Thursday, April 28, 2011

Oh Robert MacNeil, some autistic adults would like a word with you

When I had first heard what we can only assume is Robert MacNeil's curtain call, a six-part series where he gets personal for the first time after working in journalism for 50 years, talking about autism, which his grandson Nick has. I have to admit I was willing to put aside any reservations about journalistic integrity in regard to getting personally involved in a story, and asked some friends of mine to watch it, maybe even record it, but after what I had to learn second hand (because I don't subscribe to cable, my choice), I will state that this reinforces the danger of getting personally involved (particularly with your family) with a story. It's a gamble, and it seems he lost.

He lost in a number of ways, first and foremost he brought up the still unproven connection between autism and vaccines (I want to say disproven, but you can't prove a negative). This could be a huge step backward for us. That sector of the anti-science movement may have had new life breathed into it. It brings me to the same issue from yesterday, that long form certificate. Apparently, da Donald is proud of himself. You can be sure that if he is actually speaking the truth, he is speaking only for himself. The rest of the birthers are bitterly disappointed, those who believe that it's the genuine article. The rest/most of them are likely what could be called present-day "refuseniks" ("IT'S A LIE! IT'S A FORGERY!" and so on and so forth). Here is a likely explanation for the birther movement, as loathe as I am to play "the race card". It casts a pall on those of us who seek facts and absolute truth. Of course, one can't be absolutely sure of everything, but can one be absolutely sure of ANYTHING? Does 1 and 1 equal 2 in absolutely all cases?

Back to Robert MacNeil, he does autistic adults a tremendous disservice, Kim Wombles explains that autistic adults have their own set of problems, like high unemployment, reliance on family for support, and an overall lack of reliable services. She also points out that MacNeil didn't even care enough to interview autistic adults who were desperate for a cure, and I'm sure that there are plenty out there. From what I can tell, he simply did not even try to get the perspective of people who are actually on the autism spectrum, and that is probably the worst aspect of his documentary (again, I haven't seen it, feel free to prove me wrong). I'm certain that Mr. MacNeil has done tremendous work for the increasingly rare animal that is responsible, clear journalism (I may even pick up "Breaking News" one day). I'm sure that his body of work was greatly unappreciated, since the old MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour did not fall under the category of "Action" news. I'm also positive that he has done better work, which would be a shame if "Autism Now" were to overshadow everything else that he's done.

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