Thursday, August 18, 2016

TIME author equates Asperger’s with trolling

As a survivor of bullying who has personally experienced cowardly attacks on the Internet, I share with TIME magazine author Joel Stein a concern that anonymity is a breeding ground for abuses. That said, I wish to express my concern with Stein’s portrayal of “the web” as “a sociopath with Asperger’s.”

The online version of his article has been revised since I contacted Stein, but it presumably appears with slur intact in the Aug. 29 print edition. Indeed, with an illustration by Steve Brodner, Stein’s is the cover article.

Equating Asperger’s with trolling — cyber-bullying — unfairly vilifies me as a person on the autism spectrum. And the platform afforded Stein by this magazine with a global reach, makes this an especially cruel act of bullying against people who are too-often stigmatized. It underscores the need for mainstream journalists to address disabilities respectfully and accurately.

Without TIME editors’ intervention, my rebuttal of Stein can’t possibly reach everyone who reads his article — and maybe takes away an unfair perception of people on the autism spectrum.

I ask that Stein remember that autistic people often struggle to understand social nuances. We are far more likely to be the TARGETS of bullying than the perpetrators of abuse.

None of the “dark tetrad” of personality traits among self-identifying trolls — “narcissism, psychopathy, Machiavellianism and, especially, sadism” — are characteristics of, or synonyms for, autism. Stein and his editors owe us an apology for this gross mis-characterization.

Submitted as a letter to the editor, TIME magazine

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