A troubled young man who shot six U.C. Santa Barbara students and injured 13 bystanders shortly before killing himself has once again been highlighted in a negative media light because he allegdly had Asperger’s Syndrome.
Elliot Rodger was 22, and filled his Youtube page with strange and bizarre videos of his feelings towards women, especially those who had knocked his romantic advances back during his years in high school. He was never officially diagnosed with Asperger’s, although family members are quoted in some articles as saying that he was “on the spectrum”.
Alarmingly it’s the media portrayal of this appalling shooting which has the autism community realing. It’s headlines like :
The Courier May 26, 2014
“While those on the autism spectrum may not come hardwired with the same levels of social understanding as people without the syndrome, and can be involved in some crime, there is no proven connection between the diagnosis and violent behaviour.
Just like anyone else, those with Asperger’s can have other mental health problems, which could lead to violent behaviour. In Lanza’s case, a final report on the shooting said he had significant mental health issues and Lanza’s father also said it wasn’t Asperger’s that led his son to mass murder.”
Santa Barbara Killer Began By Stabbing 3 in His Home
CBS May 24, which was quickly changed from “California Shooter had Aspergers, was seeing multiple therapists; family reported him to the police several weeks ago for violent Youtube videos.”
And the Daily Mail online, which reported that Rodgers was diagnosed with Asperger’s when indeed he was not.
Reactions to the reporting have been varied in the autism community, and met with the same discontent as I admittedly felt when I was reading through the mass media minefield of incorrect and unsubstantiated and I must say highly flawed reporting. It brings it home, in a big way that the media in general just does not understand the spectrum, and more frightening than that is happy to point the finger at it readily.
I found a collection of tweets here from the community, entitled “don’t you dare blame this on aspergers”, also a number of interesting articles, this one featured in the Inquisitor makes a fair point:
“If you meet somebody with Asperger’s, you’ve only met one person with Asperger’s. … Asperger’s is a blip on the far-reaching autism spectrum and no two cases are the same. Just as no ‘typical’ person deserves to be tar-brushed with the evil acts of another, Aspies don’t deserve the bad press they’re getting.”
And this article in Market Watch, which asks clinical psychiatrists and people with actual letters after their names, and years of experience with children with Asperger’s their opinion.
I am a journalist. I don’t claim to know everything, but having read a little about Rodger’s life, and the turbulent effect his parents split had on him when he was a child, his introverted manner, culminated by a deep rooted problem with mental health, I’m horrified that others in my profession have jumped on the bandwagon of blaming Asperger’s syndrome for an event which, with accumulative evidence had building for a long time.
In my honest opinion I cannot believe that others have jumped so readily to a conclusion which just isn’t viable, and am ashamed of both the ignorance, and arrogance of the media for publishing such propaganda.
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