My guess is that many of us saw this coming: the point when public commenters would speculate that the Aurora Colorado shooter was autistic. Joe Scarborough may have been the first, and likely is not the last.
The MSNBC host said he “did not want to generalize,” but that he knew who was responsible as soon as he heard about the shooting. “I knew it was a young, white male, probably from an affluent neighborhood, disconnected from society, it happens time and time again,” he remarked.
“Most of it has to do with mental health. You have these people that are somewhere, I believe, probably on the autism scale,” said Scarborough, whose own son has Asperger’s syndrome. “I don’t know if that’s the case here, but it happens more often than not. People that can walk around in society, they can function on college campuses, they can even excel on college campuses, but are socially disconnected.”
Knowing this sort of speculation would happen (remember the Virginia Tech massacre? “While early media reports carried speculation by South Korean relatives that Cho had autism, the Review Panel report dismissed this diagnosis”) is not the same as being able to prepare for how to respond. As frequent readers will likely recall, I am often at a loss for words when events stretch the boundaries of appropriateness.
In place of any comments–or inability to make such comments–let me point you to Kassiane at Radical Neurodivergence Speaking who has written an Open Letter to the Media in the Wake of the Aurora Shootings.
I am an Autistic adult. In the wake of the tragic shootings in Aurora, Colorado, my community was sitting not only in the sadness that all such tragedies bring, but also in fear and anticipation that once again, we would be your scapegoat. Once again, you would start declaring that we and the killer had the same neurology before the bodies were even cold, before the initial tears had dried.
And again, you did not disappoint. Again, you went to declare the killer mentally ill or Autistic before you even possibly had a chance to talk to anyone qualified to make those calls. Again, you cast yet another layer of suspicion on my community. Again, you made me someone to be feared.
Here’s the deal, neurotypical folks of the media: You are far more dangerous to us than we are to you. The mentally ill and the developmentally disabled are far more likely to be your victims than you are to be ours.
And Kassiane backs up what she says. I encourage people to go over and read the Open Letter in full. And forward it to people who bring up this autism speculation.