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    [Originally posted in 2010, when the blog was still at weblog.nl]

    My initial fears about the 'worldwide' action Communication Shutdown have been firmly confirmed. It's supposed to simulate what it's like to be autistic and thus generate empathy.... no wait... sympathy.... wait... I think I can translate that for you: pity. And we all know what we should do with pity (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piss_On_Pity).

    Here is what my country's autism society has to say about it:
     

    "De boodschap is als volgt: laten we allemaal één dag wegblijven achter de computer. Of op zijn minst een dag niet met online communicatie bezig zijn. Sociale netwerken via internet, zoals Facebook, Twitter en Hyves, zijn natuurlijk ideaal voor veel mensen met autisme (maar ook zonder autisme) en vaak een prima alternatief voor het echte live-contact waar mensen met autisme vaak zo’n moeite mee hebben. Als we met z’n allen nu eens die ene dag stilstaan bij hoe het is om autisme te hebben en op het gebied van sociale vaardigheden beperkingen te hebben, dan kan het – zo vinden de initiatiefnemers achter Communication Shutdown – naar twee kanten toewerken. Mensen zónder autisme worden zo met de neus op de feiten gedrukt wat het is om autisme te hebben,  en mensen mét autisme worden uitgedaagd om eens uit hun ‘schulp’ te kruipen en die dag echte contacten op te zoeken."
     

    They talk about thinking about what it's like to be autistic for one day. They, and not just our particular organisation but this action to begin with, reduce it to 'social difficulties'. Yeah. 'social difficulties' are not my biggest problem, not even close, thanks. They say the action will show non-autistic people "the facts" and will challenge autistic people to 'come out of their shell and pursue "real" contacts for a day'. I give you just one guess what I have to say about that. Made your guess? Ok: "WTF Goddamn it, FUCK YOU!" That's what I think about that. 1) People on the internet are not my imaginary friends. 2) Yay, more pressure to get us to do what neurotypical people think is 'best for us'. Screw you so much.

    This is what the communication shutdown site says (they also have a video, not subtitled, but the text sort of flashes by, which says pretty much the same thing with slightly more words):

     

    "Can you get by without Facebook or Twitter, just for one day?"
     

    Yeah, because that is, like, SUCH A HARDSHIP! OMG how will they make it through! The suffering!!!!11!1

    Here is a link to their site:
    http://nostereotypeshere.blogspot.com/2010/10/real-communication-shutdown.html

    This action will not teach people anything except maybe the wrong things.
    It's also not really global. You have to have widespread internet connections and social networking sites for this to (not) work in the first place.

    As I've already said before (on my other blog): I'd like an action that might actually have a snowball's chance in hell to even affect me in a marginally positive way: Get people (and I mean more than a handful of people who happen to hear about this action and use the internet regularly) to shut up for a day in meatspace. It's not meant to teach them very special lessons about how much social communication sucks for us, since they're not going to get that anyway. It's meant to give people some actual relief. Better yet: get them to shut off that fucking music they have playing everywhere in stores and public spaces for a day... or forever. It would be a start. Then we'll work on the lighting next.

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    [Originally posted on 9 July 2010, when the blog was on weblog.nl]

    **WARNING! This post contains spoilersfor Mass Effect 2, specifically the DLC Overlord**

    It doesn't happen often anymore.
    I mean, we're all pretty much used to seeing portrayals of autistic people in the media ranging from problematic to godawful.
    But today I encountered one of them that was so bad that I was actually still shocked and angered by it.

    Unfortunately, it is in one of my favourite games by one of my favourite developers (Bioware, who have a reasonable reputation when it comes to accessibility in games, but who pretty much screw up in various amounts every time when it comes to disability portrayal).
    I had installed a newly released DLC: Overlord, and had gotten to the point of playing it.
    At first I kinda liked it even if the story was a bit corny and reminded me of Lawnmower Man. I was actually thinking it was nice to have a Lawnmower Man story without the 'lawnmower guy' being disabled in some way.

    Then I got to the part where the scientist guy named Archer (evil doctor) started talking more about his brother David, on whom they performed the tests (lawnmower character). Turns out the brother is autistic. At first the scientist just mentions it casually in a short recording. Immediately though, I got this sinking feeling in my stomach: "Oh no..."

    And it turns out I was right. The autistic character is every stereotype you've ever heard of; every disablist and disgusting attitude towards us is brought forward as completely natural and reasonable. As you get further along and hear more recordings and see more flashbacks, you see the autistic man doing math in his head out loud (square roots or something) pretty much 24/7 while rocking back and forth, and when anyone so much as says a word he starts screaming that there is too much noise. That is about all we see of the character itself, ANYTHING else we know about the autistic brother is provided by the scientist brother or other secondary characters. He begins by saying how much he will never be able to understand David's brain. How until now he was only a problem to him, but now he might actually be useful! (as a testsubject). Then he reveals him as a maths savant. Goes on to say how well he can get along with the Geth (a machine race) because of being autistic. Then he likens him to an alien. Later on he says he's basically nothing more than a human computer, which is why he can effortlessly understand and speak the Geth language (and also because of maths) and give them orders and stuff. He states the brother will probably enjoy being hooked up to the Geth interface (like their hive mind).

    Then he of course hooks him up, with no consent asked or given, because of course an autistic man is not actually an adult, or even really a human being. He has no opinions and is completely passive. Then of course the brother goes berserk and kills tonnes of people with his Geth. In the end you can free him, rescue him with pity and all and have him shipped off to some institution with a nice name. Or you can even leave him there to be tested on further, because you know, it's just one of 'those people.'

    The biggest problem is that it's very clear that it's not a criticism where only his scientist brother regards him that way - who is clearly evil - and other characters view him differently. It's clear that other characters feel the same way and/or pity him. What's more, it's clear that this is the way the developers/writers feel too. It shines through everywhere.

    I sent an e-mail through the EA customer service, which seems to be the only way to reach them, if you can reach them at all through there. The other option would be posting about it on the forums, where then hopefully maybe a moderator would see it AND pass it on to the devs (if they can even do that), and the forums are a cesspit of intolerance and every kind of -ism you can imagine, and I apologise, but I just can't carry the responses I know I'd get right now, so I'm not posting there.

    I would like to ask people, especially people who have also played the DLC or at least Mass Effect 2, to also write to them or contact them about this issue by any means they can find and are willing to use. You might even be able to address Bioware's other issues with disabled and traumatised characters in the same go (I managed to mention them shortly, my letter was already very long).

    Crossposted to my other blog.

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