Category Archives: Media

The Daily Mail attacks its own campaign over Guantanamo Bay story

The Daily Mail was outraged last week by the news that Jamal al Harith, an ISIS suicide bomber had once been interned in Guantanamo Bay until the Labour government obtained his release. Even worse he had been proclaimed innocent and paid £1 million in compensation. Signal for a scornful attack on the bleeding heart liberals who campaigned on his behalf and their media friends like … erm … The Daily Mail.

Yes, the Mail had campaigned for the release of Britons held without trial at Guantanamo Bay and greeted the release of Jamal al Harith and four other Britons with the headline Freedom at last for Guantanamo Britons. Its editorial on 20th February 2004 chimed with similar sentiments across the media, including the Times, Telegraph and Independent.

“Welcome though the impending release of five British detainees may be, the fact is that they have been kept … for more than two years, without charge, without access to their families and without legal representation. This isn’t the justice America insists on for its own citizens. This smacks of crude revenge by a nation so traumatised by the horrors of 9/11 that it subjects prisoners to an ordeal that should shame any civilised society …
“It has taken long months of hard negotiations to get five Britons out, even though it is clear the US authorities had no evidence against them. What confidence can there be in the likely treatment of the four remaining?”

In fact Prime Minister Blair had been criticized by the Conservative opposition for being too eager to please President Bush and slow to act on behalf of British detainees. The compensation payment marks another twisted encounter with the truth for the Daily Mail. A number of ex-detainees, including Jamal al Harith, were taking civil action against the British government for its alleged complicity in their detention without trial and torture by the USA and its agents. They claimed that British secret service agents were present during interrogations and provided the questions, even if they did not participate directly.

But attitudes in the UK had hardened in the wake of terror attacks in London in July 2005. The Mail was grudging in its approval for an out of court settlement agreed by the coalition government led by Cameron  in November 2010. According to Max Hastings writing in the Mail,

However our government had little choice save to approve this out-of-court settlement. It was advised that, if these men’s cases went to full hearings, the legal costs would be enormous, sensitive intelligence would be made public and, in any case, the Government was bound to lose.

The sum of £1 million per detainee was being bandied about at the time. Relatives of Jamal al Harith deny that he ever received such a sum. It is likely that the £20 million total for all the out of court settlements  would have been substantially reduced once legal costs had been paid.

So congratulations to the Daily Mail. In the words of New Statesman blogger, Media Mole, its attack on its own campaign over Guantanamo Bay,

will cause much heartache for its leftier readers – so do address your dilemma by telling us who you side with in this Alien vs. Predator setup: which monster do you side with? Tony Blair or the Daily Mail?

 

Churchill or Bust?

President Barack Obama shows Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom a bust of Sir Winston Churchill in the private residence of the White House, July 20, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

There are so many big lies in the world – think Brexit Bus or the current outpourings from the Whitehouse – that there is a danger that the little lies slip through unnoticed. I am not talking about the run of the mill little white lies or the exaggerations and omissions that happen all the time. Instead I want to talk about seemingly minor inaccuracies that become significant further down the line.

 

CHURCHILL’S BUST

The story of Churchill’s bust is one such tale. According to the myth Barack Obama removed a bust of Winston Churchill from the White House and returned it to the British Government when he became President in 2009 because of his alleged antipathy towards the United Kingdom.

That is the version that the Daily Telegraph published at the time and it returned to prominence in 2012 when Charles Krauthammer used it again as evidence of the Obama regime’s antipathy to Britain in an opinion piece in the Washington Post.

There was initial confusion in the Obama team when they issued a denial.

This is 100% false. The bust still in the White House. In the Residence. Outside the Treaty Room.

The denial was wrong. The bust had been returned. But that was because it had only been on loan to president Bush while the original White House bust of Churchill, which has been there since 1965, was either undergoing restoration work or was in its usual home outside the Treaty Room in the private residence on the second floor of the White House. As the same Obama White House Archive post makes clear in an update:

On January 20, 2009 — Inauguration Day — all of the art lent specifically for President Bush’s Oval Office was removed by the curator’s office, as is common practice at the end of every presidency. The original Churchill bust remained on display in the residence.

They even provide a picture of President Obama showing the bust to Prime Minister Cameron in the White House residence. But that initial error by President Obama’s staff was seized on as a lie by opponents who ignored subsequent corrections. They  used the return of the bust to build a case against President Obama. Never mind that the fact of the return did not support the proposition that President Obama was hostile to the UK. The initial denial of the fact of the return of the bust and the subsequent correction were themselves taken as evidence to support the proposition. The correction was described as a humiliating climb-down and further doubt was cast on President Obama’s motivation. This interview of Krauthammer by Bill O’Reilly on Fox News is especially interesting.

B. O’REILLY: Here’s the back story. Some people believe that President Obama doesn’t like Winston Churchill because of British colonialism in Africa, particularly Kenya. So that he didn’t want old Winnie looking at him because he didn’t like him. That he sent it back because of that. That’s what’s been around.
Now, your point on even bringing it up, the bust deal was, what?
KRAUTHAMMER: My point was I don’t read into people’s minds. If I wanted to, I would have remained in psychiatry. All I know is that the British reaction to the return of the bust was extremely negative, and it felt like it was an insult, that this was a gift after 9/11 to show solidarity. The British had soldiers serving with us at the time in Iraq and Afghanistan, really standing shoulder to shoulder and this was a slight. That’s how they saw it.

Krauthammer is taking his cue from the Telegraph, who in turn were quoting the British Embassy. But the bust was not a gift. It was a loan. And it was not a sign of solidarity after 9/11. It was loaned to President Bush in July, months before the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre. So on one hand we have a genuine mistake because President Obama’s staff were confused by the fact that there were two Churchill busts in the White House in 2009, and they quickly issued a correction when their mistake was pointed out. On the other hand we have an attack on President Obama’s motivation and his state of mind that had no basis in fact. President Obama’s critics have yet to issue a correction to their mistaken apprehension of the facts.

BREXIT

The supposed antipathy of President Obama to British colonialism based on his Kenyan roots was to return during the Brexit referendum campaign. President Obama intervened on behalf of his old ally, Prime Minister Cameron to dismiss the idea that a trade deal with the USA would replace our access to the single market. President Obama pointed out that the EU was a major trading partner and Britain outside the EU could expect to find itself at the back of the queue for trade deals. I find it inconceivable that Barack Obama would intervene so flagrantly in the internal affairs of an ally without the express approval of David Cameron. But it proved to be yet another misstep by the Remain Campaign.

Boris Johnson for the Brexit camp responded by reviving the tale of Churchill’s bust and expanding on Bill O’Reilly’s anti-colonial argument by claiming that President Obama disliked Churchill because he had sent British troops into Kenya to quell an uprising. In a Brexit campaign pandering to the fears of immigration by those in Britain’s equivalent of the Rust Belt in the USA such dog whistle racism was condemned by the Remain camp and went unchallenged in the Brexit camp. President Obama answered the claims of anti British and specifically anti Churchill bias at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Cameron but to no avail.

THE STORY SO FAR

The best timeline of events is here. The short version is that the right wing Daily Telegraph put an anti-Obama spin on the original return of the bust in 2009 that erroneously linked the original loan of the bust to 9/11. In 2012 Christopher Krauthammer revived the tale and also played up 9/11, claiming that the return of the bust was an insult to the solidarity shown by Britain to the USA and showed where President Obama’s real sympathies lay. Though he was not so explicit as Dinesh D’Souza who said in his The Roots of Obama’s Rage.

Obama views Muslims who are fighting against America in Iraq and Afghanistan as freedom fighters, somewhat akin to Indians or Kenyans fighting to push out their British colonial occupier.

The myth was revived by anti EU campaigner Boris Johnson to undermine President Obama’s support for Prime Minister Cameron and the Remain campaign. The UK subsequently voted to leave the EU. Then, employing a similar populist strategy with complete disregard for the facts, Donald Trump successfully ran for president on a blatantly racist and sexist ticket.

THE STORY LINGERS ON

And it is not over yet. President Trump’s election has aroused protest on both sides of the Atlantic. 1.8 million people have signed a petition condemning the proposed state visit to the UK by President Trump. On February 6th the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, was adamant that the democratic values of the UK parliament, its anti racism, anti sexism and respect for the rule of law were inimical to an invitation to President Trump to address the UK parliament. In opposition to John Bercow Churchill’s bust was evoked by Republican Congressman, Joe Wilson. He suggested that it was the Republican Party that had restored this bust to its place of honour in Congress. This is yet another bust of Churchill that was not presented to Congress until 2013 and was then placed inside Congress’s statuary hall  in the Capitol Building were it remains to this day.

So some misreporting in the Daily Telegraph and a misunderstanding by President Obama’s white House staff about an obscure piece of statuary has morphed into a symbolic battle with anti EU campaigners in the UK and pro Trump supporters in the USA, claiming Winston Churchill as an ally against  Barack Obama, the pro Europe camp within the UK and the Democratic opposition in the USA.

The Nazis coined the phrase that, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” But before them Lenin had claimed that, “a lie told often enough becomes the truth.”

And no lie is too small to become truth. We ignore all lies at our peril.

Is Andrew Wakefield a fraud and a bully?

I had hoped that, after he disappeared into obscurity in the United States, I could safely ignore Andrew Wakefield, the disgraced former surgeon, who lost his licence to practise medicine in the UK for his dishonest and unethical role in the MMR Hoax. He did surface last year alongside Polly Tommey, who followed her hero into exile in the USA, when they tried to sell an autism reality show. The premise was simple. Film autistic children in distress. Take them to Arthur Krigsman to be given a colonoscopy and diagnosed with autistic enterocolitis. Then cure them with special diets and supplements and film the happy outcome.

This project never came to fruition. But Wakefield and Tommey did intervene in the case of Alex Spourdalakis. They filmed this young man in distressing circumstances in hospital. They made allegations about the treatment he received, relying on the patient confidentiality enshrined in US law to prevent health authorities from responding to their claims. They had a willing accomplice in Alex’s mother and arranged for Alex to be treated by Arthur Krigsman. But refusing conventional treatment and opting for quack remedies did not have the desired effect. Alex was subsequently murdered poisoned and stabbed to death by his mother. We await the outcome of her trial. Both Wakefield and Tommey were complicit in attempts to use their film to justify her crime.

Wakefield’s most recent exploit pales in comparison to that example of sleaze. It seems that he has taken exception to being called a fraud. Actually he has been called a fraud many times, most noticeably by Brian Deer and Fiona Godlee in the British Medical Journal. He tried to sue them but a Texas court rejected his claim and the appeal has yet to be settled. Time Magazine reported that Wakefield was a fraud. So did CNN, The Daily Telegraph. David Whelan, writing for Forbes Magazine even suggested that the US authorities should deport Wakefield to face fraud charges in the UK. With the exception of his outstanding appeal with regard to the BMJ Wakefield has not responded to any of these reports until now when Emily Willingham, also writing for Forbes Magazine called him a fraud.

Actually Ms Willingham did not make a big deal about the fraud. Her main point was to highlight a recent review of gut issues and autism in Pediatrics which suggests that

It is clear that greater clinical and research scrutiny is needed to increase awareness on this topic and thus support development of the best standards of care. Previous controversy surrounding the MMR vaccine and proposed causal link between ASD and infection of the GI tract probably deterred investigators from dedicating resources to examine GI functioning in this population while fostering uncertainty in the ASD community regarding the validity of this line of inquiry.

This seems perfectly clear to me. Wakefield’s fraudulent research has tainted the investigation of potential links between autism and GI functioning. He has discouraged other investigators into this link and made it difficult for them to obtain funding. He has performed a great disservice to science. More importantly, autistic people with genuine GI dysfunction have struggled to have their symptoms taken seriously. They or their parents have had their concerns dismissed by health professional who are chary of any association with Wakefield’s ideas. It is a bitter irony that some are then welcomed by Wakefield’s acolytes into the alt-med world of untested and unproven biomedical remedies for autism.

Wakefield has written a  letter to Ms Willingham threatening her and Forbes Magazine with prosecution, “pending legal advice.”  He concludes

You are also advised that I live and work in Austin, Texas where my business is headquartered, and that my work is conducted throughout the US. Your defamatory statements about me will undoubtedly cause me to suffer significant personal and financial damage.

My lawyers are currently dealing with Deer and his co-defendants. They will be turning their attention to you well within the statute of limitations for filing a case against you and Forbes.

Three things strike me. One, this is Wakefield acting off his own bat. He has not taken legal advice. That is pending. He has written a threatening letter to a blogger to bully her into silence “pending legal advice.“  Two, he is not going to do anything unless he gets a successful outcome in Texas regarding his action against the BMJ (Deer and his co-defendants ). Three, talk of prosecution and defendants in relation to civil law is a total nonsense. There is only one criminal in this case and he can count himself lucky that nobody has seen fit to prosecute him yet.

So why is he doing it? My best guess is that he has issued this threat and published it on Age of Autism to rally the troops and revitalize his flagging support. And why is he doing it to Ms Willingham? Perhaps he thinks she is more vulnerable than CNN or Time Magazine. Maybe he hoped that Forbes would take the corporate view and silence her to fend off a potential troublesome lawsuit. Not for the first time he has been proven wrong. Ms Willingham is an eminent scientist, an educator and an accomplished journalist. Forbes recognize her talent and show no signs of surrendering to Wakefield’s bluster.

Autism: Challenging Behaviour

Introduction

Michael Fitzpatrick is a retired GP with a profoundly autistic son. Mike is also the author of MMR and Autism: What Parents Need to Know and Defeating Autism: A Damaging Delusion. He usually writes for Spiked Online. But he has asked me to host his review of a recent BBC4 documentary, Autism: Challenging Behaviour. The programme claimed to be a

Documentary exploring the controversy around ABA (Applied Behaviour Analysis), an intensive intervention used to treat autism, by meeting people who are both pro- and anti-ABA.

Applied Behavioural Analysis is a system of instruction devised by Ivor Lovaas that  is based on B. F. Skinner’s theory of operant conditioning. Its supporters are wont to claim that it is “the only scientifically proven therapy for autism.” Here is a typical offering from Families for Early Autistic Treatment (FEAT) in British Colombia, who are part of a campaign to have ABA mandated as a necessary medical treatment for autism in Canada.

Effective, scientifically backed treatment for autism exists (the “Lovaas” Method – a form of Applied Behavior Analysis). Lovaas behavioural treatment for autism is medically necessary and prescribed by physicians because it is the only treatment available that significantly improves this biological disorder. Lovaas behavioral treatment for autism is the most thoroughly documented treatment of children with autism. Scientific studies document a 47% recovery rate from autism and a near 100% improvement rate for children who receive Lovaas early treatment.

In the United States there is a campaign to compel health insurance companies to include ABA as a medical intervention for autism, ABAmaCare if you like. These campaigns are not without controversy. Michelle Dawson, an autistic individual and autism researcher in Canada is perhaps the most eloquent advocate who challenges the scientific and ethical foundations of ABA. She is not alone. But the BBC4 documentary made no reference to Michelle’s critique of ABA.  It followed the more familiar route of human interest documentaries. The case for ABA was made using heart warming individual success stories, balanced by critical remarks from autism experts who questioned its scientific and ethical credentials. No prizes for guessing who won. So thank you Michael Fitzpatrick for eschewing emotional appeal and providing us with this critical review of the documentary.

801221895Autism: Challenging Behaviour

Producer/Director: Fran Robertson

BBC4, 5 November 2013

Fran Robertson’s documentary tells the story of two engaging little boys with autism – Jack aged three, and Jeremiah, four – who attend Treetops school in Thurrock, Essex, the only state school in the country in which the curriculum is based on the intensive behavioural techniques of Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA). Blonde with an angelic smile, Jack responds with tantrums and projectile vomiting to any food beyond a highly restricted liquid diet. Dark-haired and bright-eyed Jeremiah seems to inhabit a ‘world of his own’ from which his Indian parents struggle to engage him. In the course of the film we follow the attempts of teachers and teaching assistants to overcome these boys’ behavioural and communication difficulties through the techniques of ABA.

The film explores the long-running controversy around ABA through interviews with academic critics and adults who have been diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorders, including one mother who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome following her son’s diagnosis. Early forms of ABA, which emerged from the pioneering work of the Norwegian psychologist Ivar Lovaas in California in the 1960s, were condemned for using punitive ‘aversive’ techniques. Though these have long been abandoned, critics still claim that ABA is dehumanising, seeking to ‘normalise’ autistic behaviours – such as repetitive, self-stimulatory, activities – which are functional for people with autism.

Another area of controversy around ABA – the question ‘does it work?’ – is avoided in this documentary, which tends to take at face value the assertion by campaigners, teachers and parents committed to this approach that it is effective. Much research, summarised in two recent systematic reviews, has failed to provide categorical endorsement. Studies show that while some children with autism benefit from ABA, some do not; some benefit more than others; and some children make progress without intensive behavioural intervention (and to a degree comparable with those who receive it). The problem is that we still do not know how to identify which children are most likely to benefit from ABA and which from other forms of intervention, or what particular aspects of the ABA approach are likely to benefit particular children.

At the end of Autism: Challenging Behaviour, we see Jack cheerfully tucking in to sausage, beans and chips with his mother and Jeremiah playing happily with his parents. But this emotionally manipulative presentation of ABA takes little account of the experience of many parents – that of limited progress despite immense efforts and of disappointment at their failure to achieve the promised outcomes.

The uncritical advocacy of ABA goes even further in a number of episodes featuring the Scandinavian therapist Gunnar Frederickson, who follows in the dubious tradition of campaigners who claim that ABA can achieve “cure” or “recovery” from autism. As British autism expert Rita Jordan has observed ‘the whole ABA movement appears increasingly more like a cult than a science’. Charismatic, dogmatic and sanctimonious – and with a passing resemblance to the rock’n’ roll philanthropist and activist Bono – Frederickson takes the film crew to the scene of his greatest triumph over autism. We meet a 16 year old boy, treated by Frederickson at the age of three when his parents were told he was ‘unlikely to speak’. He is now ‘indistinguishable from his peers’ and a member of the Swedish badminton team. He lives with his happy family in a beautiful, spacious, white house (in stark contrast to the dark, cramped and impoverished conditions in which we see some of the British children with autism are living). While any sceptical observer would want to know more about both the original diagnosis and the current level of functioning, it is the wonder cure that makes good television – and guarantees continuing demand for ABA, despite the lack of scientific evidence for its efficacy.

It is important to note that some proponents of ABA – such as Professor Richard Hastings – repudiate both the ‘normalising’ and the ‘cure’ agenda: ‘just because some individuals or organizations argue that ABA can lead to some sort of recovery from autism does not mean that this is what ABA is all about.’

Michael Fitzpatrick 6 November 2013

Further reading:

Howlin P., Magiati I., Charman T.(2009). Systematic review of early intensive behavioral interventions for children with autism. American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. 114(1), pp. 23-41.

Spreckley M., Boyd R.(2009). Efficacy of applied behavioral intervention in preschool children with autism for improving cognitive, language, and adaptive behavior: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Pediatrics. 154(3), pp. 338-344.

Prof Hastings blog: http://profhastings.blogspot.co.uk/

Michael Fitzpatrick, ‘The Lovaas cure: ABA is it a fad?’ in Defeating Autism: A Damaging Delusion, Routledge, 2009, p138-141.

Why are Wakefield’s views on MMR still news?

Wakefield ipaper

Today’s i Paper and Independent carry a front page story that gives Andrew Wakefield everything he could wish for. Two days ago I blogged a piece on Wakefield’s recent attempt to capitalize on the measles outbreak in Wales. He issued a statement on Age of Autism, a blog that reflects the views of its sponsors, US organizations like Safe Minds and Generation Rescue. For them autism is a man made epidemic caused by vaccines and other environmental toxins. It can be cured by a combination of diets, vitamins, detox programmes and other “alternative” (i.e. unproven) therapies. Needless to say these ideas have no support within mainstream scienceofautismscience. The recent booklet, The Good and Bad Science of Autism, provides a clear and accessible rebuttal in an excellent guide to the current state of our knowledge and understanding of autism

It speaks volumes that Wakefield is now dependent on media outlets like Age of Autism to get his message across. He is a marginal figure, reduced to touting proposals for a reality TV show, “The Autism Team” to US producers, as reported by Mark Hannaford in the Guardian. He still has nuisance value within the autism community. His acolytes continue to repeat the MMR hoax on blogs and other social media. But his days as a mainstream media figure are clearly over.  At least I thought they were until I picked up my copy of the i Paper today.

The article is neither a criticism of Wakefield for being the architect of the MMR scare behind the measles outbreak in South Wales nor a critique of the lies and distortions in his self-serving statement. It effectively gives him the right to reply.

  1. His picture and his words form the headline. The expert rebuttal comes a poor second.
  2. Although the print version of the i Paper concentrates on the single vaccine question, the Independent in print and online gives full coverage to his statement, which is printed in full. This statement repeats the lies that MMR is unsafe and causes autism. Incidentally, the Independent credits its source for Wakefield’s statement as healthimpactnews.com, a “news” site that was set up to promote the owners’ business, selling coconut based products as health foods. It also publishes their views on Darwin, prescription drugs, GM food and vaccines. They oppose them all while defending creationism or intelligent design and alternative medicines and therapies.
  3. Getting an expert to respond to Wakefield’s statements inevitably puts the expert on the defensive and makes him sound less convincing than Wakefield, who is never questioned on any of the dubious statements published without comment. It also gives a false air of legitimacy. This was always the problem in the original coverage of the MMR Hoax. By appearing balanced it gave equal weight to very unequal ideas. Outside of the medical fringe there has never been any support for Wakefield amongst doctors or researchers.
  4. There is an attempt to place Wakefield’s statement in context. But the message comes across that the question of single vaccines versus MMR is a legitimate topic for debate and that Wakefield, despite being struck off for malpractice in relation to research into MMR, has a legitimate voice in that debate.

Adam Lanza: scapegoating is not the answer

My thanks to Michael Baron for this PRESS RELEASE from Autism-Europe.

18 December 2012
Caution over linking autism with school massacre in United States

Numerous media reports have claimed that, Adam Lanza, the young man who killed 20 children 6 adults at an elementary school in the United States on Friday, had Asperger syndrome.

While claims that Lanza had Asperger syndrome (an autism spectrum disorder) remain unverified at this point in time, Autism-Europe urges the wider community to be cautious about making links between autism and violent crime.

On this tragically sad occasion, Autism-Europe’s Director, Aurélie Baranger, expresses “our deepest sympathies for the victims of the massacre at Sandhook Elementary School, their families and the community of Newtown, Connecticut”.

Ms Baranger explains that, “We should understand this tragedy as the act of an individual, not typical of a person with autism.”

“We urge the international community, including journalists and other individuals, to avoid making incorrect assumptions or judgements about people with autism,” she continues.

“As with the rest of society, the vast majority of people who have autism are law-abiding citizens.”

“People with autism throughout Europe, the United States and the rest of the world, already face many barriers and much discrimination. Additional negative stereotyping in the media only leads to further stigmatisation and difficulties for people who have autism.”

“When writing media reports, we urge journalists in particular to take appropriate care to avoid further stigmatising people who have autism,” she continues.

Autism affects around 1 in 150 people in Europe. It is a lifelong disability that affects the development and functioning of the brain. People who have autism experience difficulty with communication, social interaction and often display restricted interests and repetitive behaviours. Autism is a spectrum disorder, which means that the symptoms vary between individuals, ranging from mild to severe.

For more information about autism, please visit: www.autismeurope.org

For more information, and or interviews, please do not hesitate to contact

Aurelie Baranger, Director of Autism-Europe:

Tel: +32 (0)477 70 59 34

Email: aurelie.baranger@autism-europe.org

The media has generally has acquitted itself well in covering the school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, except in one respect. Faced with the inexplicable horror of a massacre of young children, an explanation has been sought by trying to typecast the perpetrator.

From all accounts it is reasonable to assume that Adam Lanza was shy, intelligent, vulnerable, socially isolated, a “nerd” in common parlance. But it is unreasonable to label him a “Nerd Killer” as one UK tabloid did. Language is important. Calling him a “Child Killer” would have left no doubt about what he did. “Nerd Killer” is a statement about who he was. It suggests that going on a killing spree is a nerd characteristic.The grammatically correct “nerdy killer” is less strong. It does not make nerds seem threatening or dangerous. Instead it suggests that this was an uncharacteristic act.

Similarly, the references to Lanza’s interest in computer games, violent of course, are supposed to mark him out as a potential mass murderer. But a month ago the media were all over the launch of Black Ops II with pictures of happy smiling fans some of whom had obsessively queued for days. Others were in fancy dress as blood smeared zombies. All good fun and generating millions of sales but apparently not millions of deranged killers.

Back to autism, and Lanza certainly looks a good fit for a diagnosis. This has yet to be confirmed. Actually most of the “facts” about Lanza have turned out to be false according to the Guardian. If it turns out to be true does it matter? Not very much. In my opinion, if he had survived to stand trial it should have had no bearing on his guilt and no bearing on his sentence. But it should have been taken into account to ensure that his condition did not disadvantage him in exercising his legal right to a fair trial. And it should have been a mitigating factor in deciding the appropriate custodial regime for such a vulnerable adult. That and no more.

It has even been suggested that Lanza was a Goth. Never mind that he is as unlike a Goth as it is possible to be, Goths, like nerds, obsessive computer gamers and autistic people are more likely to be the victims rather than the perpetrators of violence.

In there eagerness to explain the inexplicable sections of the media have focused on identifiable sub cultures and categories of people in society. see for example the lurid profile of Lanza in the Sun. None of this helps to explain why Adam Lanza acted the way he did. But it does increase the likelihood of bullying and violence against these disparate elements in society. This irresponsible behaviour may inadvertently add to the list of Lanza’s victims.

So why did he do it? I do not know. But I predict that if there is an answer it will emerge from a complex analysis of the circumstances of his life and not from simplistic profiling by  journalists that puts others at risk of retaliatory hate crimes.

A comprehensive list of autism related blogs and responses is available here:

http://lizditz.typepad.com/i_speak_of_dreams/2012/12/gun-violence-and-the-search-for-a-scapegoat-autism-edition.html