Monday, September 28, 2009

Conservautism, Revisited

(Ha ha, I made a portmanteau!)

The article I posted about yesterday is not the original use of "autistic" to describe Republicans. It refers in the first paragraph to this Air America radio broadcast [audio clip - will start playing if you click the link] by Jack Rice, in which Rice compares Republican rhetoric to autistic self-calming routines (particularly echolalia/autoecholalia, in which you repeat a phrase over and over again).

Transcript of clip (edited somewhat for clarity):
Where will the Republicans go now?

You know, I almost feel sorry for them. I mean, not really, but I almost do! I almost do because of where they've put themselves --- where they have boxed themselves. Financially bankrupt, morally bankrupt, intellectually bankrupt, and it's almost as if they have nothing else that they can do.

You know what it's sort of reminiscent of for me? What it reminds me of is ... people with autism. --- And I have family members who have autism, so this is something that's very personal for me --- but one of the things that happens [when] people who have autism ... have to struggle, is, when they get ramped up, when they get overstimulated, they will use catchphrases. They will use certain words or certain phrases and they will use them over and over again, and it helps them relax and find their core, find their center again --- and that's a great thing, for people to be able to do this --- and I hate to make this comparison, but I think it's apt here: that Republicans are like people with autism.

Actually, I think that's incredibly offensive. It's offensive for people with autism to ever be considered, or compared to, Republicans. Nobody should ever be compared to a Republican!
(Okay, I laughed at that part.)
So let's push the autism concept away from it for only a second, but I want to stay with this idea of repeating lines over and over again: trying to find your core, trying to find that center that helps you.

(Begins speaking in a low monotone, sounding like a cross between a zombie and someone meditating using a mantra) "Com - mu - nist ... So - cial - ist A - gen - da ... gay marriage ... what about the chillll-dren?"

(Speaks in normal voice, but still in character) "Oh, I feel a little better now. Wait, what do you mean the country is going bankrupt? What do you mean we're in the middle of two wars? What are you talking about? Who cares? What do you mean it doesn't change anything when 48,000 marriages between gay and lesbian [partners] in California hasn't done anything? What do you mean that 92% of the people of Iowa said that it doesn't seem to change anything with gay marriage [being legalized in that state]? Hmmm, uhhh .... (Quickly picks up the Zombie Mantra Voice again) Whaaaaat about the chilllll-drennn? ... So - cial - ist a - gennn -daaaa ..."

(Breaks character) You think I'm joking.

Well, what is missing now? Oh, I know the one I'm missing!

This one: (Monotone) What about the troops? We gotta support our men and women in uniform who are in harm's way.

(Normal voice) Listen to [South Carolina Senator] Jim DeMint whine:
[Audio clip of Sen. DeMint, appearing on ABC News] The problem is, the war in Afghanistan and our economy are our two biggest issues, but he [President Barack Obama] is working on other issues such as health care and he's putting off the decision on Afghanistan, which I think puts our troops at risk! So he needs to focus on priorities right now, and not try to ram so many things down our throat here in Congress.
(Monotone) Troops at risk .... troooops ... at ... rissssk ....
You see? So now, all of a sudden, it's the Socialist Agenda! It's the gays! What about the children? What about the children? Our troops are at risk. You see, this is all about that soothing language to try and make you feel better about yourself --- remember the mantra, over and over and over again.
While Rice's clowning is a bit confused --- the metaphor shifts from "Republicans are autistic" to "Republicans are like New Age, meditating types who are finicky about negative vibes", frequently occupying a hazy middle ground --- the "Republicans are autistic" part of his segment seems to translate into "Republicans, like autistics, hate change and will often shut down completely in the face of it. To calm themselves in the face of overwhelming cognitive dissonance, which is scary to a rigid thinker like a Republican/autistic person, they must retreat into themselves, repeating familiar phrases to drown out what's scary and new."

(As a side note, I was surprised by the degree of empathy and understanding he showed for autistic people, even while he was using us to mock his political opponents. Rather than talk about meaningless "stereotyped" or "repetitive" behavior, he talks about calming rituals. He talks about how agitated we can get when we're "overstimulated." It's not much --- again, we're still in the context of mockery here --- but at least he seems to appreciate that we have minds, and feelings, and that our often-incomprehensible behaviors make perfect sense when you look at them as coping strategies instead of symptoms).


Kowalski said...

...aaaaand this is something that really annoys me about people "explaining" autism. They so often generalize things that apply to many autistics in this "autistics do this, autistics do that" way, as if *all* autistics did the same things and for the same reasons as well.

Lindsay said...

Oh, sure --- it's a simplified understanding that won't hold true for everyone. I'm sure he's going from what he's seen his autistic family member do, and extrapolating to all other autistic people on the planet.

I still think he's ahead of the mainstream for considering that there are reasons for what we do, though.

Kowalski said...

Oh yes, absolutely!

(Btw, I've finally put you in my Google reader, I keep missing your posts until days later... must be the Hub, it's gotten very lively and active lately.)

TheWiredOne said...

And I've been posting pretty actively, too. There's a new one coming up soon. Watch out for it.

Lindsay said...

@Kowalski -

Another thing that might be contributing to you missing my posts on the Hub is that I often take several days to write one, but I don't always change the date-and-time stamp on them.

So when they're posted, they already appear several days old!

On a high-traffic feed like the Hub, that would mean they'd be pretty well buried.

Kowalski said...

Oh, *that's* it!!