Autism = Miracle = Supernatural = Unholy: How Some Christians “Think”

Mass Media Perception Management, Part 3 

(Part 2 here)

Before Jake does his “stuff,” Beck chides him: “Someday you’ll be like me,” he says, “old and mushy” and “not so special.” It’s a bizarre remark. Beck isn’t even thinly disguising his jealousy and antagonism but communicating it openly. Of course, it’s meant as an attempt at humor, which is how it’s taken. But is there actually any humor in it? If not, what?

The exercise Jake is told to do has to do with “infinite series convergent,” in other words, something only mathematicians and physicists have any clue about. This further reemphasizes Jake’s “alienness,” the fact that he is not like ordinary, “God-fearing” people. To hardline Christians, this sort of knowledge is at best mumbo-jumbo, at worst hubris: the devil’s work. As Nietzsche wrote, “the original sin is knowledge.”

While Jake works on his equations, Beck continues to interrupt him with “self-effacing” “jokes” about how he’s just as smart as Jake is. The underlying message seems to be “Who does this kid think he is?” There’s a brief, incongruous shot of a black cameraman filming Jake on the right side of the studio. I could say something about this anomaly, but I’d rather not wander any further into speculation city than I am already. Readers are invited to offer their own interpretations.

Beck interrupts Jake and makes him stop what he is doing so Beck can draw a clumsy rendition of R2D2 on the other board. He points at it and says, “I’d go with that one!” in a scornful tone. What he’s conveying with this remark is, “We don’t need smart kids, we’ve got machines for this stuff!” The less obvious implication is that Jake himself is a machine, a robot, and that his only value is his “brain,” his ability to perform mathematical calculations.

Beck sits down and comments to the parents, pointing at Jake: “Still more!” (I presume this is what he says, though it sounds to me like “still born.”) He makes a remark about how Jake “can’t sleep at night,” his brain must be so busy. Besides the obvious meaning (that Jake is obsessive), the idea of staying awake at night has associations with predators and supernatural creatures, vampires and werewolves. More profanely: it’s what criminals do. Added to the other hints about Jake being more/less than human, it could plant further seeds of distrust. Beck is then told by the parents that Jake learned to write braille at one! This is an almost unbelievable detail, and it suggests less a brilliant child than something supernatural or unholy. In fact, to many Christians, supernatural is synonymous with evil. More generally, I’d guess that most Americans, Christian or not, wouldn’t want a child of Jake’s “freakish” talents, any more than they’d want a retarded child, and maybe even less so, since they would feel so inadequate in comparison.

For no apparent reason besides a cheap laugh, Beck shouts harshly at Jake, “Keep writing kid!” There’s a small chuckle/smile from the parents, but Beck doesn’t sound like he’s joking.

There’s a shot of Jake working on the board. His equations include the word “sin,” written three different times.

sin

After Jake returns to his seat, we find out that he started college at eight. Beck then gives him several books:  The Five Thousand Year Leap, about the US Constitution and the Founding Fathers; a book about Benjamin Franklin (one of the Founding Fathers), one about Thomas Jefferson (another Founding Father and a US President), and a book called Physics for Future Presidents.

Beck’s choice of books for Jake gives a clear message: this kid is presidential material.  After everything that’s gone before, this idea isn’t likely to fill most of Beck’s viewers with joy. The picture of being 2nd-class citizens ruled over by a superior, robot-like, autist-prodigy and “evol” genius is more likely to fill their hearts with fear and loathing than wonderment. Finally, Beck produces one last book as a “gift” for Jake’s parents: William Stillman’s Autism and the God Connection.

512an7JWnNL._SS500_

At the very start of the show, Beck has triggered his Christian audience with Nietzsche’s anti-Christian heresy, “God is dead.” He admonished his viewers to “NOTICE and RESPOND.” He overtly communicated that Jake the autist (like Jake in the Touch TV show) is “special,” a wonder kid and prodigy, and invited his audience to marvel over him.  Yet he goes on to frame him throughout the show as a freak and, more subtly, a threat.  Beck states several times throughout to “watch this kid”—a normal enough injunction for a TV show, but the forceful tone Beck uses sounds less like an invitation than a warning: Jake isn’t someone to watch but someone to watch out for. The reason to watch Jake, Beck says, is to see “God’s handiwork.” To demonstrate, he has Jake do something few, if any, of his audience will comprehend or have any interest in: an unfathomable mathematical equation, the only identifiable part of which is the word “sin,” written three times.

Beck then implies that Jake might someday be president. Finally he brings out Stillman’s book about God and autism. By now, it’s unlikely that many of his viewers will be inclined to see autism as in any way connected to God. The way Jake has been framed, he is either more than human or less than, either an inhuman brain/robot, or a miracle child, God’s handiwork in action. Beck’s attitude to Jake is one of suspicion, even hostility; he treats him like a kid who has got above his station and who is making Beck, and by extension his viewers, look bad, inferior. So the chances of most viewers seeing Jake as a god-child are slim, at best. That leaves the other option: to see him as something unnatural, inhuman.[1]

To conservative Christians there is only one “God connection” and it ain’t autism (or science!). It is faith in Christ. And since there is only one Christ, anyone who’s being framed as having (or being) that connection must be heretic and a pretender. A false messiah. (The Antichrist happens to be the name of a book by Frederic Nietzsche.)

the-antichrist

Beck’s last words to his audience are: “Watch him!”


[1] Not just homosexuality but autism is viewed by some Christians as demonic possession. Individuals within Defeat Autism Now and the National Autism Association “have attempted to exorcise autistic children, with mixed results.  Since exorcism is supposed to rid a person of demons, one wonders if perhaps the children reported as cured by the process were actually suffering from demonic possession and not autism. It is wise to note that children not cured by this process are usually killed by it.” (http://autism.wikia.com/wiki/Exorcism)See also: “Rick Santorum-Linked Universal Health Services Facility: Fraud, Assault And Alleged ‘Exorcism’” “Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) has become a top-tier candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in recent weeks by appealing to evangelical voters as a man steeped in family values and his Christian faith. From 2007 to 2011, however, Santorum served on the board of directors of Universal Health Services Inc., a large hospital chain which racked up dozens of allegations of abuse during that time — including everything from rape to suicide attempts allowed by neglect to murder. . . . The facility, located in Marion, Va., is a residential treatment center for troubled boys with mental-health issues. The majority of patients come from states’ child-welfare and juvenile-justice systems. The center promises stability, schooling, and clinically-approved therapies. It was also approved to accept Medicaid patients. It did not have approval to perform an ‘exorcism.’ But that is what appeared to be happening in an empty room at Marion in May 2007, according to a facility teacher who passed by the room, which was occupied by at least one nurse, a supervisor, a janitor and a boy with autism. Several in the room appeared to be hovering over the boy and praying, according to the teacher, who recounted the incident shortly after to Barbara Jones, the center’s director of education at the time. The severity of the boy’s autism left him hardly able to speak and unable to walk on his own, Jones says. “‘They were trying to exorcise him. That’s why he had the autism, he had a demon in him,'” Jones recounted what the teacher told her to The Huffington Post. “The cleaning lady was trying to cast out the demons.”

And: “An autistic 8-year-old boy died while wrapped in sheets during a prayer service held to exorcise the evil spirits that church members blamed for his condition.” (http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-201_162-570077.html)

Dr Jeff Bradstreet a DAN! Doctor and “an expert witness” in the Autism Omnibus case, is also “a keen advocate of Exorcism as a treatment for autism”; “not only does DAN! offer exorcism, it seems the National Autism Association heartily endorse it.” (http://leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk/2006/10/09/dan-on-a-mission-from-god/)

And so it goes.

15 thoughts on “Autism = Miracle = Supernatural = Unholy: How Some Christians “Think”

  1. I just started reading your work after coming across the earlier post ‘is language a delivery system for the Virus of Culture?’. I’ve followed these three parts of your writing with great interest. I do not live in the US and therefore have no first hand experiences with how Fox influences people, but it is widely known that it is harmful and states opinion as (news) fact. Very terrifying opinions at that. I watched a part of the clip and felt incredibly uncomfortable with how Beck was presenting Jacob to the viewer. Without his comments I would have seen a very smart child, from where we would then learn that there are further problems he’s experiencing. Beck portrayed him as a freak that grown-ups should feel threatened by, but very subtly so. I was baffled how the parents felt comfortable (or not?) with how Beck spoke to/about Jacob (‘I hate that kid’…). I felt uncomfortable with how Jacob was not spoken to, though he was spoken about. A lot of these things could potentially be very harmful to him if he had any conflicting feelings on who/what he was.

    I’m studying in Transactional Analysis, and have learned about attributions. I read yesterday that indirect attributions (when two adults speak about a child in the child’s presence) are the most potent ones, as the child will store them as factual. This whole conversation is so potentially harmful that I was not able to watch the rest of the clip before having a good think about it. What were the parents thinking when taking him on a show like that, only a short time after forming a notion on ‘what’ Jacob is? He is a very fragile child, a genius, but a child. I would love to have spent time with him and picked his brain, as well as find out about his personality.
    The whole thing has given me a lot to think about.

    Thank you for writing this, I look forward to reading more from you.

    Jude

    • Hey Jude,

      If Jake is autistic then he’s likely to be more resistant to that sort of negative influence, while at the same time being extra-sensitive to covert/unconscious signals. The two things presumably go together – the more sensitive we are to being controlled, the better we are at ensuring it doesn’t happen. (That was my experience at school.)

      I guess Jacob’s parents, like many Americans, couldn’t imagine that having their kid on national TV could be anything but a positive thing for him; and Beck is a celebrity figure, so a certain amount of reverence is guaranteed him by that same mentality. It’s essentially an in(s)ane asylum and with any luck Jake;s early exposure to that sort of dementia has only honed his sensors for navigating it in the future.

  2. don`t know anything about this guy paul levy and the virus wetiko….if nothing else interesting and could apply to this discussion…anybody know about him and if so is he and his ideas worth investigating….namaste` dermott
    yes or no would be fine unless you have time to volunteer information…..thanks again for letting me listen…i don`t have much to add

    • Dermott – I read Levi’s weitiko book and even quoted form it in the JdR book, then changed my mind; he is on to something but at the same time, maybe the vision is a bit . . . narrow? He doesnt know kung fu

  3. So if a loser like Beck produces anti-autism propaganda, that leads you to the conclusion that autism is the next leap in evolution and autistics are more resistant to programming? Huh? While your analysis of the show’s tone is undoubtedly correct, the reactionary responses of the left to this sort of propaganda is just as NLP as the bmx bike.

    Go hang out on Wired or any place where these supergeek Aspy “geniuses” congregate and you might be appalled. These kids arent solving the worlds problems, theyre all competing for money and prestige, to be the first to do it and get their names in the Good Book of science, often with a frightening lack of anything resembling a conscience or awareness of who is writing their checks and why. Knowledge in and of itself is not evil, but knowledge in and of itself is not some awesome goal that we should be all striving for either. Knowledge without wisdom can be disastrous, rather balance should be sought, and many of these kids are unable to perceive or are simply unconcerned with the real world impact of their “genius” inventions. Just because a redneck christian thinks the space program is the devil doesnt mean the space program is a great thing, Jasun. The space program is the extension of religious hegemony into the age of technology. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether or not you think Jacob’s eventual contributions to esoteric mathematical theories will serve the good of mankind or the special interests of wealthy warmongers.

    • you seem to be reading all sorts of things into my posts that aren’t there

      where did i ever say the space program is a great thing? or any of the other things you’re suggesting?

      seems like you jumped aboard the discussion late; go read my earlier posts and then come back if you’re still confused.

  4. Can you name this person?:

    “With increasing public demands, his involvement in political, humanitarian and academic projects in various countries, and his new acquaintances with scholars and political figures from around the world, he was less able to achieve the productive isolation that he needed in order to work.[1]

    He was not timid, and he was aware of the world around him, with no illusion that ignoring politics would make world events fade away. His very visible position allowed him to speak and write frankly, even provocatively, at a time when many people of conscience could only flee to the underground or keep doubts about developments within their own movements to themselves for fear of internecine fighting.

    He flouted the ascendant Nazi movement, tried to be a voice of moderation in the tumultuous formation of the State of Israel and braved anti-communist politics and resistance to the civil rights movement in the United States. He participated in the 1927 congress of the League against Imperialism in Brussels.[2] He also met with many humanists and humanitarian luminaries including Rabindranath Tagore with whom he had extensive conversations in 1930 prior to leaving Germany.[3]”

    Most people have no idea that Albert Einstein was as much an humanitarian as a scientist. There’s also good reason to suspect that he was autistic.

    As an archetype, the Mad Scientist is paired with the Humanitarian, both under the preview of Aquarius and planet Uranus <— which is, according to Richard Tarnas, the Promethean force of revolution and social upheaval. See his book Cosmos and Psyche.

  5. OMG! I really like this. My son has autism and I believe he has a connection to God more so than others. He is special and wonderful and I don’t see him as having a disability or what have you. Thank you for this article. 🙂

  6. Dearly beloved children, in this world they will tell you all sorts of things. And what is indeed more to the point, they will imply even more things than they say. This world is filled with pitfalls for the unwary.

    This book is a small guide to pitfalls. I am uniquely qualified to write it, because once I was a clever child myself. This world is enriched with a particularly plenteous supply of pitfalls for clever children (whom it hates, unless they take care to become stupid) so I have become an expert on pitfalls. Perhaps I am the only expert. Everyone else has fallen in.

  7. I have long had a theory that the popularity of Christianity has always depended on its appeal to the sadism of its adherents. The exceptional should be crucified, saith Society; and somehow everyone suspects (in spite of all arguments to the contrary) that if there is a God, he may be exceptional in some way. So the figure of Christ crucified becomes the figure of the dangerous exceptional alien—suitably defeated. ‘Only a suffering God can help’, said Bonhoeffer, licking his lips.

    http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Celia_Green

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s