Note: Please bear in mind that whilst this topic does canvass opinions, it is not a fight club. You may disagree with other posters but we do ask you please to stick to our Talk Guidelines and to be civil. We don't allow personal attacks or troll-hunting. Do please report any. Thanks, MNHQ.

to think that Chris Huhne's son was very wrong to call him 'autistic'

(358 Posts)
Sallyingforth Mon 04-Feb-13 17:03:34

He is may be an unpleasant creature but that word should never be used as an insult.

limitedperiodonly Mon 04-Feb-13 17:07:38

I think feelings were running a little high

HecateWhoopass Mon 04-Feb-13 17:23:16

As the mother of two children with autism, I don't care how high feelings were running.

There are no circumstances under which it is excusable to use autism as an insult. It really hurts when a condition that affects your whole life is reduced to something like this. Something to throw at people when you're pissed off with them in order to indicate that they're crap in some way.

Well my children aren't crap. Nobody with autism is because of their autism. Nothing about having autism means you're crap and it's not ok to call someone autistic when what you mean is lying unfeeling arse.

That's not what it means to be autistic, for a start.

fromparistoberlin Mon 04-Feb-13 17:28:24

thats so fucking sad

autism aside, I really wish you had not shown that OP

thats harsh dialogue and I feel sorry for them both


limitedperiodonly Mon 04-Feb-13 17:32:33

When I consider the pain and naked hatred the son obviously felt to the father at what he saw as the betrayal of his mother (no matter how badly she may have behaved) I'm really not going to judge the young man for a poor comment.

That relationship is smashed to bits and I don't see how it can ever be mended and so I feel more sorrow than anger at all of them. I would not like to be in their shoes.

HecateWhoopass Mon 04-Feb-13 17:39:20

Well, I am. Sorry, but I don't think there's a threshold for crap in your life beyond which it's ok to chuck disablist, (or sexist or racist) remarks about. I don't think it's ever ok.

I'm not going to write off complaining about it or anything, and I'm fairly sure that nobody is going to give a shit what I think or what's said on here, but I'm never going to think that it's ok, same as I wouldn't think it was ok cos he was really in pain if he'd called him something with racist connotations, comparing him to <insert ethnic group> because he was <insert negative quality>.

DyeInTheEar Mon 04-Feb-13 17:40:55

Not the wisest choice of insults or words but he (the son) sounds broken to me and I feel so sorry for him. And am sorry that his texts messages have been dragged into public domain as well. Poor kid.

DameMargotFountain Mon 04-Feb-13 17:42:06

i'm with you OP

calling someone autistic is now on the level with 'spaz' and 'retard' - really funny and a great insult hmm

it makes me sick to the stomach

it's this sort of casual 'ism' that needs to be challenged, fuck the context/ bollocks to 'mitigating circumstances'

autism is not something that you can use as an insult

Sallyingforth Mon 04-Feb-13 17:43:10

Thanks for the comments. I knew the son was very hurt, and was justified in sounding off to his father.
But what offends me is that when someone reaches into the darkest corner of their mind for the worst insult they can think of, the word that they find is for a mental or physical handicap. It's an insult not to the intended target but to the innocent sufferers from that condition.

Spero Mon 04-Feb-13 17:49:45

Of course it is wrong to use autistic as shorthand for something hateful. People need to be better educated. But I am not going to comprehensively damn someone in the position of that mans son who now has all his family's pain and dysfunction spread all over the Internet. He clearly wasn't choosing his words with calm and deliberation.

I would reserve my full rage and bile for those who deliberately attack and target the disabled - for those who need educating I would try to be less full of anger to them as persons.

HecateWhoopass Mon 04-Feb-13 17:51:51

I know what you mean.

It doesn't so much offend me as hurt me to my very core.

The worst thing you can think to throw at someone in rage and to hurt them is to pretend that they are like my children.

How is that supposed to not hurt like hell?

HecateWhoopass Mon 04-Feb-13 17:53:36

True, Spero. Better to talk generally about the current throwing about of 'autism' as shorthand for arsehole, abuser, uncaring, thoughtless... and how to make people stop doing that.

SamG76 Mon 04-Feb-13 17:53:52

I'm in for a flaming here, but I've some sympathy for the son, like DITE. It wasn't just a random insult. He seemed to be suggesting that his dad is
completely lacking in empathy and unable to read social situations or interpret non-verbal clues. These are characteristic of someone on the autistic spectrum, which I think is the point he was trying to make.

DameMargotFountain Mon 04-Feb-13 17:57:42

before anyone starts bandying that shite about people on the spectrum lacking in empathy, please see Dr Google


HecateWhoopass Mon 04-Feb-13 17:58:03

Not going to flame you. I would hope that we can discuss - and disagree - civilly and without attacking one another personally.

But I would disagree, given the whole of the sentence, that it was anything but an insult. I don't think he was speculating that his dad might be on the spectrum.

I understand that he's broken, I do. It's awful for him, that's his dad. He's hurt.

But it's still not ok. And it simply highlights the need for education.

I am tired, for example, of reading about some abusive arsehole and then waiting for the inevitable post of "sounds like he could be autistic"

There's a serious lack of understanding.

Sallyingforth Mon 04-Feb-13 17:58:19

I'm beginning to wonder if I shouldn't have posted this, but I was so offended at reading the text that I wondered if it was 'just me'.
If it has caused you personally any distress at all I am very, very sorry.

HecateWhoopass Mon 04-Feb-13 17:59:24

Yes. People do think that autism = lack of empathy, when the truth is the opposite.

That's one of the things people need to be educated about. The perception of autism is is totally wrong.

AnyFucker Mon 04-Feb-13 18:00:10

I absolutely agree the choice of insult was very, very wrong.

Spero Mon 04-Feb-13 18:00:28

Of course it hurts, I am not trying to deny that or say you shouldn't hurt. It's your children.

But I remember when a few of my friends joined a Hate Heather Mills group on Facebook which was full of hideous, awful jokes about her leg. I have an artificial leg. My friends know that.

Did I think they were engaged in some aggressive vicious attack on me? No, they were thoughtless twats, having a bit of a giggle. So I politely pointed out that they needed to think about the content of what this group was posting, and they politely agreed.

Had I gone in screaming and raging, it would not not have been effective, but nor would it have been entirely fair. They weren't monsters, just lucky enough not to be directly touched by disability and thus not really cognisant of what they were doing.

HecateWhoopass Mon 04-Feb-13 18:02:53

Nah, s'ok. It's important to discuss things like this. People don't know. They often don't think.

I am sure that this poor lad isn't going to give a crap about his choice of words or that someone on the internet thinks he was wrong grin. He's got more important things going on in his life. But this is the most important thing going on in my life and in the lives of many of us! grin so we can talk about misconceptions and not using autism as an insult and carry on plugging away, hoping that it changes people.

Spero Mon 04-Feb-13 18:04:02

I thought I was quite well educated and it was certainly my understanding that being on autistic spectrum involved lack of ability to read social cues. If I am wrong, then help me understand, don't just face palm and send me off to google.

If that perception is wrong, it is a very widely held perception.

JakeBullet Mon 04-Feb-13 18:06:49

YANBU...he was angry and upset but that does not make it okay for him to use the term "autistic" as an insult.

Mother of an autistic son.

TaggieCampbellBlack Mon 04-Feb-13 18:09:07

Calling someone 'autistic' or 'aspie' is the new 'spaz' or 'mong'.

The worst thing you can think of to insult someone is a disability.


BettySuarez Mon 04-Feb-13 18:09:24

As someone who admittedly has no personal experience with Autism, the things that stood out for me were the hurt, anger and betrayal that this young man feels. I probably wouldn't have noticed that the word was there had it not been pointed out. I think it would have been lost in the general context (for me)

But other people have obviously very hurt by it.

I'm just saying that for me, it wasn't noticeable

CartedOff Mon 04-Feb-13 18:10:30

In a way I'm glad you posted this thread OP, because it's educating people- myself included. I feel like I've learned a thing or two about autism that I didn't just by reading some of these posts.

DameMargotFountain Mon 04-Feb-13 18:12:02

people on the autistic spectrum are exactly that, on a spectrum

there are traits, and these are grouped into a triad - to be 'autistic' a person must 'tick a box' in all 3 of these areas

this might help

i know the <facepalm> was dimissive, i've been having a terrible time with people asking me, to justify almost, my DDs disability.

I shouldn't have to do that, she's had a team of doctors do that for me.

Spero Mon 04-Feb-13 18:15:20

I know words are important but they aren't the alpha and omega. Using disability as an insult seems perfectly logical to me - being disabled is shit and is going to get way more shitter once more services fold. People who aren't disabled don't get it - why should they? I have no idea what its like to be blind or deaf.

I would rather more education, attempts to engage than frothing about words, particularly the ones uttered by this man in these horrible circs.

GetOrf Mon 04-Feb-13 18:15:26

Ouch Sally - that part where you say that someone reaches inside to think of the worst insult they can think of and it is autism (can't c and p as on crap phone) - that is a really eloquent way of describing how hurtful that must have been to read.

Really hurtful that autism is the latest in a long line of illnesses and disabilities which are used as insults.

I totally agree he was wrong to use that word, and can also understand rhat he wasn't thinking straight and in the pit of misery probably when he sent that to his father. But still. It's a hideous word to use, and especially when thinking of the most harmful thing to say. I do feel for him in having his provate texts now in the public domain, but also feel incredibly sad for those people with autism and relatives of who have to read that.

CommunistLegoBloc Mon 04-Feb-13 18:15:48

That worries me, Betty. Yeah, he's an angry young man. But substitute the word 'autistic' for 'spaz', 'retard' or 'mong'. Would you still not have noticed it? Autism is the new buzzword for disabilists.

What about if he'd used a racially offensive term? Would you still not have noticed it? Or excused it because he was angry?

It's never okay to call somebody disabled as an insult. Never. It scares me that you, and others, thought it wasn't 'noticeable.'

Spero Mon 04-Feb-13 18:17:09

DameMargot well of course you shouldn't have to justify your daughter's disability, you have my full permission to do whatever you like to THEM.

limitedperiodonly Mon 04-Feb-13 18:23:48

It's important to discuss things like this. People don't know. They often don't think.

You're right hecate. Peter Huhne was wrong and one day we might not reach for 'autistic' as an insult.

I didn't like the bald way the OP was phrased given that he was in such pain which is surely not that hard to imagine.

But it's been modified. So peace and love.

Casmama Mon 04-Feb-13 18:25:51

I disagree with Betty, the word autistic jumped right out at me. I wonder if it is a generational thing- I'm 33 and don't know anyone in my age group who would use these sorts of insults.

Spero Mon 04-Feb-13 18:29:34

People DONT think. That doesn't make them monsters. The word 'autistic' didn't jump out at me either - the word 'gimp' probably would have.

DameMargotFountain Mon 04-Feb-13 18:31:16

see, i think it's wrong that we accept the 'new disability on the block' as the new insult.

it's the acceptance that ANY disability is used as a insult that proves we've not moved on at all.

haters are still hating

DameMargotFountain Mon 04-Feb-13 18:32:49

and i think that DOES make them out to be lesser people, Spero

humans aren't born hating, they are taught

Spero Mon 04-Feb-13 18:34:09

Yes we have moved on. We don't stone disabled people or shove them in institutions to die anymore.

But it is naive to think that your average abled bodied NT person is full of understanding and empathy. They are also on a 'spectrum' - from the hateful, deliberate attack to the thoughtless and witless. I do think it is important to try to distinguish.

BettySuarez Mon 04-Feb-13 18:34:32

I'm not saying that it was an acceptable word to use. It absolutely is not and I can see why it would be incredibly offensive for some/most people.

But for me it didn't stand out. I honestly don't know why.

Which is why this thread is so important. It has made me think (and others I'm sure)

Apologies if my earlier post seemed a little ill-thought out, I wanted to reply but the cooker was buzzing! smile

BettySuarez Mon 04-Feb-13 18:37:09

casmama if I had heard the word spoken I would have been very shocked but written down, it didn't seem to jump out.

It could be a generational thing though. I am considerably older a few years older than you smile

Icedcakeandflower Mon 04-Feb-13 18:38:19

Sometimes when someone's guard is down, and veneers are exposed, like the son's has here, their prejudices show.

This is why his use of a disability cannot be excused; it is because he is so upset that he's let his prejudice show.

I'm leaving this thread now :-(

RussiansOnTheSpree Mon 04-Feb-13 18:41:40

There is nothing that could make such language not unacceptable. I'm very disappointed that the Graun redacted presumably nasty language about Huhne's current partner in its reporting, but left in the use of disablist insulting. Disappointed but not surprised.

Spero Mon 04-Feb-13 18:41:40

I agree to some extent that people are taught to hate but I also think there is an understandable fear of what is different or damaged. My mum worked with very seriously disabled children when I was little - I once went into work with her and remember being horrified and scared. She hadn't taught me to 'hate' - far from it - but a little boy with severe hydrocephalus was a scarey sight to an 8 year old.

DameMargotFountain Mon 04-Feb-13 18:43:19

Spero, some of modern society has moved on in the way you're describing, but within that, disabled people are still excluded used as objects of ridicule

institutions still exist, you know?

ThePathanKhansWitch Mon 04-Feb-13 18:44:24

Yanbu, it was a hateful thing to say.
Just symptomatic, I think, of wider acceptance of hatred towards the disabled. Very hurtful.

HecateWhoopass Mon 04-Feb-13 18:45:14

You know, I am reminded of the thread about a children's rhyme.

eeny meeny miney mo
and what do we say for the rest of it
apparently, it was once a racist rhyme. I don't know what the word was, but I can guess.

Once upon a time, that word was clearly so unremarkable, that people thought nothing of making it part of a children's rhyme to pick who's 'it'.

If I inserted that word into a sentence in my post here, I bet it would leap out at everyone and all would be shocked that i thought it was ok.

That's where we need to be with words that are used as insults because they indicate disability.

Spero Mon 04-Feb-13 18:45:38

I am well aware disabled people are objects of ridicule. Have been for 43 years now.

Yes institutions still exist but equally we have moved very far on from even 20 years ago.

DameMargotFountain Mon 04-Feb-13 18:47:08

so Spero we should not stop challenging because things are 'better', never settle for 'better than they were'

Spero Mon 04-Feb-13 18:48:13

But you have hit on the nub of the problem Hecate. The black power movement could show that being black was beautiful, being black was nothing to be ashamed of. But being disabled is different. It is generally unpleasant and limiting to be disabled. I am not sure what the disabled movement can do to have the same power and impact of the anti racism movement.

Just like you say, keep plugging on. Every disabled person is someone's daughter, someone's son.

Spero Mon 04-Feb-13 18:50:19

I am not saying stop challenging because things are marginally less shit than in 1950. What I am saying is dont lose sight of what has been achieved - I was in Romania in 1991 and that was an eye opener - 3 disabled adults chained to a bed.

We have moved on and it will get better - if we direct our actions to where they will be most effective. Consistent education, not calling people out as haters when I really don't think they are.

TheAccidentalExhibitionist Mon 04-Feb-13 18:52:32

When I read this article, I just feel so sad and worried for my DS.
He is on the spectrum, makes me never want to let him out of the house sad life is hard enough for him as it is. So sad.

AmberLeaf Mon 04-Feb-13 18:53:13

Yes the worst part of it is that he was so angry and that was the worst thing he could think of.

Also, saying something in the heat of the moment is a bit different from typing and pressing send.

The hurtful thing is that he sees 'autistic' as meaning something really really bad.

LynetteScavo Mon 04-Feb-13 18:56:10

I feel awful after reading that, as I have been privy to an argument between a father and son which was none of my business.

No, the son should not have used the word autism in that sense, just like my autistic son should use certain words, which I am in the process of educating him not to use, but he never the less pick up from society and occasionally uses.

20 years ago, I think the son may well have used a different, although equally offensive word. I agree Autism is the new buzzword for disabilists, or even unthinking teenagers. (I've no idea how old the son it bth).

DameMargotFountain Mon 04-Feb-13 18:56:14

do you understand how it affects an abject stranger though, to hear a condition being used as an insult? how can that NOT feel like hate?

families, like mine, facing discrimination and finger-pointing on a daily basis, are vilified and then hated

OptimisticPessimist Mon 04-Feb-13 18:56:29

I don't think he should have said it, for reasons already covered, but I also don't think they should have been released to the public. The only important exchange is the one referring to the offence Huhne committed and I think it's really unfair for an 18-year old to have his personal texts broadcasted like this, especially when they're so personal.

Spero Mon 04-Feb-13 18:57:22

I think the pudding is in danger of being over egged here. He clearly used autistic as shorthand for someone who didn't have a good grasp/understanding of human emotions and appropriate emotional response.

Now that may be an ill educated and misinformed view of autism. But it is hardly an example of holding out autistic people to be the worst, most hateful thing he could think of.

ethelb Mon 04-Feb-13 18:58:24

I hope that Chris Hune's son is picked up on his use of 'autistic' as an insult. I imagine he is realy a better person than that, and he needs to get some help for how badly he must be hurting.

It must be very very hard to deal with your parents divorcing when you are that age (my parents and some of my friends went through it at a similar age so I understand how destructive it can be), particuarly when they are acting out their disagreements on a public and legal stage with the potential result that they may both be jailed.

I hope he manages to find enough inner peace (for want of a better phrase) to realise that there is no excuse for using that term.

Spero Mon 04-Feb-13 18:59:41

Yes damemargot, I do understand. I have had enough years of it on the receiving end. I guess I am lucky enough to be able to put people in their place if they overstep the mark which I appreciate is not the case for other disabilities.

AmberLeaf Mon 04-Feb-13 19:00:59

Its beyond ill educated and misinformed.

Austistic peice of shit?

That is someone who thinks its ok to use a disability as an insult.

I do agree that its not nice that this is in the public eye though.

Spero Mon 04-Feb-13 19:03:39

He thinks his father is a piece of shit. Not autistic people.

I just feel really uncomfortable with this exchange being used to run this kind of discussion. What about Ricky Gervais and 'mong' ? Now there is a good example of what should be excoriated.

AmberLeaf Mon 04-Feb-13 19:07:23

Yes he thinks his father is a peice of shit, but he said autistic alongside peice of shit.

It isn't defendable.

AnyFucker Mon 04-Feb-13 19:08:36

Ricky Gervais was pasted for the use of "mong".

DameMargotFountain Mon 04-Feb-13 19:09:00

this is EXACTLY the sort of discussion that needs to be had though, how it is NOT ok to use disablist comments

porridgeLover Mon 04-Feb-13 19:09:23

I have very mixed feelings about this.
I feel terribly sad for this young man that his private argument with his father is now in the public eye and available on the internet for eternity. No phone upgrade to delete the words. No private reconciliation and apologies from dad to son to smooth it over in years to come, when (hopefully for his sake) the heat has gone from the injury.

I feel slightly dirty for having read that, as it is so private.

And I feel tired and sad. That 'autistic' is seen as ''completely lacking in empathy and unable to read social situations or interpret non-verbal clues'.

My son is Autistic.
He overfeels other peoples emotions to the extent that he becomes distressed at other people's sadness or pain and has to withdraw because his empathy is so profoundly felt and overwhelming for him.

He has difficulty with social situations because his brain cant 'read' language and non-verbal as quickly as a NT person....but he can read it. And he will figure it out. Think of living life with 'l'esprit de l'escalier'.


Spero Mon 04-Feb-13 19:09:33

If people are making damning assertions about his character on the basis of this, then I think he should be defended. I don't think that is fair or right.

Spero Mon 04-Feb-13 19:12:53

RG was rightly pasted. I don't think the circs of his use of words and the circs here are remotely similar. Who here would seriously put Peter Huhn on same moral level as RG?

LynetteScavo Mon 04-Feb-13 19:14:31

And it was very wrong, but it was a very wrong thing said in a private text, which his father has allowed to go public.

One wrong slip up by an 18yo, will be out there for all to see for the rest of time....No wonder he thinks his dad is a shit.

AmberLeaf Mon 04-Feb-13 19:17:05

Same moral level?

PH used autistic as an insult because that is how he sees it.

Lets not compare it to something another person said in totally different circs.

HecateWhoopass Mon 04-Feb-13 19:26:39

It is the idea that autistic = shit that must be tackled.

If people are having trouble seeing it - and I am not being sarcastic! I can see that it is a problem - then imagine him saying you black piece of shit.
Now, his dad isn't black.
Therefore it isn't even simply (pardon use of simply!) him using a word that actually does describe his dad, not that that would be ok, but using a word from a different group, something hes not part of but which he thinks sums up the negative quality he seeks to condemn and used in order to stress just how much of a shit his dad is.

He's not merely a shit, he's a BLACK shit
So with this. He's not merely a shit, he's an AUTISTIC shit.
Except he's not autistic. That's just how much of a shit he thinks his dad has been. His dad is so vile, its like he's autistic.
That sort of thing needs to stop happening. If we can see that its not a cceptable, then that's good.

Spero Mon 04-Feb-13 19:26:47

But you have to compare, otherwise you are just saying anyone who uses a word wrongly, in haste, foolishly etc etc is simply a massive cunt. And how is that helpful?

Spero Mon 04-Feb-13 19:28:09

I still think he was using autistic as shorthand for perceived shortcomings in his fathers emotional response. Not that 'autistic' equals 'shit'.

HecateWhoopass Mon 04-Feb-13 19:31:37

I think well have to agree to disagree on that, I read it differently.
It shouldnt even be shorthand, mind.

Spero Mon 04-Feb-13 19:37:11

Yes, better by far if he had said 'inconsiderate' - that is what he meant, so far as I can see.

But he certainly didn't parade all this stuff for his millions of twitter followers a la Gervais, then incite them to insult others, so I think we do have to compare and comtrast the situations when people use this kind of vocabulary.

TheNebulousBoojum Mon 04-Feb-13 19:37:43

I agree with all those who are saying that it's hurtful and appalling that the worst insult he could think of for a person who lied, refused to take responsibility for his actions, was prepared to see his wife jailed and is an all-round sleeze was to call him autistic.
I'd have thought 'You fucking politician' would have been far more accurate.

AmberLeaf Mon 04-Feb-13 19:39:06

Even using it as shorthand for that reason is wrong.

Its nonsense anyway.

AmberLeaf Mon 04-Feb-13 19:40:03

You dont know that he meant that though, its just your perception of it.

Pagwatch Mon 04-Feb-13 19:40:22

I think when you use a diagnostic word to define dreadful behaviour it isn't terribly helpful because, as Hecate says, it does make 'autistic' the worst thing he can think of to call his father.

I have to admit I feel nothing but sympathy for the son. He is/was experiencing a dreadful time and I suspect it was ignorance and foolishness rather than spite or malice. I think he is symptomatic of those who have noted that 'retarded' isn't ok but without ever undstanding that if you select a group and use them as the worst thing you can call someone that is the problem. Not the specific word.

Spero Mon 04-Feb-13 19:41:10

Exactly. And nor do you. So you can't reasonably conclude he was setting out to cause pain and harm and that he hates all autistic people.

DameMargotFountain Mon 04-Feb-13 19:42:34

there's a massive difference between using a word in error than to using one as an insult

and so if the lad was using the term he chose to reflect the shortcomings in his father's response, then he was most definitely using it as an insult

HecateWhoopass Mon 04-Feb-13 19:44:00

Yes, it would have been better.

Don't get me started on rg.
Or that sack of shit frankie boyle!

I'm not up for tarring and feathering the kid, but I don't do degrees of disablist, racist or sexist language.
I'm an 'it's right or it's wrong' woman.

AmberLeaf Mon 04-Feb-13 19:44:01


It is very clear from the tone of the texts that he meant it as an insult.

Spero Mon 04-Feb-13 19:46:46

Yes, an insult to a perceived shortcoming in his father's emotional makeup. Or at least that is how I read it, I could be completely off base.

Hecate, if you don't do 'degrees' are you saying that PH and RG deserve equal condemnation? That is what I find difficult. In terms of educating and communicating with people, I don't think that will help. From my perception, he is a million miles away from Gervais, Boyle and all that ilk.

HecateWhoopass Mon 04-Feb-13 19:47:50

I am sure he wasnt setting out to cause harm and pain. I don't think that for a second. I have no reason either to think that he hates people with autism.

Its simply that when he was looking for a word to describe how revolting his father is - that's the word he chose. Because he sees autism as those qualities he hates in his father.

It simply highlights that people need to understand what autism is and what it most certainly is not.

HecateWhoopass Mon 04-Feb-13 19:49:21

I don't do degrees of acceptable disablist, racist or sexist language, no. I think the only acceptable level is zero. There is no 'ok' level, imo.

Spero Mon 04-Feb-13 19:50:24

I wonder if this issue will be addressed by any journalists? That's one wa to get the message out. Or will they be too busy frothing about all the Jeremy Kyle deliciousness of a family in pain. I won't hold my breath wondering.

echt Mon 04-Feb-13 19:50:34

I read it as a reference to his father's emotional disengagement.

HecateWhoopass Mon 04-Feb-13 19:51:04

I don't see my children as having a shortcoming in their emotional makeup. That's not what autism is.

SamG76 Mon 04-Feb-13 19:51:12

I'm with Spero on this. The poor lad may be friendly with lots of autistic people, and be suggesting that his undiagnosed father lies somewhere on the spectrum.

I have read quite a lot on this subject, and there seems to be a decent case that lack of empathy is a feature of autistic conditions, though sufferers often lack cognitive rather than affective empathy. This means that if they did spot that another person was upset, it could affect them a lot, but they might not work it out, because they had missed the social cues.

DameMargotFountain Mon 04-Feb-13 19:52:41

can i face palm now please <facepalm>

AmberLeaf Mon 04-Feb-13 19:52:52

Im sure in sending his father that text he wasnt setting out to cause harm or pain to anyone other than his father, but now that it is public, it has upset people.

It wasn't meant to be public, but he still said it so I dont understand how the sentiment behind it can be defended?

AmberLeaf Mon 04-Feb-13 19:54:00

My autistic child isn't emotionally disengaged.

CommunistLegoBloc Mon 04-Feb-13 19:54:38

It doesn't matter if he was using it because he had made a hackneyed diagnosis of autism for his father. The fact is he used it as an insult, as the worst possible thing he could think so call him.

He might think that people with autism lack empathy (wrong) and therefore leveled it as a term of abuse against his father. So he used it both ignorantly and as an insult. Wrong wrong wrong.

Pagwatch Mon 04-Feb-13 19:55:35

Oh please.
I have said I think he s probably clueless rather than malicious. But he wasn't pondering whether a level of emotional disengagement may lie at the root of his difficulties with his father and suggesting he may appear somewhere on the spectrum.

He was furious and spitting insults (deservedly and rather painfully) at his dad and he reached for autistic as an insult.

I get that some people don't make the connection. But let's not pretend it was intended as anything other than to offend and hurt his father.

AmberLeaf Mon 04-Feb-13 19:55:51

The poor lad may be friendly with lots of autistic people, and be suggesting that his undiagnosed father lies somewhere on the spectrum

Ha! do you really read what he said as some sort of helpful nod towards his father having undiagnosed autism?


HecateWhoopass Mon 04-Feb-13 19:56:42

Neither are mine, amber.

I am not trying to fight with anyone. I just think it shows that more is needed re autism awareness.

AmberLeaf Mon 04-Feb-13 19:57:08

Also if he is friendly with lots of autistic people, I doubt very much that he would use autistic in that context.

CommunistLegoBloc Mon 04-Feb-13 19:57:17

If somebody did something stupid, and their child called them 'a retarded piece of shit' or said they acted like someone with Down's Syndrome, or called them a 'mong', would that be okay? Because doing stupid things and having a disability are automatically synonymous? So it's okay to use a derogatory term which insults disabled people to describe their actions?

Being emotionally withdrawn and being autistic are not synonymous.

AmberLeaf Mon 04-Feb-13 19:58:13

Yes, I think lots of people have the wrong idea of what autism is, That isnt their fault, as you say, more awareness is needed.

DameMargotFountain Mon 04-Feb-13 19:58:24

well done him then, for raising awareness during a fucking argument with his father hmm

absolutely unbelievable

Spero Mon 04-Feb-13 19:58:50

I am not defending the sentiment. I am pointing out he is not as bad as someone who deliberately uses hateful words to be provocative and encourages others to do the same.

Just one quick google of 'autism' tells me 'the hallmark of ASD is impaired social interaction'. Those of us who do not know people with autism will only know what we are told. Education and communication tend to be lost in condemnation.

But we can argue pointlessly over whether he wanted to find the most hateful word possible or whether he was making a point about his father's inappropriate emotional response to his pain. Why not write to one of the newspapers and make the points made here, get the message out. Help people understand.

DameMargotFountain Mon 04-Feb-13 19:59:28

am backing out now, seeing how supposedly enlightened people really think upsets me, every time

thanks to those of you who do understand thanks

TandB Mon 04-Feb-13 20:02:22

I would imagine that the thing that is hurting parents of children with autism is not that this person threw it out as an insult when he was in a very bad place indeed, but that it was even there for him to use as an insult, ie it is in common enough use as an insult for him to think it was a suitably hurtful thing to say.

If it wasn't in common use and this one young man had picked it at random, it would presumably be unpleasant, but not quite so soul-destroying. It's the fact that so many people think that mental health/learning disability/autistic spectrum conditions provide a ready stock of insults that is the problem.

CommunistLegoBloc Mon 04-Feb-13 20:02:30

Impaired social interaction does not equal emotional disengagement.

DameMargotFountain Mon 04-Feb-13 20:02:54

'write to a newspaper'


we're having the discussion here

<really going now>

Spero Mon 04-Feb-13 20:05:07

Because you say you are sick and tired of what people wrongly think. Why not get the message out? Sorry, I can't think of anything more productive. But if the problem is that people don't know then TELL them.

AmberLeaf Mon 04-Feb-13 20:08:07

So its back to the 'you must educate the ignorant' lines?

No, if you are ignorant, educate yourself

Ignorance is not an acceptable defence.

Talking about such things here on MN is as far as I can go to educate, even that gets accusations of being professionally offended etc.

Badvoc Mon 04-Feb-13 20:12:25

I also don't believe that me meant to be cruel to those who suffer from autism.
However, it is still amazingly crass and ignorant thing to say/text.
He is obv a young man who is very very angry and going through a very traumatic time...he thought his own father would happily send his mother to prison for something she didn't do.
I can't imagine what that must feel like.
I would also imagine that he has suffered from the publicity this case has had.
Doesn't make it ok, but I do feel pity for anyone in that much pain.
I agree with kung's just so very sad that this is even considered an insult sad

CommunistLegoBloc Mon 04-Feb-13 20:12:28

Spero, that's a little along the lines of telling women where they can and can't go and what they can and can't wear in order to avoid getting raped. They don't need to be educated, would-be rapists do.

It's not up to us to educate you about autism. Do you not think parents, carers, teachers, respite workers, foster parents, brothers, sisters etc have enough on their plates without explaining the intricacies of a condition to you because you can't be bothered to find out for yourself in order to make the world a more inclusive place?

Pagwatch Mon 04-Feb-13 20:12:47

I think people are allowed to post about stuff that annoys or upsets them on here without being told that they must go and campaign.
That's a bit odd really.

sc13 Mon 04-Feb-13 20:20:26

I don't want to crucify the person who sent those texts, and he clearly was in a very bad place when he sent them. BUT I honestly don't see how the use of the term 'autistic' in that sentence can be seen as anything other than a disablist insult.

IdiotishPrattle Mon 04-Feb-13 20:28:13

Life can be hard enough for parents of autistic children, just getting them access to an education and adequate healthcare without having to educate the ignorant, because they can't really be bothered to understand other people. My Dd is autistic I don't see it as a miserable existence, I love her for who she is.
No disability terminology should be used as an insult, as others have said its totally unacceptable.
He used the word as an insult, showing himself to not only be offensive but also incredibly ignorant about ASD.

angeltulips Mon 04-Feb-13 20:39:53

Goodness me. All these posters misery-gutsing over this on the basis that "I can't believe he reached for the worst insult he could find and it was about autism". Get a grip.

He very clearly wanted to make a point about his father not responding to social clues - he may have not used the most nuanced of words to explain himself, but in the context of all the effing in the other texts it was perfectly clear that he was not throwing around "disabilist insults". I imagine if theyd be speaking rather than texting he might have said "are you deaf?"

By all means campaign for greater understanding of autism (I do, my first cousin is severely autistic - before you all flame me) but really all this belly-aching and precious huffing is way ott

DameMargotFountain Mon 04-Feb-13 20:44:37

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

CommunistLegoBloc Mon 04-Feb-13 20:45:10

If you truly believe that, after reading this thread properly angel, then I despair.

HecateWhoopass Mon 04-Feb-13 20:48:10

You cannot decide that because you don't care, anyone who does is wrong, precious or huffing. It is not your place to dismiss someone else's feelings.
Even those of us who disagree with what that lad said have not attempted to dismiss or belittle his feelings in the way you now attempt to belittle and dismiss ours.
It is not for you to decide how we feel about a comment that is made.
I have a grip.
What matters to me is important and neither you nor anyone else who tells people who feel like this that they have no right to, will be listened to. Certainly not by me.

desertgirl Mon 04-Feb-13 20:49:06

I don't suppose Peter Huhne knows he doesn't know what autism is, and can't imagine he's about to google. He probably has the widespread vague general belief that autistic people lack empathy (and the link to the triad of impairments doesn't really help if you simply look at that; it does include 'difficulties with empathy'; if you think you know what those difficulties are, you aren't being told otherwise.

I have learned a lot about autism through MN, and as a result of some of what I have read on here, have looked into it further, . Every time it comes up though there is the same cry of 'it's not up to us to educate' - well, no, it isn't, but in reality, people are not going to go off and look up something without a trigger. I looked up Joubert syndrome because of a friend's little boy who has it; it wouldn't have occurred to me to go round researching syndromes otherwise. I wanted to understand better what they were facing; not to bug the family with uneducated questions, to try to understand what they were talking about when they described what X or Y piece of equipment was for.

Without knowingly having anyone with autism in my real life circle, I had no reason to think that my original understanding was as flawed as it was. However MN has stood in for that circle and various posters have led me to want to understand better, to try not to bug them with uneducated questions, and to try to figure out what they were talking about in their posts about family life.

I don't know if that does any good, overall; the only time I can think of it having affected anything was when a friend was having a moan about the behaviour of a child in her circle - "they just say he's autistic, but that's no reason for [whatever it was]" and I, hopefully gently, challenged the latter part of the sentence. Couldn't have done that without you, MN - would have probably just agreed with her. Yes in the ideal world I wouldn't have needed you to share your experiences on here, but I did, and thankfully for me, you did.

I don't know what I'm rambling on about, really, other than to say that the 'it isn't up to us to educate you' makes me slightly sad. I wouldn't want it to be an obligation, I know you have enough on your plates, but if you don't share your realities, there will be fewer people whose curiosity is triggered enough to look further. And when someone says 'lacking in empathy', referring to 'Dr Google' wouldn't make me look further - they aren't saying it to be insulting, or because they are stupid, they are saying it because that is what they have learned. I would feel crass jumping in, here, and saying 'well that's not actually it, blah blah' because I don't know quarter as much about it as those of you who live or work with autism.

Don't know what the answer is. But thanks to those who have been part of my education.

TaggieCampbellBlack Mon 04-Feb-13 20:49:15

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

DameMargotFountain Mon 04-Feb-13 20:53:47

and i already addressed my use of that phrase desert, i admitted it wasn't helpful, so thanks for being equally as unhelpful by way of reinforcing it

difficultpickle Mon 04-Feb-13 20:54:29

I wonder how many of those on this thread have 18 yr olds whose lives have been torn apart and whom have reacted in very measured reasonable tones? I have huge sympathy for Peter Huhne.

HecateWhoopass Mon 04-Feb-13 20:56:00

So do I.
You can have sympathy for someone and at the same time feel very strongly about their choice of words.

Badvoc Mon 04-Feb-13 20:57:44

I think most people on this thread do too, bisjo.
We just also think its pretty fucking diabolical that in the 21st century "autistic" is still seen as an insult.

limitedperiodonly Mon 04-Feb-13 20:58:50

I have to say I don't think angeltulip's post was bad.

Peter Huhne was in pain. He said what he thought. He made a mistake. Can you not understand that?

If you can't then I think you are just as insensitive.

QueenofPlaids Mon 04-Feb-13 20:59:07

It's a poor choice of words & unacceptable, but...he's an angry kid. If he's 18, was he 16 when he said it? I said a lot of things at 16 I'm sure I wouldn't desperately want to be reminded of now.

I do think it was a crack-handed way of referring to a perceived lack of feeling / understanding (so the kid doesn't understand autism) rather than equating autism with being shit.

Excusable? No, not fully because it still perpetuates the use of disabling terms as insults (but I think a little withholding of judgement appropriate in the circumstance). Teens say all sort of things that most thoughtful adults would not find acceptable (see current trend for girls slut-shaming other girls for example), but most learn in private and don't get it spread all over the national press.

AmberLeaf Mon 04-Feb-13 21:00:42

But in saying what you just said desertgirl you are making it an obligation.

desertgirl Mon 04-Feb-13 21:01:52

Sorry Dame Margot, the post wasn't meant to be about that specific phrase, it was just the example that came to mind. I appreciate that you had withdrawn it

AmberLeaf Mon 04-Feb-13 21:02:36

Being upset and angry while understandable is no excuse.

Would it be an acceptable excuse if he'd called someone a nigger?

HecateWhoopass Mon 04-Feb-13 21:04:21

I don't think hemade a mistake. Unless his phone autocorrected to autism, then he intentionally typed it in.
He used it ignorantly, not in error.
I understand that he's a kid in great pain. His dads a total arse who was happy to screw his mum over. I'd want to string him up by the balls.
I feel great sympathy for him.
But that doesn't change my view on the use of disablist language. I'm never going to say its never acceptable unless of course you're REALLY upset.

desertgirl Mon 04-Feb-13 21:05:24

AmberLeaf, it wasn't my intention. I don't know what the answer is. What I meant was that although it shouldn't be an obligation, it is very very helpful - because I thought it may sometimes feel as though you are talking to a brick wall, or saying the same things over and over, wanted you to know that it does make a difference. Of course you can say it isn't up to you to educate; but it can't really be an obligation of other people to realise they misunderstand something without that being pointed out.

AmberLeaf Mon 04-Feb-13 21:08:28

Im glad its had a positive affect on how you view things desertgirl, really I am.

I get people misunderstanding, what I find unacceptable is when they go out of their way to be nasty about things like autism, there is a lot of that and Im not sure 'educating' people like that makes a difference.

Not everyone is as open minded as you have been on reading about it.

Zavi Mon 04-Feb-13 21:19:07

I think there is a general perception - amongst those uneducated about exactly what autism is - that it describes someone who "doesn't get it".

In my view, that's what Peter Huhne probably meant when he described his father using those terms.

I don't think he meant to offend anyone with a disability.

I've been quite shocked actually by how offensive some contributors to this thread have found his comments.

HecateWhoopass Mon 04-Feb-13 21:23:01

I'm sure he didn't.
I'm sure actual people with autism didn't cross his mind.
I don't think anyone is suggesting otherwise.

JoanByers Mon 04-Feb-13 21:24:55

He is telling his father to think more about others.

His words weren't ideal, but they were not intended for publication.

limitedperiodonly Mon 04-Feb-13 21:29:12

It is not acceptable. It is understandable.

Autistic should not be shorthand for 'person with no understanding of the feelings of others'.

I would like to work towards that. Would you?

NcNcNcNc Mon 04-Feb-13 21:29:59

Would just like to say that reading threads on MN has been very, very helpful in my current position of having a dd with (waiting to be diagnosed, possible) autism/aspergers. It has helped me immensely and changed my crap understanding/feelings/ill educated spouting no end.

I know you shouldn't have to educate but I for one am very thankful that you did smile

CommunistLegoBloc Mon 04-Feb-13 21:31:31

So it's alright to be privately racist, disabilist, sexist etc? Genuine question. Don't see how such ignorance would be an entirely private affair. If you're prepared to call someone autistic as an insult, I'll bet my bottom dollar that you'll call someone a retard or a spaz as a 'lighthearted' remark.

Real people, with actual autism couldn't have been further from his mind. That's almost worse. Chuck out an insult without the blindest bit of knowledge on the subject or the actual people involved. They can't have feelings, right?! is an interesting bit to read on the use of disabilist terms as insults.

CommunistLegoBloc Mon 04-Feb-13 21:33:00
HecateWhoopass Mon 04-Feb-13 21:35:12

Its not acceptable, no. I understand that he used the term in ignorance, yes. I disagree that its understandable that he used it, because to me, that is saying well, he was angry, its understandable.
And yes, I would love to see a time when casual low level use of disablist language was not understandable no matter how upset you were.
Working towards it -each and every conversation we have like this is working towards it.

Spero Mon 04-Feb-13 21:37:48

I agree with desert girl. You don't have to educate. You don't have to campaign. You don't have to do anything. But I think it is sad to keep reading the eff off and google you ignoramus type posts. That doesn't take anyone any further forward.

If you have the time and the energy to contribute to this debate what is so weird about suggesting you take your energy further forward into other arenas and get the message further out?

AmberLeaf Mon 04-Feb-13 21:39:56

Spero maybe we don't have the time or energy to take it further?

AmberLeaf Mon 04-Feb-13 21:40:23

You obviously have no idea how fucking depressing this is.

limitedperiodonly Mon 04-Feb-13 21:43:45

I say it's understandable because some people misunderstand the term. I agree that conversations like this one will help them not to.

Being unwilling or unable to understand why people say or do the things they do, and not to encourage them to change, is perhaps less helpful. Which is ironic, given the nature of autism.

Spero Mon 04-Feb-13 21:44:10

Fair enough. But don't slap it down as a weird or crass idea. The response on twitter to RG - thinking of Nicky Clarke in particular - seemed to have a big and positive impact.

I really don't know what else we have in our armoury, other than getting the message out. I was knackered this evening and m daughter had a play date - her little friend saw my leg and was all 'eurrg! That's horrible!' That was actually quite upsetting, but I didn't tell her to get out and go and educate herself, I let her touch it and ask questions. She still said 'eurrrgg' but I hope I have planted a tiny seed and the next time she meets a physical disabled person she won't be quite so horrified.

And by the way, I don't think she has been 'taught to hate'. It does look weird if you are not used to it.

desertgirl Mon 04-Feb-13 21:45:29

Amber - is there anything (other than a magic wand, obviously) which would make it less depressing?

Paiviaso Mon 04-Feb-13 21:47:08

I agree with angeltulips reading of the texts - the son says several times, "You just don't get it do you" before telling his dad he's an "autistic piece of shit". If the son just wanted to insult him, "piece of shit" would suffice; the addition of the word autistic tries to hammer home how uncomprehending his dad seemed to be about the level of anger his son was feeling (even if his use of the word is incorrect).

But really, I can't believe their is a topic criticizing the PC-ness of a private text conversation between a very angry teenager and his philandering father. Only on Mumsnet.

HecateWhoopass Mon 04-Feb-13 21:50:47

You think this is about political correctness?

desertgirl Mon 04-Feb-13 21:52:36

Paiviaso, would you call it 'criticizing the PCness' if the word used was 'retarded'?

AmberLeaf Mon 04-Feb-13 22:01:35

desertgirl, thank you.

Not sure really, its a big world out there and it can seem relentless trying to put things out there as it were.

I have a thick skin, but sometimes it does seem pointless, but not for long!

AmberLeaf Mon 04-Feb-13 22:15:39

Spero, I didn't slap it down.

Spero Mon 04-Feb-13 22:26:53

Ok, maybe too harsh a phrase.

The whole ignorance, fear, hatred, contempt, about disability is depressing. All that can be done is shine a little light. No one is obligated. But ignorance doesn't diminish without a push.

AmberLeaf Mon 04-Feb-13 22:29:32

I am always pushing.

Too much some say, but I won't stop.

SirIronBottom Mon 04-Feb-13 22:34:58

I disapprove of the son's language in general. That's not the way to talk to family, even if they have done what Chris Huhne did.

Defending the indefensible that is what I see the apologists doing on this thread, I haven't read the whole thread but the more I read the angrier I get. I haven't actually read any of the texts/articles, but the use of the word autistic as a word of hate makes my blood boil. And yes I think it is worth discussing no matter who said it.

Spero Mon 04-Feb-13 22:59:44

Who has said it isn't worth discussing?

anonacfr Mon 04-Feb-13 23:13:09

Political correctness??????? Unbelievable.
That comment jumped right at me.

I felt utterly sympathetic to the boy until I read it.

Spero Mon 04-Feb-13 23:16:04

Why does your opinion of his words change because some else talks of political correctness??

SirIronBottom Tue 05-Feb-13 02:22:19

I think the poster meant that they felt utterly sympathetic to the boy until they read the 'autistic' comment.

I think the reference to 'political correctness??????' was more an objection to the fact that someone had complained about political correctness.

For all those saying how it isn't that bad or it's understandable, replace the word "autism" with any term for a person of a different race, not even a derogatory one. Then see if the phrase still sounds understandable. If not then why do you think it is ok in this situation?

Pagwatch Tue 05-Feb-13 07:37:17

I feel completely sympathetic towards the boy.
I think he is/enduring dreadful times as his family is ripped apart.
I believe he was writing private texts and lashing out.
I don't blame him in the slightest.

I do think it is deeply depressing that using autistic as an insult seems to be fine with many.
I think this thread, talking out it, is a valid way to express how people feel about that.

I find interesting that so many contributors seem to feel the need to see posts expressing regret that autism = insult as an attack on the boy when I think almost everyone has said that they sympathise with him.

fromparistoberlin Tue 05-Feb-13 07:59:49

fwiw i have NEVER ever heard anyone using the term "autistic" as an insult


and I have heard many insults in my time!!!

so whilst I get why its upsetting, my primary reacton is sadness for that boy

hecate, its horrible that this insult is in the public domain, but I am concerned you are wasting valuable energy and thought on a vile comment made by an emotionally disturbed child

one teenage boys anger does not mean that we are a country of haters, and it does not normalise this

Icedcakeandflower Tue 05-Feb-13 08:06:26

fromparistoberlin this is not "just one teenage boy" though. This is the point. My teenage dd tells me "autistic" is a commonly used insult amongst other teens sad

AmberLeaf Tue 05-Feb-13 08:06:54

I feel sorry for the boy, I think he is going through a horrible time with his family.

How do you suggest not being upset by the acceptance of that as an insult though?

I get that he was angry and that the comment was private. Just dont understand the defending of it.

hackmum Tue 05-Feb-13 08:09:27

The use of the word "autistic" as an insult was pretty horrible, and as far as I can see singularly inappropriate in this case. The father was far from being autistic - he sounds like an utterly selfish so-and-so.

To be honest, they sound like a pretty ghastly family all round.

YANBU - it shouldn't be used as an insult. Ever.

However the text messages were private between father and son, and what people speak of amongst themselves is their business. I feel that publishing the texts is an incredible breach of privacy.

fromparistoberlin Tue 05-Feb-13 08:12:02


I never knew that. I genuinely 1000% have never heard this term bandied around

you live and learn eh

Pagwatch Tue 05-Feb-13 08:16:38


If you think about it telling Hecate that she Is wasting valuable energy by posting about this is a bit daft.

Hecate is probably eating toast , rounding children in directions in which they are supposed to be headed and pondering this issue at the same time.

I am participating in the discussion. I m not unduly exercised by the process. Nor I suspect is anyone else on here.

It's an online chat. Being fucked off at the casual use of asd as an insult doesn't make anyone fragile or worthy of concern. I will be equally fucked off about double parking in half an hour.

HecateWhoopass Tue 05-Feb-13 08:20:17

It isn't one incident. It is very common. You're so autistic - to mean you're being an arse or whathaveyou. That's so autistic. same thing.

And diagnosis of autism based on a description of someone being and unfeeling, uncaring arsehole shows that's what some people think autism is!

It's the attitude I and others seek to change. It's the attitude that hurts. It's the idea that autism is this thing that makes people shitty sacks of crap who treat people with contempt. This is just an example of it. It's not an attack on him as an individual, but rather a challenge to a development that appears to be making it the 'in thing' to call autism when you see shitty behaviour.

It must always be challenged. It must be corrected. It's not trivial. And it's not an isolated incident. There is a pattern emerging.

This text has simply prompted a discussion on this issue. It isn't about going after this kid with pitchforks. It's about accepting that this is happening and talking about this issue. It is being used as an insult. Please accept that this is happening. Nobody has any reason to lie about it.

imogengladhart Tue 05-Feb-13 08:23:30

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

HecateWhoopass Tue 05-Feb-13 08:25:00

heehee. worst x post ever grin

I was. I started the day by getting the kids up, and going through the normal 2 hour routine to get them out the door. They've just left. My youngest has been doing an earpiercing scream for an hour and my eldest is yelling at me that it's snowing. Like it's my fault grin

I have had 2 cups of coffee and answered 3 emails about boreholes.

I fed the birds and had a row with my husband about whether tesco is likely to actually deliver or not.

I checked the school website about 13 times to make sure it's still open.

I told the kids to go out to the car and remember to shut the door (their dad takes them to school in the morning). They left it wide open. Of course. Every day 'shut the door' every day door left wide open.

I then ordered their gf stuff from the doctor and replied a text about meeting a friend for coffee.

Then I decided to check in here and fight the good fight wink

fromparistoberlin Tue 05-Feb-13 08:26:06

from what I have seen hecate has posted on this thread almost constantly since it started

I have no right whasover to tell people what or not to get bothered about

by time and time again I see people get very upset and het up about issues (on MN) that pertain to the closest thing to their heart, their kids

and to be honest, it makes me sad

If someone is het up about parking. obvously I am not bothered

and I suppose I get upset as MN is kind of a misocosm of society, with some views that I dont tend to see in RL. ever!!!

anyway I am not articulating myself well, and clearly if people see this term bandied around alot, its an issue

but maybe, people are more sensitive to it when it affects them? and sometimes MN is an environment that pours petrol on the flame of their upset?

imogengladhart Tue 05-Feb-13 08:26:15

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

VivaLeBeaver Tue 05-Feb-13 08:29:37

Yes he was wrong to say it.

But he was 18, 18year olds do sometimes say stupid things. Though I get that many 18yos wouldn't dream of saying this. He was you g, he was angry.

I'm sure if he'd been calmer and thought about what he was saying he wouldn't have.

I along with many others used to call people Spaz in the playground in the 70s, 80s. I'm horrified now.

Awomansworth Tue 05-Feb-13 08:32:38

I've not read the whole thread.

What upsets me is that the comment is from a well educated individual who should know better. At least when it comes from ignorance there is a chance to educate and change mindset.

My ds is mixed race and has Autism, I wonder what he's going to get called from like minded individuals! Being upset is NEVER an excuse for this type of language.

I get that he is hurt... but comments like "he's destroyed," Come on!

Pagwatch Tue 05-Feb-13 08:38:14

Oh Hec. Can we coordinate posts better fgs.

HecateWhoopass Tue 05-Feb-13 08:38:26

a few posts between 530 and 6
one at 645
a few between 730 and 8
a few between about 9 and 10
back here again at 20 past 8.
If you put that in the context of my mumsnet addiction, you'd see that it's actually nothing unusual. Ask anyone.

Yeah, it's a subject that's important to me. If you had 2 children with autism who will never have an independent life, never hold down a job beyond perhaps, possibly, collecting trolleys in a supermarket and then only if they have a support worker there with them, children who will probably never marry or have children, or buy a house, or drive a car, or wake up one morning and think it's a nice day, think I'll go to the coast for the weekend and just go, if you had a 13 year old who still soiled himself and who asked you if he killed himself, would he be normal in heaven - it'd be important to you too. I don't want autism to be the nt kids cool word for selfish arse. Same as I don't want to hear mong or spaz or retard. I want them to know exactly what it is they are saying when they say those words. To think about the meaning of them and then they make an informed choice. If they choose to use them, knowing full well what they mean and what it is they are saying, then I think it is justified in bringing my boot down on their arse.

PeneloPeePitstop Tue 05-Feb-13 08:39:26

Oh fantastic. So nice to know that if you're upset or young then it's perfectly fine to deride someone based on their race, sexuality or gender.

I look forward to being sexist as hell on here next time someone upsets me.

No? Sorry what did you say? Those things aren't acceptable whatever the circumstances?

Well then neither is casual disablism.

HecateWhoopass Tue 05-Feb-13 08:40:20

grin pag. yes. conflab before posting, I think.

Xenia Tue 05-Feb-13 08:57:25

It was comment in a text message for goodness sake and may be Huhne does indeed have traces of that. Those who live with him will know that. He road roughshod over his family's feelings, chose to damage his relationships with his children for life because of lust for the lesbian in the civil partnership.You have to be pretty bad at human relationships to get into that position instead of working on your marriage and if it fails leaving and only then seeking someone new.

HecateWhoopass Tue 05-Feb-13 08:59:03

It's a wider discussion about the use of autism as an insult, for heaven's sake.

Pagwatch Tue 05-Feb-13 09:02:14

Everyone has acknowledged that the boy posted in a distressed state. pretty much everyone fels sorry for him.

megandraper Tue 05-Feb-13 09:12:40

It is definitely wrong to use 'autistic' as an insult, just as it would be to use 'black' or 'queer' or any other such characteristic.

I was reading a children's story to my 5 and 3yo last night. It was written in the 50s, so I hope this wouldn't happen today. In the story a man goes blind BECAUSE he is mean-spirited and cruel. Nice. Especially since I am registered blind.

There is too much usage of disabilities to represent 'badness'. It is so ingrained that we don't even notice it until it is pointed out.

eggandcress Tue 05-Feb-13 09:14:04

I am with Hectate and all the other posters who say it is NOT acceptable to use autistic as an insult - ever.

I first heard it being used like this by Will Self - writer - on Shooting Stars about the Queen. I was so angry/upset that he used the severe condition my ds has as a joke. This show is watched by young people and sure enough the insult has filtered through. This is a BBc programme and should not have been broadcast.

HecateWhoopass Tue 05-Feb-13 09:14:37

and sometimes not even then grin

pigletmania Tue 05-Feb-13 09:15:53

However hrt te son might be he sounds like a complete and utter pillock, who shoud grow up. Age is not an excuse I or people I know at tat ag would ever have used such horrid insults.

It may very well be a wider discussion, however the thread title specifically talks about Chris Huhnes' son.

It is as wrong an insult as saying that someone is a "retard" "spastic" "mong" etc... awful, horrible insults based on fear and ignorance.

Hecate I've got two boys with Autism, and I identify with you absolutely! I also find it very hard that there are people who think that they can just self-diagnose. Autism is becoming the "bad back" of this generation and I hate it because it makes a mockery of the soul-destroying, heartbreaking reality of getting a diagnosis and then living and fearing for an uncertain future. (Anyway... I've gone off on a tangent)

If you just take the OP at face value, however - I think it is, in this instance a forgivable offence and I have no doubt whatsoever that the lad is ashamed and incredibly remorseful. He did not know that what he thought was a private conversation was going to be plastered all over the media and discussed on Mumsnet! I, personally did a lot of things that I'm not proud of when I was 18... and I'd hate for those to have been done in the public eye and judgement of everybody.

imogengladhart Tue 05-Feb-13 09:24:22

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Xenia Tue 05-Feb-13 09:27:08

Come on, we all know that is it a very broad spectrum from high functioning aspergers to so autistic you never lead a normal life. I deal with computer programmers all the time who definitely are on that spectrum, not all but some and it is definitely the case Huhne's son may have found his father with whom he knows much more than we do somewhere on that spectrum. Many many adults are undiagnosed and yes of course he isn't severely affected but it is not wrong for a teenage boy to make that suggestion at all. More to the point what was his father doing playing away? Why did he think it would not hurt his family? Inability to understand the feelings of others is part of that spectrum.

imogengladhart Tue 05-Feb-13 09:27:33

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

imogengladhart Tue 05-Feb-13 09:31:23

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Pagwatch Tue 05-Feb-13 09:32:11

The notion that he was categorising a potential series of behaviour which could indicate that his dad was onthe spectrum really is pretty laughable. He was angry and reaching for insults.
Totally understandable in his situation. Just sad and worth talking about that 'autistic' was the insult he reached for.
Had he texted 'selfish fucking twat' everyone would be in agreement.

HecateWhoopass Tue 05-Feb-13 09:32:42

are you suggesting that in the middle of a furious exchange where he was (rightly) livid with his dad and expressing hatred for him and everything he'd done, he decided to speculate that his dad might have autism in any sort of helpful way?

Xenia Tue 05-Feb-13 09:35:47

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

HecateWhoopass Tue 05-Feb-13 09:38:10

the disability rights lot?

ok then.

bloody unreasonable stupid unfeeling disability rights lot, eh?

AmberLeaf Tue 05-Feb-13 09:40:27

Disability rights lot?

BlueSkySunnyDay Tue 05-Feb-13 09:40:51

My friend told me that she had to teach her AS child that when her friends hugged her or gave her a compliment she needed to think of their feelings and either return the compliment or react in some way (at the time she just stood there). Is Chris Hunes son not saying that his father does what he wants to do without thought of other peoples feelings, in my understanding of the people I know with autism no comprehending how their actions impact upon other peoples feelings is a part of their character.

This man used his happy family life to further his career whilst he had a mistress, his family are obviously devastated.

I am quite shocked that the main upset you took from those texts is how insulting it is to you and your child - my reaction to it is how sad that this selfish man has lost the love of his family and the respect of his friends and peers.

I appreciate that having a disability is difficult but this was not about you

higgle Tue 05-Feb-13 09:42:58

It was intended to be a private message,he was upset, what are you lot - the thought police? I fully agree these comments should not be made in any public forum, but I'd be pretty upset if anyone wanted to censor my thoughts or my private messages within my family.

imogengladhart Tue 05-Feb-13 09:43:32

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

AmberLeaf Tue 05-Feb-13 09:45:03

Bluesunnysky, I know the text thing is not about me or my child and I know that that families pain is far greater than mine at the insult.

The constant justification from people that think they are informed is worse.

Your friends child is your friends child, you understand that autism is a spectrum?

The issue is that people are increasingly equating shitty/abusive behavior with autism.

eggandcress Tue 05-Feb-13 09:45:40

'For the disability rights lot to be so very blinkered they go on about the language ... well is just sums them all up really.'

Please don't refer to people affected by disability in this off-hand way, this word does not have various meanings it has one meaning and it should not be used as an insult under any circumstances.

imogengladhart Tue 05-Feb-13 09:48:07

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

BlueSkySunnyDay Tue 05-Feb-13 09:48:22

I dont think its no concern, its not understanding

Im quite shocked that you think its ok to pull his son on use of this word in these circumstances - there are lots of situations where discussion about the use of this word would be acceptable but piling further hurt on the hurt this boys father has already inflicted on him seems narcissistic in the extreme to me

AmberLeaf Tue 05-Feb-13 09:50:42

The use of the word in that context should be pulled regardless of the circumstances.

Im staggered anyone would think any differently.

HecateWhoopass Tue 05-Feb-13 09:51:42


Autistic IS PRECISELY the wrong word to use for 'no concern for the feelings of others'."

It doesn't matter how many times you say that - it doesn't get through.

nor, apparently, does the fact that this is a wider issue and deserving of discussion as an issue. And WE'RE blinkered? People can read this whole thread and come to that conclusion and then call US blinkered? That's really funny.

We're just the 'disablity rights lot' (how sneery and dismissive is that?) banging on about pesky disabilities and the treatment of people and acceptable language and wanting people to think about what they say.

We should just shut up, really. It's perfectly ok to use disablist language as long as a)you didn't intend it to be public and b) you were ever so upset at the time.

AmberLeaf Tue 05-Feb-13 09:52:14

So are we diagnosing narcissisim too now?

eggandcress Tue 05-Feb-13 09:53:24

The used little stars instead of shit, they should have use them for this word as well

Pagwatch Tue 05-Feb-13 09:54:09

Twat is more acceptable to me. It doesn't use a very small and minority population as an insult.

eggandcress Tue 05-Feb-13 09:59:51

If they had used the little stars for autistic in this context it would show everyone that it is unacceptable as an insult like this.

eggandcress Tue 05-Feb-13 10:08:28

It should have been presented as

'You are such an a***** piece of **. Don't contact me again you make me feel sick.'

eggandcress Tue 05-Feb-13 10:09:50

For some reason some of the stars are gone from this - I am sure I typed seven and four.

Pagwatch Tue 05-Feb-13 10:14:01

I would haven spent ages going...asshole?.. Arsewipe.?

blindworm Tue 05-Feb-13 10:15:29

Wouldn't using asterisks just make it look like the word 'autistic' is unacceptable? I don't agree with his use of it but wouldn't censoring it make it look on a par with swear words?

imogengladhart Tue 05-Feb-13 10:18:27

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Pagwatch Tue 05-Feb-13 10:19:13

I wouldn't censor it either because it shouldn't be an insult.
It's just unfortunate that he used it as one.

fromparistoberlin Tue 05-Feb-13 10:40:37

noone wants you to shut up!!!!

and I am sure noone on this thread condones it, noone

Had someone in high level position used this term, I would be fucking outraged too

I just feel that picking on the words of a distraight and fucked up child, in an unfortunately public dialogue is a bit unkind

anonacfr Tue 05-Feb-13 10:42:33


What is shocking reading those texts is that the son is clearly getting angrier and more frustrated (understandably) as he's sending them.
He's trying to hurt him and this is the word he comes up with? So sad.

miranda13 Tue 05-Feb-13 11:05:11

Hitler and Geoffrey Dahmer were autistic, i can see why it is used as an insult by those who know no better but it is not fair on austistic people most of whom are decent law abiding folk.

HecateWhoopass Tue 05-Feb-13 11:14:36

Hitler and Jeffrey Dahmer had diagnoses of autism in their lifetimes made by professionals who took them through an assessment process?

I didn't know that.

Is there a link? I'd like to read about that.

Dawndonna Tue 05-Feb-13 11:16:29

There is little or no evidence to show that either Jeffrey Dahmer or Hitler were autisitic. Much of Silva's work has been discredited.

PeneloPeePitstop Tue 05-Feb-13 11:22:12

Oh noes can't be having the thought police, can we?

Gotta have unfettered racism, sexism, homophobia and ageism. It's our right.

Why don't people see disablism in the same context as all the above?

Would Xenia use 'that feminist lot' in the same derisory way as 'that disability rights lot'?

AmberLeaf Tue 05-Feb-13 12:07:32

imogengladhart, I wasn't aiming that comment at you sorry.

I was replying to bluesunnyskys comment

Im quite shocked that you think its ok to pull his son on use of this word in these circumstances - there are lots of situations where discussion about the use of this word would be acceptable but piling further hurt on the hurt this boys father has already inflicted on him seems narcissistic in the extreme to me

Implying objecting to the use of autistic as an insult is narcissistic.

anonacfr Tue 05-Feb-13 12:14:52

most of them are decent law-abiding people. Oh, that's alright then.

I give up.

imogengladhart Tue 05-Feb-13 12:30:32

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

megandraper Tue 05-Feb-13 12:32:59

I think this thread shows what a long way disability awareness has to go. People's general attitudes towards disability are like attitudes to women/feminism in the 1960s or black people/racism in the 1950s. I just hope that in another decade we will be in a different era. A lot will have to happen first, though.

AmberLeaf Tue 05-Feb-13 12:55:30

imogen smile

Yes blaming those who take offence sucks.

Allinadaze Tue 05-Feb-13 13:41:48

Sorry to arrive very late and if this has already been shared, but hopefully useful enough to repeat if so:

Evidence is slowly starting to emerge that people on the autistic spectrum are actually hypersensitive to the feelings of others (as opposed to lacking in empathy):

This blog post by Nicole Nicholson discusses well the issues surrounding autism and empathy.

What are we to conclude? I think it is safe to say that we are sensitive and empathetic to the point of being overwhelmed by the emotions of others, and that we sometimes have trouble “reading the signals” and maybe knowing how to respond. That is the inside. What’s outside is our reactions and behavior, from which the wrong conclusions have been drawn.

Whilst I have much sympathy with CH's son, "Autistic" was the wrong choice of insult if his intent was to describe CH as lacking in empathy.

Failure of the media to pick up on this highlights beautifully how widespread this general misunderstanding is.

Spatsky Tue 05-Feb-13 13:49:04

Of course he was trying to insult his father by using the word, but I don't think quite to the extent of digging for the worst insult he would think of and coming up with autistic, just ignorantly using a word that he thought described the way his father was responding to him at that particular time.

Still completely wrong and ill educated but not necessarily indicative that he thinks autistic equals worst insult you can throw at someone, but that's just ne persons interpretation.

As an aside, he also uses fat on a later text (ch def not fat as far as I can see) which is clearly also an example of a word routinely used to throw in as part of an insult which I find pretty offensive.

I can completely understand the reactions from people that are personally effected by autism, but I struggle to judge him too harshly given his age and the circumstances, but I can Understand why others would feel less forgiving.

megandraper Tue 05-Feb-13 13:59:57

Yes, spatsky - I don't think judging this particular young man is the burning issue.

I think the more important issue is the fact that his attitude (autistic = insult) is widely prevalent. As shown by the number of people on this thread who dont think it's a problem for someone to do that.

Autism is a medical condition. It should not be a shorthand way of saying 'selfish' or 'unfeeling' or 'cold'.

Spatsky Tue 05-Feb-13 14:11:51

I agree bed hopper. Part of the differences here is that I don't think the son was necessarily using it as shorthand for selfish unfeeling or cold. I think it was shorthand for you don't seem to get it that I am telling you to fuck off and leave me alone. But that's an I interpretation issue.

I don't think he's right to use it in the context that I believe he was using it, but I think there is a subtle difference there.

Politty Tue 05-Feb-13 14:15:24

I think we all need to get over ourselves a bit here. Mr Huhnes son is a/ Young
b/ Very and understandably distressed.

He sent his Dad a private text, he had no idea or any intention of offending anybody other then voice his considerable stress about the situation to his dad.
Please please can we change things and stop being so over sensitive about things that were clearly not intentional. We are all intelligent beings and all know that this lad was clumsy (and who isn't) are we to expect all normal human beings to have a degree in international Public Relations or Law or whatever. Move on and discuss something really important like how we are going to identify Autism as early as possible and help those with it and except that occasionally people who are just human may say things that may be thoughtless. Its those that deliberately destroy others lives or well being we need to be looking at. Lets not fuss about a silly but innocent remark - he is just a kid! We need to be much more concerned about an MP who cheated on his wife, and lied to all and spent thousands of tax payers money in the run up to this. About police officers who 'set up' a chief whip and the press that pushed this to its limits and a government who had evidence that the emails sent were untrue but were too timid to DO the right thing etc .. these issues are the one's that worry the living daylights out of me!

megandraper Tue 05-Feb-13 14:15:39

That could be the case, spatsky. I don't think it matters too much what the specific interpretation is. It's not appropriate to use the word 'autistic' (or any other disability) to mean something other than it's actual meaning. Obviously using it as a form of insult makes it worse/more hurtful.

Spatsky Tue 05-Feb-13 14:15:44

Actually maybe there isn't a difference ultimately. I'm struggling to put some of my thoughts into written word

Spatsky Tue 05-Feb-13 14:16:19

Crossed posts with you bedhopper.

megandraper Tue 05-Feb-13 14:17:47

Move on and discuss something really important like how we are going to identify Autism as early as possible and help those with it and except that occasionally people who are just human may say things that may be thoughtless

One of the ways to help people with autism, politty, is to stop using the name of their medical condition as an insult.

Politty Tue 05-Feb-13 14:22:47

Agreed .. but was my point entirely missed?

megandraper Tue 05-Feb-13 14:36:12

I think it's a specious point, politty.

Yes, other things matter. Some other things may matter more, and some may matter less. We don't stop caring about something because there is another injustice elsewhere.

Politty Tue 05-Feb-13 14:43:07

Agree with that as well but since we have limited time (being mums etc) chewing over and over something that was clearly unintentional is daft in my view. Use that limited time to get to bigger more important issues or be sidelined. I am sick of being sidelined cause I have little time .. dnt get bogged down in this any more, what are we going to do about VIPs that lie!

megandraper Tue 05-Feb-13 14:48:48

If you think this thread is wasting your time, politty, then start another one on the topic that concerns you.

Your limited time is not a reason for me to abandon an issue that I feel is very important. And I'm not talking about Chris Huhne's son. I am talking about the way large numbers of people talk in disablist terms (and others, like you, consider that unimportant).

Allinadaze Tue 05-Feb-13 14:55:19

Yes this thread should be less about Chris Huhne and his son, more about the widespread and generally accepted use of the term "autistic" to describe someone as incapable of feeling emotion.

That makes a very relevant discussion and I think is what the op is actually about.

HecateWhoopass Tue 05-Feb-13 15:00:06

Would you excuse racism on the grounds that someone was young and upset?

Would someone who felt it shouldn't be excused be told to get over themselves?

I fail to see the difference.

I also don't think we are limited to one discussion. I think we can discuss and address several interrelated issues without losing anything.

I think that autism as an insult is a very important issue and one that is worth talking about.

I fail to see why people want to limit this to what this individual said when over and over and over again we are telling you that it is the issue of disability as insult that is the problem. This is simply an example of it.

The issue is important and should be discussed. Trivialising this big issue by pretending it's about one young lad and doesn't exist outside that and we are all wanting to talk about this boy specifically and exclusively and therefore are unreasonable and making a big deal out of nothing and getting bogged down in somehing important is missing the point by a mile.

I am happy to spend some of my limited time making it clear that autism does not mean cold, callous, unfeeling, cruel, thoughtless, mean or selfish and that people should not throw it at others as a way of calling them any or all of those things.

HecateWhoopass Tue 05-Feb-13 15:01:15

unimportant, that should read

Allinadaze Tue 05-Feb-13 15:01:39

emotion empathy

Dawndonna Tue 05-Feb-13 15:11:50

*I think we all need to get over ourselves a bit here. Mr Huhnes son is a/ Young
b/ Very and understandably distressed.*
Perhaps you'd like to discuss that point with one of my three ASD children, who get called names like 'Autistic twat' regularly.
Perhaps you should get over the fact that whilst discussing this, something else is not being sidelined, that too (whatever the issue, including lying VIPs) is up for discussion.

fromparistoberlin Tue 05-Feb-13 15:21:45

stop saying that anyone who does not agree is

(a) disablist
(b) uses casual disablist terms
(c) tacitly approves of people that use disablist terms


My issue is the these words should never have been put out there anyway, he was a minor at the time and its beyond inappropriate

one the one hands we have mothers here who are (understandably) concerned for this kids

Yet we are using the words of a distraught teen that we wrongly released (someone elses kid) to make a politcal point and have a bun fight

who knows why he chose that word, we will never know

fromparistoberlin Tue 05-Feb-13 15:29:40

"I think that autism as an insult is a very important issue and one that is worth talking about.

But hecate this is a thread on AIBU! Parliamentary questons time it aint! I see you have strong feelings, validly so

But may I gently suggest this this bun fight of a thread is not going to be a game changer? Its a bun fight, end of

HecateWhoopass Tue 05-Feb-13 15:36:21

That's a real shame. I had hoped that at least some people might have gone away from it with an additional perspective on an important issue and taken time to think about their language choices and their understanding of autism.

Spero Tue 05-Feb-13 15:38:45

You can be reassured that I have certainly gained from this thread an appreciation that there is much more I need to read/learn about autism.

I still think its a shame that this was the example used to base the discussion because I still believe there is a moral distinction between such as PH and Ricky Gervais for eg. But I get that others don't agree.

grovel Tue 05-Feb-13 15:46:51

Hecate, I've been watching this thread with interest and am learning from it.

Coincidentally, my DH observed to me the other day that people in his workplace are regularly diagnosing autism in others. He said he reckoned no-one in his workplace actually knew what autism is (including him) but that the "autistic label" seemed to make co-workers more tolerant of those who didn't fit in particularly easily.

HecateWhoopass Tue 05-Feb-13 15:47:48

This was the example given. I'd have discussed it given any example. But I can't not discuss it. iyswim. If there was a way to start it over with no example, that would be great! Having it as a general debate rather than being seen as specifically about someone - no matter how many times you attempt to generalise it and turn it into a debate about the issue and not an individual!

RG has been done. As I recall, those who objected were called miseries and po and the like cos he's a comedian and they have to be allowed to take the piss out of disabled people. And the frankie boyle one. People defended him too. We're over sensitive and it's really rather funny. Apparently.

You can see why it's always important to challenge...

MorrisZapp Tue 05-Feb-13 15:47:55

I feel sorry for the young lad. Imagine if your own impassioned, personal texts were published in the national press.

He's young, and clearly does not know the correct meaning of autistic. I'm 42 and I don't know an awful lot about autism either. I think that the common perception of autism is a lack of social awareness. If this is wrong, as many are saying on here that it is, then that is an issue that deserves attention.

There are countless issues we should know more about, but don't. We are all ignorant about some things that profoundly affect others. I dunno. I read those messages in horror and they made me sad. But not because he said autistic. I'm sorry if that upsets anybody.

MorrisZapp Tue 05-Feb-13 15:49:16

Take a poll of who here still thinks F Boyle is funny. Most Mners can't stand him now after his pathetic comments.

Spero Tue 05-Feb-13 15:52:49

Of course it is always important to challenge. But if the likes of PH are lumped in with the likes of RG then I think that is going to cause a lot of people unease.

Like saying my dad - racist unthinkingly because of his generation and upbringing - is the same as Nick Griffin who starts a political party about being racist.

That doesn't mean I don't challenge my dad - I do. But he is not the same as someone who is deliberately, repeatedly, provocatively racist and incites others to join in. And if I were to approach him on that basis, I doubt I would ever have much impact on his thinking. He would reject what I was saying because of the obvious hyperbole.

Sallyingforth Tue 05-Feb-13 16:06:09

I note that the contentious phrase has been published in most of the press today.
It will be interesting to see whether there are any letters printed tomorrow discussing mis-use of the word as an insult.
I do fear that the publication may encourage copy-cat behaviour, and I desperately hope I am wrong in this.
Hecate, having read your posts in this thread I am at a loss to understand how you manage to achieve so much, but you clearly do. You have my admiration.

PeneloPeePitstop Tue 05-Feb-13 16:08:46

I suppose those not horrified by this wouldn't find replacing it with spakka offensive either.

That's what shows what a long road we have to travel before people with disabilities are seen as equal. And so any of you are oblivious.

That's really sad.

PessaryPam Tue 05-Feb-13 16:11:59

Jeez if he was my Dad I would be calling him an arse and all thre rest. The poor boy is only 20 and he is naive. He needs some slack with a Dad like that.

Spero Tue 05-Feb-13 16:12:41

It's clearly my fault for not making my point clearly enough. Otherwise I would have to believe people wilfully want to misunderstand me.

Which would also be sad.

PessaryPam Tue 05-Feb-13 16:13:11

HecateWhoopass I don't think you have a clue about Peters life.

MorrisZapp Tue 05-Feb-13 16:14:58

I can only assume that he did not choose to use the word randomly as a general insult, but was making a direct attack on his father's behaviour and failure to understand how angry he had made his son, by referring to a condition that he mistakenly thought meant a failure to understand other people's meaning.

He was wrong, but to him the word was descriptive of his father's action. Lots of people think that autism is characterised by difficulty with social interaction, myself included. Education is clearly needed, but you can't compare the word autistic with spakka in that context.

HecateWhoopass Tue 05-Feb-13 16:15:16

and we're back to talking about him specifically.

I give up. I really do.

MorrisZapp Tue 05-Feb-13 16:16:43

It's the topic and title of the thread.

HecateWhoopass Tue 05-Feb-13 16:16:44

grin I'd achieve a lot more if I gave up mumsnet, sally. Pissing about on here for no good reason wastes too much of my day.

fromparistoberlin Tue 05-Feb-13 16:16:58


do one, there's a love

stop being so passive agressive and how DARE you suggest that other posters would use the vile term spakka?

Just because people are not "horrified" (purely given the context of child being a minor, under presure bla bla ), you thinks that equates to us being disablist haters that use the terms spakka????

hecate I would love to say this thread has taught me stuff, but sadly it hasn't

HecateWhoopass Tue 05-Feb-13 16:18:38

I was responding to pam. Yes, it's the title and op, but the whole of the thread has been about moving away from this specific example! And an attempt to move the discussion to the general point about autism as an insult and autism awareness.

PeneloPeePitstop Tue 05-Feb-13 16:21:57

Paris, do one yourself, there's a love smile

Christmasberry Tue 05-Feb-13 16:22:34

I have a deaf daughter, the amount of times people say to their children 'are you deaf' just because they didn't answer the first is a little shocking, usually idiots who say it!

PessaryPam Tue 05-Feb-13 16:23:20

FFS cut the poor boy some slack, your specific home life is not figuring in his comments. It's not all about you and your children. I feel so sad for him. It's a difficult age at 20 and to have such a total Huhne of a dad is hard.

PeneloPeePitstop Tue 05-Feb-13 16:26:00

Is it ok to use any -ist term, even in anger, even in private?
I say no.

Doesn't mean I don't have any sympathy for the situation of the young man who typed it.

desertgirl Tue 05-Feb-13 16:27:02

The deaf one is a good point. I am pretty sure I use that on occasion. I guess I need to rethink. Apologies, Christmasberry and other people who find it offensive.

megandraper Tue 05-Feb-13 16:28:56

*is it ok to use any -ist term, even in anger, even in private?
I say no. Doesn't mean I don't have any sympathy for the situation of the young man who typed it. *

This. It's in anger and stress that our prejudices reveal themselves. I don't think this boy's prejudices are unusual, that's the issue. If he was unusual, there wouldn't be much to say.

Pagwatch Tue 05-Feb-13 16:29:11

I don't think anyone has chosen these comments as some kind of a launch pad for an attack. I am sure i am not the only one one here quite interested in how people see the use of language differently, in spite of some posters thinking that ou have to read the op and then start bludgeoning whoever you think is on the other side.
It was in the news, someone noticed it and started a thread. It's not a lynching.

I have already said it repeatedly but it is worth saying again - I think everyone sympathises with this boy. I think saying 'poor, poor boy. What a hideous situation but I really wish he hadn't used that word' is reasonable.

I have found people's comments in the most part pretty interesting.

It reminds me of a conversation in about 1986 when another female team leader and I asked our Director if he would reconsider calling us 'sweetheart' in presentations.

AmberLeaf Tue 05-Feb-13 16:32:16

Yet we are using the words of a distraught teen that we wrongly released (someone elses kid) to make a politcal point and have a bun fight

Do you really think that people here are trying to make a political point?

Like we are trying to be 'right on' or something?

PeneloPeePitstop Tue 05-Feb-13 16:34:19

Interesting the reaction to the word spakka though by the way.

Until relatively recent times 'spastic' was used as the name of a national charity for people with cerebral palsy. Until it got hijacked by people using a medical diagnosis in a derogatory way.

Can no one else see the irony?

HecateWhoopass Tue 05-Feb-13 16:35:56

I'm currently more interested, Amber, in the invisible font that I appear to be using every time I stress that this is about the general issue of using autism as an insult.

MorrisZapp Tue 05-Feb-13 16:38:59

Pag, that may be true. But this thread has many voices on it, including one saying that if anybody wasn't horrified by what the guy said then it was saddening.

Lots of people in the middle ground surely between 'that wasn't the right word to use' and being horrified.

This story is all over the news, I think it's futile trying to debate the issues it throws up in a more general context under that OP.

In this instance, most people think the story is the MPs behaviour and the effect on his family. And they will keep coming back to that, inevitably.

AmberLeaf Tue 05-Feb-13 16:40:01

I know Hec, its baffling.

I see the irony PeneloPee!

Good to see that some are taking something positive from this discussion though.

MorrisZapp Tue 05-Feb-13 16:41:43

You didn't say spastic Penelope, you said spakka.

My lovely old gran still says spastic. She genuinely means no insult by it. Spakka (which I have never heard btw but I'm in Scotland and have heard plenty other unpleasant terms) is something different altogether.

MorrisZapp Tue 05-Feb-13 16:47:49

Op and thread title must also be in invisible ink then. Start a new thread for general discussion, surely?

Pagwatch Tue 05-Feb-13 16:47:51


Yes. I take your point. I think every thread around this now gets forced to the extremes of the discussion with no room in between.
I think that as soon as people start arriving with 'ffs' and 'PCness' and 'haven't you got more important things to talk about' it starts circling the drain.

Shakirasma Tue 05-Feb-13 16:51:09

Totally agree with everything Hecate has said.

I am also sick of people trying to excuse his upsetting choice of insult on his age. He's only 20, he's naive, he was upset etc.

When I was his age I had a small child and was in the process of leaving an abusive husband. I was young naive and stressed out but I never used disablist insults any more that I would have used racist ones. It wouldn't have occurred to me to think of any.

Some of the arguments I've seen on here remind me of tha arguments made in defence of racist language 10-20 years ago. Eg, don't be oversensitive, it wasnt mean offensively etc etc.

fromparistoberlin Tue 05-Feb-13 16:51:39

its not hecate, your font I mean! !!! I can see it , I am just not convinced this thread is the right place thats all!

and I think given your comment, you are thinking the same?

I did read and ackowledge what you write earlier about your DC, and how you worry for their future. I heard you , really

I dont think this is the best place

amber, you love a ruck dont you! racism, SN, always there! !! grrrrr grin

Pagwatch Tue 05-Feb-13 16:53:32

But Morris, is it not totally normal for a discussion to start about a specific situation and then evolve into broader issues arising from that specific situation.

I am not being picky but 'was he wrong to use x word' becoming a discussion about whether x word is an insult is hardly a massive tangent.

AmberLeaf Tue 05-Feb-13 17:00:29

Yes fromparistoberlin, I love a ruck. hmm

No I just have a black child who has a disability.

I expect you think Im just oversensitive though eh.

fromparistoberlin Tue 05-Feb-13 17:06:09

aha, that explains alot

fair enough

but try and lighten up, you get so CROSS and most of the people you get cross with are fairly well meaning MNers that are actually quite nice!

there are worst fires to fight

good luck

AmberLeaf Tue 05-Feb-13 17:10:12

Im not cross.

I know there are lots of nice MNers, I 'talk' to lots of them regularly.

This may not seem that important to you, but it is to me and my family so, sorry, but I wont be 'lightening up'

fromparistoberlin Tue 05-Feb-13 17:15:05

did I tell you to lighten up? noooo I did not, and I would not dare!

and racism and disablism are very important issues. and MN (not this thread) has taught me a hell of alot

I definately call on stuff and notice stuff much more , esp around SN issues, and I have MN to thank

But I do ponder on what will you acheive by getting REALLY FUCKING ANGRY on MN AIBU threads ???? Just raises the blood pressure as far as I can see

AmberLeaf Tue 05-Feb-13 17:17:31

You said try and lighten up in your post above mine.


My blood pressure is fine.

fromparistoberlin Tue 05-Feb-13 17:18:08

so I did blush

Pagwatch Tue 05-Feb-13 17:19:17

Erm. Fromparistoberlin - you just post 'but try to lighten up'.

I think generally telling someone to lighten up when they have just told you why an issue is important to them isn't the best idea.

Pagwatch Tue 05-Feb-13 17:20:34


Almost every aibu has irritated people arguing. It's kind of the territory.

Spero Tue 05-Feb-13 17:21:56

I am back to talking about him because I think it is hyberbolic and unhelpful to use him as a prime example of disablist language.

yes he shouldn't have said it, it is sad he said it, I wonder what his reaction would be if someone challenged him about it

BUT it seems that anyone for whatever reason who uses a disablist term is lumped in a big homogenous group, all as bad as each other and that is what I just don't think is helpful.

I gave the example of my racist dad versus Nick Griffin. I think that is a helpful analogy.

By all means, you can say that you disagree with the need for the distinction, that all and any disablist language in any circumstances is wrong, but surely there have to be degrees of badness? I just can't accept that PH is as bad as RG, FB etc, etc, just as I can't accept my dad is Nick Griffin or Hitler.

That is the only point I am trying to make. I think it explains the unease of some people on this thread when others are 'horrified' by PH, think it is the 'worst' thing he ever could have said. etc.

aldiwhore Tue 05-Feb-13 17:23:27

I completely agree with every single poster who has voiced their hurt at this phrase being used. I also agree that it was an awful choice of word and actually in many ways worse than the outdated and offensive words such as 'spaz' etc., BUT....

Mitigating circumstances. Huhne Jnr did not write these words to offend everyone, he wrote them in anger. He was wrong, but his rage shold be taken into account. Yes, he shouldn't have used that word as a weapon or as the 'lowest insult he could think of' and yes it was offensive. I do though feel that his rage and hurt must be taken into account, and he's guilty of thoughtlessness to others, which often happens when red mist falls.

I have called one person a fat ugly stupid twat before now, not nice, not grown up, offensive to many (myself included probably!) but in a rage we name call. It is a shame he chose that particular word, I can think of many more that wold have been less globally offensive and more accurate.

Amberleaf you don't need to lighten up. I do think context has a lot to do with it. Hopefully when this storm has died down for Huhne Jnr, he will apologise or regret that choice of word, but right now he's in his own storm and I doubt somebody telling him he's being offensive won't help anyone... right now. My brother once called someone a Gaylord. He was wrong. He was in pain, intended to offend and spoke a playground insult. He's not homophobic and in his calm grown up state would never use it. It was slang those days and widely used. Just as 'morbidly obese' is now one favourite phrase in the playground since calling someone a fat twat has been outlawed. There's nothing nice about it.

iclaudius Tue 05-Feb-13 17:26:07

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

iclaudius Tue 05-Feb-13 17:26:50

He's only young

Pagwatch Tue 05-Feb-13 17:29:17

Am pretty sure I have agreed with you on that Spero.
Certainly I have repeated ad nauseum that I feel very sorry for him.

My preference would be that the idea of throwing out an insult to do with a disability ceased to be something people did. I think that takes time and people thinking about what they might be implying when they autism in the middle of a sentence designed to hurt the target.

desertgirl Tue 05-Feb-13 17:29:36

iclaudius, did you read the thread?

iclaudius Tue 05-Feb-13 17:29:53

In fact I think it's disgusting Peter has been dragged into this media circus - poor lad has been through enough
This thread should be deleted and a totally innocent third party left out of this sorry mess

Politty Tue 05-Feb-13 17:30:52

Take heart PeneloPeePitstop - it is a long road but we are far further ahead then most other countries in the world and despite the blips we are still going forward! Just remember the para Olympics and see how many people were entered from each country! We have shamed the rest of the world and I am not saying for one moment we are there but lots of people are trying one way or another - so different from how it was in the early 20th C. I cannot see that stopping BUT I do think and feel clumsy and ignorant comments made by some especially the distressed young must not be 'jumped' on .. by making these comments one's thoughtlessness and selfishness can be exposed, then reflected on and the learning process takes place .. and we want people to learn don't we? Vilifying people for being thoughtless and clumsy is potentially as bad as any 'ism' . We want people to understand and be kinder we not at war here. I am not horrified by these comments, I see it for what it is, a young terribly distressed possible selfish with youth (Selfishness ..thats normal for the youth) boy crying out and using the wrong words. My cup is half full not empty, this is an opportunity to educate more. clearly people who have no experience of it do not understand what Autism is and what it means .. thats not a crime but a new goal for all.. get the message out. Meet a few idiots along the way, ignore those and keep going. Now off to start that new thread and glad this is not about the young lads texts .. but a wider issue!

Pagwatch Tue 05-Feb-13 17:31:29

Good grief.

Read the thread iclaudius.

Spero Tue 05-Feb-13 17:32:14

Sorry if I am repeating myself. I am not excusing him because I feel 'sorry' for him - although I do, very much so.

I just think there HAS to be a scale on which we measure human behaviour. Saying that every disablist insult in every context is just as vile and disgusting as the next is going to alienate all those who have been careless, who regret that carelessness and who want to learn.

Pagwatch Tue 05-Feb-13 17:33:04

Isn't PC gone mad really too cliche for anyone to actually use in real life anymore?

iclaudius Tue 05-Feb-13 17:36:06

Apparently not pagwatch
I have a twenty year old son and an asd son and without getting piled on by the MN elite I feel we should leave the poor boy alone

hackmum Tue 05-Feb-13 17:38:53

spero: "surely there have to be degrees of badness? I just can't accept that PH is as bad as RG, FB etc, etc, just as I can't accept my dad is Nick Griffin or Hitler."

I do agree with you. I don't particularly want to have a go at Peter Huhne, who presumably never intended for his texts to be made public. However, I do find it sad that "autistic" is used as an insult of choice, because Chris Huhne's behaviour was emphatically not autistic. Selfishness is not a feature of autism - probably the opposite in fact. People with autism have difficulty in reading social situations or other people's emotions, so they might not pick up (for example) on when someone's tone of voice is sarcastic or when someone is making a joke. It doesn't make them self-centred and uncaring of others, which I think are the qualities that characterised Chris Huhne's behaviour.

Shakirasma Tue 05-Feb-13 17:39:09

I'm shocked to hear you say that iclaudius, because as a parent with an autistic child I found your first post one of the most offensive on here.

DameMargotFountain Tue 05-Feb-13 17:39:53

Spero, but what i don't understand is why people have to UNLEARN their 'carelessness'

if i'm careless with language i use words like asshole and wanker - not 'retard', 'spaz' or 'cripple'

Pagwatch Tue 05-Feb-13 17:41:05


I am not excusing anything because I feel sorry for him. But nor am I castigating him because I think he was acting in extreme circumstances and he was stupid and clueless rather than deliberately vicious.

But a hierarchy of abuse doesn't help much. I know what you mean - I had a very nice chat with a very old lady who kept calling my son retarded. She was trying to help me and clearly did not intend to offend so I wouldn't berate her.

But to just brush off every comment because it is not as bad as other stuff isn't great IMHO because the language we accept as ok when we are pissed off or don't really know better will just remain there, unchallenged.

I just think saying 'could you think about using this word. Think about how you are using it' is fine.

I hope that everyone leaves PH alone. I hope too that one day he might think that maybe I should think about that. Not now obviously. He has bigger fish to fry.

Pagwatch Tue 05-Feb-13 17:42:01


If you show me where I have piled in on the boy I would be grateful. Ta

iclaudius Tue 05-Feb-13 17:45:48

Pagwatch no not 'boy' - me

Pagwatch Tue 05-Feb-13 17:52:46

I am not sure a couple of comments constitutes being piled in on. Maybe just a couple of posters thinking your comments look as though you haven't read anything anyone else has said.

But for what is worth I have said I hope he is left alone.

thebody Tue 05-Feb-13 17:58:17

I think it's disgusting that these private text messages have been made public.

They should have been seen by the court but definatly not the public.

That is disgusting.

Spero Tue 05-Feb-13 17:58:29

Damemargot - because people who don't have to live it don't know. That doesn't make them vicious or stupid, it makes them ignorant.

I have shared the example of my friends who joined the hate heather mills group. I can't expect them to be alert at all times to the problems and daily humiliations of life as an amputee.

Just as I know virtually nothing about raising a child who isn't NT or what it is like to be deaf or blind.

So if everyone who is stupid or ignorant or careless is met with a veritable tsunami of condemnation.... I just don't think it helps.

I am not saying dont challenge. But make the challenge proportionate to the offence.

Spero Tue 05-Feb-13 18:00:16

I think pagwatch says it well - just please would you think about what you are saying. NOT 'this is disgusting, horrific' etc. for RG and his ilk yes. For PH, no.

AmberLeaf Tue 05-Feb-13 18:55:13

When you explain things though and people still dont get it, thats willful ignorance.

AmberLeaf Tue 05-Feb-13 18:56:09

It can be anyway and it often is.

Spero Tue 05-Feb-13 19:05:43

Well of course. If you explain and they refuse to engage, then gloves off, do with them what you will, they are a lost cause.

But I want to believe that most people want to do the right thing and most people just don't know or just don't think, rather than that they come from a place of hate which must be 'horrifying' and 'disgusting' to quote but two of the words used a lot on this thread.

AmberLeaf Tue 05-Feb-13 19:18:43

But some people do come from a place of hate and it is naive to think otherwise.

Hopefully they are in the minority.

I have felt touched by posters on threads who have come back and said that yes now they do have a better understanding and they will think twice in the future.

But it always amazed me at the lengths some people will go to to justify their prejudice and just dont seem to want to change their attitude.

grovel Tue 05-Feb-13 19:23:18

"But I want to believe that most people want to do the right thing and most people just don't know or just don't think, rather than that they come from a place of hate which must be 'horrifying' and 'disgusting' to quote but two of the words used a lot on this thread".

That's right.

I can be crass without knowing it. I think we all can be.

The only further advice I'd offer is that people (well, me) react better when "engaged with" gently. I get defensive and cross when rebuked - it's natural. Much better when I go away and reflect on a gentle conversation.

Spero Tue 05-Feb-13 19:39:50

Of course some people come from a place of hate. I have met quite a few. Luckily for me I have the verbal dexterity, the social capital and enough physical aggression to put them right back down where they need to be. I do understand that some disabled people don't have that power and never will, which is why their parents fight so hard for them and feel so angry and depressed.

But it has to be worth distinguishing between ignorance and hate.

AmberLeaf Tue 05-Feb-13 19:45:29

I think after all this time I have a good measure of the difference.

Ignorance stops once informed.

Hate just keeps on going.

Spero Tue 05-Feb-13 19:50:47

O yes - hate won't stop, you can't reason someone out of hate. Those people just have to be stopped. But the ignorant can learn. The cHallenge I guess is identifying who is who at early stage.

But I think its pretty easy in the PH example. I don't see him as a hater of autistic people, rather someone using a misinformed stereotype that autistic=unable to understand others emotions.

fromparistoberlin Tue 05-Feb-13 19:51:40

spero has put it very well

but I am not at the end of the prejudice people receive, so who am I tell people to not be so angry

so I shall gracefully bow out, walk a mile in their shoes and all that

Xenia Wed 06-Feb-13 14:09:42

They in the public domain because we have open justice. That is very very important. They don't have it in places like China. Although it does seem very private he or his mother has agreed they be used in the case and it would be much worse if we had hidden closed justice.

megandraper Wed 06-Feb-13 15:46:15

I think what has upset people is the sheer ordinariness of using autistic as an insult (as exemplified by all the posters who think its ridiculous to be upset by this).

Many posters (including Hecate several times, in her apparently-invisible font...) have pointed out that this isn't about Peter Huhne. It's about the fact that disabilist insults are generally seen as acceptable in a way that racial or sexist ones are not.

Threads like this might perhaps help to raise awareness and make people think twice before they say something similar another time.

Spero Wed 06-Feb-13 18:11:01

I thought the court ordered disclosure of the texts? Don't think anyone had any choice, but I might be wrong.

I wasn't ignoring hecates point, just concerned that general trend of thread was to assert that every disablist comment in every context was horrific, and I don't think that is right or helpful to the general debate.

Others are of course at liberty to disagree.

FightingForSurvival Wed 06-Feb-13 19:18:08

He was wrong but I think leave him alone really. Poor choice of words, but most insults are derogatory terms to someone. What comes across most is his sheer anger and disappointment in his dad and I feel sorry for him. My son was diagnosed with autism today. There is all sorts of stuff like this I am dreading but I'm pretty sure this lad has no interest on hurting my son or people like him.

"I think what has upset people is the sheer ordinariness of using autistic as an insult" I agree completely Bedhopper, that is why I feel strongly that this needs to be discussed, irrespective of who said it & when.

I wish I hadn't read this. Ds was diagnosed with autism today and I'm feeling a bit raw at the moment.

I don't care how PH is hurting. No excuse to use autism or any other disability as an insult. Nice

Well ok I feel sorry for him, he's obviously hurting badly but still...

megandraper Thu 07-Feb-13 09:09:40

just concerned that general trend of thread was to assert that every disablist comment in every context was horrific, and I don't think that is right or helpful to the general debate

well, disablist comment (i.e. insult) is as horrific/not-horrific as racist or sexist comments. Calling someone an 'autistic piece of **' (presumably is 'shit') is, IMO the same as calling them a 'black bastard' - which I would consider completely unacceptable and horrid. Adding the word 'black' or 'autistic' into your insult shows that you consider blackness or autisticness to compound the insult, and therefore reveals an unacceptable view of race or disability.

I do feel sorry for PH's situation. And I imagine that he might be unaware of the implications of what he said - simply because disablism has not been widely and publicly addressed in the way that racism has.

Threads like this are a tiny drop in the ocean of the work that needs to be done to raise awareness. But it would be lovely if just one person who has read this thread might think twice before using the word 'autistic' (or any other disability) as an insult in the future - or challenge it when they hear someone else doing it.

megandraper Thu 07-Feb-13 09:11:20

in the 4th line of that post I mean to say that 'piece of **' presumably means 'piece of shit'.

fromparistoberlin Thu 07-Feb-13 09:12:26

aw ghostwhoosh, I am every so sorry this upset you

great timing huh?

But the comment ""I think what has upset people is the sheer ordinariness of using autistic as an insult"

Its NOT ORDINARY!!! i have never ever n my days heard of this as an insult

many vile terms have passed me by, but not this one


Spero Thu 07-Feb-13 11:53:55

All I say is make the challenge proportionate to the offence. Context is important.

That does NOT mean you excuse or don't challenge. But you temper your reaction to the intent of the speaker, if of course you can discern it. I appreciate that is not always easy or even possible.

I asked earlier if anyone thought PH was morally equivalent to RG, FB etc in their deliberate, repeated, goading use of insulting terms re disabled. I don't think he is or anyone else like him. Lumping them altogether in one big melting pot of evil is just counter productive as far as I can see. You will alienate people who genuinely want to learn and who are genuinely shocked and upset to realise they have been offensive.

AmberLeaf Thu 07-Feb-13 12:24:30

You know why RG and FB got away with that? why there is an audience for such 'jokes'?

Because it is tolerated at low level.

Its either ok or it isn't, there are no 'degrees'

megandraper Thu 07-Feb-13 12:26:26

I don't think anyone has lumped PH with Ricky Gervais or Frankie Boyle, Spero? If they have, I've missed it. Can you point to a post? I can't see any insults or aggression towards him on this thread. I'd be shocked if I did. All the posters who disapprove of disablist insults seem to be trying to discuss this in more general terms (i.e. not going on about a particular individual).

Several posters have said that even a person who is upset/going through a bad time shouldn't use 'autistic' as an insult. That's all. How is that alienating?

megandraper Thu 07-Feb-13 12:27:24

cross-posted with amber, who makes a very good point.

Spero Thu 07-Feb-13 13:02:07

I am sorry for repeating myself over and over. I guess I just feel my basic - and I thought very simple - point is ignored.

I am not saying you excuse it or don't challenge it because it is said by a sweet little old lady or an upset teenager. I am saying that you don't treat those people as 'horrific' or 'disgusting' because they probably would want to engage with you and learn something.

So you ask them to think about what they are saying. You don't launch into - you are attacking all disabled people, you are sick and a disgusting hater.

Spero Thu 07-Feb-13 13:06:40

Bed hopper, the way you put it of course isn't alienating. But I have been on this thread from the beginning and very struck by some of the reactions to what was said - a lot along the lines of this was the worst thing he could have said, he clearly reached into the darkest recesses of his mind to find the most horrible thing he could say to his father... And I think that is just not true and an overreaction which doesn't get us anywhere.

Pagwatch Thu 07-Feb-13 13:11:00

I have heard you Spero - and agreed with you.

But I think you are missing that the ramping up occurs on both sides of any debate.

If you read through the thread the comments become more forceful on both sides as a counter to each other.
I have tried to discuss rationally throughout, as have many on both sides.

But just as you keep repeating and stressing in response to what you see as harsh comments, others are going to stress how awful they find the use of autistic in this context when they gets 'oh ffs' 'pic gorn mad' and 'lighten up' stuff.

You repeat more forcefully when your views are being dismissed. It's human nature.

You are only noticing the moments that are harsh towards the boy.
I notice more the 'jeez. Does it matter' stuff.

It's just different perspective.

AmberLeaf Thu 07-Feb-13 13:18:22

It isn't being ignored, not by me anyway.

But this is not about some sweet old lady/angry teen saying something without realising it is offensive.

It is about someone saying it as a clear insult.

No one is launching into anything, people are saying that it matters not what the context was, it is either wrong or it isn't. There are no excuses.

Are we discussing engaging with people who are ignorant? or did you say something about PH not being as bad as RG and FB?

I suppose the crux of this particular point is that you appear to think PH said it in innocence? whereas I and others think he deliberately used the term as an insult. While many have said several times that they feel for him, he still said it in that way.

People can chose to educate themselves, there are many non hostile platforms for discussion and it isn't that hard to learn about what is and isn't acceptable with regards disablism/racism/sexism etc if you want to

But I believe that there should be a no budging condemnation of disablism in any form and if you allow for 'grey' areas then you are saying it is ok sometimes

Spero Thu 07-Feb-13 13:18:46

I do notice the 'does it matter stuff' and I think that is profoundly wrong because of course it does matter, which I hope I made clear.

I suppose I find it hard when people disagree with me because I am right ALL the time. However luckily for this debate I now have to take the dog out.

AmberLeaf Thu 07-Feb-13 13:19:47

YY to Pagwatch.

AmberLeaf Thu 07-Feb-13 13:20:28

grin Spero! I know exactly how you feel.

Pagwatch Thu 07-Feb-13 13:23:23

I know Spero. I'm not having a go.
It's true on all contentious threads.
You can be having a reasonable thread but the longer it goes on the more polarised it gets. The middle ground gets ignored as the extreme ends of the debate get more and more incensed.
You are getting frustrated that people are judging PH far too harshly when compared with really intentionally nasty stuff.
I am getting frustrated that almost everyone has said that PH is more to be pitied than blamed yet this thread is being presented as a lynching all the time.

But go. The dog will shit in the house otherwise grin

drjohnsonscat Thu 07-Feb-13 14:02:19

I don't feel it's our place to intrude to be honest. Don't want to read the exchange, just feel very sad for the boy and am not going to judge anything he said in private to his own parent.

By contrast I was a bit alarmed by the stuff about Richard III. The speculation that if he didn't actually have a hump, he perhaps wasn't the monster that he has been portrayed as being. As if the disability made him a monster rather than the behaviour iyswim.

imustbepatient Thu 07-Feb-13 14:36:56

Thank you everyone for your posts on this thread. I have learnt a great deal from reading this, including that what I believed to be my 'rough' understanding of autism is pretty damn inaccurate. I am really grateful to have had my eyes opened.

I would never have used the term as an insult anyway but now understand so much better how deeply hurtful it is when people do so and will challenge it when I hear it used in this way in future.

Spero I agree with you on the 'scale' point you have been making. Basically that to use the term as an insult is always wrong but some instances merit far greater condemnation and some instances serve as an opportunity to teach the relevant person (and others) what the term really means.

megandraper Thu 07-Feb-13 15:20:57

I have learnt a great deal from reading this, including that what I believed to be my 'rough' understanding of autism is pretty damn inaccurate. I am really grateful to have had my eyes opened.

what a lovely post, imustbethepatient - that makes me really happy to read.

drjohnson - i know! on the tv programme, at one point, the presenter said, in a wondering sort of tone 'I suppose perhaps he could have had a hunchback, and still be a nice guy?^ No-one responded. Crazy thought, obviously.

AmberLeaf Thu 07-Feb-13 16:47:29

Basically that to use the term as an insult is always wrong but some instances merit far greater condemnation and some instances serve as an opportunity to teach the relevant person (and others) what the term really means

I get your point, but the instance in which you feel serves as an opportunity to teach someone something, is still equally as hurtful to the person being insulted.

This is not about teaching people, there are better opportunities to learn that aren't at someone elses expense.

Spero Thu 07-Feb-13 17:41:01

thank you for validating my hurt feelings. I don't think anyone was having a go but I was conscious I was banging my drum perhaps a bit too long. But I think Pagwatch's summary is concise and fair.

I think this has been a brilliant thread actually and didn't descend into the kind of awfulness that sometimes happens. I shall certainly be more mindful of what 'shorthand' terms I use in the future.

the poor dog blinked in the daylight and looked very uncertain. She hasn't been walked that often since I became a slave to the internetz.

Spero Thu 07-Feb-13 17:43:56

Bloody hell, I have only just registered the stuff about Richard III and his hump. Now that is close to home. Looks like we have a very long way to go...

happybirthdayHiggs Thu 07-Feb-13 18:03:48

I think the Richard III thing has been taken somewhat out of context.
The Richard III society have spent years trying to denounce the Shakespearean/Tudor (ie. hunchback/withered arm/evil) version of Richard III as propaganda, and had convinced themselves so completely of this that when his remains did actually show him to have scoliosis, Phillipa Langley (R.III Society rep) was visibly shocked.
I don't feel she was intentionally disrespectful.

Spero Thu 07-Feb-13 18:29:04

Good. I just remember David Aaronovitch interviewing some woman about romantic Mills and Boon type literature and asking her - couldn't the heroine ever have a disability, like a limp? And the woman replying, sounding really shocked 'of course not'. Which was nice.

megandraper Fri 08-Feb-13 08:52:35

yes, this has been a much better thread than most of the ones on MN that involve disability.

amber's point that disablist (like sexist or racist) terms are just as hurtful if they are innocently/ignorantly/naively meant as if they are cruelly meant is very true. In some ways they are more hurtful, because it makes you realise that people you like/love have such negative feelings about your disability.

I was thinking about this thread during the night (baby keeping me awake). I have a disability (not autism) and all my life I have really hated it when people make jokes/negative comments about it - not meaning to hurt, and often not even remembering/realising that I have that disability. The comments are so ingrained in ordinary speech that they don't even notice they're saying them. I've never said anything, because I realise they don't mean to hurt me, and I don't want to embarrass them (or to appear oversensitive). This thread has made me understand why it hurt so much. It is really alienating when someone makes a casual, negative, reference to your disability - I think only someone who has experienced it (and believe me, it is a regular, everyday occurrence) can understand.

Alittlestranger Fri 08-Feb-13 10:47:01

I'm confused by some of the face palming on this thread. Does autism not effect someone's ability to interact socially then? If not, this website need some serious updating. I also know some professionals who probably have to review their use of the term.

PH was an 18 year old, not a medical professional. From those texts I think he does believe - rightly or wrongly - that his father is on the autistic spectrum and is not using it as a cheap insult. If people object to amateur diagnoses then they really ought to head over to the relationship board and crack down on the use of narc and PND He is also very, very hurt and angry. I do think anyone criticising him for those texts is BU.

Pagwatch Fri 08-Feb-13 10:52:17

We will have to agree to disagree on his intent.
He is using it as an insult IMO . People don't tend to talk about a diagnosis with 'you fucking (neutral diagnostic term) piece of shit' wrapped around it.

You fucking person with abandonment issue piece of shit.
You fucking diabetic piece of shit
You fucking epileptic piece of shit.

It only works if you put in something to do with SN or mental health as those are interchangeable in some quarters with an insult

megandraper Fri 08-Feb-13 11:18:46

i agree with pagwatch.

It is like if someone has red hair. Saying 'you ginger piece of shit' is clearly an insult, and criticises that the person's 'gingerness'.

Or if they are black or gay: 'you black piece of shit, you gay piece of shit' clearly criticises blackness or gayness.

Same with autistic, IMO. Doesn't matter whether or not he believes his father to be autistic - adding the word into the insult clearly criticises autisticness.

Interesting though that you don't see that, alittlestranger. Would you feel the same way if the word used was 'black' instead of 'autistic'?

Spero Fri 08-Feb-13 15:09:16

I would rather have face palming than the particularly obnoxious response that used to be quite common on this site a few years back by constantly linking me to a site called 'derailing for dummies' whenever I asked (in my view) a genuine and sensible question about an issue, wishing to know more.

Well actually, I would rather that neither response was used because it is just annoying and shuts down a debate rather than opens it up.

Alittlestranger Fri 08-Feb-13 15:56:28

@bedhopper, no I would not feel the same if he'd used "black". PH clearly doesn't think his father is or may be black. I'm not saying it's a sensitive or sensible use of the word or the right way to bring up someone's potential health issues (as there is very obviously an implied criticism), but I am prepared to believe that PH thinks his father is on the spectrum, so wasn't just using it as the go-to insult.

Pagwatch Fri 08-Feb-13 17:35:27

Thats fair enough Alittlestranger.
I absoloutely think it was meant as an insult.
So we must agree to differ.

megandraper Sun 10-Feb-13 09:49:52

But if his father WAS black? Would you think saying 'you black piece of shit' was purely descriptive (with regard to his colour). Or would you feel that he was using 'black' as an insult?

Wasn't there a case recently with another footballer insulting Rio Ferdinand in that sort of way? Calling him a 'black **' I believe Rio Ferdinand (and everyone else) took that as a racist insult, not as a neutral description of his colour combined with a separate insult. I can't see how this is different.

Alittlestranger Sun 10-Feb-13 10:51:35

BTW there's a really interesting article in yesterday's Times for anyone who can get behind the paywall. It argues that the terms autistic and aspergers are over-used precisely because they have lost their stigma.

Spero Sun 10-Feb-13 12:30:21

I read that article - it seems to be repeating a lot of what this thread is angry about as misinformed stereotypes for eg awkwardness in social situations, not able to read others emotions.

Allinadaze Sun 10-Feb-13 20:09:52

That sounds interesting. I've often wondered if the growth in use of the terms (mostly by younger people ime) has been due to an increased recognition of a "spectrum" (and therefore more diagnoses?) and more "inclusion" in mainstream schools.

I wouldn't necessarily associate that with a "loss" of stigma or misunderstanding though.

Not the only reason by any stretch, but a lot of stigma exists because we generally like to define people by their condition - a "diabetic", an "aspie" a "pschizophrenic" etc, rather than a person diagnosed with "x,y or z".

Allinadaze Sun 10-Feb-13 20:40:41


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