Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Born With a Silver Foot in His Mouth: Michael Savage Viciously Savages Austitic Children

"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.'"

With that inflammatory statement, right-wing shock jock Michael Savage managed to shock and horrify concerned parents of autistic children, members of Congress, and decent citizens -- all in one fell swoop. The outrage generated by Savage's comments resulted in an avalanche of protests that led to Savage's radio show being dropped from the seven-station SuperTalk Mississippi radio network, and AFLAC insurance withdrawing its sponsorship of Savage's program.

And how did Savage respond to all this? By stating, "I stand by my words." Worse, he states he has no intention of apologizing to those advocates and parents who have called for his firing over the matter.

Savage didn't stop there: instead of apologizing to the millions of children and their families living with autism, he falsely recast his controversial comments to claim that they had been taken out of context and by lashing out at Media Matters for America, calling them a "fascist, homosexual mafia group (who) goes out of their way to misquote me, take me out of context, and try to get me in trouble with people who love me."

Anyone who has heard his diatribe on a July 9 rebroadcast should not be surprised at all, given the inflammatory comments he made on the air:

"Here, remember two weeks ago, I said to you that autism is a phony disease? Do you remember I said that to you? That how could so many children suddenly have it and there be an autism epidemic? In my day, if a kid was a troublemaker, he was a troublemaker. If he shot his mouth off in a classroom, he wasn't called autistic, he was called a pain in the neck. They sent him to a special school for pains in the neck. Now he needs medication. He's got autism.

[A] lot of it [autism] is a racket to collect disability payments from the government, from basically poorer families who've found a new -- a new way to -- to be parasites on the government, which is if -- if you want to collect a little money and get free medical care, you want to get the kid to take tests with help where the answers are given to him before he takes it, just say he's got an illness -- ADD, DDD, ASA. To me, there is one disease that they all have; it's called S-T-U-P-I-D. That's the main illness most of these kids have.

There's not that many children. What it is, it's a racket. It's the drug companies trying to sell a disease. And the American Academy of Pediatrics, I oughta tell you -- the sickest, just the sickest doctors in the country is the American Academy of Pediatrics. They want every child screened -- screened by the age of 2. "Put them on this. Put them on that."

How nauseating! Is that man on crack? What a complete asshole this jerk is!

As Rory O'Connor obsserves on AlterNet:
"Experts estimate that about 1 in 150 children have some form of autism. Telling them and their parents that it's all just a racket to make money -- as a means of enriching yourself, your distributors and your sponsors -- is beneath contempt."

She goes on to add, "One statement, taken out of context? Hardly! Like Don Imus and others of his ilk, Savage is a serial if cowardly transgressor who regularly uses hate speech to attack homosexuals, minorities, women and foreigners in the most vitriolic manner imaginable. He once told a gay caller to his (thankfully canceled) MSNBC cable program, "Get AIDS and die, you pig!" He said CNN's Wolf Blitzer and Larry King "together look like the type that would have pushed Jewish children into the oven to stay alive one more day to entertain the Nazis." He equates immigrants with "the junkie, the freak, the pervert." He's so extreme that Bill O'Reilly calls him a "smear merchant," Neal Boortz refers to him as "the Antichrist," and Talkers Magazine publisher Michael Harrison, who recently bestowed an annual Freedom of Speech award upon Savage, says he thinks the man is "an asshole."

No matter how hard Savage tries to obfuscate the issues, the fact remains his words are on the record, his words are clearly directed at children diagnosed with autism, and they were meant to viciously attack them, particularly when they have no means of defending themselves. Instead of publicly apoligizing to those he's insulted, he tries to shift blame and refuses to take responsibility for his actions.

Talk about a head case in need of an extended stay in the rubber room...

And since we're on the subject of autism, let me tell you what is like for a parent to raise an austitic child: It put emotional strains and stress fractures on family relationships, it forces parents to become more assertive and combative in getting proper help and intervention so these children could fully function, and sadly, marriages often break up because of the pressures involved. If you can understand and appreciate what these parents have to go through just so their children could become fully functional, ask Sylvester Stallone, or Doug Flutie, or Jenny McCarthy, or Holly Robinson Peete, or soap actress Sharon Rose Gabet (The Edge of Night), or anyone else whose understands this phenomenon.

As for myself, I have lived for many years with undiagnosed Asperger's, which is a mild variant of autism often referred to as "the geek syndrome" or "the little professor" -- where one is so intellectually gifted yet so socially retarded, as they can't pick up on social or behavorial cues the way normal people do. I spent much of my childhood incarcerated in state mental hospitals, where I was ghettoized in special education classes and medicated with pharmacotheraputics into a anesthetized state where I wasn't allowed to express my emotions or even my humanity. The staff knew I had a brain and even concurred that I didn't even belong there. It took the intervention of a staff psychologist and a social worker to have me placed in a supportive foster care environment and attend a Mennonite high school, where I graduated with pride in 1975. In time, I earned my bachelor's degree in theatre from a Jesuit university where you had to work to earn your degree and followed that up with a M.A. in Theatre. My life may not be as productive as I would like, but I am blessed with having a landlord/roomate who happens to be a registered nurse, and who functions as my advocate when I'm dealing with health care entitites. Trust me, I've been there, I've seen everything, and this is a kind of hell I would never wish on any parent who has to experience this.

This is much more than isolated incident where he despicably assaults autistic children as "frauds" and "brats." Rather, it is a part of a disturbing pattern of behavior where Savage repeatedly sought to demean and disenfranchise those lacking the means of defending themselves.

This is also about the "lean, green almighty dollar. As Rory O'Connor observes, "Everyone involved is getting rich: from top shock jocks like Savage, Rush Limbaugh (who recently signed a new $400 million contract) and Sean Hannity (who recently signed a new deal in excess of $100 million) to local radio stations like New York's WOR (which expressed "regret" over Savage's remarks but took no "responsibility" for them) to national syndicators like Premiere, ABC Radio Networks and the Talk Radio Network (which pushes Savage out to more than 350 radio stations -- and whose CEO, Mark Masters, trumpets the "fearless entrepreneurial environment at TRN" while he fearfully ducks reporters' calls) to advertisers and sponsors (like Home Depot and Anheuser-Busch, which, unlike the estimable AFLAC, continue to advertise on "The Savage Nation"). And let's not forget about the shock jocks' elite enablers, drawn from the upper echelons of the corrupt nexus of Big Media and Big Politics, who sell their political platforms, books and souls in exchange for audience access."

Is there a stronger prejorative that "pathetic?"

Thorazine, please.