Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Michael Savage: Autism and the Big Lie

Michael Savage, Autism and the Big Lie: “There is no definitive medical diagnosis for autism. None.”

Right Minded Fellow has no use for Michael Savage. Savage is unquestionably one of the most controversial and dangerous figures blabbing over the airwaves today. Conservative talk show hosts, including Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, with no expertise in child psychology have frequently made assertions about the extent to which children are being medicated for various different behavioral issues suggesting that drugs have become a substitute for proper discipline in schools and the home making sweeping claims about the nature of adolescent behavioral and learning difficulties offering nothing more than anecdotes and opinion to establish their platform.

Are schools quick to recommend parents go to pill doctors simply because the modern secular politically-correct school with inconsistent and ridiculous behavior policies cannot tolerate behavior that is little more than boys guilty of nothing more than being boys? ABSOLUTELY.

The failure of public education to effectively guide student behavior is a topic for another day.

To frame this conversation let’s first establish something in clear black and white, though Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity have used their status inappropriately spreading false assumptions on the appropriate use of psychotropic drugs for specific medical conditions that affect behavior, the extent to which they use their pulpit inappropriately is mild compared to Michael Savage’s extremism. Limbaugh and Hannity are quite articulate spokesmen on numerous conservative issues generally supporting their contentions with demonstrable fact. They are completely out of their element discussing child and adolescent psychology. Michael Savage on the other hand, is a dangerous demagogue who lives on exploiting the fears, prejudice, and ignorance of his audience. Though his starting point might often be mainstream conservative issues, where he takes his rhetoric is a hateful place.

Let’s let Savage’s own words show how extreme and his malicious outlook on autism, a severe affliction affecting thousands of children creating tremendous hardship and heartbreaking difficulties for their families, truly are. Sadly, the public is horribly uneducated on this unfortunate misery which affects perhaps more than one child out of 150. Even allowing for degrees of severity, this is a somber reality requiring thoughtful, clear-headed thinking not vile bigoted assertions.

Here are some of the outrageous comments from Michael Savage’s radio broadcast from Wednesday, July 16.

“Now the illness du jour is autism,”…. “You know what autism is? I’ll tell you what autism is. In 99 percent of the cases, it’s a brat who hasn’t been told to cut the act out. That’s what autism is.”

“What do you mean they scream and they’re silent?” … “They don’t have a father around to tell them, ‘Don’t act like a moron. You’ll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz. Straighten up. Act like a man. Don’t sit there crying and screaming, idiot.’ ”

As if being totally off-base on autism, Savage further shows his mean-spirited bigotry trying to associate autistic behavior with problems from single parent fatherless homes. Stereotyping family situations further confuses the issue. How would Mr. Savage account for the thousands of cases from two parent houses? What about autistic kids whose parents are the people of faith who live inspired and motivated by their faith and conviction? There are plenty of strict loving fathers who struggle to provide for families ravaged with the day-to-day misery of finding appropriate treatment for their autistic children.

How many parents of autistic children has Mr. Savage interviewed to develop his conclusions? Raising an autistic child can be pure frustration and hell. Parents of such children have had to put all pretenses of a normal life on hold to work with their children and fighting the system which is often ill-prepared to help them deal with their children’s difficulties.

"It is the falsely diagnosed, the misdiagnosed and the outright fakers who want the benefits, who must be found out and must be turned out, so that the money can go to the truly needy in this particular field…"

In this quote, Savage resorts to his typical bully technique of unfounded accusations with no specifics to back his ridiculous claim. For an issue as widely studied causing tremendous disruption and misery in many American families exactly who are the “outright fakers?” Oh they must be “found out?” Where’s the evidentiary trail? This smacks of the kind of sensationalist garbage that is routine fare for the so-called “Savage Nation.”

“What do you mean they scream and they’re silent? They don’t have a father around to tell them don’t act like a moron, you’ll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz. Straighten up! Act like a man! Don’t sit there crying and screaming, idiot.’”

As if the above statements are not enough to turn one’s stomach, eventually most demagogues go for the big lie:

“There is no definitive medical diagnosis for autism. None.”

Michael Savage would have to be living under a rock to make this assertion. World renowned psychiatrist and physician, the late Dr. Leo Kanner began his explorations in to child psychology in the 1930’s at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Known at the father of child psychiatry, Kanner published the primary work, “Autistic Disturbances of Affective Contact,” (1943), identifying autism which set forth the framework and study of the disease moving forward. Kanner would continue his pioneering work through the 1950’s until his retirement in 1959. Since Dr. Kanner’s authoritative work, much study has been conducted worldwide on all aspects of this troubling disorder.

Sticking to his guns after significant pressure from the outraged public, Savage tries to weasel around his comments by saying:

“My comments about autism were meant to boldly awaken parents and children to the medical community's attempt to label too many children or adults as "autistic."

Pitiful, Michael Savage is accountable for his vicious lies for the children and families who deal with the intense challenges of autism every day. Further, Savage has cruelly disparaged the efforts of thousands of professionals, doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, social workers, and school based personnel who have put tremendous effort and heart in their profession to help children suffering a vexing and terrible disability where compassion and understanding is sadly lacking.

That hate-talker Michael Savage would serve to enhance wretch stereotypes, vicious prejudices, and demonstrably false claims about autism, more than one out of 150 children, is deplorable conduct that has no place on our nation’s airwaves. This is a far more serious issue than the Don Imus "ho" low blow that created a national outrage. Savage proclaims to be knowledgeable about a situation he shows totally ignorance about. Misguided free-speech advocates might see ridding the airwaves of Savage's blather as a matter of censorship. It is not. Radio stations pay entertainers to provide a commercially viable product suitable for the tastes and sensibilities (or lack of) of the radio audience.
Carrying Michael Savage might draw significant ratings in some markets where prejudiced and insecure listeners find justification for their lack of education and sophistication championed by hate-mongers like Savage. To what extreme will radio station programmers go to rack up ratings by appealing to the worst qualities in their listening audiences? Advertisers and responsible members of the broadcasting profession are hereby called upon to withdraw their support of the Savage Nation and provide for more responsible thought provoking talk radio.
The government could have an answer for programs like Michael Savage, the "Fairness Doctrine." What could play into the hands of the radical left in Congress seeking to muzzle traditional conservative expression than holding up hate mongers like Michael Savage as their prime example why government censorship of the airwaves could be justified. Sadly, such action would not pick off just the rogue broadcasters like Savage but quality programming like Laura Ingraham, Larry Elder, Neil Bortz, and many others could be casualties as well.
Radio stations must be responsible for providing honest, thought provoking programs regardless of where their ideas fall on the left-right continuum. Ignorant flame-throwers viciously stereotyping mentally disabled children and their family situations serves no positive purpose at all.

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