Did TACA change the rules to deny a blogger attendance at a conference?

27 Feb

Two years ago, AutismNewsBeat was Expelled! from an autism “conference” (AutismOne). Today, he was denied admission to the TACA Real Help Now Conference in Wisconsin.

TACA’s stated policy on the website is:

TACA strives to ensure that the focus of our conference is education and support, and to provide a safe, supportive environment for our attendees. TACA reserves the right to refuse admittance to any individual.

But this seems to be a new addition to the website. The Google Cache version of that page, from February 11, doesn’t have that language at all.

Two years ago, AutismNewsBeat attended a conference and did what many other parents were doing: he videotaped.

That didn’t get him thrown out (although it was used as the excuse for why he was thrown out)

What got him thrown out was asking an important question in a respectful manner:

I also attended a Q&A with Dr. Jon Poling, MD, PhD, and his wife, Terry. The Polings have been on a media blitzkrieg since March when they were identified as test case petitioners in the Vaccine Omnibus hearings. The details of the case are shrouded in speculation, since the Polings have not publicly released their daughter’s relevant medical records. I asked the Polings if they plan to release those records soon. Terry Poling said she and her husband would not discuss their daughter’s case as long as there was ongoing litigation.

Soon after I asked my question, a hotel security official asked me to turn off my video camera. At the conclusion of the Q&A, 15 minutes later, I was surrounded by hotel security and escorted out of the building. I had registered six weeks earlier as media, and received a confirming email. I was handed a press pass and told to fill it out myself at the registration desk Friday morning, after being told the computer system was down and my name could not be pulled up. But the conference organizers were having none of it, although by now Westin security no doubt realizes I was totally truthful and cooperative, even turning over my driver’s license for photocopying.

The story as to why AutismNewsBeat was expelled has changed over time.

The first was that I had snuck into the gathering without registering. When conference organizer Ed Arranga realized that I was indeed registered, the story changed to “you broke your agreement not to videotape any of the meetings.” There was, of course, no such agreement, and no evidence of such an agreement. I filmed openly for two days without incident, as were dozens of other parents, not to mention film crews from local television stations. So that couldn’t be it either.

So, now he has been denied entry to a conference for a reason which may not have been in effect when he registered.

It should be noted that after AutismOne, AutismNewsBeat did what many people have done before: he posted his videos to YouTube. Videos such as this one from an autism and the media session.

Perhaps AutismNewsBeat breaks the unwritten code: don’t expose those parts of the autism parent conventions that are best kept behind closed doors.

11 Responses to “Did TACA change the rules to deny a blogger attendance at a conference?”

  1. isles February 27, 2010 at 15:56 #

    TACA folks, if what you have to say is so valuable and legitimate, why are you embarrassed to have it made public? Shouldn’t it stand on its own?

    Or does it only go down easy with a side dish of groupthink and a Koolaid chaser?

  2. Kent Adams February 27, 2010 at 17:58 #

    Well, Autism News Beat should be allowed at the conference. I feel for him. Its difficult when you’re excluded. I can relate to his exclusion. When I attempted to film and question ASAN’s exclusion of autistic people that don’t follow a political agenda supported by ASAN, I too was met with suspicion and an attempt to censor my ability to report on the exclusion of autistic people. You can see what happened to me here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7I6gmC9EHL0

    Here is an example of an autistic not being welcomed by an organization supposedly welcoming of autistic people. I have been fighting for autistic people well before anyone that appeared on that street corner, and in Ari Ne’eman’s own words, was an inspiration for him and at one time he asked me to be the treasurer of ASAN. However, I increasingly felt uncomfortable with ASAN’s AS centric agenda, though they would deny this but the fact there is no one with AD on the board and one board member stated that they don’t have an “affirmative action” policy for the AD, I’m disillusioned with them and where ND is at the present. I can no longer say I’m ND because increasingly, it means that those like my support group and my son wouldn’t be welcome in such groups, especially if we have different beliefs. I’m increasingly upset with where autistic self advocacy is going as I feel its centered on the highest functioning at the expense of those of us with mainstream AS and AD.

    Both sides of this argument are leaving out the vast and often silent majority.

  3. Ian MacGregor February 27, 2010 at 19:48 #

    I think you have missed the reason for the ban. It is not because TACA does not want their message to be public, it is because they don’t want anybody at their conferences to question that message. This is not unusual. You cannot go to a temple, mosque, or church and start questioning what is presented without causing unrest. You cannot go to a conference dedicated to and sponsored by a large corporation and talk favorably about a rival company’s product.

    In other words people who are not in communion with those at the conference are not welcome. I think this is not a good policy for a “scientific” conference. How can things truly advance without rigorous review? However, I suspect some go there just to cause upset. TACA has every right to deny them access, no matter how questionable the information presented at the event.

  4. Stephanie Jewett, RN, MBA February 27, 2010 at 20:24 #

    I think that is very strange to deny admission to anyone trying to learn and ask any questions that need to be answered. Sure they have the right to deny admission, but based precisely on what? Stephanie

  5. Joseph February 28, 2010 at 00:53 #

    You cannot go to a temple, mosque, or church and start questioning what is presented without causing unrest.

    Exactly. I think they are within their rights to deny entry to an unbeliever, just like any other religion or cult.

  6. FreeSpeaker February 28, 2010 at 02:06 #

    Baloney. Balogna. They did not ban ANB from the conference because he is an unbeliever. He was banned because the 11th Commandmant of Woodom is to never question the Wooster. These people are afraid that one well placed question can upset their money cart.

    • Sullivan February 28, 2010 at 03:07 #

      One side note–I originally posted this under the title “Denied!” in reference to AutismNewsBeat’s post on his experience at AutismOne, “Expelled!”. I reposted under this title as I thought it better described the piece.

      One thing I will stress again, at AutismOne, AutismNewsBeat was respectful and polite, he just asked an important question. That question was one that was one a journalist would ask. AutismNewsBeat was attending under a press pass, so such a question can not be considered out of the expected.

  7. Nostrum February 28, 2010 at 05:06 #

    Kent, I don’t see anywhere on that video where you were expelled or told you had no right to be there. Ari politely requested as a courtesy that you not put the face of people who didn’t want their face shown on your video and offered to try and work something out. He acknowledged your right to be there and to film anyone you chose.

    If you’re going to claim censorship on the part of ASAN, you’re going to have to find a better example. All I saw was someone asking you to be polite and not film people who asked not to be filmed. Asking is not attempted censoring. Your situation would only be analogous if you’d had the police called on you and had been forcibly removed from the area (which wouldn’t have happened, since it was a public street, and you weren’t breaking the law.)

    For the record, I don’t think people should show up at protests if they aren’t “out” and don’t want to be filmed, but I also think it’s cruel to tell someone their face isn’t being filmed when it clearly is. Your arguments lose credibility in my mind for that act alone, but that aside, I didn’t see anything particularly “unwelcoming” about the exchange.

  8. Kent Adams February 28, 2010 at 19:17 #

    Nostrom, I guess you don’t see the parallels so let me help you. No where did I claim ASAN was able to censor me but the parallel is that if ASAN chose to hold their protest or event privately, like TACA, this video demonstrates that they would have been inclined to censor and expel me. Do you think I would have been allowed to voice to film and ask questions in protection of the autistic disordered at a private ASAN event? It wouldn’t be a stretch I believe for most fair observers to conclude that I too would have been censored or expelled.

    Ari asked me not to put faces, essentially not to film on the corner of W. 57th and 7th Ave. in NYC outside Carnegie Hall. Only after I explained to him that there is no right to privacy in such a situation did he agree I had a right to film on the street. The background to this was my criticism days earlier on ASAN’s Yahoo board that they are not paying any attention nor giving any energy to protest outside JRC and that ASAN had no representation of Autistic Disorder on the board and that he personally had supported exclusion of autistic people from Autreat and Autcom. This is why in the video you see him asking me if I am there to discuss that this is the group excluding autistic people.

    I told Ari hours before he arrived that I would be there.

    Nostrum, I could care less if you think I lose credibility for putting that non-autistic person on camera. This is about options for autistic people in regards to inclusion. My son has no choice to remain anonymous or faking NT. If these people have the option to remain anonymous, then they shouldn’t represent my son on that street corner or claim to. I’m out, about and my face is everywhere because to me the issue is bigger than me and the generation coming behind me needs people that are not ashamed or afraid of being autistic. It is only through public shaming of those that would deny autistic people a dignified existence that change can happen. If I remain hidden, a luxury most autistic people don’t have, then I have no business representing those that don’t have that luxury.

    I can tell you that I will continue to show up at these events when public with camera in hand until autistic people, all autistic people, are included and allowed the option to disagree and still be accepted by any movement claiming to represent autistic people. Its about choice and under the current structure, autistic people are only allowed one choice, otherwise, they are not included.

    I will also show up when people claim that they want to represent me or my son without allowing me input. No representation without representation. Nothing about us without us and as it is, ASAN has no one that represents mainstream folks with AS or AD. That’s my opinion. As long as their is a litmus test for autistic beliefs and autistic people are being excluded by groups like ASAN, Autreat and Autcom, I’m going to show up with a camera and shame them for excluding autistic people. Sorry, I’m just a stickler for inclusion of all autistic people, even those I don’t agree with.

  9. Prometheus March 1, 2010 at 23:41 #

    The analogy to a church or temple doesn’t really work too well. Most religions will tolerate a limited number of questions, if they are asked politely (as ANB did). The usual (first) reaction of a religion to polite skepticism is education, not expulsion.

    TACA’s reaction to ANB seems to fit better if you see them as a cult or closed society (e.g. Aryan Nation, Hell’s Angels, KKK), where saying something that exposes you as an outsider or an unbeliever would attract hostile attention. I suppose that ANB should be happy that all they did was eject him from the meeting last year and bar him from attending this year’s rally….er, conference.

    What TACA is doing will eventually attract even more unwanted questions, as all attempts at suppressing dissent inevitably do. At some point, I can even see the involved groups withdrawing from society into a walled compound somewhere in the desert in order to prevent their members from being “contaminated” by unwanted questions.


  10. autismnostrum March 2, 2010 at 22:18 #

    Kent, it seems that you’re projecting motives and actions beyond what I see presented. You weren’t at a private event, and you didn’t register for a press pass in order to be there, so you’re just guessing at what you think would happen if you were.

    In the case of this blog topic, AutismNewsBeat registered for the conference and then was rejected based on a retrofitted excuse that was grafted onto the website after the fact. That has not happened to you. You do not have a parallel situation.

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