This is a tiny drop in the ocean of awfulness that is the Attkisson piece, but it is bothering me. So I will write about it and put the bother aside.
But some in the autism advocacy community1 take issue with the idea that lack of help is an excuse for murder. Ari Neeman, who heads a government-funded autism self-advocacy group, a dea that lack of help is an excuse for murder., said, "I think an ideology, a dangerous ideology that preaches that people are better off dead than disabled is what led to Alex Spourdalakis' murder."
Attkisson's phrase "a government-funded autism self-advocacy group," is dog-whistle reporting.
Most anti-vaccine folk are also anti-government, therefore any pronouncement from a "government-funded" group can be discounted or denounced. ("Of course, he's paid to say that"). Attkisson is twisting the truth.
The man in question is Ari Ne'eman (note the correct spelling).
The group is a national organization with local chapters, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), which is a 501(c)(3) public benefit ("nonprofit") "organization run by and for Autistic people". ASAN was recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a public charity organzation in January 2011.
Most of ASAN's income comes from donations from individuals such as myself, or from other non-profit organizations such as the ARC and the Dan Marino Foundation. This is easily verifiable if one bothers to, for example, sign up for Guidestar or similar organizations that report on non-profit funding sources.
I read the most recently-published ASAN 990, for the fiscal year 2011. (You have to create a free account to view it.) It reported $0.00 in federal funding.
Still bothered by the account published by CBS, most likely written by Attkisson, I emailed Mr. Ne'eman to ask about ASAN's "government funding". I will paraphrase his reply:
"ASAN has received income from the federal government, both as a subcontractor on grants given to another organization and as a direct recipient of federal grants. This income is for services performed, not general funding grant. ASAN has provided policy analysis and data collection on autistic self-advocate perspectives."
In other words, ASAN is "government-funded" the same way that universities are "government-funded", because they seek and win government grants for research.
There's another bit of dog-whistling: the amount of hate against Ari Ne'eman the person that Age of Autism and other anti-vaccine, autism-negative groups have expressed over the years. Here's a recent example from Dan Olmstead
As much as I like Sharyl Attkisson and am glad to see this story -- first exposed by AOA Contributing Editor Lisa Goes months ago -- gain national attention, the segment devolved into a bit of a mess. Ari Ne'eman, really? He gave his usual spiel about how some people think autism is so bad its sufferers might as well be dead. So what, Ari, since you don't believe in treatment? Many people who are in agony wish they and/or someone else they believe to be in agony were dead. Some act on that wish. That's bad. Very bad. Tell us something we don't know.
CBS, or Attkisson, could have contacted or quoted the Autism Women's Network, whose representative Lydia Brown wrote, in part(emphasis added by me)
As an organization whose primary constituency is Autistic women and our allies, the Autism Women’s Network joins with the National Council on Disability and the Autistic Self Advocacy Network in calling for the prosecution of hate crimes against disabled people under the provisions of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Disabled people are disproportionately victimized by violent crimes of all types, yet media coverage of these incidents frequently suggests that the appropriate response ought to be sympathy for the aggressors rather than for the victims.
When disabled people are murdered, and particularly when the perpetrators are family members or caregivers, public discourse has a disturbing tendency to suggest that the lives of the disabled victims were the tragedies rather than their murders. Unscrupulous advocates frequently misappropriate such situations as evidence for much-needed reforms in availability and quality of supports and services. These types of claims do little more than underline rhetoric that exculpates the perpetrators.
Alex Spourdalakis was not murdered because of a lack of services or because his caregivers were too stressed from living with him. He was murdered because he was autistic.
Dog-whistle journalism. I imagine Sharyl Attkisson is beyond shame, but CBS should have higher journalistic standards.
Edited to add: someone questioned my about negative attitudes in the autism community about Ari Ne'eman. Herewith, some comments:
The claim that Ari Ne'eman has autism, is like the claim that Brian Deer is an "award winning" journalist.
Or that Paul Offit is one of the world's leading "experts" on autism.
Or that Autism Speaks is a "real" autism advocacy organization.
Anyone with a child on the spectrum, should know right right away that the Ari Ne'eman thing is just another cruel media concoction. I mean come on... the Autistic Self Advocacy Network ?????
Anyone who has the presence of mind to 'self advocate', whatever the hell that even means, does not have autism. They have an acting job.
CBS's Sharyl Attkisson: This time, an apologist for murdering the disabled. This post has links to as much of the commentary on Spourdalakis's death at the time, as well as current responses to CBS's Attkisson's biased coverage.