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Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Update: Joe Scarborough Clarifies Comments Regarding James Holmes andAutism

Joe Scarborough's reaction to criticism from autism advocates about his statement on James Holmes' shoot-out in Aurora, Colorado last week may been prompted by an autism diagnosis was quick. The commentary was made on Monday's edition of MSNBC's "Morning Joe", and Scarborough issued a clarification the next day.

http://www.examiner.com/article/joe-scarborough-issues-statement-clarifying-comments-on-autism-aurora-shooting

I don't know.

You Never Get A Second Chance to Make a First Impression, Joe Scarborough


I don't get MSNBC. I've never watched "Morning Joe", and until yesterday I wouldn't have known Joe Scarborough if I'd fallen over him.

So what are my impressions now?

I remember thinking when I first viewed the video of Joe Scarborough's now-infamous "autism commentary" that he was rambling toward the end. It felt to me like he'd lost his focus. I heard him talking about the challenges of raising a child with Asperger's Syndrome and thought, "He's close to burning out. It's hard for him to talk about this." It felt to me, after listening to the video several times, that there was a point where he stopped talking about James Holmes and Aurora and started talking about the stress of supporting a family member who just doesn't fit into society very well.

But take a look at these sentences: "Most of it has to do with mental health; you have these people that are somewhere, I believe, on the autism scale. I don't know if that's the case here, but it happens more often than not." I don't know how to read this any other way than:

  1. Scarborough believes that the type of socially-disconnected individuals that conduct mass-shootings are more often than not somewhere on the autism scale (there's no evidence to suggest this.)

  2. Scarborough's point in bringing all this up is that he believes that James Holmes could possibly be on the autism spectrum.

I suppose that it could be a matter of unfortunate juxtaposition of comments about two separate things: Joe Scarborough's list of the characteristics that he believes mass-shooters  possess, and autism as an example of a mental health disability that causes isolation and requires a strong support system. But if that's the case, it's a very unfortunate juxtaposition, to the point of being unprofessional for a news commentator; Joe Scarborough owes people with autism not just a clarification, but an apology for linking James Holmes and autism in such a way that people who don't know better walk away after hearing his words saying, "I didn't know that autistic people could get violent like that...I'd better be careful."


I'm also not impressed with a bit of "victim-blaming" that I see going on in his clarification. I went through the responses to Joe Scarborough's remarks that I could find from the major autism advocacy groups, from some well-known journalists and disability bloggers, and what I could find in the media online. I never heard anyone say that he linked "all violent behaviour" to Asperger's. I believe that's a significant overstatement, and to say directly afterwards that those who did make that suggestion "missed my larger point and overlooked the fact that I have a wonderful, loving son with Aspergers" is just obnoxious. Here's a tip on trying to make peace with people that you've insulted, Joe: Don't insult them further by suggesting that the whole affair was their fault.

Bottom Line for Joe Scarborough

You've clarified. Now apologize. You've got nothing to lose and it really is the right thing to do.



4 comments:

  1. It wasn't Aurora, Illinois - it was a city of the same name in Colorado.

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  2. Well, *that* was embarrassing. I've had "Illinois" stuck in my head all week and have worked really hard not to say/type it...strike one. Thanks for catching it.

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  3. I'm guessing you were thinking of Wayne's World! I actually thought of Illinois first time I heard of Aurora as well. BTW, whenever I visit your site I get a prompt for a username and password come up on the screen. I press Esc and it goes away but it might really mess people up if they're on mobiles or screen readers. If you log out of Wordpress and then try viewing your blog you'll see it.

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  4. LOL, you got me! Every time I hear "Aurora", I get this picture of Wayne in my head saying, "I live in Aurora, Illinois.." I've obviously seen that movie way too many times.
    Thanks for letting me know about the username/password issue. I imagine that it's Sitelock that's causing it, but I'll contact them and see if there's a way around it.

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