There is a controversy happening at present around a discussion event billed to be held in Edinburgh by the Ragged University project. This is a project for grassroots community education by sharing of personal learning insights; “everyone is a ragged university.” It works democratically by having folks give talks with discussion. Personally built up knowledge can also be written about on its website.
Key point is that there is discussion. The talks are not speakers from on high coming and laying the law down. Nor does what they say have the authority of being the project’s view – it’s always just their own view, their own perceived coming from their own learning. SO IT IS NOTHING AT ALL LIKE the cases where a big name speaker comes touring in to give an offensive speech that a targetted population group have no access to answer.
An effort is happening, to do that dictatorial PC practice of no-platforming, to a proposed talk about a rather wacky medical theory about autism. To lobby every venue that gets gets booked to hold it, to cancel and disown it.
Certainly the speaker’s ideas, written as if all autism was non-verbal! don’t match at all the lived experience of verbal able autistics, and our history going back way before modern medicine and including Isaac Newton as one of us. A conspiracy theory attributing autism’s existence to aberrant medicine and appearing to believe it has only existed since the 1970s! – does not match at all the scene’s experience at all levels of ability: after all it was exactly the more severe levels of autism that were known from long before that. Folks affected and their families are entitled to find the theory insulting. But that reaction, itemising the idea’s demerits, can be given in reply to it, both in website posts and in discussion. When given at a grassroots level, not by some remote big speaker, it can be replied to and discussed and autistic experiences not matching it can be pointed out. The discussion process itself is educative. So, to try to gag the talk from ever being given at all, is not educative or democratic.
Ragged University has several writings by aspies on its site. It is very clearly visibly not anti-autistic. It has been treated with sinister undemocratic hooliganism, by the arrogance of a few folks, on hearing of the controversy from peers, acting spontaneously self-prompted to hunt RU from venue to venue! to prevent it from holding this discussion, which as a result will be held in a park – THAT ACTION DOES NOT SPEAK FOR ALL AUTISTICS.
It creates the democratic problem of who should have the power to inflict the gagging or draw the lines of offence against what can be discussed? Law against direct incitement to hate already sets a line against talks that would do that. That is the answer to anyone who argues, would we then have to allow talks on fascistic theories about race? Hate is socially excluding and hence anti-democratic. Short of hate, excluding ideas becomes anti-democratic, because works against the accountability and analysis of ideas.
One poster against allowing this talk suggested effectively that talks should be vetted for being scientific before they are allowed. The loudest voices against spiritual/paranormal types of idea often want scientific vetting of what is allowed to be heard: but exactly that is not scientific, it places establishment science cult-like beyond challenge and turns it into doctrine exactly like a religion.
Some of the folks trying to prevent this talk had no ethical problem with observing Autistic Pride Day, which is directly associated with hate. As all followers of this site will know well, Autistic Pride Day was invented by a movement that treated many autistics hatefully, and whose leaders started out with a line against harmful medicine but rapidly betrayed that line and proudly made connections themselves with medical voices in favour of drugging us. So what do you make of being okay with Autistic Pride Day with its hateful background, but trying to censor a grassroots discussion event where wacky ideas about autism can be answered and their demerits said in discussion?
4 Jul 2018