The Same Message

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On the left is a propaganda poster for Aktion T-4, the systematic extermination program for people with disabilities in Germany before and during WWII. The poster reads: ‘This disabled person costs the public 60,000 over his lifetime. Comrades, that is your money, too.’

On the right is a propaganda poster for Autism Speaks, the ‘charity organization’ which calls for the systematic extermination of autistic people through the development of genetic testing in utero. The poster reads: ‘Along with the rise in autism prevalence comes the increase in cost to society.’



Today, I showed the Autism $peaks commercial ‘I am Autism’ to my marketing class as an example of ‘unethical advertising’. I gave a short background on the company in order to set up for the intense rhetoric that they were about to hear, so they could know exactly what they were about to see. I’ve mentioned before that I was autistic, so I didn’t feel the need to do it again.

They watched the video in silence and darkness, and I instructed the professor to stop the video before A$’ half-assed attempt at making up for the hate that had just been spewed could take place.

The faces in the room were mostly blank. I’m sure it was out of shock for what they had just heard. If that hadn’t been enough, I decided to give them one sentence that would completely change their perspective on the whole thing.

‘Imagine if the person that commercial was talking about was you.’

If that isn’t all it should take to get people to finally start looking critically at this sham of an organization, I don’t know what is.



On Perspective, Storytelling, and Representation

Alright, I’m posting on this blog again.

It’s not because I had some stroke of inspiration or some intense life event that convinced me I needed to blog about it, it’s because I’m required to. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to try and make this interesting, and to take it beyond the ‘academic’ point of view. I’m responding to readings from a book called Berlin at War by Roger Moorehouse, as I will be travelling to Germany at the end of this semester in order to learn about the events of World War II in the very places in which they occurred.

The first thing I noticed as we were being lectured to at our first meeting was the mention of eugenics in relation to Nazi society. The idea that as humans we should be classified and ranked according to usefulness and strength, and that the least-useful people should be prevented from proliferating so that the human race as a whole could continue to thrive and better itself in perfect health and purity.

My mind immediately wandered to the fact that there is an organization that champions a similar idea right at this moment, albeit much more subtly and under the guise that the population in question that needs eliminating is experiencing a ‘public health crisis’ and is ‘missing’ from society.

I am, of course, talking about Autism Speaks. (The hyperlink here will take you to a more thorough explanation of exactly why I am making this connection, if you are interested).

The idea that autism is an abhorrent disease and that autistic people should be ‘cured’ or at the least prevented stems from massive PR campaigns from organizations like this, who have convinced the public that autistic people are somehow lower on the totem pole. This has largely been accomplished through the systematic exclusion of autistic activists from the conversation, through the championing of non-autistic representation and opinion as fact, and through the slander of any dissenting opinion that makes it through this blue-tinted smear campaign as an ‘outlier’ from someone who ‘just isn’t autistic enough’.

But enough of my soapboxing, what in the world does this have to do with World War II and this book I’m reading?

According to the author of this book, ‘…the story of civilian life in Berlin during the war–is one that remains curiously unwritten’.

Yes, I know. Berliners weren’t the marginalized people. These connections are very weak. But I have to write this blog post somehow, don’t I?

The point I’m trying to make is that representation from all sides of a story, in history, in the present, in happiness, in discrimination, in oppression, in activism, is incredibly important to understanding what’s going on at a certain point in time.  And Moorehouse thinks so, too: ‘…eye-witness testimony has a vital role to play in history; personal accounts and anecdotes can bring a fresh perspective, colour, or context to even the most hackeyed and well-trodden narrative.’

Why am I making all this fuss over autism advocacy in a time when autism is seen as a ‘crisis’ and a ‘tragedy’?

Because you’re reading the narrative of an autistic, whose testimony and representation is being constantly devalued in the face of the great and powerful organization which silences us.

And why haven’t we heard enough from those citizens of Berlin who had also lost much of their livelihoods during the war? Why does an organization which resembles, scarily so, the entity I’m going to be studying in-depth for the next few weeks hog all of the attention from those who were and are actually experiencing the very thing that a society wants to examine systematically excluded from the conversation?

I’m going to have to read the rest of this book to come up with an answer.