part of what NAAR was funding, they funded epidemiology in Korea. That might have paid for Grinker to be in Korea getting a better handle on how autism plays out in that culture, but they didn't expect him to write a book about there being no epidemic. I don't know which came first the idea for the book or the funding for the epidemiology.

    I'm guessing that his pubisher may have given him an advance that might have paid for his travel to India and Africa. I seriously doubt NAAR funded that.

    Still, since NAAR was swallowed by Autism Sqeaks, and since NAAR had funded Grinker's epidemiology work, I think they felt somewhat obligated to be respectful of his book which deals with epidemiology.

    Maybe you knew all this already, sorry if I'm explaining the obvious.

    The set-up is still pretty amazing and your rat burger analogy still works.

    By Anonymous Ms. Clark, at 3:32 AM  

  • Ms. Clark -- thanks. I didn't know that NAAR had funded any of Grinker's research until I read Kathleen's post, and yes, it's still a pretty amazing sequence of events, even if the publisher's advance paid for some of his research.

    You bet they didn't expect him to write a book about there being no epidemic...

    By Blogger abfh, at 11:45 AM  

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