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September 09, 2005

The Word? Or The Truth?

I've heard from someone who says the nursing home evacuations in New Orleans weren't as bad as I've made out. I'll devote my next blog entry to that -- maybe tomorrow. Meanwhile...

The Autism Society of America, one of those big get-rid-of-autism groups, has begun billing itself as The Voice of Autism (uh-oh!). The group has a new "Getting The Word Out" campaign underwritten by CocaCola, MetLife, Janssen Pharmaceuticals (??), Harley-Davidson, Enterprise Car Rental.... a long list, anyhow. The campaign's centerpiece is the website www.gettingthewordout.org. It's a pretty scary site, and I don't mean that exactly in the way the design firm intended, I'm sure.

And then there's www.gettingthetruthout.org which is... the same thing? Or something else entirely? Check it out and decide for yourself. I'd love to get your comments on these two websites.
COMMENT-BODY:As an autistic person, let me just say about the ASA site that I am absolutely livid. It is not a tragedy that autistics grow into adults! What is a tragedy is that we have no real impact in any mainline national autism organization.

As for gettingthetruthout.org, that site is truly brilliant.
COMMENT-BODY:I was fascinated by the site but a bit shocked at the absence of any content in the guest book.

It's interesting that the previous comment here credited the site with "brilliant" which tends to evoke a bit of the "supercrip" attitude, which is of course encouraged.

From some points of view the site is of great interest as part of the DRM, but we must be careful of lauding it if in doing so we are perpetuating the very myths we deplore.

The site is great for what it says/stands-for, but in "professional" website design terms it's not "truly brilliant" - nor should it be.

COMMENT-BODY:The fact that I "fell for" the initial visceral horror of gettingthetruthout.org is dually unsettling. In other words, I sincerely believed that the degradation and revulsion conveyed in the first portion was for real until I "got it," and that is telling. It must mean I find it very easy to believe that there are folks out there who think it perfectly appropriate to perpetuate those atrocities "for real". In that sense, and in the mechanism that it uses to grind away at those atrocities, the site is fabulous.

What worries me now is similar to what worried me when I read about those European commercials a while back that depicted able-bodied people at a loss in an inaccessible society of crips: I worry that bleeding hearts don't have the humanitarian attention spans required to "get it".

I followed the "Truth" pages from beginning to end, at first led by my sick fascination at the idea that anyone could say anything so backward and terrible, and afterward out of immense respect for the craftiness of the site's creators. I don't fancy myself a proper drama queen, but I say quite literally that the first few pages turned my stomach. Politics hasn't done that kind of a number on these guts in a long time.

But a person who already subscribes to the paternalism, pity, and disgust that is so thoroughly satirized on these pages may have his/her stomach turned for a different reason entirely - and be so effectively horrified by the "tragedy" of autism (not the tragedy of exploitation that the site intends to convey) that they refrain from reading further, or fail to receive the "for real" message as enthusiastically as they welcomed their pity.

Not to be a downer, but I suppose there now comes the dilemma involved in getting the "Truth" site into the faces of the mainstream, rather than just into forums like this where the people already "get it".

Thanks, Mary, for finding it and bringing it here.

Oh, yeah - about the ASA site: Blaaauuuggghhhh! (Is that a balanced comparison/contrast? If not, I can add a few more "u"'s.)


Posted by mjohnson at September 9, 2005 11:35 AM