Autism as an insult… oh boy

Warning: this blog post contains some strong adult language and may not be suitable for all readers. If you are under 16 years of age or are sensitive to certain terms, then I advise you not to read this article. In other words: reader discretion is advised!

In the past several years, I have noticed two major trends among younger generations throughout the U.S. and other western countries, particularly on the web:

On the one hand, we have the ongoing rise of what I, along with many others, like to call the “regressive left”. For those who aren’t sure of what I’m referring to, I’m basically talking about the growing number of young “liberals” (I use the term very loosely) who spend much of their time contending what they consider to be “prejudice,” “bigotry,” or “threats social justice” – frequently taking radical, morally questionable measures to do so. You will most often see these kinds of people in two kinds of settings: on college campuses refusing people who have even the slightest degree of right-wing beliefs to speak within 10 miles of them; or on websites such as Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, etc. accusing nearly everyone who isn’t liberal or a minority of being a bigot, racist, sexist, fascist, etc. In other words, they are people who believe that political correctness must be maintained at all costs, and anyone who does anything that could possibly offend someone is a horrible monster that should be shamed and treated like a criminal. Yeah, if you can’t already tell, I’m not a fan of those types of people, and neither should you be if you value free speech and reason over emotion.

On the other hand, we also have increasing rates of young individuals who are going in the complete opposite direction. They are not necessarily becoming racist, sexist, fascist, or anything like that; in fact, many of them wouldn’t really call themselves conservatives (although the group I mentioned earlier often stops them from calling themselves liberals either). Rather, they simply political incorrectness with a passion and frequently like to be as offensive and provocative as possible on the web, usually on sites like 4Chan, Reddit, or YouTube. Some of them will do this merely to spite regressive leftists, whom are, naturally, very easily provoked (and sometimes deserve to be offended, in my opinion). However, many of these people like to upset not just hardcore SJWs, but practically everyone, leaving comments and posting things that any reasonable person would consider unintelligent, annoying, and all-around distasteful. So, the most appropriate term for those individuals would be “trolls”: they say and do things online that don’t contain any true value or importance, but are only meant to get your attention and get you all riled up, simply to entertaining them. This is not to say that everyone who likes to be “offensive” online is a troll, simply those who attempt to shock and upset everyone for no good reason and come across as an utter jackass while doing so.

What makes these two crowds of people similar is that they like to leave comments online that contain a lot of provocative buzzwords to insult each other. Several common buzzword insults I’ve seen over the years include (commie, fascist, Moslem, racist, SJW, the f-word (the one directed at homosexuals), the n-word, bigot, white supremacist, the c-word, cuck, libtard, Trumpster, cuckservative, and autistic.

Yeah, let’s talk about that last word. Firstly, in case you are not aware, Asperger Syndrome is an Autism Spectrum Disorder; a “milder, more functional” form of autism, as many people would put it. Consequently, using the word “autistic” in such a manner does sort of impact me, and, as I will explain why, does bother me a little.

Now, there is one very important thing I’d like to clarify before I continue: I am not entirely opposed to poking fun at individuals with autism, provided that its done tastefully and does not unavoidably insult autistic people. I’m someone who believes that just about any topic, no matter how controversial, sensitive, or taboo, can be made into a funny joke that most people should be able to enjoy. Critically-acclaimed comedians like Lewis Black, Margaret Cho, Dave Chapelle, and Bill Burr all use jokes that are meant to be offensive to some individuals. I wouldn’t be surprised or upset in the slightest if they occasionally used a joke about autism, provided it that was tasteful and wasn’t intended to directly insult people with the disorder. So, there is nothing automatically wrong about poking fun at a subject like autism, as long as you’re doing it right.

With that said, I nonetheless find it very morally suspect when someone uses the term “autistic” or “autism” in a derogatory manner. My reason for this is quite simple: whenever you use a certain term or label to insult someone, it essentially implies that there is something negative about the word that you are using. After all, the purpose of an insult is to say something bad or offensive about that other person. For instance, if I were to call someone something like lazy or a jerk (and mean it), that would imply that I am accusing them of something negative – of not working hard enough or of being unkind to other people. I mean, we can all agree that laziness and being an unkind individual are not things to be proud of. The same goes for things like calling someone a “libtard” or a “fascist” or even an offensive slur – in each case, you are saying something bad about the other person because you’re accusing them of something that you frown upon: such as being a “America-hating, communist” liberal, a “misogynist, racist” conservative, or a minority that you have negative feelings toward for some (unfounded) reason.

As a result, we are compelled to presume that when you use the term “autistic” in a mean, critical manner, you are saying something adverse not only about another individual, but also about autism in general. You are, advertently or inadvertently, making a statement about autism or autistic people that isn’t very nice or pleasant.

I think that what most people (unintentionally) infer when they use autistic as an insult are the common stereotypes attributed to people with autism: below-average intelligence, social awkwardness, having singular obsessions, needing “special help” for everything, being “really annoying”, and “doing cringe-worthy things”. Y’know, the image that comes into a lot of people’s minds when they think of autistic children.

Naturally, as with most negative generalizations of any group, I many of us can agree that such a view of autistic people is overly-simplified and very inaccurate. I seriously hate to sound like a SJW or a “pretentious, annoying liberal, but there is WAY more to autism than having “low intelligence” or being “irritating”. In fact, there are vast amounts of autistic individuals with above-average intelligence and who are no more “awkward” or “annoying” than most non-autistic individuals.

Of course, it would be naïve and simply incorrect say that the stereotypes I mentioned have no grain of truth whatsoever to them. Autism is, by definition, a mental disorder because it typically places a sort of limitation on one’s mental processes, cognitive abilities, and/or social abilities. Even many people with “higher-functioning” forms of autism such as Aspergers (like me, for instance) often have a tough time fitting in with others and will sometimes engage in activities that some might perceive as “weird”.

Nevertheless, there are five things to remember: 1) every person with autism is different and not all of them act in a similar way; 2) most people with autism have little to no control over how their minds work or how they act; 3) autistic individuals usually suffer a great deal more than the people who “have to deal with them”; 4) so many autistic individuals manage to overcome their limitations to become wonderful, extremely productive members of our society; and 5) poking fun at people with autism for the reasons stated above is like teasing someone with blindness for not being able to walk down the street independently or a veteran with PTSD for “acting so weird and oversensitive.”

If you’re someone who still legitimately believes that autistic people are somewhat problematic to our society and that being autistic is a bad thing to some degree, then… well… I’m not going to try to change your mind. You are fully entitled to your opinion and I wouldn’t be any better if I tried to force you to think differently. I’m not sure if we would get along well in person, but I’m not going to judge you any further; instead, I’m going to be the better person and just say, “whatever.”

Unfortunately, what bothers me the most about the whole issue is that most of the people who use “autistic” as an insult usually insist they aren’t trying to insinuate anything negative about autism. If I were to earnestly ask these people if they have a problem with autistic people, I imagine their response would probably something like, “Oh no, I’m not saying people with autism are bad or stupid or anything. I’m simply calling this person autistic because I think this person they’re being dumb and annoying, and because I really like being politically incorrect,” (they might also add something like “lol, get triggered, snowflake” for good measure).

Ok, here is why that kind of argument doesn’t work: you wouldn’t be using the word “autistic” in a derogatory if you weren’t trying to imply that there is something negative or undesirable about autism. I mean, why would you call someone or something autistic in a disrespectful or insulting manner if you were implying something positive or neutral about autism? As Spock would put it, that is “most illogical,” at least from the perspective of someone who wants to offend or insult someone. That would be like angrily calling a hardcore liberal a “commie” and then saying, “Oh no, I’m not saying that communism is bad or anything, I’m just calling you a commie because I think your views are stupid and anti-capitalist.” You may disagree with me on this, but it makes about as much sense as that does.

Consequently, unless you wish to say that you think that people with autism are problematic to our society, you should perhaps not use the word “autistic” in a derogatory manner, that is if you want to be taken seriously or receive any respect from me. Oh yes, I can hear so many people calling me “triggered SJW” or “easily-offended snowflake” for daring to suggest that (unintentionally) smearing autistic people might not be a kind, respectable thing to do. Well, guess what? Simply throwing anti-liberal buzzwords like that at me is not going to make me change my mind or make my whole article invalid. Oh, and calling my blog post a “bunch of Marxist, pro-censorship propaganda” won’t work in disproving my argument either. In fact, if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that I have zero problem with dark, offensive humor if it’s done correctly, even when it involves autism. Simply calling someone or something that you disagree with autistic does NOT count as funny dark humor; to me, it simply counts as trolling. There is a stark difference between an intelligent, light-hearted comedy routine or sketch involving autism and throwing the word “autistic” at someone or something you find stupid or annoying. I’m certain that just about any successful comedian (except for maybe someone like Andrew Dice Clay or Seth McFarlane) would agree with me on this.

So, to make this incredibly long blog post short: if you’re going to use the word autistic as an insult, please at least admit to having a prejudice against people with autism. Otherwise, please just stop using it altogether. Then again, you don’t have to follow my suggestion; as I’ve already emphasized several times, I’m not one of those people who constantly demand that everyone else be as non-offensive and politically correct as humanly possible. Honestly, I really don’t care what you do or how much of a jerk you like to be on the internet; its none of my business. All I’m saying is that if you want me, along with many other people, to respect you or to treat you like a sensible, mature adult, then you should act like one and not use words like “autistic” in a derogatory manner. Once again, if that doesn’t sound fair to you, then… whatever! I can’t control you; just know that I don’t have to take you seriously.


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