Whose Planet Is It Anyway?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Michael Savage in Deep Doo-Doo

A lot of people have been wondering what the heck Michael Savage was thinking last week when he said, among other offensive remarks, that autistic children were really just brats who needed more discipline. I'm inclined to believe that the potential consequences of his rant never even crossed his mind. If he thought about it at all, he probably figured that—given the extent of the ugly, dehumanizing language so often used to describe autistic children in recent years—there would be no consequences whatsoever.

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.

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15 Comments:

  • Nobody got sacked and the network rallied round to defend him... 'his words were taken out of context' is approximately what they are saying... in that there was no real context for them.

    TRN is just as nasty and bigotted as he is.

    By Blogger David N. Andrews MEd (Distinction), at 4:22 AM  

  • Good point about those who have tolerated demeaning language in other situations, and like you, I hope this incident will lead people to stand against such hate speech, no matter what the supposed benefit might be.

    I've sent off a few emails to advertisers. The ASAN is dealing with this with real skill.

    By Blogger Sharon, at 7:22 AM  

  • Savage was only talking about the Neuroinsane with his rant. He did a good job and should be congratulated

    By Blogger Foresam, at 7:25 AM  

  • foresam {hearts} savage. why are we not surprised?

    excellent post, abfh.

    By Anonymous mekei, at 7:40 AM  

  • Yes, good points! Here's my theory why people reacted to nasty comments this time, when they've let them go (or even perpetuated them) for so long: In this case, unlike in times past, the nasty remarks insult the parents. Calling a child a "train wreck," etc., says nothing about the parents, who remain sacred and holy and beleaguered and maybe even "victimized"; such language may denigrate the child, the vaccines, the evil doctors, educators ... anybody and everybody, really (especially the child), but certainly not the *parents.*

    However, calling a child a "brat" and saying he needs discipline implies something negative about the *parents.* Heaven forbid! Now you've crossed the line! And so suddenly you have a nation full of parents reacting against this negative language -- not simply because it's wrong and mean, but because it's wrong and mean **and about the parents.**

    Peace, man.

    Marie Stamer

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:54 AM  

  • "foresam <3 savage. why are we not surprised?"

    always know JBJr was in the closet!

    only reason JBJr <3 Savage is that JBJr hasn't yet plunged to the depths of shit that Savage has managed to reach.

    Pathetic when you worship someone who is even shittier than youself, innit?

    By Blogger David N. Andrews MEd (Distinction), at 3:05 PM  

  • Mr Andrews, How old were you when you decided to give yourself Asperger's?

    By Blogger Foresam, at 3:22 PM  

  • foresam, autism isn't a parcel; the notion of giving it to oneself (or anyone else) is completely illogical!

    By Anonymous TrillianZeta, at 10:14 AM  

  • Returning to the original post, Michael Savage was completely out of line and also wrong.

    In my experience, autistic people need a disciplined environment not to keep themselves in line but to make others stay in line (instead of acting in a prejudicial manner towards them, which is what usually happens when playground law dominates the landscape).

    By Anonymous TrillianZeta, at 10:18 AM  

  • TZ, he's only here to derail. If we ignore him, he can't succeed...

    He's just not worth trying to reason with.

    Nobody bothers now.

    By Blogger David N. Andrews MEd (Distinction), at 10:11 PM  

  • Andrews, Do you have a job giving bad advice to mental cases like yourself yet?

    By Blogger Foresam, at 11:03 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger David N. Andrews MEd (Distinction), at 6:19 PM  

  • "In my experience, autistic people need a disciplined environment not to keep themselves in line but to make others stay in line (instead of acting in a prejudicial manner towards them, which is what usually happens when playground law dominates the landscape)."

    As a psychologist who also happens to be autistic, I couldn't agree more! This is what Rita Jordan seems to mean with 'prosthetic environments'.*

    *edited to add the point about RJ's idea.

    By Blogger David N. Andrews MEd (Distinction), at 6:20 PM  

  • The Weiner Nation ... http://autismparents.net/the-weiner-nation-great-michael-savage-pic/

    By Blogger FieldingHurst, at 1:08 PM  

  • Michael Savage is an idiot. Nobody should take him seriously.

    David,
    I also agree that we'd be better off in a well disciplined environment. When I was in jr. high, the teachers did little to keep the bullies in line.

    I go to a school with a loose code of conduct, but few people bully each other. Everyone is so different from each other, nobody takes "coolness" seriously. It doesn't matter what clothes you wear, what car you have, or what music you listen to. Nobody wants to waste energy picking on somebody for any of these. We are all too busy working on our passions!

    By Blogger BigTimeSynesthete, at 3:51 PM  

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