I was so angry when I heard his comments, that I decided to listen to his show to find out who sponsors him, so I can let them know just what sort of nastiness their advertising dollars support. My hope is that they withdrawal their support, and he loses his radio presence.
I'm going to parse his comments here, because Savage didn't just pick on children with autism, but on several groups at the same time:
"Now you want me to tell you my opinion on autism, since I'm now talking about autism? A fraud. A racket."
Did Michael Savage ever see the movie, "Rain Man"? Dustin Hoffman's character, Ray, was an autistic savant. Hoffman's research for the character was based on a real person, Kim Peek.
Autism manifests itself in many ways, with varying severity and ability to function. With my daughter, it's hand-flapping (diminished with therapy), spinning and watching objects spin, inappropriate play, inappropriate reactions to questions, an aversion to wet foods, sensitivity to certain noises, and obsessing about music and musical instruments. She also fits the profile of a hyperlexic, which means that she could read before she could speak, but didn't comprehend it, and probably won't for another year. She was mostly non-verbal until she was two, and she still doesn't have conversations, though she can sing whole songs, repeat whole passages from videos she has seen, and communicate her wants and needs to us.
Caitlin was less than a year old when my wife, Heather, noticed that something wasn't quite right, and she was around fifteen months when it really became noticeable to everyone else. She'd been developing normally, then she stopped. She didn't babble like other kids, stayed in her own little world, hand-flapped when she was excited, wouldn't make much eye contact or respond to her name...there were all sorts of clues. Autism only came up after our own extensive research, and an exhaustive pursuit of a correct diagnosis. I searched through peer-reviewed research on autism, used diagnosis surveys that the doctors used, and had her go through tests with professionals. There is no doubt that my daughter has Pervasive Development Disorder, which is on the autism spectrum. There is also no doubt that when I go to her preschool, the children I encounter there have autism, as well.
While there may be people out there trying to scam parents of children with autism, Savage isn't going after them. He's not using his radio presence to help protect parents from unscrupulous opportunists with snake oil cures. Instead, he attacks the parents and the children. First, however, he goes after racial/ethnic minorities:
"For a long while we were hearing that every minority child has asthma. Why was there an asthma epidemic among minority children? Because...I'll tell you why: the children got extra welfare if they were disabled, and they got extra help in school. It was a money racket. Everyone went in was told [sic] cough-cough-cough. When the nurse looks at you, go cough-cough-cough, 'I don't know, the dust got me.' See, everyone had asthma from the minority community. That was number one."
There's a whole lot going on here. Savage states as fact that "we" were hearing how every minority child has asthma. Really? When was that? I don't recall it. He's a lot older than I am, so maybe it was a few decades ago, but my suspicion is that he made it up out of whole cloth.
As far as children getting extra welfare if they had disability is concerned, it's not as simple as telling the government that your child has a disability, or faking a few coughs (does this guy know anyone with asthma?) in front of the school nurse. And where is he getting the idea that asthmatics get extra help in school? I knew three kids with asthma through my school years, and not one of them received special academic treatment for their condition. They did get permission to skip certain activities in gym class, but that's about it.
What's most disgusting about the claim Michael Savage is making is that black and Puerto Rican children in New York, for example, die six times more often than white children with asthma. Black children have asthma at a thirteen percent higher rate than whites, and Puerto Rican children have it twenty percent more often. You might be able to put something over on a school nurse once in awhile (I simulated a contagious rash when I was in sixth grade by having a friend slap me on the arms, and was sent home for it), but hospitalization and death for serious asthma attacks? That's quite another matter. Equally disconcerting are the facts that Savage is implying that the entire minority community is on welfare, and that they are all dishonest enough to have their children fake a medical condition. Savage's assertion here is racist to its core.
Savage returns to autism at this point:
"Now, the illness du jour is autism."
I'm not going to give Michael Savage an inch here. As someone with sponsors, as someone who bills himself as trained in science, as someone with a national platform from which to speak, he should know better than to speak before he researches something. For the rest of the people out there, I have to forgive this line of thinking a little (though intellectual laziness is one of my pet peeves). In this day and age of rampant pharmaceutical advertising, we hear about diseases that just don't sound like diseases. I'm highly skeptical of restless leg syndrome, for example, and I think irritable bowel syndrome could have a dietary treatment--though I am not going to pretend to be a neurologist or gastroenterologist and tell you for certain that these issues aren't valid medical conditions. I definitely don't know enough about them to get onto a nationally-syndicated radio show and label them fraudulant. If I ever found myself with either of these conditions, I'd do extensive research and seek medical treatment.
In any case, when my wife first suggested that autism might be what's different about our daughter, my reaction was to be skeptical. I knew what classic autism was, but the autism spectrum seemed to include far too great a range of behaviors to be under one category. However, I was focused on the differences and not the things children with autism share in common. It was a friend, Angie, who put things into perspective. She said, "Think of the range that is considered 'normal'. Think about how broad that is, then add autism." It made total sense, and once I began looking at it from that perspective, I saw the common traits, seeing the differences in my child as the differences any child should have from another.
The recent surge in autism diagnoses has several possible explanations: vaccine preservatives (thimerosal), older parents, better diagnosis techniques...but to say that it's the illness of the day is to imply the possession of knowledge about autism and examples of fraudulant diagnosis. If Savage has such evidence of fraud, I'd love to see him produce it.
Savage: "You know what autism is? I'll tell you what autism is in ninety-nine percent of the cases."
I want to know what research Michael Savage has done or has seen that gives him authority to speak on ninety-nine percent of autism cases.
Savage: "It's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out. That's what autism is."
I'd say what's really on my mind, but I'm trying to keep this particular post PG. My kid's not a brat. She's not spoiled, she's disciplined as well as she can be without actually being able to have a meaningful conversation, and she doesn't act up all that much. She's a happy child, a silly child, a child with a love for music, swimming, family, words, and numbers, and yes, occasionally, she acts up. Has she been told to cut the act out? She has been told to cut it out, but she's not acting. She truly becomes uncomfortable and frightened in situations where there is a lot of noise and crowds--if it's a new place. She's fine in the mall or a familiar restaurant, but not in an unfamiliar restaurant or a party. A neurotypical "brat" can tell you what is setting him/her off; with a child with autism, it could be just about anything, and they often can't tell you in the "normal" way. It's frustrating, embarassing (more for my wife than for me), and hard on a marriage. The vast majority of the time, my child with autism is not a "brat", by any stretch of the imagination, and I don't appreciate the attack on my child.
Savage: "What do you mean, 'They scream and they're silent."
Wow, what a wonderful clinical definition of autism. Bravo, Savage. You really hit the nail on the head.
Smell the sarcasm?
Some scream, some flap their hands, some spin, some bang their heads against the wall, some have obsessive-compulsive behaviors, some line things up incessantly, some are completely non-verbal, some obsess with letters and numbers, many make little or no eye contact, most won't respond to their names when called; most are combinations of a lot of these characteristics. Seizures are common. Some are extremely picky eaters. There is a whole range of behaviors and developmental differences unique to children with autism. "What do you mean, "They scream and then they're silent?" What a flagrant display of naked ignorance and intellectual laziness.
Savage: "They don't have a father around to tell them, 'Don't act like a moron. You'll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz. Straighten up. Act like a man. Don't sit there crying and screaming, idiot."
Way to attack the mothers and the kids at the same time, there, Savage. If the father is around, like I am, the implication is that his parenting skills are lacking as well.
There's so much packed into this insult. The first implication is that autism is the result of single mothers raising children. If there's no father around, we're talking about children of single mothers, right? There's no autism; it's just that single mothers aren't doing an adequate job raising their children. That's the message we're suppose to ascertain here, isn't it?
When I heard this part of the audio, I had to ask the question, "Does Michael Savage have children?" Other than the "Straighten up" part, and, arguably--though not applicable to my daughter--the "Act like a man" part, what Savage is suggesting fathers say to their children is nothing short of verbal assault--and on a child with autism. For Savage's information, since I have a daughter with autism, I have heard parents speak this way to their children, and it doesn't work. You can scream till you're blue in the face, and you'll end up looking like the moron/putz/idiot, because in the end, you'll still have an inconsolable, screaming child. Savage may or may not suggest smacking a child, but I know of parents who have been there, too. I'm against corporal punishment for my own reasons, not the least of which is that I've never heard of it actually working on neurotypical kids, other than anecdotally, let alone children with autism. It's a great way to have your child end up fearing you and withdrawing into isolation, which will only hinder progress--if not halting it entirely--and turn the child into an adult who can't function well in society.
Back to the part about whether Savage actually has children: yes, he has two. They're grown. His son founded a company and his daughter is its CFO. Only they can speak for how well they were raised. Whatever the case, I don't have to verbally assault my daughter to discipline her when she does something she knows is wrong. I simply show her what she did wrong, show what is correct, and I move on. Eye contact is essential--and we had to work hard on the eye contact at first. Now, I have no problem getting it. Most of the time, my daughter listens, and I'm lucky--it wasn't always that way. It doesn't change the fact that I need to put her through expensive therapy to help her with her developmental delays, which are mostly related to social skills, especially conversation. I wish Savage knew the pain of a father who can't have a conversation with his child, not because she's being a brat, but because she's unable to understand the concept of meaningful, two-way verbal exchange. She's progressing, but it's still going to take work. Imagine all of those parents out there who can't pay for therapy.
Savage: "Autism--everybody has an illness. If I behaved like a fool, my father called me a fool. And he said to me, 'Don't behave like a fool. Don't be anybody's dummy. Don't sound like an idiot. Don't act like a girl. Don't cry.' That's what I was raised with. That's what you should raise your children with. Stop with the sensitivity training."
Ah, yes, and you turned out so well, didn't you, Michael? Attacking children with autism and their parents makes you into a real man, doesn't it? Since I began researching this guy so I can do something about him, I've found that he attacks women, homosexuals, liberals (or, rather, a caricature he draws of liberals), minorities, immigrants, protesters, Muslims, and anyone else who happens to draw his derision on a given day. He cites very few facts and makes very few valid points, as far as I can tell, but I'm only going on the one show I've listened to so far and the transcripts of the several shows where he's attacked all the groups I've mentioned. Looks like he didn't take his father's advice about acting like a fool or sounding like an idiot.
By the way, my father wasn't a wimpy guy by any stretch of the imagination. My brother was still of the opinion that my dad could kick his butt well into adulthood. He did go negative a bit like Savage's father, but he also taught me positive things: family cohesion, hard work, loyalty, perseverance, and self-reliance. One thing he'd never do is call my daughter with autism a moron, putz, or idiot. He used to say to me, "You're so smart, but you're so goddamn dumb," when I did something of which he didn't approve (acknowledging my academic prowess, but pointing out a moment of perceived stupidity or momentary lapse in common sense), but where my daughter is concerned, he recognizes that there are issues that can't be addressed in the same manner in which he addressed his kids. He tells me that my daughter will come along if we work hard with her and get her therapy. Where's the disconnect with Savage? Oh, yeah--my dad has actually seen a child with autism. Michael Savage hasn't.
Savage: "You're turning your son into a girl, and you're turning your nation into a nation of losers and beaten men. That's why we have the politicians we have."
Using "girl" as an insult here aside (Savage says diragatory things about women all the time), is Michael Savage really blaming parents of children with autism for the state of affairs in this country? I think he was broadening the subject here to include all parents who don't verbally assault their children, but the connection between this statement and autism only exists in the mind of Michael Savage, and perhaps people who think like him.
I wouldn't have posted this piece without suggesting some course of action, because I absolutely can't stand giving people like Michael Savage any undue attention. However, he allegedly has around ten million listeners, and, while we may or may not be able to reach them or change their minds, we can spread awareness of what autism really is, and, in the meantime, we can hit Savage in the wallet.
Some people have suggested complaining to the FCC. If someone can point out something Savage did to violate FCC regulations, by all means, take this course of action. I seriously doubt you'll find such a violation.
Some people have suggested to simply change the channel, and not to listen to Savage. I agree. Don't listen to Michael Savage. I'll do it for you so I can contact his advertisers and you can do the same. However, he already has dedicated listeners. As I've mentioned, he ranks only behind Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity among right-wing talkers. I only listened to his show last Friday for the first time because I wanted to find out who sponsors it. During that show, he disparaged anyone who wanted to see the new Batman movie, he called Heath Ledger a junkie, and he called anyone who wanted to visit a Presidential library a "yokel". Most of his rants were pointless and rambling; it's a stream-of-consciousness style that sort of meanders without any meaningful structure.
In any case, Savage has listeners, and some, maybe even most, agree with him. These people vote, and they talk with other people who vote. We may or may not be able to reach the listeners of Michael Savage, but through education of enough people, we can relegate those who think like Savage or follow his lead to the lunatic fringe, where they belong.
The more imporant thing we can do is make his advertisers aware of what Michael Savage is saying, and let them know that as consumers or potential consumers, we would be less likely to buy from them if they continue to support such disparaging speech. For those who say that this sort of pursuit sounds like censorship and is contrary to the First Amendment, please understand that freedom of speech does not translate into freedom to say anything you want on the radio, because that freedom is dependent completely on who will pay for you to stay on the air. Remember also that every time you go to Home Depot, or you buy insurance from Geico, or you use Gold Bond Medicated products, or you use Wachovia Bank, some small part of your money is supporting Michael Savage's venemous speech.
Furthermore, Savage is representing the radio network of which he is a part. What he says is a reflection of that network, and they should act accordingly. Do they support such speech? It's not just offensive; if all it did was offend me, I wouldn't have written this post. What Michael Savage is saying actually can hinder efforts to obtain funding for autism research and for special needs classes children with autism attend in our public schools. It can damage parents emotionally if the people around them treat them the same way Savage did on the air, and they can't change the channel in these cases.
If Savage can find enough funding to remain on the air after his major sponsors drop him, all we can do is educate the public as much as possible, which we should be doing anyway. In the meantime, here is a list of his sponsors and their websites:
Digital Media Inc., U.S.A.: http://dmiusa.com/
Nevada State Corporate Network, Inc.: http://www.nscn.com/
Roger Schlesinger, the Mortgage Minute Guy: http://mortgageminuteguy.com/
Home Depot: http://www.homedepot.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ContentView?pn=Contact_Us&langId=-1&storeId=10051&catalogId=10053
Gold Bond: http://www.goldbond.com/
FreshStart America: http://www.freshstartamerica.com/
Heritage Foundation: http://www.heritage.org/
Breakpoint: [Link removed; see "Breakpoint Responds Re: Michael Savage]
Debt Consultants of America (snail mail and phone number listings): http://www.dallas.com/debt-consultants-of-america-incorporated-b23046351
DirectBuy: http://www.directbuy.com/ [See "Directbuy.com Responds Re: Michael Savage"]