Aspies For Freedom, the least free aspie site you have ever seen, first came to SF’s notice by the sudden shock authoritarian takeover it suffered in July 2004.
In the beginning it claimed to be a movement for self expression and advocacy and lobbying for aspies, so that we wouldn’t be spoken for by professionals to our disadvantage. It opened as a forum, intending to grow into “real life” activities from there. But the members were only able to post their thoughts on group democracy, and how there should be no bannings without a democratic process, trustingly without the moderators ever actually implementing them. This was fatal: on July 10 moderator Amy introduced a regime where she could:
- ban at her discretion all further discussion of a topic, at any time, without allowing a member about whom personal comments have been posted since his own last post, to answer them. This constituted AFF libelling members. No forum can operate this way in legal fairness to its members: you can’t start a topic knowing you will be allowed to finish, or to react if topics are edited in misleading ways.
- ban certain members from posting on certain topics, and without even telling the other members so. This was claimed to be for the sake of keeping a “balance” of flowing topics, but it means political manipulation and censorship, and falsely making members look like they have nothing more to say on the topic by choice. This was an experienced event, and AFF members at the time saw that onsite reference to it was not contested by the leaders.
- take moderation decisions like these without allowing members to argue against them onsite. The claimed reason was to prevent arguments developing onsite! That is a dictatorship, with political repression done smarmily behind the scenes.
- have the final say on whether a member has been personally misrepresented or not, again without allowing the member’s arguments to be put onsite.
- decide arbitrarily that some members don’t have to answer any questions about anything they write, but others do.
- agree with a member to discuss a problem in the chatroom at a fixed time, but come that time, hold him to ransom at banning point with the authoritarianism “I’ve made my decision … are you going to accept it? … if you don’t you will have separated yourself from our cause “.
- ban members for expressing an opinion, on another site, of what future policy directions will mean he can or can’t continue to support AFF. Members of proper political movements are allowed to express opinions on their future course, but in this group there are signs onsite of a purge of members. You notice that bannings are not under democratic control after all!
- refuse, with a selfish “I don’t want to get involved”, to solve a personal problem between 2 members offsite in this obviously sensible way: to tell each of them all the ways the other still feels misrepresented, exchange their answers and remove anything mutually offensive from them, then post the agreed final result onsite in a locked topic.
It had shown a pattern of disposing of members’ problems behind the scenes, off the record. It necessitated raising with the spectrum services community a legal alert against any involvement by AFF in advocacy or lobbying, on the reasoned grounds that it is made medically unethical by its social unfairness hence can be expected to hurt those who approach it for help. An immediate start was made on this in Scotland. Wouldn’t you think spectrumites should actually be protected from AFF? It became a ruin in 2 months flat, and it should now be analysed historically as a case study of how freedom movements for any oppressed group go wrong if there is no practically working check on the use of power. Compare it to the loss of freedom in the early Soviet Union, completed by the Kronstadt sailors’ massacre in 1921, after the revolution was launched on a theory of trust in the oppressed group’s better natures and no checks on power had ever been allowed to be introduced.
Aspies often like to generalise that we are more aware of personal fairness than the mob is, but we still can’t all be trusted to be fair characters when given leadership roles. Also, any aspie who knowing these things chooses to remain a participating member of AFF is automatically party to an abuse of the public’s confidence.
In a message board that SF opened for the AFF members at the time of the authoritarian coup, AFF’s Gareth logged in to write a serious libel and to reply sympathetically to an AFF member, and choose to keep him as an AFF member, called Bawbag who writes extremely sinister physically threatening and foul-mouthed messages!! For over a year, a query at the logical implication of sympathy for the violence Bawbag was writing about, sat on SF’s old site. Suddenly only on 29 Sep 05, Gareth on behalf of AFF asked for it to be recorded flatly that they have no sympathy for violent behaviour. About time! There was never any unfair accusation: he allowed his loose words to Bawbag to carry that implication and he should have denied it promptly a year ago. At the same time, Gareth accused that the talk of a “takeover” of AFF was a lie because he and Amy founded AFF. But nothing conflicting with or denying that has been said anywhere. To change the way they ran the site, ending a democratic pooling of ideas where there was no active leadership and putting the leaders’ will in charge on pain of exclusions, is an “authoritarian takeover”.
Meanwhile, on 16 July 2004, within a week of the takeover, AFF closed its original site at a speed that looked like legal panic and opened its present one with less than a third as many members. On July 22 SF reported: take a look at how AFF is being moderated on its new site, and how several users have reacted against their treatment!! Within a few months they had wiped the topic linked to, hence we will keep available the message concerned, here!
On Aug 15 Gareth’s family contacted Spectrum Fairness and made known how AFF’s founders and leaders, Amy (Amber really) Roberts and Gareth Nelson based in North Wales, were a socially divisive pair of lovers aged 34 and 16. The point of a site having several moderators, besides workload, is for them to be fairly unpartisan in their actions. This couple, working together with their shared agenda, obviously never were. So AFF was founded less fairly constituted and under tighter control than any of the original members could tell. It’s all their personal reckless escapade.
The following email has been sitting on SF, published with consent, ever since that time, and it is public insight into where AFF came from:
I have read your bit about the above site and agree with most of what you are saying. What you may not be aware of is the fact that Gareth is our son who quite suddenly left the family home at the age of 16 to live with Amy (34). He turned 17 when he was there and we can’t get him back.
It is destroying the family. In the meantime I have certain traits of the syndrome but at the age of 46 it is impossible for me to be diagnosed as such….
It hurts to be cut off from him by her. e-mails are not responded too.
I am the ogre because I do not understand what is going on.
EXCUSE ME? Do you know of any way we can get him back? Is there anything in the groups that you know who could help us?
Any readers who know of leads that could help him, can still post them on the message board or as comments.
BTW you certainly can be diagnosed AS at 46 or older. At any age, it is best to establish your AS first with a group if you can find one, because understanding of AS is still inadequately spread among psychiatrists, and psychiatrists’ politically abusable power of opinion makes them dangerous to go anywhere near unless you are known to an AS community as mentally healthy before you go to one: then it becomes entirely safe!
- All spectrumites should have nothing to do with the Autistic Pride Day first declared for 18 June 2005, which was AFF’s invention. Pride in dictatorship, pride in telling the world that spectrumites are gullible zombies? No, that’s a con, don’t have anything to do with it. What’s more, if you browse the AFF site to see how they have been discussing promoting this (without any success), you will notice that it’s all about trying to make socially uppitty connections with the NAS and with professors who go around lecturing in favour of prescribing drugs. AFF has COMPLETELY ABANDONED the line it was founded to take, only last year, against the medical establishment!!!!! This is exactly like the ruling pigs in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, when they abandoned “all animals are equal” and made rulers’ deals with the neighbouring human farmers. And of course like the real-life emergence of arrogant elites in communism which Animal Farm was satirising. AFF now only exists as a name for its leaders to use in craving for influence among the same medical toffs as they created AFF to oppose.
- Now, at the date of posting this, AFF’s purging of its stalwart New York based supporter Joe Mele, known in forums as “the AS Man”, shows that it is turning in on itself and devouring its own like extremist or revolutionary movements often do, like Robespierre. It comes a couple of weeks after AFF also purged the founder of its first local group in Australia. If AFF finally collapses because its leaders risibly destroy every AFF initative with any autonomy over its own actions, including every local activity remote from North Wales, then its dozens of purge victims can just watch its nemesis with satisfaction. But we aren’t there yet, and meanwhile AFF’s self-appointed claims to speak for the world’s aspies in an advocacy role, starting Autistic Pride Day and getting in New Scientist, while in reality controlling and hurting aspies, make it really dangerous.
- Yahoo group FAMSecretSociety was a sympathetic spot for anyone who has suffered at AFF’s hands. But it threw away its niceness when host Raven took to an ego trip of trying out a right wing tough love approach, unconsented, on members’ other emotional hurt issues. AFF itself seemed decent in its first month of existence, that’s how the authoritarian takeover was such a sudden abuse of trust towards the early members – but hindsight shows that AFF had always been deceptively under Amy and Gareth’s site control from the beginning.
- When the purged speak their minds on other forums about what has happened to them, any AFF spokesmen present in the same forums have tended to accuse them of mental health conditions and to accuse that their aspieship is fake. These are pretty malicious forms of harrassment. Harrassment is when you follow a person with attacks and slurs, a series of actions, in the places where they are. By comparison, what is not harrassment is for an item to simply sit on a website for a long period, but AFF has regularly called it a harrassment instead of simply replying to it. AFF proved irreversibly how rattled it is, indeed. The aspie public have a consumer right to scrutinise the total lack of ethics of a membership group that claims to be an ambitious global movement for them.
- On 5 Feb 05 Gareth emailed a third party with no responsibility for SF’s content concerning AFF, threatening to sue for libel. These emails were copied onto the old SF site, in our defence and as a form of giving AFF its right to reply – which it hadn’t asked for! It was done with a promise that the emails would be removed at any time at AFF’s demand provided the legal threats in them were withdrawn – this never happened. Publishing the emails made clear to all readers of SF that Gareth denied the truth of everything said about AFF on SF. The emails did not contain any proposed refutation of any of the details, though, while everything on SF was sourced – hence wasn’t libellous. That attempt at threatening was just stupid.
- All was borne out by the comments received, below. Note the first one on being harrassed to 2 other message boards, and the last which shared news of the end: