Michael Savage in Deep Doo-Doo
After all, "combating autism" is now an official policy of the United States government; some of our politicians and autism charities have given the impression that they're competing to see how many times in the same speech they can revile autistics as a devastating burden to society; and people calling themselves autism advocates have used language such as train wreck, tsunami, empty shell, etc., to describe autistic children for the past several years with apparent impunity. Michael Savage probably thought the language he used was comparatively mild.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the Land of Easy Laughs. Instead of shrugging off Savage's remarks as just more of the usual melodramatic language often used about autism, millions of people reacted with disgust and outrage. Disability rights groups, autistic self-advocates, and parent groups joined together to denounce Savage's bigotry and to call upon his sponsors to pull their ads from his show. Advertisers and radio stations are now abandoning his show in droves, and Savage's career is in serious jeopardy. (To put a few more nails in his coffin, visit the Autistic Self Advocacy Network for a list of advertisers to contact.)
What happened here? How did an ignorant rant about autism on a talk show that regularly features plenty of ignorant rants suddenly snowball into a career-destroying controversy? I suspect it has to do with the fact that, unlike previous insulting statements from politicians and charitable groups, Savage's rant clearly was intended as nothing but entertainment. Parents who cringed at the language used in fundraising campaigns might have been willing to ignore their qualms about it, reasoning that it was at least intended to raise money for services that their child needed. However, they were not at all willing to give a free pass to a hate-spewing shock jock.
I hope that this incident, whether or not Michael Savage ends up getting fired, will prompt more critical reflection by people who might have been inclined to overlook insulting language in the past. Politicians and fundraising campaigns do not need to demean autistic children in order to accomplish the goal of providing services. It's time for advocacy that focuses on our kids' potential contributions to society, rather than on devastation rhetoric.