Thursday, June 26, 2008

When the A in AS stands for Assholes

If you are even slightly familiar with the issues surrounding autism from the viewpoint of autistics, or if you read what I've had to say about it, you may have formed a less than positive opinion of "Autism Speaks," a "charity" that has eliminating autism from the gene pool as it's stated goal, and - imho - eliminationist propaganda and concerted campaigns against autistics and parents of autistics who disagree with that goal is one of the primary reasons why that negative opinion exists.

When Is a Humorous Site Not So Funny? Autism Speaks Has Its Say:

Today, the Whose Planet Is It Anyway blog ran a piece entitled Autism Speaks Silences Autistic Child. The blog asserts that:

Autism Speaks got pissed off because [14-year-old] Kelly, [a child with autism], built a parody website, NTSpeaks, which humorously suggested that interventions for certain annoying and intolerant behaviors of the non-autistic population might be in order. The site was designed to resemble Autism Speaks' website.

Building such a site was, of course, completely legal. American copyright law specifically states that a parody is not a copyright violation. Additionally, the First Amendment protects parodies along with other forms of free speech. The parody is a time-honored genre in American public discourse; concerned citizens have been expressing their political opinions by way of parody ever since rebellious colonists in the 1700s plastered their cities with handbills lampooning King George.

Apparently Autism Speaks' lawyers decided, however, that it would be very easy to intimidate an autistic child who did not have the means to fight back. They sent Kelly a letter containing a ridiculous demand for $90,000 for "funds lost." Then they followed that up by claiming that they were willing to settle the matter without receiving any payment because of Kelly's age, provided the website was taken down. They also browbeat Kelly into destroying the source code and giving the domain name to Autism Speaks.

The facts in this case (other than over the question of the legality of parody, on the part of the humorless, faceless corporation that "Assholes Squeak" has become are not in dispute.

Nor are they surprising. While this instance dates from February of this year, more recent instances of equally frivolous and illegal intimidation of autistics speaking for themselves have become public. We can only presume that finding and stamping out the dissenting voices of Autistics is one of their very highest priorities, other than fund-raising, of course.

It's very instructive to note that they felt entitled to make a claim for donations a "parody" that highlighted their misbehavior might have cost them. It's quite a large sum - and it's not unreasonable to think that collecting such large sums and keeping them are the primary goal of AS.

AS T-Shirt shirt

AS T-Shirt by webcarve Get this custom shirt at Zazzle
(or thumb it up, at least, please!)

As always, when such stories come to the fore, the comments threads are where the real meat is, and this one is meatier than most. It wouldn't be all that much of a stretch to say that the comments thread at on this ONE post contains more useful insight than the entire corpus of Autism Speaks.

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