Autism: A Modern Day Inquisition (Perceptual Warfare, Part 1)


(A year or two ago I saw the movie We Need to Talk About Kevin. In the light of the Sandy Hook shootings, and the media’s irresponsible citing of autism as an “explanation” for them, I would like to use the movie as a fictional counterpoint to these events to discuss the ways in which the media is making a false connection between autism and violent crime, and how (and why) this faulty perception is taking hold in the collective imagination.)

“Aspergers Prevention—stop the slayings! When we reach 50 likes, we will find an autistic kid and set it on fire.” —From a Facebook page immediately after the Sandy Hook shootings (since removed, screenshot here)

We Need to Talk About Kevin is well-done and superficially convincing, and taken as a psychological horror movie, it’s above average. Unfortunately the film (funded by the UK Film Council and based on a successful novel that won the prestigious Orange Prize in 2005) both aspires to and was received as a serious psychological study, primarily of the relationship between a mother and her teenage boy who murders several of his classmates for no ostensible reason. Two things bothered me about the film. Firstly, the whole narrative of “alienated-teenage-boy-kills-classmates-wholesale-without-motive” — which has been used as the basis for several recent movies (for example, last year’s Beautiful Boy, which also focused on the parents). This increasingly familiar storyline has been inspired by literally dozens of incidents worldwide, the most famous being the Columbine massacre (reinterpreted in a stupendously boring film by Gus van Sant, Elephant).

There’s plenty of room to doubt the official story around Columbine and the other incidents; but even if the events were being accurately reported, there’s still a hidden back story that isn’t. In which case, there’s every reason to suggest that some — if not most — of these seemingly random incidents are being orchestrated, or at the very least misreported, to generate a widespread belief that alienated teenagers are increasingly likely to turn into psychopathic killers. This, in my opinion, is the overriding impression created by the Kevin film; and now, as real life imitates art imitating life, we have the case of Adam Lanza, the alleged Sandy Hook “shooter,” who is being widely described by the media as Aspergerian, and therefore on the autistic spectrum.(1)

While so far as I know the Kevin film went mostly unremarked on by the autistic community, the Sandy Hook incident, and the attempts by some people to “explain” it by citing Lanza’s alleged autism, has caused an understandable outcry. Many in the community fear that such uninformed and reactive beliefs might lead to a “witch hunt” of autists. My view is that such a witch hunt is already underway, that it has been for many years, and that films like Kevin and incidents like Sandy Hook are being used (whether designed that way or not) to fuel the flames of a modern-day inquisition.

1. Curiously enough, the most recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM 5, to be released in May 2013, officially incorporated Asperger’s syndrome into the larger diagnosis of autism just two weeks before the Sandy Hook incident.

Part Two

8 thoughts on “Autism: A Modern Day Inquisition (Perceptual Warfare, Part 1)

  1. Just want to point out, if you read the book We Need to Talk about Kevin, it’s very clear the boy doesn’t have an autism spectrum disorder. The book is about the idea that he’s persistently angry and psychopathic and everyone ignores his mother’s concerns about him.

    • Thanks for posting. I haven’t read the book but I suspected something of the kind. My analysis refers only to the movie, so whatever the book states shouldn’t affect that – except maybe to introduce the possibility of a deliberate alteration of the material to increase autistic-associations. The fact that the movie identifies him as non-autistic might seem to banish such associations, but does it really? Kevin still fits the autistic type in several key ways.

    • Yet the association is being made, which is kind of the problem of the whole situation. People are associating violence with Autism wrongly?

  2. I’m not even sure if there even is an Adam Lanza. There are a lot of strange things regarding the Sandy Hook incident. This is a good starter, if anyone is interested:

    People say that the main purpose of this scare tactic is to encourage gun control, as well as regular doses of fear and emotional intoxication, but I think there is more to the agenda. I wonder how Autistic and Aspergers type people are going to be stereotyped in the future and why.

    There is a huge spectrum of Autism from severe mental retardation, to revolutionary geniuses.

    I’m looking forward to the next part, which I hope sheds some light on the question of ‘Why is Autism being painted in an evil light?’ and maybe something about how autism affects, destructively or constructively, Consencus Reality.

    I’m starting to look into autism a little and I’m curious as to the causes of different types, and the effects of prescribed medication.

  3. Hi Lyc; thanks for the link, it seems like a reasonable argument, tho the conclusion is vague. I’ve spent a couple of days working on this piece so far, and it just keeps expanding in every direction. It’s such a labyrinthine subject that it seems to extend its tentacles into every corner of the human psyche/experience. I better let the piece speak for itself, if and when it’s ready (expect a fast trickle of short posts over the next couple of weeks).

    Re: autism as severe mental retardation; I’d reframe that to “appearing similar to…”

    Amanda Baggs was thought to be mentally retarded for many years before she learned to communicate. The most “revolutionary geniuses” of all may be those most fully perceiving the world autistically and therefore least able to function in neurotypical time.

    Good luck on your trip down the rabbit hole of autism research! Feel free to share any thoughts you have or ask me any questions. I’m always glad to get your comments.

  4. There are a lot of weird things going on with this incident. The mother Nancy Lanza recently discovered she had a sister before the killing who was kept socially shut in by her parents, while she was free to live out in the world. Both her parents are dead, apparently for unknown reasons. She was also frantically searching the country for a place to move this past year. I’m not sure what it all indicates, but the fact is that there is more to it than meets the eye.

    I’ll throw this in there, especially for all the parents reading this. This looks likes an actor to me. Would you in any way be able to smile if your little girl was killed a day before???

    And good suggestion, I’ll make sure I have more knowledge on a subject before I assert something negative.

    I would agree that communication difficulties can generate the illusion of incompetence, in my case.

  5. There’s always more than meets the eye. Recognizing that the facts don’t add up is fine, but the desire to spin conspiracy theories to explain hidden agendas is counterproductive, IMO. The real “conspiracy” is that the human species is working out psychological, ancestral patterns within a larger spiritual context – a deeper background than even the wildest C-theories can imagine. So while I appreciate people sharing this stuff, it’s not actually the focus of this blog and I don’t want to get into a discussion about SH, AL, or MK-you-know-what. That’s all old ghosts, rattling chains to scare us. ignore them and they will go away.

    (On a practical note, these sort of links are linking this blog up to old haunts too, which I’d sooner avoid. Pretty soon I’ll have to post a disclaimer…)

    I suggest you take your inquiry this deeper, since that’s where it’s going anyway.

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