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Alek Minassian incels mass killing

Alek Minassian is using autism as an excuse for his murderous van attack — much as his fellow incels use it as an excuse for their hateful beliefs

Autism made him do it?

Self-identified incel Alek Minassian is currently on trial in Canada for the van attacks that killed ten in Toronto in 2018. His defense? That his autism made him do it, leaving him not criminally responsible for the killings.

One of the psychiatrists testifying on his behalf argued that his thinking was so distorted by “extreme autism” that he was virtually psychotic. The other argued that Minassian was so lacking in empathy he was unable to understand that what he did was wrong.

There are several problems with these arguments. For one thing, autism is not remotely the same as psychosis. For another, despite Minassian’s lack of empathy — a trait shared by many violent criminals — he made it clear in interviews with the two experts that he does indeed know the difference between right and wrong. It seems unlikely that the defense’s logic will convince the judge trying the case.

More broadly, the “autism defense” is distressing because it essentially throws every law-abiding autistic person under the bus, suggesting some sort of innate connection between autism and acts of extreme violence that simply doesn’t exist. As Autism Canada has pointed out in a response to the defense’s arguments, autistic people are far more likely to be the victims of violence rather than the perpetrators.

In an essay on the case, autism activist Sarah Kurchak wrote

The lingering idea that autism alone can make a person violent and dangerous, and the idea that autistic people can’t experience empathy—and that those who don’t experience empathy are dangerous and incapable of caring about others in alternative ways—affects everything from the way that people treat us socially, to our employment prospects, to whether we are able to access autism testing and services at all.

Reading about the Minassian trial, I’m struck by the similarities between his lawyers’ arguments and the ways in which Minassian’s fellow incels also use autism as an excuse for their own foul ideology.

Many incels claim to be autistic, or at least on the spectrum, though it’s hard to know how many of these people are legit and how many are self-diagnosed pretenders. And while it’s likely that the social awkwardness that tends to come with autism has led to romantic difficulties for some incels, autism doesn’t explain or excuse their adoption of a hateful, misogynistic set of beliefs, or the cheering on of mass killers like Minassian and incel “saint” Elliot Rodger, or the acts of outright harassment of women and girls that some incels indulge in.

Just as there is nothing inherent in autism that led to Minassian’s rampage, there is nothing inherent in autism that leads to the so-called “Black Pill.” Pretending there is some innate connection is an insult to the overwhelming majority of autistic people, who are as horrified by incels as the rest of us.

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Joe Klemmer
Joe Klemmer
1 month ago

This kind of rubbish is infuriating. As someone on the Spectrum who’s dealt with simply trying to make it through everyday human interactions without being looked at as a freak, these hate filled scum do nothing but make life hell for us. (Yes, I’m cranky)

Naglfar
Naglfar
1 month ago

As an autistic person, let me be the first to say, fuck Alek Minassian and fuck anyone else who uses autism as an excuse for terrorism or hatred in any form.

A couple things I would add:

For another, despite Minassian’s lack of empathy — a trait shared by many violent criminals — he made it clear in interviews with the two experts that he does indeed know the difference between right and wrong.

AFAIK lacking empathy has nothing to do with autism, I and every other autistic person I’ve ever known has a normal or above normal capacity for empathy.

As for knowing right from wrong, IIRC autistic people are more likely to be moral (though hard to tell because every study on us tries to position us as evil and inhuman regardless of the results).

though it’s hard to know how many of these people are legit and how many are self-diagnosed pretenders

One quick note on this: since for many people it’s hard to get a diagnosis (especially for AFAB autistic people or autistic PoC), I don’t think all self diagnosed autistic people should be written off as invalid. That said, I would imagine most incels who argue this are doing so in bad faith, and regardless, autism does not make someone a misogynist. If anything, all the autistic people I know are more progressive and against incel beliefs (though there may be a selection bias here).

Mrs. Obed Marsh
Mrs. Obed Marsh
1 month ago

I agree with most of this – lawyers and others who use the autism defense for violent criminals, or defend caregivers who murder their disabled charges as “mercy killers,” spread dangerous misconceptions about what it’s like to be disabled. I wish they’d sit down and let us neurodivergent people talk.
I do quibble with the implication that self-diagnosed people are “pretenders.” While I can’t prove it, anecdotal evidence I’ve seen from Autistic Twitter leads me to think most self-diagnosed people are right about themselves, but aren’t able to access a professional diagnosis from a clinician who is knowledgable about autism. In an ideal world every neurodivergent person would get the diagnosis they need to access necessary support, but in the real world there’s a lot of barriers to proper diagnosis – racial, cisheterosexist, monetary, educational, etc.
But even if there is an epidemic of fraudulent autists, that’s not as important to me as autistic people getting the supports and acceptance we need. If normalizing neurodivergence and support for neurodivergent people means some people get accommodations they don’t need,* that’s an acceptable consequence for me.

*To be clear: by “accommodations” for autistic people, I of course do not mean “permission to be bigoted or violent without anybody criticizing you or pushing back.” That is, and should be, unacceptable. I mean things like quiet rooms, talk pads, and fidget toys. I think that’d be great for all autistic people, and even a lot of non-autistic people!

E: Argh, Nalfgar, you’re too fast! You beat me!

Last edited 1 month ago by Mrs. Obed Marsh
Anon Get-It-On
Anon Get-It-On
1 month ago

I’m glad you made it clear that most people with autism don’t do these things. To ad further autism is not considered a pathology the way sociopathy or psychopathy. I don’t mean to be critical but I think you made a small mistake when you referred to psychosis. I think you meant to say psychopathy. Psychosis is a state and psychopathy is a pathology. Sorry if I am beating a dead horse here.

I was going to leave some links to some things a very bad man, Matt Forney has said about autistic people. But since the last links I left upset people I think I will not leave links for awhile.

Banananananana dakry: still fat and deranged
Banananananana dakry: still fat and deranged
1 month ago

As someone with friends on the spectrum present and past? Who might be on it herself? Fuck this guy sideways with a rusty cactus.

Last edited 1 month ago by Banananananana dakry: still fat and deranged
SpecialFrog
SpecialFrog
1 month ago

Isn’t the whole notion that autistic people lack empathy and / or theory of mind discredited at this stage?

From what I’ve read of the trial that seems to be this alleged expert’s basis for his claim.

Does this expert also believe in refrigerator parents?

Crip Dyke
1 month ago

AFAIK lacking empathy has nothing to do with autism, I and every other autistic person I’ve ever known has a normal or above normal capacity for empathy.

That is my understanding as well. It can be hard to read others’ emotions and thus it can sometimes be hard to know what to empathize with, that’s no different from any other high-empathy person who happens to one day find themselves in a context where they aren’t close to the people and don’t yet understand a sub/culture’s rules.

In fact, it’s often the same situation neurotypical people find themselves in when interacting with atypical folks. That doesn’t mean that neurotypicals have no empathy.

The whole thing is a crock.

weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee
weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee
1 month ago

My brother is legit one of the kindest people I know and I get so pissed off when people pull this autistic people don’t feel empathy shit.

.45
.45
1 month ago

On a related but somewhat more lighthearted topic, I wonder how many autistic folks I run into daily and don’t know it.

The only one I know of for sure recently is a friend of one of my sisters I have spoken to a couple of times over Skype (thanks Covid). I wasn’t aware she was autistic until much later. Merely thought she was nice, intelligent, and a little weird. (She won brownie points with me for liking a TV show I do as well. ;D)

gijoel
gijoel
1 month ago

Arsepergers syndrome: Falsely claiming to be autistic in order to avoid the consequences of their arsehole behaviour. See; Don Burke, etc.

Last edited 1 month ago by gijoel
Naglfar
Naglfar
1 month ago

@.45

I wonder how many autistic folks I run into daily and don’t know it.

Probably many, by most estimates we make up somewhere around 1.6%-2% of the population (probably significantly more given the lack of diagnoses).

Mish of the Catlady Ascendancy

Every time someone uses mental illness to excuse horrendous behaviour, it’s like a punch in the heart. I imagine it must feel similar for autistic folks, seeing this news about Minassian. Not that he – or any incel – would care, but this kind of BS causes so much pain for people, and no doubt feeds right into ongoing mistreatment and discrimination.
So angry right now…

.45
.45
1 month ago

@Naglfar

Hmmmm… well… might be closer than I think.

I just looked up signs and symptoms of autism. Now, I’m not going to make any claims or anything here, but in the space of reading a few articles, I noticed that I: Danced across the kitchen side to side on the balls of my feet, flapped my hands by holding them in the limp wristed postion and rotating my forearms rapidly, wrung my hands several times, and rubbed my stomach and hands repeatedly. None of this is new to me, and represents some of my usual agitated behavior when I know I am alone and no-one is watching. (I didn’t mutter any of my weird catchphrases involving Star Trek that I do sometimes. Note that I often do this kind of thing at work in the stockroom when I am “freaking out about nothing” as some coworkers say.)

Got any opinions on that?

Naglfar
Naglfar
1 month ago

@Mish

I imagine it must feel similar for autistic folks, seeing this news about Minassian.

Exactly. I remember when I first saw the headline a couple weeks ago that this was the defense being used, I just got this feeling of déjà vu. People talk about this whenever there’s any sort of incident like this, and it’s exhausting each time to repeat the same bits about how we’re not murders, we have empathy, etc etc.

@.45

Got any opinions on that?

I’m not a medical professional, so I can’t give a formal diagnosis, but a lot of what you’re describing sounds very reminiscent of things I’ve done or that my friends who are also autistic have done. For instance, a number of those seem like stimming behaviors, which are very common aspects of autism. TL;DR is you may be autistic. If you are, welcome to the club.

A few other questions if you don’t mind (and maybe a few other autistic folks on here have some other ones I didn’t list):

  • When you think, do you think mostly or heavily in images? (this one isn’t in any official diagnostic texts that I know of, but almost every autistic person I’ve talked to does this)
  • Do you walk on your toes a lot?
  • Are you overly averse to certain textures, for instance of clothing?
  • Do you have very focused areas of interest that you try to know everything about?
  • Do you dislike unprompted or unexpected physical touch?

These are all things that I and other autistic people report, so I’m curious if any apply to you.

.45
.45
1 month ago

@Naglfar

Alright. Hope you are OK with a wall of text.

Hmmm… I am a visual learner and frequently respond to coworkers asking things like “So, I’m in the home screen, if I want to look at my paycheck, what blah blah blah” with “I don’t know unless it is in front of me and I am looking at it.” Also, it is rare and interesting to me whenever I actually remember dialogue from dreams, while the visuals stick with me.

However, when I visualize things in my mind, they frequently do not accurately reflect reality. For example, I tend to think of roads as flat and straight, only to note when driving down them that they are curved and hilly. Dunno if this means anything, but I have trouble with faces, judging ages, heights, etc.

I mostly only walk on my toes when I am barefoot, and then only some of the time, particularly when I move quickly (I imagine I resemble Saru from Star Trek: Discovery when I do this).

As I frequently went barefoot as a child I assumed this was simply habit, as walking or running heel first on, say, gravel, is not fun. Still, sometimes I dance back and forth on the balls of my feet even when wearing shoes. I feel like the important point is that oftentimes I do it when I am agitated, especially when in shoes?

Not especially bothered by clothing textures. I often rub my hands on different things and clothes on purpose because of the feel. Now, wooden spoons and popsicle sticks are another story, but I think that is a common complaint. ;D

For areas of interests, yes and no. I tend to focus on something for a while, then move on to something else. Periods can range from days to years, subjects vary. While interested I tend to end up knowing a lot more than the average person, but never commit to it enough to become an expert. Usually end up knowing lots of things about the subject, buying lots of materials and gear for it, without actually practicing the skills much. Guess that makes me something of a poser.

As for touch… sadly, not too many people want to touch me. I feel awkward with hugs and whatnot, but have attributed this to not being touched much in my life. I would like this to change, but have failed to make the necessary advances for anything to happen. I would expect things to be very awkard, but like I said, rather inexperienced in this area. Most of my touching has been in martial arts classes, which didn’t bother me too much, as it was expected and didn’t leave me feeling like I might be doing something wrong.

Mrs. Obed Marsh
Mrs. Obed Marsh
1 month ago

@ .45

Like Nalfgar, I am not qualified to give a diagnosis, but it sure sounds like you might be autistic to me!

I like to recommend this book, Welcome to the Autistic Community pretty much every chance I get. It’s for autistic people, people who think they might be autistic, and non-autistic people who want to be better allies. It’s written in plain language and is available as a free PDF or ePub. Check it out! https://autisticadvocacy.org/book/welcome-to-the-autistic-community/

Last edited 1 month ago by Mrs. Obed Marsh
Sharl
Sharl
1 month ago

~waves both middle fingers at this jackass idea~ me and my autistic hyperempathy both say ‘fuck yoooouuuuu’

.45
.45
1 month ago

I also want to say thank you to everyone here. I have been having a lot of trouble this year, and posting here has been a bit of a desperate attempt to become part of some community. My coworkers are not terrible people, some of them are quite friendly with me, but ultimately I am stressed out at work and not there to socialize. It is nice to have someone pay attention to me and I really appreciate that.

Also, it just occurred to me that the reason I have arch supports in my shoes is because the Redwings salesperson noticed when I stand casually, I do so with much of my weight forward on the balls of my feet.

This tends to scrunch my toes together and has led to joint pain. The arch supports seem to do exactly as the salesperson promised, and even out my weight in my shoes, keep the shoe settled and my toes further back. So, if this toe walking thing really is a big deal…

Naglfar
Naglfar
1 month ago

@.45
A lot of what you’re saying makes it sound like you’re autistic. So while I still can’t formally diagnose you, it definitely appears that you are one of us. Welcome.

Re: walking and shoes
It’s interesting you mention heel walking, I personally tend to walk on my toes but I would imagine that it would also be just as possible for an autistic person to predominantly use their heels.

I also want to say thank you to everyone here. I have been having a lot of trouble this year, and posting here has been a bit of a desperate attempt to become part of some community.

Well, we’re glad to have you here.

AdamMurphy
AdamMurphy
1 month ago
  • Naglfar:: “When you think, do you think mostly or heavily in images? (this one isn’t in any official diagnostic texts that I know of, but almost every autistic person I’ve talked to does this)

Okay so after years of lurking, this is what finally gets me to speak up here. Also autistic, and I don’t. I don’t visualize, I don’t think in images at all. My mind’s eye is completely blind. I think in words, I process in words. Haaa, I dream in words, although that is really hard to explain, and okay oddly it is there I might finally have ‘images’ in that I dream of reading and then I can ‘see’ the words. But tell me to picture something, and I have nothing but blankness. When I have creative/project ideas, that’s words/thoughts…idk, maybe ‘feelings’ for what I want it to result as, but never images. It took me decades to understand people actually meant visualize this or picture that. I always thought it was just another figure of speech, and I had those down pretty well after reading many entire dictionaries of those when I was a child.

Or maybe I am being too literal? (Also a Thing of our people, of course.)

I lack empathy, too. In general, and in a more traditional autistic sense of not being able to process what people want/expect from me in that regard, or of needing to find a way to rework it to where I can get it, only to be punished for it. But I manage sort of an intellectual empathy, especially through reading and written interactions. I think that supports (for me) what you were saying (paraphrase all mine) about autistic people frequently having such a keen, very black and white sense of right and wrong. Even if it makes NTs uncomfortable.

I’ve also managed to develop quite a spectrum of shades of grey in some of my very black and white thinking. Mostly for good instead of evil. But, okay fine, discomfiting NTs has become more and more enjoyable as I get older.

(Note: this is not my usual go-to internet ‘nym, but there are reasons I can’t use that currently; I needed something to make this comment, so going with it for now. I guess I am sort of non-binary, and I know the nym skews male, so I don’t care what pronouns are used in reply.)

Paireon
Paireon
1 month ago

I’m on the spectrum and while that loathsome waste of ontological existence inspires violent impulses in me, I’m civil enough not to actually act on them. It’s called the social contract. The vast majority of people can understand and respect it.

And “extreme autism”!? Seriously!? Fuck that asshole quack shrink, I’ve seen enough fellow people on the spectrum to know that if his autism was strong enough that he couldn’t be held criminally responsible for his actions, he wouldn’t have been able to commit, much less plan them – more extreme cases from what I’ve seen are far too detached from the real world, and often need a guardian to accompany them whenever they go out because the outside world can confuse and frighten them.

Minassian didn’t do this because he’s autistic. He did this because whatever condition he has, he went all the way down the rabbit hole and let his own foibles and hatreds (plus those of rampant ranting randos on the intarwebs) turn him into a sociopath*.

*NOTE: Not a qualified psychologist/psychiatrist/therapist, but the shitnozzle looks like he’s got all the traits of antisocial personality disorder down pat, so if the shoe fits…

Last edited 1 month ago by Paireon
Mrs. Obed Marsh
Mrs. Obed Marsh
1 month ago

The defense’s use of the term “extreme autism” for someone who doesn’t seem to have a speech impairment and was able to handle a university curriculum shows just how meaningless labels like “high/low functioning” or “mild/severe autism” really are. They’re based on the observer’s subjective judgment of how “not normal” someone appears to be. There’s a huge amount of variability in autistic people’s abilities and impairments, not only from autistic person to autistic person, but sometimes even within the same person over time. (For example, I and many other “high functioning” autistic people have the skill of masking, or pretending to be non-autistic, but the stress of maintaining our masks can lead us to burn out and become “lower functioning.”) The “high/low functioning” binary doesn’t even begin to capture that kind of nuance.

Functioning labels also lead many people – including relatives of and service providers to autistic people, sadly – to assume that “high functioning” autistics don’t need support (we do) and “low functioning” autistics can’t be trusted to make decisions about their own lives (they can). These misconceptions do so much damage to all autistic people. That’s why most people in the neurodiversity movement don’t use functioning labels. We prefer to talk about low/medium/high support needs, or better yet, talk about specific impairments (like “non-verbal”), behaviors (“flaps and rocks”), or needed accommodations (“needs a support worker to help with chores”).

Ohlmann
Ohlmann
1 month ago

I hate that, too.

At that point I believe it could be good to jettison the autism term entirely. Few peoples are aware of what it’s supposed to mean, and the term feel tainted by all the way it’s used as an insult or a superpower.

opposablethumbs
opposablethumbs
1 month ago

I and many other “high functioning” autistic people have the skill of masking, or pretending to be non-autistic, but the stress of maintaining our masks can lead us to burn out and become “lower functioning.”) The “high/low functioning” binary doesn’t even begin to capture that kind of nuance.Functioning labels also lead many people – including relatives of and service providers to autistic people, sadly – to assume that “high functioning” autistics don’t need support (we do) and “low functioning” autistics can’t be trusted to make decisions about their own lives (they can).

@Mrs Obed Marsh, my relative to a T. They used to have extremely noticeable communication issues but mask quite effectively these days, so people assume they don’t need any support or accomodations. I think it must be very draining. No spoons for the executive-function things they find even more impossibly hard than most.

And of course the added isolation of lockdown, and its direct plus knock-on effects on their former activities (such as venues closing for lockdown, and then having no income, so many may never re-open) is devastating. I try to be supportive, but that is of very limited usefulness 🙁

mouse sparrow
mouse sparrow
1 month ago

I’ve been meaning to get tested if I am autistic, but I also have severe agoraphobia and it doesn’t help.
Many of the things said apply to me.
I’m just upset because I can’t get the help I need because of my high anxiety.

Not Edward
Not Edward
1 month ago

Lawyers have to lawyer. As far as I can see, since there’s no dispute he actually committed the crime, his lawyers have to say at least something in his defence, and this BS is all they’ve got. You can’t expect someone happy to mow down a bunch of people in a van to give a crap about the effect of running his attempted defence on other autistic people if he thinks it might give him a minuscule chance of getting off. As far as I can see, he’s lying, the lawyers are flying a kite on it in accordance with his instructions (as they are obliged as his legal representatives to do) and no-one running this defence actually thinks it’s true. I can’t see it actually lasting two seconds in court.
Hopefully once the trial is done the judge will make it pretty clear what kind of rubbish this actually is.
I am not autistic or on the spectrum (AFAIK) nor have I more than a general understanding of the condition, but even I know that you can be as lousy as you like in picking up people’s social cues and understanding what other people might be thinking or feeling, but that doesn’t mean you have any difficulty at all in knowing that they don’t want to be dead. He’s just continuing to be a self-serving piece of ****, something utterly unrelated in any way to autism, which, hopefully, for the sake of others with the condition, who he obviously cares nothing about, most people will realise.

Ohlmann
Ohlmann
1 month ago

@Not Edward : in addition to be shitty to autistic peoples, I also think it’s part of a worrying trend.

In the past, cold blooded killers and terrorists like him tried to get a lighter sentence by showing that they have seen the light and understood the error of their way.

Nowaday, I have the feeling there are much more often defense based on various permutation of “the situation forced him to do that”, whether it’s (alleged) insanity, (alleged) past bullying, or similar schticks.

While in the past I endlessly mocked the people who tried to make a show of a total and sudden redemption, I much prefer that people hypocritically say that they did wrong and won’t do that again than people that refuse to admit that their act were evil.

Not Edward
Not Edward
1 month ago

@Ohlmann
I definitely agree. If someone provides as an explanation for going on a killing spree that e.g. he is somehow so not in control of his actions that not getting a girlfriend meant he was incapable of stopping himself, that’s all the more reason why he needs to be locked away for everyone else’s safety, not less. I don’t see how it functions as an excuse.

Naglfar
Naglfar
1 month ago

@AdamMurphy

I don’t visualize, I don’t think in images at all. My mind’s eye is completely blind.

Interesting. Is it possibly you have aphantasia in addition to autism? To be clear, earlier I wasn’t saying that you can’t be autistic or anything like that, I was just relaying my experience.

@Mrs. Obed Marsh

I and many other “high functioning” autistic people have the skill of masking

In my experience, this leads to a lot of people also assuming that if we can pass for neurotypical that our life must be just like that of a neurotypical person when it usually takes significant effort to pass.

@Ohlmann

At that point I believe it could be good to jettison the autism term entirely.

I’m not sure about getting rid of it entirely, but I really don’t like the way it’s referred to as ASD (autism spectrum disorder). We aren’t disordered, we’re neurodivergent, and I think the name gives a lot of people misconceptions.

Amadaun
Amadaun
1 month ago

Also he’s throwing people who suffer from psychosis under the bus. Like many mental illnesses, they’re more likely to be victims of crimes than perpetrators. And they’re not void of empathy.

Viscaria, purveyor of briny slattern wine
Viscaria, purveyor of briny slattern wine
1 month ago

@Not Edward: (And I’ll preface this by saying I don’t know how my tone comes across in text, but I’m not trying to argue with you. I’m just using your words as a jumping-off point.)

Lawyers have to lawyer.

I think you make a decent point here with regards to his legal team. I don’t know how they can sleep at night knowing they are contributing to dangerous, harmful myths about the autistic community, but I do at least understand why they would try to lean on prejudice and misinformation in defense of their client.

The expert witnesses, on the other hand, should have a whole different set of ethical priorities. They should know better. If they don’t, they are dangerous quacks; if they do, they are deliberately choosing to do harm to an already marginalized community.

ETA: I see that since I started my comment and when I pushed “send” there has been discussion of the not criminally responsible defense.* While it is completely inappropriate here, there legitimately are crimes committed by people who do not and cannot know what they are doing. I am not a legal expert of any kind, but it is my layman’s opinion that it would cause incredible damage to try and take this defense away. If someone is committing a violent act but they don’t know that’s what they are doing, we cannot hold them responsible. It’s my belief that we should focus on how being autistic does not render someone incapable of knowing it’s not okay to murder people, not on attacking the entire concept of not criminally responsible. Same with unfit to stand trial, if that comes up as well.

*I’m actually not sure “defense” is the right word here, but again, IANAL, so that’s the best I can do.

Last edited 1 month ago by Viscaria, purveyor of briny slattern wine
Viscaria, purveyor of briny slattern wine
Viscaria, purveyor of briny slattern wine
1 month ago

Oh, I forgot a very important bit. Sorry for the double post.

Not Edward said

If someone provides as an explanation for going on a killing spree that e.g. he is somehow so not in control of his actions that not getting a girlfriend meant he was incapable of stopping himself, that’s all the more reason why he needs to be locked away for everyone else’s safety, not less. I don’t see how it functions as an excuse.

It’s important to note that people who are found not criminally responsible are detained in mental health facilities, sometimes for longer than they would have served in prison, sometimes for the rest of their lives. They are “locked away for everyone else’s safety” unless and until they are found to be no longer a danger.

This is actually another reason why Minassian’s defense strategy is dangerous for autistic people: It suggests that autistic people (or “extremely” autistic people, whatever that means) may need to be forcibly hospitalized for the sake of everyone else, just because they are autistic . Perhaps he finds the prospect more personally appealing than serving his sentence, but it puts all other autistic people at greater risk.

Big Titty Demon
Big Titty Demon
1 month ago

@Viscaria

While it is completely inappropriate here, there legitimately are crimes committed by people who do not and cannot know what they are doing.

I would tend to think these are supremely few and far between. My uncle, who lived to his 70s, was “retarded.” I know this is a word we don’t use anymore, and I would give you his diagnosis, except that was his diagnosis. He was diagnosed in a past medical system and never looked at again, I think because my grandmother (his guardian) knew how to interact with him and did not really care what was officially different about him. If I were to guess, I would say he was probably developmentally disabled and almost non-verbal autistic with some kind of motor function disability. He could only say a few words.

He knew the difference between right and wrong and had a sense of empathy at least as finely tuned as a neurotypical person’s. In the home where he was cared for the majority of his life, he knew the caregivers and he had the empathy to know when one of them was having trouble even if he could not express it in a standard way. He knew if he did something bad (usually got into a shouting fight with another home resident) and would say “sorry”, which may not seem like much but was a huge effort for him to even form the word. He was one of the “lowest-functioning” individuals I saw, and he still knew violence against others was wrong.

Because of this observed experience with my disabled uncle, and the others around him in his home (before it was broken up but that’s another story for another day), I am extremely leery of people who want to say, “my disability caused me to be immoral.” In my general experience, the home of autistic (I mean, I think, they were actually all diagnosed under the old system…) persons ran more smoothly with less social friction than “normal” society.

SpecialFrog
SpecialFrog
1 month ago

@Not Edward: I agree that lawyers are going to lawyer but the expert witness has different obligations.

North Sea Sparkly Dragon
North Sea Sparkly Dragon
1 month ago

Another Autie here seconding the comments made by Naglfar, Mrs Obed Marsh etc. Fuck (although not actually, unless it’s with a cactus) Alek Minassian, fuck (ibid.) Incels using being autistic as an excuse to be evil and fuck (ibid.) the enabling, ablist ‘psychologists’ claiming that we have no empathy (thanks Simon Baron-Cohen for that libel) and no understanding of right and wrong.

Almost every autistic person I know has a strong sense of justice and moral code. Hell, I’ve felt so strongly about stuff being WRONG that my sister had to stop me committing technically criminal acts. Because the law is wrong and unjust, and the people benefiting from the law were in the wrong. I haven’t actually got into any trouble and had to go have a cry and offer compensation to the trees murdered. Have you seen that cartoon where a triangle cuts bits off itself to fit round holes after being bullied by circles? Yeah, I want to take the knife away from the tringle and cuddle it until it is well again, and then possibly punch the bullying circles, but I’m not violent so I probably wouldn’t.

Also, it’s already been said, but self-diagnosis is valid because despite the law (Autism Act 2009) here in England it’s really hard to get a diagnosis for most people. A lot of older people are undiagnosed, most women and AFAB people are undiagnosed. The only way you get a diagnosis as an adult is if you have a history of trouble with personal relationships or work. If you manage to find your niche early, you can get through life not needing a diagnosis until something changes dramatically and you have a crash. I know we’re lucky to even have the limited provision we have, I can’t image how much harder it is in other countries.

Minassian’s psychologists are so far out of date with their knowledge that I hope whoever regulates psychologists in Canada reviews their license to practice.

@Naglfar and AdamMurphy

I have an official ASC diagnosis, and I don’t think in images; I unofficially have aphantasia and know a few other auties who do too, even artists. I do learn visually though, verbal and purely written instructions are confusing. I need to either have pictures with the writing or be doing the thing as I work through the instructions. It works best with all three – written instructions, pictures and doing the thing. Thinking in images isn’t an essential part of being autistic, it’s just really common.

In a random side note, I am currently reading Sarah Kurchek’s memoir; she’s funny.

Last edited 1 month ago by North Sea Sparkly Dragon
SpecialFrog
SpecialFrog
1 month ago

@North Sea Sparkly Dragon: I’m pretty sure all the defence experts are dialling in from the US.

Alan Robertshaw
1 month ago

@ viscaria

I don’t know how they can sleep at night

I understand your point, and it is a common view. However it’s not quite a simple as that.

Lawyers generally operate under something called the cab rank rule. In some places that’s obligatory; in others it’s just considered to be part of the job.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cab-rank_rule

In essence, lawyers have to be like taxis and accept instructions from anyone who asks for their services. We are not allowed to pick and choose clients based on our own beliefs as to who is worthy of a defence.

Similarly with the actual instructions, Whilst there are rules about not lending ourselves to an abuse of process in the legal sense, we aren’t allowed to filter our client’s instructions. If we do it’s a disciplinary matter and also a ground of appeal. To quote the main English case on that…

“What we do know is that the law of this country is that a prisoner is entitled to take his chance of finding a stupid jury and is entitled to put his defence before the jury with a view to persuading them to acquit him.” ~ R v Canny (1945) 30 Cr. App. R

As I say, I do understand your sentiments. The danger is though when people can’t separate the lawyers from their clients, nor understand the professional and ethical obligations we are bound by. Lawyers have been attacked and even murdered because of that.

Mind you, our own government here is just as bad.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/oct/25/priti-patel-kept-up-anti-lawyer-rhetoric-after-met-warning-on-terror

North Sea Sparkly Dragon
North Sea Sparkly Dragon
1 month ago

@Special Frog

In that case, whoever regulates psychologists in the US needs to review their licenses and training because they’re clearly thirty years out of date.

Viscaria, purveyor of briny slattern wine
Viscaria, purveyor of briny slattern wine
1 month ago

@Alan

Point taken. I didn’t know about that rule, so thank you for telling me about that.

Even before I had that that knowledge, though, I think I was unclear about what I meant to convey. What I was trying to say is that one of the many reasons I couldn’t be a lawyer is that I wouldn’t be able to morally handle a situation like this where I could be doing harm to a whole community in defense of one person. Reading your comment shows me that I could be obligated to do that, and I don’t think I could reckon with that. I wasn’t so much casting judgment on the legal team as saying that I personally don’t know how they can do it. I am casting judgment on the expert witnesses.

Other reasons I couldn’t be a lawyer include that I would be a terrible lawyer.

Last edited 1 month ago by Viscaria, purveyor of briny slattern wine
Alan Robertshaw
1 month ago

@ North Sea Sparkly Dragon

You may find this interesting. It’s the CPS guidance here for prosecution defendants with ‘mental disorders’. It’s still in draft form; but it confirms the general legal principle, that autism per se is neither a defence nor mitigation.

It does mention that autism can be an issue in regards to how people behave in interviews and generally; and not to assume that just because someone acts in way that seems ‘inappropriate’ that that can amount to evidence.

(That was an issue in the Lindy Chamberlain case. She was essentially convicted because she didn’t seem suitably ‘upset’)

It does warn that people with autism may of course have other conditions that are relevant to culpability, and to ensure that those aren’t missed because police and prosecutors focus on the autism.

One thing that may assist here is that any ‘experts’ are only permitted to give evidence if they’re licensed under S.12 of the MHA; which requires specialist training in forensic psychiatry.

https://www.cps.gov.uk/publication/mental-health-conditions-and-disorders-draft-prosecution-guidance

Last edited 1 month ago by Alan Robertshaw
Pie
Pie
1 month ago

@Not Edward

Lawyers have to lawyer. As far as I can see, since there’s no dispute he actually committed the crime, his lawyers have to say at least something in his defence, and this BS is all they’ve got.

Sure, the lawyers have a job to do, and they’ll do whatever the framework they operate in lets them do, whether or not this might be considered a good thing.

The doctor though? Now they’re the big disappointment. You might hope that an experienced forensic psychiatrist from a prestigious institution, specializing in autism might not be a crank who’d be prepared to do so much damage to a group which you might think they should care about.

But no. He has his pet theory, and he apparently gives no shits that if he’s successful here that he’ll have equated psychopaths with people with autism, and that all the next wave of murderous incels will use the exact same defense has his work will support them.

Naglfar
Naglfar
1 month ago

@Viscaria

(or “extremely” autistic people, whatever that means)

An important note is that “extremely” or “severely” autistic are both clinically meaningless terms, no autistic person is more or less autistic than others, they just manifest differently. They’re also commonly used by anti autistic bigots to disregard the voices of autistic people who pass for neurotypical by painting us as “less autistic” and therefore unable to relate to their child. I know you’re not a bigot and I’m not saying you did this, I’m just adding because it’s relevant to the discussion.

@NSSD

I haven’t actually got into any trouble and had to go have a cry and offer compensation to the trees murdered.

I don’t know if this is a common autistic characteristic, but I have a lot of guilt for minor things or mistakes I’ve made even years after the fact where I’ll suddenly think of that and feel bad all over again. So yes, we definitely have empathy.

thanks Simon Baron-Cohen for that libel

IIRC Baron-Cohen is also the guy who promoted the “extreme male brain” nonsense. He’s also the cousin of the guy who made Borat.

I have an official ASC diagnosis, and I don’t think in images; I unofficially have aphantasia and know a few other auties who do too, even artists.

Interesting. To be clear, I don’t doubt you at all and your experience is valid, it’s just very different than mine, and that’s okay.

In that case, whoever regulates psychologists in the US needs to review their licenses and training because they’re clearly thirty years out of date.

The state of autism advocacy here is pretty dismal, given that Autism $peaks publishes huge amounts of eugenicist propaganda that tricks even well meaning allistic folk due to the name. This probably has an impact on psychologists as well, given that many may not have received much training regarding autism. A few years ago I was on a conference call with a man who was supposedly one of the leading autism experts in North America (long story) and I was surprised by his lack of knowledge and answers, or over-reliance on stereotypes.

Not Edward
Not Edward
1 month ago

@Quite a few people.
I agree there is lot more to be concerned about with dodgy “expert” witnesses (rather than lawyers, who are legitimately supposed to be entirely partisan) and I do wonder how well regulated they are in Canada.

Ohlmann
Ohlmann
1 month ago

Eh, I do think that Minassian (and every criminals) is entitled to a competent defence who will do its damnedest to have a just and as low as possible sentence. It both force the justice system to do things by the book and help the cases where someone is innocent but look guilty as charged.

The thing that is doubtful here is whether that “defence” actually further those goals. I have the feeling it’s more a political statement or self-gratification thing.

Alan Robertshaw
1 month ago

@ viscaria

You do need a certain level of detachment, certainly. There’s a lot of dark humour at the Bar; and I think that’s one of the coping mechanisms.

But of course it’s not just lawyers. If Minassian keeled over with a heart attack, even the most left leaning doctor would perform CPR.

Other reasons I couldn’t be a lawyer include that I would be a terrible lawyer.

Hey; find your own niche!

Surplus to Requirements
Surplus to Requirements
1 month ago

Autist here.

I don’t know why this isn’t bothering me more, actually, especially since widespread belief in the claims made by Minassian’s defense could lead to us all getting rounded up and put in a camp “for the safety of society”. Perhaps I’m just resigned to this sort of bullshit.

On the comparing-notes front: Strong visualization ability here, but I can also think just fine with words and symbols. I tend to use whatever seems most useful for the particular problem I’m thinking about. If it’s a geometry problem that will often involve visualization. If it’s constructing a narrative it will obviously be verbal. But it’s likely to be a combination of both in most cases. I expect this is probably typical also of NT persons.

The major issues I have are mostly from comorbidities. The peculiar sleeping disorder that keeps me from holding to a regular schedule, for one. I also don’t seem to be able to motivate myself to do less-pleasant chores as easily as NTs, with in recent times growing physical impairment to performing many such tasks as well (particularly, I can no longer tolerate bending over for more than a few seconds at a time for some reason, though I still have the needed mechanical range of motion).

Perhaps my biggest problem is in meeting the expectations of other people. Some of that undoubtedly stems from autism, but I don’t think that can be the full explanation. It could account for cases where I’ve not understood or even known of an expectation but others seem to have genuinely believed they’d communicated it to me adequately. What it can’t account for is the cases where I’ve met clearly-communicated expectations only to be treated as though I hadn’t anyway, through some combination of goalpost-moving, gaslighting, or overt promise-breaking. Nor can it account for cases where the “you didn’t do it right” response was generated by automation of some kind, as were the initially communicated expectations. Autism doesn’t prevent reading and understanding plain-English instructions or even computer code, just nonverbal cues and such from human beings. How can it have been a factor in cases where a human wasn’t in the loop? Except indirectly, of course. As in someone decided “let’s screw with the autistic nerd” and then cheated or otherwise rigged a system for the lulz.

The most consistent message I’ve ever received from the world around me is “you’re not good enough”, and no amount of skilling up, tooling up, or raw effort ever seems to be sufficient to please it, not if it comes from me. I seem to have been marked in some way, early in life, for maltreatment, for having more expected of me than other people in the same area with similar demographics, and likewise having less delivered to me. This shows up in the aforementioned goalpost-moving and similar bullshit, but also in automated systems, where generally the dice seem to be loaded against me in various ways, wherever there’s even the slightest element of chance involved. How the latter rigging was accomplished, or by whom, I couldn’t really say, but no matter where I go or what I do, that mark, whatever it is, is detected and I get discriminatory treatment. This can include interacting with people face to face, interacting with people online, and even solo activities involving automation with some degree of “smarts”. If it’s computerized, apparently it can detect the mark and adjust its rules of operation in response. Somehow.

Perhaps autism is the mark, or is somehow causally related to it (such as, someone marked me because of it, or even because I did something they didn’t like because of it). I don’t really know, nor how to get rid of it. I am curious if anyone else here on the spectrum has had any similar experience with widespread and pervasive goalpost-moving, gaslighting, and dice-loading (accompanied where possible by vehement denials that any such thing is going on, of course) all with the single common underlying message of “you’re not good enough, so fuck you”, and variations on this theme: “No, you didn’t actually put in that much effort” (gaslighting!), “No, the rules were clearly this and not that” (except I distinctly and exactly remember word for word what you said they were, and you are lying now, and maybe I even have a cached copy of a webpage or something proving that you have moved the goal posts and I have in fact scored a goal according to the original, mutually-agreed-upon position of those goal posts), and so on and so forth.

Added to the cases of actually not being able to read expectations people think they are communicating clearly, this has made things almost impossible for me. For example, I’m stuck on a fixed income that barely covers food and shelter here. Why? It’s more like “why not”. The sleep disorder would make it hard to hold down a job. People getting mad because I didn’t do what they were furiously thinking at me to do but never actually told me to do (or not do) would make it hard to hold down a job. My lack of access to affordable transportation would make it hard to hold down a job. And all of that is moot, because once I graduated with a four-year degree in computer science that invisible-to-me mark (whatever it is) accompanied every copy of my resume that I emailed out, and the HR person at the receiving end of every copy took one look at it, saw the mark (whatever it is), and threw it straight into the trash. I could maybe get a job if there were some desperate labor shortage. Maybe.

If anything, the surprising thing to me is that I still have my freedom, such as it is with my general lack of much access to transportation. I’ve had no shortage of threats to it from various people suggesting that I ought to be locked up “for my own benefit”, including even from one or two people here a few months back. But so far, no cops with an arrest warrant smashing in my door, no goons grabbing me off the street into an unmarked white van, no doctors meeting me somewhere I was lured to under false pretenses to hustle me off to some psychiatric “hospital” to be drugged to the point that I don’t know which way is up and locked away in some padded dungeon somewhere to be forgotten by everyone except whoever brings my meals and, of course, forcibly administers more drugs. I don’t know if I’ve just not disappointed everyone’s expectations quite enough yet for that sort of thing to happen (and I don’t believe for one second that simply avoiding committing crimes is any guarantee against being railroaded in at least one of the above-described ways, even in Canada), or if the mark (whatever it is) is paradoxically protecting me by making those who otherwise might lock me up “for my own good” instead just want nothing whatsoever to do with me.

But whatever the reasons for any of the above, that’s been my experience as an autist in a world run by and for neurotypicals … so far.

personalpest
personalpest
1 month ago

Another autist here. Since I’m entering this discussion so late, I don’t have much to add since any point I would have expressed has already been made. As always, I’m very impressed by the quality of the comments here. Also, I empathize with the struggles of people like Surplus to Requirements; I really hope that things get better for you.

Last edited 1 month ago by personalpest
Yutolia the Laissez-Fairy Pronoun Boner
Yutolia the Laissez-Fairy Pronoun Boner
1 month ago

I’m not autistic, but I am neurodivergent (ADD and sensory processing disorder) and sometimes people who don’t know any better mistake my behaviors for autism.

This bullshit “defense” makes me so angry. The people that do this are so incredibly selfish. They have no idea the trouble they cause when they do this, nor do they care. This makes me sick.

Crip Dyke
1 month ago

I have an official ASC diagnosis, and I don’t think in images; I unofficially have aphantasia and know a few other auties who do too, even artists. 

Thanks for this, North Sea Sparkly Dragon.

Gwynfydd
Gwynfydd
1 month ago

Coming in late to the discussion too, but really touched as ever by the personal perspectives shared here.

I know it has already been said, but the whole “no empathy” thing really angers me. I work in a service that offers support to (not only autistic) people who need high levels of support and often 24hr assistance. And the whole lie around the lack of empathy pisses me off. The folk I support who have autism are some of the most empathic people I know and I’d describe one guy I work with as being way more empathic than me! So yeah, it’s a crappy argument and defence that is damaging to many people with real lived experience of autism.

Last edited 1 month ago by Gwynfydd
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