Whose Planet Is It Anyway?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Vancouver Sun Prints Bigoted Article on Adult Autism

Although a Sunday article in the Vancouver Sun entitled "Researchers pulling back the veil on adult autism" contained a large number of offensive stereotypes and generalizations, actual cites to research were conspicuously lacking.

The author gave as an example of an autistic person an "office clerk who beat up a woman on his way to the bus stop one morning for the simple reason she was in his way." She further stated that "their social skills are disastrous" and suggested that autistic adults often receive a diagnosis after "they're reprimanded at work for making an inappropriate comment, or charged with harassing or stalking."


Karen Rodman, founder of FAAAS, was quoted as an authoritative source for such pronouncements as "There's no rhyme or reason (to an autistic person's behavior)." Here's a little background on FAAAS: The acronym originally stood for Families of Adults Afflicted by Asperger's Syndrome, but the second "a" was later changed to "affected" as a bid to improve the group's public image when FAAAS was booted out of the International Asperger's Year event because of its reputation as a hate group. Its membership is composed largely of spiteful ex-wives involved in bitter custody disputes with autistic men, and it has a long history of inventing imaginary psychological syndromes and throwing around nasty and groundless stereotypes.

Several autistic self-advocates wrote to Patricia Graham, the Sun's editor-in-chief, to express our concerns about the article. She replied that she did not believe there was anything wrong with it but that she would consider a correction if specific inaccuracies were pointed out.

So we provided some data. We cited the US statistic that only 4.5 people per year assert autism as a defense in a violent crime case, out of almost 1.5 million violent crimes per year (source: Autism Society of America). We pointed out that research studies have proven that autistics are no more likely than non-autistics to commit violent acts or violent crimes (Murrie, Warren, Kristiansson, & Dietz, 2002; Barry-Walsh & Mullen, 2004).

Unfortunately, we got no reply to that, and no retraction or correction was printed. I suspect that when Ms. Graham told us that she would consider a correction, what she really meant was "I'll consider it if I get some complaints from normal people, but I don't give a rat's patootie about anything you freaks have to say." Or something along those lines.

We need united action to make it crystal clear to Ms. Graham that prejudiced articles of this sort are totally unacceptable. Letters and calls from parents, professionals, and other allies are needed, as well as letters from autistic self-advocates. Also, if you have the time, please write blog and/or forum posts about the article and copy Ms. Graham's contact information, listed below:

Patricia Graham, Editor in Chief, Vancouver Sun
Address: #1 - 200 Granville Street, Vancouver BC V6C 3N3, Canada
Phone: 604-605-2318
Fax: 604-605-2668

In the wake of the Michael Savage controversy, there's a reasonable likelihood that Ms. Graham may be amenable to issuing a correction/retraction and a public apology if we can put enough pressure on her. Bigoted statements about autistic people can have real consequences in the form of lost advertisers, as Mr. Savage has discovered.

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  • Is FAAAS a very big organisation then? Must be if the paper went to them for an authoratative statement, right?


    I'll have to remember that one.

    By Blogger Maddy, at 10:52 AM  

  • Something should be sent to the publisher and a list of advertisers. Advertisers are where the action is.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:47 PM  

  • The Vancouver Sun recently published a major series about autism, in which autistics were described as just naturally being violent and dangerous to others, as less than human (e.g., like animals), as not having lives, as destroying ourselves and our families unless we are in ABA programs, etc.

    In the entire series (six feature articles and many supporting articles), not one autistic person was interviewed or had a say.

    One naive citizen wrote to the Vancouver Sun to protest against the rights and privacy of an autistic child being flagrantly violated in this series.

    In response, the Vanvouver Sun gave extensive space to a major government funded autism advocate, Deborah Pugh of Autism Community Training. Ms Pugh berated the letter-writer for suggesting that autistics be treated as though we are fully human. Ms Pugh took the position that autistics should be treated adversely, in ways nonautistics would never be treated, because we lack the basic human quality of being aware. The BC government, which funds ACT, stood by this position, as did ACT.

    This Vancouver Sun series won a major Canadian journalism award.

    Welcome to Canada, where autism advocacy is predominant, ubiquitous and the law.

    In my view, the Vancouver Sun series, like Autism Every Day, was an accurate representation of the harsh realities of being autistic in this era of autism advocacy. But you have to see it from the autistics' view point, something that is not often done.

    By Blogger Michelle Dawson, at 1:51 PM  

  • If you read the FAAAS website in full you will find that they do endless advocacy for the rights of people with Asperger's Syndrome.

    Asperger's is a very serious disorder,if it were not it would not need a dignosis and those suffering from it would not need special help, social services and so on.

    FAAAS primarily helps the families of those with Asperger's but at the same time helps the general public with education and information.

    I personally have a problem with the endless number of bandwagon jumpers who in recent years have been diagnosing themselves with various ASDs. These people distract the public from the seriousness if this disorder.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:38 PM  

  • "I personally have a problem with the endless number of bandwagon jumpers who in recent years have been diagnosing themselves with various ASDs. These people distract the public from the seriousness if this disorder."

    Please provide evidence anonymous FAAS founder.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:58 PM  

  • So FAAAS do work on behalf of autistics? Since when? You still hve Maxine Aston listed prominently riht? You know, the gal who invents syndromes and when she doesn't have any data, she invents that. Let's be honest here, anonymous, even though that might be a trifle difficult for you, FAAAS is a hate site and pure poison for anyone on the spectrum.

    On a different note, I'll be writing to the head of faculty at Queens and asking for a retraction of support for that article as well as an explanation.

    By Blogger Alyric, at 7:51 PM  

  • FAAAS does nothing to advocate *for* those of us with Asperger syndrome. Evidence from the FAAAS website and other sources, such as the article we are talking about: "There's no rhyme or reason. And the problem is with everyone else around them. It's never their fault." and other absurd comments) indicates that they advocate *against* us, though. Why is the informant in the article worried about “fault”? Many of the writings of FAAAS members/affiliates argue for things like: no inclusion in schools, unprofessional and unethical bias against Asperger's/autistics in separation and custody cases (there’s that focus on “fault” again). I don't want to clog this blog with links. You can go to the site and do a search yourself.

    Michelle, the information about the award-winning and extremely biased Vancouver Sun series explains the response of the editor-in-chief. I probably will get a stomachache now... erk. It makes me feel ill. Maybe I am suffering from "FAAAS Affective Disorder." (That was a joke!!!)

    The violent crime statistic is a combination of Autism Society of America statistics and the 2006 FBI Uniform Crime Report for violent crimes.

    FYI I am not self-diagnosed.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 8:51 PM  

  • Here are some emails associated with Canwest. These are probably not a complete list but represent various regions within the Canwest network.

    Targeting advertisers would be good too, as someone else mentioned.


    By Blogger Unknown, at 10:35 PM  

  • What we need to draw their attention to is the fact that they are inciting hatred against an identifiable group.

    By Blogger VAB, at 3:09 AM  

  • Disgusting article! Thanks for writing about it. I will write to Ms Graham pointing out what a load of rot they published.

    The paper's track record, as explained by Michelle, gives little hope for a retraction or apology.

    By Blogger Sharon McDaid, at 7:33 AM  

  • The Province and the Sun--and all the other newspapers around the province previously owned by Conrad Black, then bought out by the illustrious Asper Family (being sold to another skank as I type)--are all biased in favour of fascism (corporate rule and rich folk).They are always AGAINST helping the disadvantaged, disabled and mentally ill, judging by the crap they write in their slanted journalistic fashion. They are against the NDP. Poor Glen Clark got full pages of bad press when it turned out all of it was a trumped up charge (made up by Campbell and corrupt cop Peter Montague). In fact, BCTV was right there when Glenn got arrested! How did that happen, without collusion? Yet, the Sun/Province print nothing about all the skullduggery that got Campbell elected! Hardly a word on the specious sale of BC Rail and the fact that our taxdollars were given to CN to buy our rails! Campbell said the BC Rails were money-losing, when BC Rails cleared $72 million in profit the year before! The Sun and The Province lie about the environmental crisis we're in, quoting the bought "scientists" from the Fraser Institute--the latter being the biggest source of propaganda since Nazi Goebbels. Never buy the Province or the Sun. Never read it. Never watch CTV news on TV. You are getting the McNews that multi-national corporations want you to see. Vote against Campbell and Harper next time--en masse!

    By Blogger Sue, at 10:38 AM  

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