The right wing of politics has gained huge amounts of ground over recent years. Often right wing politicians jump onto divisive issues like gender and race to anger and attract followers. This has led to many acts of discrimination and hate crime around the world. Muslims’ have suffered a great deal, we’ve now seen Nazi groups popping up in many places, LGBTQ+ people are being oppressed in Russia. This Guardian article https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/aug/23/autistic-anti-vaxxers-fear-neurodiversity-far-right The author of this has Autism and gives a much more personal view of this attitude than I can. In it he discusses how this side of the political spectrum has now jumped onto Autism. In that it is being used for scare tactics to attract the votes of anti-vaxxers. Anti-vaxxers are people who believe that vaccines are the cause of illness in children, particularly in causing the development of Autism. The article covers the Andrew Wakefield scandal which caused this in the first place, where his fake study claimed that the MMR vaccine caused Autism (it was unproven and remains unproven)
I spent many years training support staff to work with people with learning disabilities and Autism and this subject always came up in training, often because I would initiate the conversation to gain the view of the staff I was training. It was important they had facts and that their attitude was supportive of people and not pitying their condition. I was happy to inform many people of the fact that no one had proven the connection between MMR and Autism, and also that Autism isn’t some kind of death sentence. Not vaccinating your children is a potential death sentence.
Vaccines have eradicated many diseases, reduced the occurrence of others and saved many lives. In recent years a huge amount of people have been choosing not to vaccinate their children which has led to a resurgence in diseases like Polio and Whooping Cough which can kill and disable people.
The irony is clear in this story and many people like myself have been doing our part to fight for the truth, or at least to hope people choose based on good information, not the word of a disgraced former doctor.
The worry of right wing politics using this cause has two major problems.
- Demonising people with Autism. This could undo a great deal of positive campaigning and awareness work.
- Causing more people to refuse vaccinations. The concern here is obvious, many children die from horrible diseases unnecessarily.
The right wing has often used misinformation to gain followers, ignorance and denial feed off scapegoating and fear mongering. Autism being sold as some kind of future horror for mankind is a real problem and not one people should be having. It is true that many people don’t understand the condition and this would help, but it is about seeing any difference as wrong. In recent years laws around homosexuality have changed and the focus of the angry far right has moved towards the Transgender community, they’ve been forced to live with gay people, but transgender is a step too far. It does feel like two steps forward one step back…
This is why this use of anti-Autism rhetoric is more dangerous than just children going unvaccinated, it’s a problem for people with Autism and for anyone who is different, any sub group, and any minority.
Remember that differences should be embraced and supported, not feared. Fear of what is different is one of the major causes of conflict between people.