On knowing people a long time.


I find the whole thing about knowing people awhile interesting.

Right now Larry’s being vilified in ways that have nothing to do with what Larry’s actually like. I’ve known him for ages, so have Vicky, Mike, Joel, Laura, and a bunch of other people I know. And every last one of us regardless of the rest of our personal relations with him see what’s being said about him as so far off the mark as to be nearly unrecognizable as Larry. This isn’t because we all worship him, far from it. It’s because we’ve known him long enough to have some clue as to his character, and his actions over time are not the actions of an attention-seeking narcissist.

Similarly, when someone posted the “secret” that I was once diagnosed with schizophrenia and used to talk better and stuff, nobody who’d known me for very long was shocked. That’s because they all knew this stuff, they knew what had happened and why (in great detail, because I used to talk about it a lot), they’d been around for all this and it wasn’t news to them. But since I hadn’t been discussing it much recently, there was this entire bizarre theory that I was hiding this stuff from people, and it was only people who’d heard of me relatively recently who even thought of believing it. I got to watch people I thought I knew writing bizarre things about what my motivations were for things that were totally unrelated to the motivations they put on them, and I got to watch people who’d in reality known me for very short periods of time (measured in months) claiming great amounts of knowledge of my life based on having interacted with me for brief periods during the time they knew me.

Which I guess should serve as some sort of warning about judging people too hastily. There are people convinced Larry is a showoff narcissist with no thought or care for other people, and who will explain minutae of his actions in terms of that. There are people who believe I’m a fake autistic or something, and who will explain minutae of my actions in terms of that. It’s disturbing to watch people create such elaborate descriptions of what is going on in other people’s heads, based largely on the fact that they don’t like what the other person is saying. It’s a human tendency to if you don’t like someone or are mad at them, assume the worst in everything they’re doing. I’m not sure it’s a good human tendency though, seems like one that ought to be fought. And maybe there’s something about knowing someone awhile that means you know enough about them to, even if you disagree with them, have a little more respect for them. I don’t know.

And ultimately it seems like an evasion of the real issues. It’s really easy to fling mud at someone. It’s harder to grapple with the sort of power issues that Larry and I are always (in our very different styles, but I am convinced we are dealing with and aware of roughly the same issues) bringing up. It’s a lot of heat and very little light going on. And just as Larry and I are not unfamiliar to each other, none of the dynamics or details of this argument are anything but tiresomely and depressingly familiar to anyone who’s spent very long in communities fighting various kinds of oppression, especially but not even limited to disability-based ones.


About Mel Baggs

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods. Crochet or otherwise create constantly and compulsively. Write poetry and paint when I can. Developmentally disabled, physically and cognitively disabled. I'm not really part of any online faction or another, even ones that claim me as a member. The thing in the world most important to me is having love and compassion for other people, although I don't always measure up to my own standards there by a longshot. And individual specific actions and situations and contexts matter a lot more to me than broadly-spoken abstract words and ideas about a topic. My father died in 2014 and that has changed my life a lot in ways that are still evolving, but I wear a lot of his clothes and hats every day since he died and have shown no sign of stopping soon.

24 responses »

  1. I’ve been too busy to speak out, and most of this is way over my head. What I do has always been at a much smaller scale than what is being discussed here, so I’m not well qualified to comment. And Mr Arnold has made it clear, in the most general terms possible, that what I’m doing (and what the people I work with, who encompass a wide variety of neurological configurations, are doing) is harmful, wrong, and reprehensible.

    I find it interesting that Mr Arnold has vigorously opposed my criticisms of the disability rights community in Canada (this community is indistinguishable from Canada’s autism community–our famous “autism advocates”). It was not the specific criticisms I made that Mr Arnold objected to, but the fact that I made any criticisms at all. This seems to indicate that according to Mr Arnold, some organizations or movements or entities (or whatever) are above cricitism, at least when the person doing the criticizing isn’t Mr Arnold.

    I think it’s way out of line to respond to Mr Arnold by making public comments about his presumed character. But saying that Mr Arnold is a good person (giving him a character reference), while it’s become necessary due to unwarranted comments on Larry’s character, isn’t too informative either. Why would this make a difference as to whether his current position is valid? Good people, even very brilliant and accomplished people, can make serious errors.

    I think it’s fair for those who are able to work at that level (I’m mostly not) to comment on Mr Arnold’s widespread public statements and actions, including by criticizing them as necessary.

  2. Peoples memories are short indeed.

    The last time I was challenged to put up or shut up, the challenge came from a curebie parent. I had expounded as I often have the theretical framework that the post war baby boom generation of parents had an expectation that there is a magic bullet for everything and that autism was an affront to that expectation of perfection and false perceptions of normality, generally transmitted through media representation and iconography.

    I declined to answer whehter I thought that it applied to my particular antagonist at the time. I knew it was a no win situation if I said what I thought. Eventually I was badgered into saying what I thought and then was accused of being a monster, simply because I did what I was asked and said what I thought rather than creating a polite lie.

    That was from one of the “opposition” however those who are supposed to be my allies have put me in precisely the same spot, a no win situation. I am condemned for not being specific, and if I were specific I expect I would be condemned and vilified as well.

    I have strong opinions, I voice them strongly, in fact if anyone cares to read the notice at the side of my blog it says “I am what I say I am, forthright and blunt and that is the way I get things done.”

    In order to get things done one has to put ones head above the parapet, to be noticed, one has to be where one will be noticed and sometimes one has to shout.

    Drawing attention to oneself, well I can tell you it is not at all pleasant, I have been doing it for a long time, and been taking brickbats, somebody has to.

    Look at MLK. theatrical, an orator, to his enemies a narcissist no doubt. Ghandi, what a showman, you could make a movie about him (whoa somebody did)

    It is little wonder that in close knit groups people suppress what they are really feeling, what they are really like, they seek popularity by being as like everybody else as they can be, adopting the same mannerisms, clothes, jargon etc. etc.

    As the Japanese say, the nail that stands out, gets hammered down, therefore things don’t get challenged.

    Who’s next for a hammering? I have been there on mailing lists before and been the villain, when I dared to stand up for an autistic list member who was having a hard time, what happens, I then become the bad guy, the fall guy. It used to happen a lot on Alt support autism in the days when there were more parents than autistic posters. Someone would be picked on simply for having an opinion and pressing it.

    I don’t think anybody read my Animal farm posts properly, did anyone realise I started from a position of self criticism, a feeling of guilt that I have become too much a part of the establishment, too priveleged.

    I joked about Ice Pick Assasins, a reference to Trotskys fate when he became persona non grata, actually airbrushed out of photographs, is that also going to be my fate, to be airbrushed out of the blog world as well.

    I had hoped that the hub was more resilient, that it would not really come to such extremes as I speculated about. I was both wrong and right.

    Why do people react so badly? perhaps there is an element of guilt, a sneaking suspicion that they may be the ones I am criticising.

    Whatever people think of me now, I am more than ever certain that what I posted on those two Animal Farm blogs was necessary. If I had not posted that and someone else had said the same, not in my tones of course, but if they had generally expressed the same discontent, I expect the same would have happened to them.

    It is all very easy to join together in the mutual condemnation of the fall guy, it is not so easy to stand up against the stream.

    Tell me now, if I am the attention seeker, is it the kind of attention you would want. Obviosly not, people can give out more than they are prepared to take.

    I am one voice who was commenting in the hub. I was not an orchestrated attack. There is a difference.

    Do you think I want to be here writing again? I do not.

    Do you really want to hear the entire litany of what I have found wrong in the hub, blogger by blogger, chapter and verse.

    I have voiced discontent before, it has not always been parent bloggers, I have dared to disagree with Michelle Dawson, seems that’s alright, we are allowed to have “our thing” and disagree so long as it doesn’t spill over into criticising parents.

    What is Michelle saying a lot of the time, she is condemning behavioral therapies. What are some parent bloggers doing? behavioral therapies?

    Now I should duck beneath the parapet again. I expect there will be a round of self justification as to what precisely is the difference between what Michelle has condemned and what they do, and how I am missing the point or haven’t understood the difference whatever whatever whatever.

    Have people so easily forgotten the strains I have been under, the threats to my benefits, various health worries and problems, I have been feeling that all this has diminished what I have had to say recently, Now however I am back with the confidence to express what I ought to be saying.

    Yes I am for “our thing” contra mundum. When it is autism that is being talked about, then the leadership must come from autistics.

    When it is a larger grouping, a pan disability movement, then it is not specifically an autistic thing, but it is still a disabled thing and no one without the stigma should be in the lead.

    If it is a womens thing, then it is not an autistic thing, and so I have no rights as an autistic man to intervene in that merely because no autistic women are represented and I am the next best thing.

  3. I’ve debated on whether I have the right to enter said debate as I’m not a member of the Hub. However, Kev’s “insight” into Larry and your comments give me enough momentum to act.
    I wouldn’t claim to “know” anyone on the Hub, regardless how long I’ve been reading all the blogs. “Knowing” someone and “understanding” their message are two different things. However, many think they are interchangeable. I’ve followed Larry’s comments and yes, sometimes he’s stylistically off-key and rather vague. If I don’t understand him, I don’t fill in the blanks. To do so wouldn’t make sense. Why would people take his complaints so personally? Especially if those people believe he’s wrong?!
    That’s what is so immature, that his words are being spun to make him out to be some menace. The amount of energy being spent to divide the Hub (and blame Larry) is terribly depressing.
    I’ve enjoyed reading the Hub and felt that I do belong in spirit, even if I don’t blog enough. I support loosely-knit groups more than “blocs”, and that necessitates a lot of disagreement and dissension from time to time.

  4. this whole thing is very disturbing, at the same moment as i had been convinced of the wonderfulness of the autistic community by an example of people reaching out to help at a moment’s notice, here are people all over neurodiversity, both the autistic and the larger autism community, people i have been reading and have come to respect, at each other’s throats. and i think after all that is a very human thing. but it is sad and not useful.

    and i am going to try to continue to think the same of everyone as i did before, while disagreeing with some. and i continue to think of the autism-hub as a place where i discovered some of my favorite blogs that i read regularly.

    but that is only the personal/feelings stuff.

    the weird thing is that the first time this issue [of autistics needing to be who leads autistic advocacy] came up, i was kind of on the other side of things or at least in the middle, but by now the problem (in general, as a thing to worry about in the ND movement) makes sense. i guess i just had to hear it explained in various ways in order to ‘get it’.

    this comment was probably not very useful, and halfway offtopic (most of the people in the actual fight, i don’t know personally, and none for a long time.), you don’t have to print it… just almost thinking by typing…

  5. Michelle: I don’t agree with everything Larry says, nor was I condoning agreeing with everything he says without evaluating it first (Larry would be the first to tell you how much he’s gotten into it with me). But he’s being subject to inaccurate character assassination at the moment and that’s not any better than when it was done to you.

    Larry: I wonder the same thing, when accused of being attention-seeking. Because the attention I often get in the course of doing what I think needs to be done, is not pleasant attention. And I can get more pleasant attention easily enough these days. If I wanted to get attention as a primary motivation, it would not be through my public acts, that’s for sure. I’ve been in roughly the position you’re in before and it really really sucks from any sort of emotional standpoint, it’s not the sort of thing I’d do for fun.

  6. “Right now Larry’s being vilified in ways that have nothing to do with what Larry’s actually like.”

    I thought it had to do with what Larry did – not what he’s like.

    If you do things there are reactions. Newton’s Third Law.

  7. alyric: The things I’m talking about are not about what he did. They’re about bogus motivations for what he did that he wouldn’t have in a thousand years. I’m not talking about disagreement, I’m talking about specific attacks on his character that include blow-by-blow analyses of what he’s supposedly “really” thinking.

    Yeah when you do anything you should expect some reactions that are far from reasonable or useful, but it doesn’t make those reactions right. When I got on TV I expected to get some creepy reactions from some people, and I did, but it doesn’t make those creepy reactions my fault or right. (I also got some strange reactions from Larry at the time, but later discussed it with him. It’s not like I never disagree with him, and that wasn’t my point.)

  8. Still looks like a white-wash. Where’s the blogs, posts etc that did what Larry accused them of – and being ‘unable’ doesn’t look credible judging by the length of Larry’s post here. What would be the difference in energy/time/ability for that long post here or getting a list of the blogs/posts/whatever that supposedly started all this?

  9. alyric, I don’t know if he’s unable or not. I do know that I am unable to write 90% of what I want to write, but could write a very very long post on some other topic. I am unable to do the kind of research you are asking of me, yet I am able to post eloquently on some other topic.

    The same could be true of Larry, or he could just be trying to be polite in some fashion, or something else entirely. But the “judging by the length of Larry’s post here…” comment, sounds a whole lot like “If you can do X you can do Y” sorts of comments I’ve gotten before. And those aren’t good comments to be making, although during conflicts that fact seems to be forgotten frequently (easy to forget things like that).

  10. Ballastexistenz wrote:

    “But he’s being subject to inaccurate character assassination at the moment and that’s not any better than when it was done to you.”

    That’s why I wrote,

    “I think it’s way out of line to respond to Mr Arnold by making public comments about his presumed character.”

    On the other hand, some of the more abusive things (not the most abusive–there is really a lot of competition–but pretty abusive all the same) that have been written about me have been written by Mr Arnold, both in public and on lists.

    But I don’t think anyone should do to him what he’s done to me (or what other people have done to me, or what other people have done to you).

    I’m just grateful that I haven’t completely collapsed under Mr Arnold’s scathing attacks, his expressed opinion that I’m an ignoramus, etc. I haven’t ditched my work–the work he considers reprehensible–to try to achieve the lofty status he has attained. I looked carefully at what he wrote, and still managed to figure out that not everyone can do what Mr Arnold can do, and that those of us who he does not consider worthy might be able to find a way to contribute something anyway.

    I recognize–with Mr Arnold’s assistance–that I’m a much lesser being who has to struggle and plod around at this low level that Mr Arnold has great disdain for. And all the power, so to speak, to Mr Arnold for putting me in my place. I do not think he has learned from me, but I have learned from him, and no matter what he says or writes about me, I can enjoy his photography.

  11. That sucks. I like to think I’ve known the one autist formerly known as and sometimes called Larry for a while. I hate bickering myself. Larry’s a good guy. People should try to get to know him first instead of judging him. I know it’s easy to misunderstand sometimes or think that something is so clear when it’s really not.

  12. Amanda, I hope you don’t mind me interjecting here. I am Steve, and Larry’s initial comments – the ones that preceded his Animal Farm posts – appeared on my blog, in reference to a post I had done on the Autism Parents’ Forum.
    It is not lost on me that I am probably the only NT person commenting (so far) on this post. It is for this reason that I am posing this thought here. I need some input. I feel as if I have unwittingly done something wrong, when my intentions were good. Good intentions do not excuse bad behavior, in my book. For honesty’s sake, I also posed this same (in general) comment on Joel’s blog.
    I have two recommendations of how things could improve on the Autism Hub. Just two – there are undoubtedly many more. I am interested to hear whether you believe these suggestions are a) worthy of consideration, b) viable, in terms of actually doing them.
    First suggestion: That autistic persons who read the various blogs on the Hub, when they see things parents are “saying” that are deemed to be either insensitive, naive, harmful, or just plain stupid, remind the parents of a better way to view the given situation. Larry, for example, took a half-step in this direction on my blog. He spoke up, saying that my post was “NT-centric” and that he feared my NT-parent approach threatened to “hijack” the Hub. This is fine – I did not take it personal (if you doubt, read the post’s (http://onedadsopinion.blogspot.com/2007/05/forum.html) comments – this was still a full week prior to the ensuing controversy.
    What he failed to do in this case was to state a positive alternative. That is what would have really helped. I really want to know.
    Second Suggestion: Following the model of “Blogging Against Disablism”, establish certain days, associated with certain themes, for folks to discuss. The autistic Hub members can set the agenda, declare the topics, and let everyone sink their teeth into them. This is a great way for NT parents to LEARN about the issues, it provides great focus on issues that the autistic people want to have talked about, and promotes inclusion as opposed to exclusion.

    Any comments or feedback would be appreciated. What would be even more appreciated would be for more suggestions to come forth. What I hope develops from all of this is an improved Hub that puts autistic persons in the forefront, and allows well-meaning parents to follow their lead – thus putting said parents in the strongest position to help their kids become self-advocates first, community-advocates next, and provide incredible momentum for the next “generation” of autistic people.

  13. Hi Amanda ,,

    I wanted to respond to you about these issues
    but I didn’t think it appropriate to say anything more
    on Kevins blog.

    I found this web site

    and its about someone my mother knew when she was working for the department of rehabilitation..

    I think advocacy has differnt aspects… On line and in face to face organisations….
    I guess it needs to be said that for any real and lasting changes to be made we have to get involved with people on a physical level and get laws and organizations to change… either from within existing organizations or by creating our own …

    I think this is what Larry has been trying to say to people.. that you have to go directly to the heart of issues,,,, I say you but I mean all of us,,,, in some capasity …

    It’s easy for people to get side tracked and think that argueing on line with people will make some sort of difference in how the world precieves us,,,, it just sort of bogs any real progress down..

    I know there are more important issues than any of us individually but collectively we can make a difference in the world of autism .

    And now my autistic self says,,, I know I am trying to say something but I am afraid I can’t articulate it well or without being like Larrys been accused of and pontificating….

    When I worked in fast food I used to say “yes master “vicky be good niger” I said that because I was in the role of servant and slave…. there are always hierarchys that will try and keep us down to the level they wish ,,, unless we break the bondage of slavery …

    and thats my global message cause I am having difficulty with this medium

  14. Its so sad that autistic people argue like this!

    Larry is right and Michelle is right and Amamda is right

    Three rights = a wrong lol

  15. I hope that things can be resolved and differences settled. As both a parent and someone who is on the autistic spectrum herself I find myself straddling both camps. I want both my lads (I have an autistic child and a non autistic child) to grow up being proud of who they are and accepting of the variety of characters in the world. I do not see a gloomy prognosis for either of them because I know that it is perfectly possible to live outside the “norms” of typical behaviour and social interaction and manage.

  16. I have not yet read all that’s been written on this. But I have read several comments that show people appearing to misread what others have said.

    I did not understand why Larry was complaining, because I thought of the autism hub as merely a collection of blogs by a variety of writers each with a different focus. There are blogs that I don’t like so I don’t read them often. I didn’t witness anyone attempting to set themselves up as a leader; I saw a facilitator, who was willing to use his expertise, and to give of his time, to set up various groupings.

    What Joel has written in a few places, has made me think. There are issues that need to be addressed, Perhaps the blog writers who make up this small corner of the online autism world, have a duty to be more careful about what they write. Certainly, it should be emphasised, that autistic people must be the leaders in advocacy.

    It has been irritating to read several comments along the lines of,’well, are you telling me I can’t advocate for my child? Are you saying I’m shouldn’t have any say in autism discussions?’ because I have not heard anyone say that. Also, I have not read any of the non autistic parents disagree that the thrust of the advocacy message has to come from autistic people themselves, but I may have missed that.

    I know I want to be an ally. I may not be able to do much to help, and I may make mistakes, though I am careful to only claim to represent myself and my family. I would very much appreciate it if autistic people will correct me if I write anything that is incorrect, makes assumptions or sends the wrong message.

  17. I didn’t know about the crisis on the Autism Hub until today and have not read everything that has been written on the crisis.

    I have read Larry Arnold’s resignation statement on his blog. I disagree with his reason for resigning from the Hub. It’s not an organization with a party line which rejects dissent, but a loose network of autistics and non-autistics who believe in the worth and value of all autistics, and are against a cure for autism. It doesn’t have any leaders, and certainly should not be restricted to autistic people.

    But I hate the way this argument has degenerated into petty bickering with all the pointless exchange of insults. Two hundred years ago Larry and Kevin Leitch would have settled their differences with a pistol duel in the dawn mist. One or both of them may have shot in the air, or only to slightly wound his opponent. Now if there could be a virtual reality duel. I hope I’m not being facetious here.

  18. What we have here, is a failure to communicate. What is interesting to me is the interaction between NDs and NTs and I wonder if one set is more prone to misunderstanding or twisting someone else’s thoughts into something they Can understand. I wonder if one set is more likely to feel attacked. I wonder if one set is more likely to continue arguing, versus letting the squabble drop. Personally, I find Mr Arnold difficult to read. But I certainly don’t reinterpret his statements till they make sense to me. I just read someone else. That is the best thing about The Hub, there are a variety of writers to learn from.

  19. Well… some of the interactions are between ND and ND, too.

    I can’t always understand Larry, but I tend to know there’s something behind what he’s saying even when I don’t understand it. Same as anyone else I know who uses language unusually, or for that matter people whose language is typical but whose speech is hard to understand.

  20. right, ND on ND too. That seems somehow more acceptable between them (in this case Michelle and Larry) than if it is NT on ND (in which case, one might get seen as being attacked by “the enemy”) Forgive me for continuing on this. It is just my first time around being in this sort of mix. I am used to the petty cat-fights of strictly NT-zones. I wonder if the “depersonalization” of blogs/comments (as bullet replied to your next blog) is somehow leveling the playing field so we can all misinterpret and act like A-holes equally.
    I’m KIDDING! I don’t like fighting here OR there. I do not like it anywhere.

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