The increasing use of 'Autistic' as an insult

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Xanzotire
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26 May 2013, 2:17 pm

Has anyone else noticed an increasing trend on the internet towards using 'autistic' as an insult? I've only noticed on one forum I frequent but when I pointed it out people said that was also becoming popular on lots of other sites like Reddit. I'm not really sure what to make of this, I should probably just brush it off, but I can't help but get upset every time I see someone do it.


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oceandrop
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26 May 2013, 2:27 pm

Yes I play games online and have noticed this quite a lot lately. If someone makes a mistake or just plays badly I've seen a few times someone will ask if they are autistic (as an insult).

To be fair the culprits are probably teenagers, and at that age even I was guilty of using non-politically correct insults like "spaz".



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26 May 2013, 2:29 pm

I don't see it often. Are we going to make autistic a bad word now and change it to something else like people have with retarded?


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26 May 2013, 2:29 pm

Yep, I've noticed this too. Some of the gaming communities I'm in have started to use autism as an insult to anyone who acts stupid. I'm even seeing it on Youtube comments and it's becoming more frequent each month. :hmph:



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26 May 2013, 3:44 pm

Anything can be "used" as an insult even "Nice hat".

Sometimes it's fear, "Spaztic, Spaz, Spaz!!"
Sometimes it's envy, "Hey, Rich Kid!"
Sometimes it's brusque empathy, "Are you deaf?"

  . . .
The most important thing is to consider the source. Do you truly value their opinion?
Would you buy a car based solely on what they say?
Yeah this sounds like a lame "adult thing", and oh, do I get it!
But everyone that manages to not die too soon eventually hears so many opinions that you have to just start lumping them into categories, just to get anything else done in life.

  . . .
They say that "Opinions are like A**Holes, everybody's got one"
but I disagree, I think "Opinions are like sweat glands, everybody's got thousands and poor mental hygiene will make them start to stink very soon."

Not quite the same snap, but then that's the basic difference between AS and NT: Tedious Over Accuracy v. OMG! SpArKLeS!! !! !!

  . . .
What if an Autistic person asked, "Are you Autistic?"
What if their communication 'tinted' it wrong?
It might appear weird or insulting just because they have poor social skills.
What if they were truly 'reaching out' to other people.
What if I reacted badly. Ouch =(

  . . .
I agree that often gamers can be quite young -teens & preteens- and when they grow up they're likely to feel horrified at some of the things they said and did.
I was.
But that's what kids do, it's part of the -whatever you want to call it- of growing up.
We all start off doing stupid things, like pooping our diapers -in public, eventually most of us stop that and move on to other stupid things. We're often judging our past by our present, by what we know now. (that's not fair, btw)

Don't sweat the small stuff, even it it doesn't feel small. (try to pretend it is)


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Falo
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26 May 2013, 4:16 pm

The problem is not just the insult. Probably, most of the time the person that make the insult do not truly to say something negative about autistic people.

But there is a tendency to use the term autistic as something pejorative. I do not know where but I remember having seen the term autistic (or autism) to criticize someone who does not interact enough with other people at work. Also I remember and were shocked when supposedly serious journalists where evoking that Anders Behring Breivik (author on the Norway far right attack) could have suffered from Asperger syndrome, making him irresponsible. The same journalists tell us everyday we cannot stigmatise minorities but apparently this rule does not hold for everybody. This is far more shocking than an insult from a teenager not knowing exactly what he says.

Something related is this kind of paper: http://tinyurl.com/8s28skj . Apparently even some psychologists make the following "reasonnement":

Not facebook = No friend = dangerous psychopath.

As autistic people are usually the one who do not make friends very easily, you see how that can become: autistic people = dangerous psychopath. Again the same psychologists will support non discrimination laws.



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26 May 2013, 4:56 pm

I think it's an indication that autistic people are viewed negatively by some people. So the word "autistic" itself becomes negative for those people. The same thing has happened with the word "gay" as well. Unless people stop being ignorant, this kind of thing will keep happening whatever word you use. It's not the word itself, but it's people's attitude toward different groups/minorities.



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26 May 2013, 5:00 pm

In my language, "autistic" (well, its equivalent) is a insult long time ago (usually with the meaning of saying that the person had lost the notion of reality); if anything, there is an incipient tendency (made by parents of autistic children) to try to stop this type use of the word.



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26 May 2013, 6:22 pm

Falo wrote:
The problem is not just the insult. Probably, most of the time the person that make the insult do not truly to say something negative about autistic people.

But there is a tendency to use the term autistic as something pejorative. I do not know where but I remember having seen the term autistic (or autism) to criticize someone who does not interact enough with other people at work. Also I remember and were shocked when supposedly serious journalists where evoking that Anders Behring Breivik (author on the Norway far right attack) could have suffered from Asperger syndrome, making him irresponsible. The same journalists tell us everyday we cannot stigmatise minorities but apparently this rule does not hold for everybody. This is far more shocking than an insult from a teenager not knowing exactly what he says.

Something related is this kind of paper: http://tinyurl.com/8s28skj . Apparently even some psychologists make the following "reasonnement":

Not facebook = No friend = dangerous psychopath.

As autistic people are usually the one who do not make friends very easily, you see how that can become: autistic people = dangerous psychopath. Again the same psychologists will support non discrimination laws.


I can't think of hardly anything that would move me to violence, but autism as a pejorative, now THERE'S reason enough to do something. Good thing there are people like us wielding banhammers all over the world. I know I've seen a good few image macros in this category. Some were reasonably funny, others were misinformed and disgusting. If willingness to fight for tolerance makes you a dangerous psychopath, then be a dangerous psychopath.


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26 May 2013, 6:46 pm

League_Girl wrote:
I don't see it often. Are we going to make autistic a bad word now and change it to something else like people have with retarded?


You make it sound like this was something artificially imposed, when it was an organic evolution of language - people used the word as an insult, and the people who were labeled with it objected to being called that.

If "autistic" comes to predominantly be an insult (which has not happened yet) then you might find that people start objecting to being called "autistic," and things may change. No sense in complaining about it if that happens. Everyone has the right to object to being insulted.



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26 May 2013, 7:09 pm

Verdandi wrote:
League_Girl wrote:
I don't see it often. Are we going to make autistic a bad word now and change it to something else like people have with retarded?


You make it sound like this was something artificially imposed, when it was an organic evolution of language - people used the word as an insult, and the people who were labeled with it objected to being called that.

If "autistic" comes to predominantly be an insult (which has not happened yet) then you might find that people start objecting to being called "autistic," and things may change. No sense in complaining about it if that happens. Everyone has the right to object to being insulted.


That seems pointless. It's becoming an insult because of how people see autism. The fact that it is becoming an insult is the insult. Constantly changing the word to describe us = running away from our bad reputation rather than trying to change it.



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26 May 2013, 7:22 pm

oceandrop wrote:
Yes I play games online and have noticed this quite a lot lately. If someone makes a mistake or just plays badly I've seen a few times someone will ask if they are autistic (as an insult).

To be fair the culprits are probably teenagers, and at that age even I was guilty of using non-politically correct insults like "spaz".


What's wrong with the word 'spaz'? To my knowledge it doesn't have any affiliation with a particular group of people like 'autistic' or 'retarded' does.


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26 May 2013, 7:40 pm

Nope, surprisingly I have only heard it once and that is from someone who is no longer a friend of mine. If you do hear someone use it they're usually the individuals who are highly uneducated and truly lacking in the ways of the world who think the word Autistic means the same thing as mentally incapable or retarded, correct?


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26 May 2013, 7:50 pm

Nonperson wrote:
That seems pointless. It's becoming an insult because of how people see autism. The fact that it is becoming an insult is the insult. Constantly changing the word to describe us = running away from our bad reputation rather than trying to change it.


I agree with you, but it may very well turn out this way. It may not turn out this way.

One thing is that now there's a lot more pushback against this sort of thing as it develops, whereas with "retarded" this was not so much the case, and when people were able to advocate for themselves to the point of being heard the damage had already been done.



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26 May 2013, 8:23 pm

Perhaps the fact that it's becoming an insult is a backlash against the self-advocacy? In which case, I'd say we should carry on and even be encouraged. "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."



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26 May 2013, 10:29 pm

Sometimes it ends in “then you lose”, but, in those cases, you don’t get to tell the tale.

Going back to the topic, this is the good ol’ euphemism treadmill. Given our tendency to focus on literal meanings and the precise use of language, we should be the minority best suited to withstand it :P


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