De-Voicing

Autistic Self Advocates are familiar with De-Voicing. It is the ignoring and/or belittling of input from autistics on autism, or even attempting to silence them altogether.

A recent example was mentioned by Orac. Minnesota State Senator Jim Abeler is a Chiropractor who set up an Autism Spectrum Planning Group after his proposal to create a statewide autism registry was met with an outcry. The group was intended to set an Autism Task Force and originally had three members – Jean Bender, Wayne Rhode, who is an antivaxxer, and Dr. Shery Grassie of the Minnesota Consortium of Citizens with Disabilities. Later additions included autistic individuals.

After four months, Abeler disbanded the Group and appointed a new one. This new Group had no autistic members whatsoever.

This is appalling. Imagine if an organisation to support wheelchair users had no paraplegic or quadriplegic members. Or if an organisation for the advancement of People of Colour had only white members. Nobody would be willing or even able to take such groups seriously. Yet Abeler disbanded a team for helping autistics with autistics on it, and replaced it with one that has no autistic members. It’s an excellent example of de-voicing.

I am a firm supporter of Identity-First Language. On a Diply article, I asked that they use Identity-First language when referring to autism. I was then asked by another commenter to explain the concept, which I did. But then someone responded:

I dont have Autism but my son does. I disagree and prefer to refer to my son as someone who has Autism, he also has brown hair and a funny personality etc. These are all parts of him but not all of him.

Which totally missed the point. Identity-First Language does not disregard the other attributes of autistics, it simply highlights that autism is a part of who we are.

I was angered that my input as an autistic was being disregarded and belittled. Fortunately, another autistic had my back.

As an autistic person myself, I personally agree with Julian and most people that are autistic that I have interacted with also perfer this. If you’re not autistic you don’t get a say in this.

Precisely. If you’re not autistic you don’t get a say in this.

Autism Speaks, now largely moribund, was notorious for ignoring autistics while supposedly advocating for them. When it was founded, it had no autistic board members. After years of protests, John Elder Robison, an Autistic Self Advocate, was finally appointed to the Board.

In November 2013, Robison resigned after Autism Speaks issued a “call to action”. From his letter of resignation:

For the past four years I have worked very hard to defend Autism Speak after a series of public relations missteps, beginning with the I Am Autism video. The most recent “Autism Speaks Point of View” shows me that my words and efforts have had no real impact on the beliefs of the actual leadership of the organization.

I have tried to help Autism Speaks staffers understand how destructive its messages have been to the psyches of autistic people. We do not like hearing that we are defective or diseased. We do not like hearing that we are part of an epidemic. We are not problems for our parents or society, or genes to be eliminated. We are people.

We do have problems, and we need help. Some of us need counseling or training, while others have significant medical challenges. We also need acceptance, and support. There is a great diversity in our community, which means we have a very broad range of needs. Unfortunately, the majority of the research Autism Speaks has funded to date does not meet those needs, and the community services are too small a percentage of total budget to be truly meaningful. We have delivered very little value to autistic people, for the many millions raised.

Robison was a blatant example of tokenism. Despite him being autistic, Autism Speaks completely disregarded his input and continued with actions that harmed the very people they claimed to be advocating for.

One autism parent who gets it is Matt Carey of Left Brain Right Brain. As the father of an autistic child, Matt understands that to be truly genuine, workable and successful, efforts to help autistics must be led and guided by autistics.

I’ve also been on the receiving end of a cynical and disingenuous attempt to silence me (profanity warning). MJ of Autism Jabberwocky claimed that my advocacy was harming his autistic children.

So, no, when you advocate, you do not advocate on behalf of what my children need. What you do is minimize and marginalize them – especially when you compare their disability to something like women’s rights.

MJ’s argument was wrong on multiple levels. Autism advocacy is not a zero sum game, and I pointed out that not only could I advocate directly for his children, but that in a few years his autistic children would be autistic adults, and my advocacy now would help them then. What was bad was that he simply wasn’t prepared to even consider my input, to the point of wrongly claiming it harmed his children. To make it worse, he doubled down when I called him out.

I will not be de-voiced, and I will fight it any time I detect it.

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Posted in Autism Awareness | Tagged , , , ,

Responding to antivaxx swarmings

Parents who have lost their children to vaccine preventable diseases are often among the most effective advocates for vaccination. As a result, they are often targeted by rabid antivaxxers in an attempt to silence them. From the attacks on David and Toni McCaffery by the then Australian Vaccination Network President Meryl Dorey through to the attacks mentioned in this CNN Article, the noxiousness, libel and vitriol they suffer on top of having lost children is hateful and despicable. Using Facebook and other social media, antivaxxers launch coordinated swarmings of vaccine advocates’ posts.
Now, provaxxers are fighting back. A new site “Shots Heard round the World” will be going live soon. It will coordinate responses to the aforementioned antivaxx targeting of vaccine advocates. I will post an update as soon as I learn the site has gone live.

Posted in Anti-antivaccination | Tagged , , , , ,

More links to antivaxx pwnage

This Brilliant Comic Will Demolish Any Anti-Vaxxer Argument
Emotionally Agonizing Twitter Thread About Vaccination Gone Wrong Still Condemns Anti-Vaxxers
Doctor’s Office Calls Out Anti-Vaxxer Beliefs With Slideshow Of Their Own
Anti-Vaxx Mom Asks How To Protect Her Unvaccinated 3-Year-Old From The Measles Outbreak, Internet Delivers
Toronto health conference cancels appearance by anti-vaccine activist Del Bigtree
Jenny McCarthy’s Anti-Vax Doctor Makes Urgent Plea to Vaccinate
10+ Hilarious Memes That Brutally Mock The Anti-Vax Movement
People Can’t Stop Trolling Anti-Vaxxers With 30 Memes
This ‘Choking On Food’ Meme Perfectly Captures The Absurdity Of Anti-Vax Arguments
Measles Survivor Recalls Horrors, Says ‘For God’s Sake, Vaccinate Your Children’
How do children die from the flu? Ohio girl’s death raises concerns
YouTube Just Demonetized Anti-Vax Channels
Petition To Add Anti-Vaxxers To Plague Inc. Reaches Its Goal; Developers Say They’ll Do It
Guy Trolls Australian Anti-Vaccination Rally Asking People If They Are Doctors
Anti-vaxxer’s Son Goes Ahead and Gets Vaccinated Anyway
Infuriating antivaxx memes and moments of sheer lunacy
Anti-Vaxxer Asks Stupid Question So The Comments Section Goes Full Stupid
PhD thesis opposing immunisation: Failure of academic rigour with real-world consequences [This is about the PhD July Wilyman earned]
Former Anti-Vaxxer Shares The Harrowing Last Straw That Made Him Get Vaccinated

Posted in Anti-antivaccination

Breaking Star Wars Part 3 – Ship sunk or righted?

Part 1 is here.
Part 2 is here.
In January of this year, the website Cosmic Book World published Disney’s SEC filing from 2017-09-30 to 2018-09-29. It revealed that LucasFilms had made a huge loss. Since then, a great deal has been going on behind the scenes at Disney and LucasFilms.
Kiri Hart was the Senior Vice President for Story at LucasFilms. Shortly after Cosmic Book News’s exposé, someone discovered that Hart’s details had been completely scrubbed from the LucasFilms website. Earlier this month, Hart reemerged as “creative advisor” for Rideback TV’s Incubator program. She will be “mentoring new talent”. What this means is that she was either fired from LucasFilms or quit before she could be fired. Nobody would willingly undergo such a huge demotion and cut in salary.
While I feel sorry for Hart, I don’t feel that sorry for her. Somebody with her level of experience should never have been appointed to such a crucial position. She was a post turtle. In addition, it was the Story Group she picked and led that ruined The Last Jedi and that has put the entire Star Wars franchise in jeopardy.
Kathleen Kennedy, the head of LucasFilms, has been keeping a very low profile for the last few months. All indications are that she has been isolated and ordered to keep her head down. She is 65 years old, and is likely to soon be gone from LucasFilms.
The best rumour I have heard so far is that the Expanded Universe is going to be reinstated. This is absolutely the right decision if true. Decanonising the EU was an utterly stupid move.
Principal photography on Episode IX ended recently. It began in August last year. That is almost 200 days of shooting! For a film in this day and age, that is more than twice the normal filming time.
Colin Trevorrow was originally selected to direct IX. He was replaced by J. J. Abrams, who also directed The Force Awakens. The rumour is that Abrams is “retconning the shit” (actual phrase) out of TLJ. That may explain the lengthy period of principal photography – a large number of reshoots would have been needed. Abrams, like he did for TFA, has also blocked the Story Group from having any input on IX.
One problem that could not have been foreseen was the sad death of Carrie Fisher from a drug overdose. Abrams intends to put her into IX with unused footage from TFA and TLJ. This might not work.
There have been no teaser trailers (as far as I know) for IX. Also, the title is still not revealed. One rumoured title is “Balance of the Force”. This sounds too bland and generic to be accurate.
Billy Dee Williams will be making an appearance in IX, reprising his role as Lando Calrissian from the OT.
There is a dubious (to me) rumour that Hayden Christensen will be appearing as Darth Vader. I would definitely take this with more than a pinch of salt.
One of the rumours circulating that is definitely false is that Han Solo will make a return. Harrison Ford long wanted to get rid of Han Solo. In fact, his precondition for appearing in TFA was that Han be killed off in it. He would not be willing to reprise Han for IX.
A few days ago, a rumour circulated that Rian Johnson’s Star Wars Trilogy was cancelled. It was greeted with excitement by the fandom, but Johnson denied the cancellation news.
I’m going to call it. Despite Johnson’s denial, his trilogy is not happening. The fans loathe what he did to Star Wars and would boycott any Star Wars film he made, and Disney knows it. Furthermore, a trilogy by former Game of Thrones writers David Benioff and D. B. Weiss has been announced. There is no way that Disney would allow work on two trilogies at the same time. Johnson’s trilogy has been sent to development hell to die.
All these rumours and information point to something concerning, however.
Disney and LucasFilms are panicking.
They know that TLJ disappointed fans, and that the attacks on fans infuriated them. They are now frantically trying to make it up to the fandom. And the problem with panic is that panicked people make bad decisions. As one of those fans, I know they have an uphill battle. We are now at the point of becoming indifferent and disengaged. I for one am in two minds about going to see IX.
I feel for Abrams. In a way, he has been handed a poisoned chalice. He has to fix what Rian Johnson broke. And I worry that competent though he is, he might not succeed. Indeed, it would be a tall ask even for a director of Steven Spielberg’s calibre.
Unfortunately, something has occurred that shows that LucasFilms hasn’t learnt.
A series of cartoon shorts called Star Wars – Galaxy of Adventures. These take scenes from the OT and “reimagine” them. What they do is inject Identity Politics into the OT, making Luke and Han bumbling fools and Leia a bitch. I have seen several Youtube videos doing side by side comparisons of SW – GOA and the OT.
There is a saying “if you make the same mistake twice, it isn’t a mistake but a choice”. LucasFilms ruined TLJ with Identity Politics and doubled down by attacking the fans. With SW – GOA they are now tripling down.
If it were up to me, here’s what I would do to save Star Wars.
I would decanonise TFA and TLJ and start afresh. As per the EU I would make Leia a Jedi married to Han Solo and with children. From that base, I would make a new Trilogy.
Because of Carrie Fisher’s passing, I would make the trilogy animated. I would go through the EU and through George Lucas’s Sequel Trilogy notes and come up with a story that allows us to say goodbye to Han, Luke and Leia and introduce new characters to take the Star Wars Universe forward, as per the original plan. For directors, I would hire people like Christopher Nolan and Robert Rodriguez who have proven themselves.
While I hope my scepticism for Episode IX is disproven, I fear it won’t be.

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Breaking Star Wars Part 2 – TLJ, Solo and smearing the fandom

Part 1 is here.

Part 3 is here.

In December 2017, Star Wars: The Last Jedi was released to cinema. Few things had been greeted with such anticipation, and fewer have been as massively disappointing and awful as it turned out to be. Using the very first draught of a script (who does that?), Rian Johnson created a film so bad it has put the future of Star Wars in jeopardy. TLJ had multiple problems, some of which I will highlight below.

TLJ is dotted thoughout with attempts at “humour” that more befit a bad Star Wars parody than an official film. From the Prank Call scene in the opening moments through the stampede on Canto Bight to the Guard getting shredded in the Throne Room among others, the gags were forced, unfunny, and only took viewers out of the moment.

Just as The Force Awakens dishonoured Han Solo, regressing him back to a two bit smuggler, TLJ dishonoured Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), taking “the most optimistic, hopeful person” and turning him into a bitter curmudgeon who trolls Rey. Hamill, the only actor so far to portray Luke in live action films, has expressed his unhappiness with the way the character was written in TLJ, going so far as to say that he had to view him as “Jake Skywalker”, because the character was “not my Luke Skywalker”.

When the very actor who has played a role throughout that role’s lifespan thinks that the character has been wrongly written, then the character has been wrongly written.

Johnson’s directorial gimmick is subverting expectations. The result here was to throw out a lot of the setups from TFA, which means that Episode IX now has real problems.

As I mentioned in Part 1, J. J. Abrams barred the Star Wars Story Group from having any input on The Force Awakens. Johnson let them in, with dire results.

TLJ is riddled throughout with Identity Politics. Here, the Identity Politics are male/female. It is possible to make political statements in films, but there is one rule you must never break, and TLJ broke it.

You never subordinate the storytelling to the message. Breaking this rule turns a film into a sermon or a lecture. And those are boring.

I go to films to be entertained. If I wish to be preached to, there are several churches less than 10 minutes away from my flat. If I want a lecture, there are Colleges and Universities nearby that offer short courses, including Wits.

The Identity Politics in TLJ attempt to portray men as incompetent and needing leadership from women, but it is so badly done that the female leadership is shown to also be incompetent.

Vice Admiral Amlyn Holdo (Laura Dern) takes control after Leia (Carrie Fisher) is incapacitated. When Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) asks her what the plan to escape the First Order is, she refuses to tell him. This is known as “mushroom management” – keeping your subordinates in the dark and feeding them manure. It’s a technique of bad managers and leaders everywhere. Shortly before the plan is to be executed, Poe deduces it and realises that the First Order pursuing them will fire on the escaping transports. When he tries to warn others, Holdo orders him off the bridge. He then mutinies, but fails.

Poe turns out to be correct. The First Order detects the transports leaving for Crait and fires on them, destroying all but three and killing most of the Rebellion. In desperation, Holdo kamikazes the flagship into the First Order’s fleet to save the remnants of the Rebellion.

Holdo mismanaged the situation from the get go. As soon as Poe asked her what the plan was, she should have summoned all her senior commanders (including Poe) into the War Room and outlined the plan. When Poe objects (he would have), she could then have explained that the Rebellion has a cloaking device that will hide the transports.

Poe: “But they’ve been able to track us through hyperspace. What if they can penetrate the cloaking?”

Holdo: “Very well Captain Dameron. Come up with a contingency plan for if they can.”

THAT is how you manage Poe Damerons. You keep them busy and out of everyone else’s hair.

Solo: A Star Wars Story, the origin story of Han Solo, was released to cinema mere months after TLJ left the cinema circuit. Too soon after. It had had a troubled creation, with original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller fired with most of the film completed, and Ron Howard brought in to entirely redo it.

Solo became the first Star Wars film to make a loss. I didn’t watch it because I thought it a cash grab.

Many fans were justifiably unhappy with TLJ. But instead of being apologetic or even maintaining a dignified silence, Rian Johnson and LucasFilms attacked.

They said it was just a minority of fans who disliked it.

They accused the fandom of being “toxic”.

They called us racist, sexist, and homophobic.

They claimed Russian Bots were behind the criticism of TLJ.

They engaged in libellous ad hominems.

The irony of it all for me is that I liked TLJ, but when I saw the attacks, I had to ask myself why I liked it. And when I did, I realised just what a terrible film it was.

Not even one of the “defences” of TLJ that I have read has pointed to its merits. Instead, they have either attacked the fans, presumed to tell them what they were thinking (and being dead wrong about what we were thinking), said it was good without saying why (argument by assertion) or pointed to moments in the Original or Prequel Trilogies (the tu quoque fallacy).

All of a sudden, the attacks on the fandom petered out. And now we know why

As a publicly traded company, Disney is legally required to file its annual results from September 30 to September 29 with the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC). In January of this year, the website Cosmic Book News got its hands on this document.

For LucasFilms, the document makes for very ugly reading. It turns out that making a terrible film and then slandering fans for not liking said terrible film is a stupid business strategy.

LucasFilms was the only Disney unit to make a loss. And it was a loss of $182 million. Although TLJ made back its money and then some, sales of Star Wars toys, DVDs, novels and comic books were almost nonexistent. As the article declared “In a nutshell…everything Disney Star Wars has dropped.” It gives the lie to the claims about the “toxic fandom” and that the upset fans were just a minority. Had it been just a small minority of “toxic fans”, Star Wars earnings would not have tanked as badly as they have.

There is a great deal of unhappiness at Disney over the situation. Bob Iger, the Head of Disney and Kathleen Kennedy’s boss, knows that TLJ is a bad film and that the attacks on fans have alienated them. Indeed, he is too smart not to know this. Corrective steps are being taken. In Part 3 I will list them and why I feel it won’t be enough.

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Breaking Star Wars Part 1 – The seeds of failure

Ten years from now, Disney’s handling of Star Wars is likely to be taught in Business Schools as a lesson on what not to do. Having purchased LucasFilms and Star Wars from George Lucas, Disney has mismanaged this intellectual property so badly that the damage to the franchise may be irrecoverable.

This post is the first of three. It will be about the harmful decisions taken before The Force Awakens started filming, and bad storytelling in it.

Part 2 will be about The Last Jedi, Solo, the attacks on unhappy fans, and how these combined to threaten the very survival of Star Wars as a franchise.

Part 3 will look at the steps taken to correct course, ask if they will be enough or not, and reveal why I think not.

The first issue is with the tempo of new releases. Both the Original and Prequel Trilogies had three years gaps between films. We have so far seen The Force Awakens (2015), Rogue One (2016), The Last Jedi (2017) and Solo (early 2018), and this year Episode IX will be coming out. One film a year for five years straight.

In 1991, Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn was published. It “jumpstarted a publishing program that endures to this day and formalized the Expanded Universe.” Also in 1991, Dark Horse Comics acquired the Star Wars license and created a number of Star Wars comics, including Dark Empire.

The Expanded Universe stories deepened and enriched Star Wars. In the EU, Leia is trained in the use of the Force by Luke, and becomes a Jedi. She also marries Han Solo and has several children with him.

In an action that was astonishing as it was foolish, the Expanded Universe was decanonised and rebranded “Star Wars Legends”. It is mindblowing that such a rich set of lore was struck out. I was personally hoping for Leia to be a Jedi in the Sequel Trilogy. This was perhaps my biggest issue with The Force Awakens.

Kathleen Kennedy, the person who replaced George Lucas at LucasFilms, hired Kiri Hart as Senior Vice President of Development. This key role had the responsibility of setting the future course for Star Wars, choosing which storylines and projects would be used. As part of her job, Hart chose several members of the Story Group, tasked with devising storylines.

Prior to joining LucasFilms, Hart had precious little experience, and none as a Producer or Director. She was a writer and Story Editor on 1-800-Missing and Crossing Jordan. These credits were back in 2003, a decade before joining LucasFilms. She certainly wasn’t qualified for such a vital role as the one she occupied. Some have claimed that Hart was a “Diversity Hire”. Given her lack of experience and qualifications for the role, it is hard to disagree.

Someone also looked at the LucasFilms Story Group’s qualifications. Like Hart, none has much experience.

It is acceptable to have inexperienced members in a team, but not for the entire team to be inexperienced, and certainly not in a team tasked with something as vitally important as this. The eight member Story Group needed a minimum of two very experienced people to lead things, and three members with a fair amount of experience. Any junior members could then give different perspectives and be mentored at the same time. The scuttlebutt is that J. J. Abrams barred the Story Group from having any input on The Force Awakens.

The original idea for the Sequel Trilogy was to say goodbye to Han, Luke and Leia, one per film, and introduce new characters that would take the Star Wars Universe into the future. This aspect was completely botched.

The character of Rey (Daisy Ridley) is a Mary Sue. She resists Kylo Ren’s (Adam Driver) attempt to force penetrate her mind, Jedi Mind Tricks a Stormtrooper (Daniel Craig) into releasing her, successfully summons Anakin’s light sabre to her over Kylo Ren, and manages to fend him off. She is not shown undergoing any training or given any explanation for her competence in using the Force.

Finn (John Boyega) is a potentially interesting character – a stormtrooper who ran away from the First Order. He just comes across as bland and generic.

I liked Adam Driver in BlacKKKlansman, but he is simply not menacing or threatening enough to play a convincing Star Wars villain. It would have been best if he had worn the helmet throughout.

What angered me most was how Han Solo was portrayed. The Force Awakens threw out all the development he underwent in the OT, and regressed him back to a smuggler on the run from crooks he’d let down.

An interesting side character who was also mishandled was Captain Phasma (Gwendolyn Christie). A woman who rose to high rank in the Last Order, she was turned into a punching bag for the Rebellion soldiers.

The thing about some bad decisions is that the negative consequences can take a long time to manifest. While things were not too bad in The Force Awakens, when The Last Jedi came out, the issues became apparent.

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Rant alert: the dishonesty and disingenuity of “time to move on”

I saw the phrase “you need to move on” recently.
“Move on” and its related phrasings are offensive, insulting, and like I said dishonest and disingenuous. Below is how I think it should be responded to:
(MO is short for Move On; AJ for Autism Jungle)

MO: Enough already about this! You need to move on.
AJ: Hang on a moment. I had a look at this issue. The unhappy ones have legitimate grievances. Do you agree?
MO: Sure, but…
AJ: The people who were responsible for the issue – have they sought to put things right? Have they expressed any regret for their wrongdoing?
MO: No, but…
AJ: But nothing! If they have neither apologised not attempted to correct matters, then telling the aggrieved ones to move on is dismissive, belittling, and merely trying to avoid fixing things and taking corrective action! Stop saying it!

Every single time I’ve seen or heard “move on” used, it’s someone telling a person with a valid issue to drop it.

Posted in Life, Segue