Catherine Noone and her anti-autistic bullshit
Catherine Noone seems to have dropped herself in it (again) with her profoundly uninformed, and frankly ignorant anti-autistic comments levelled at Leo Varadkar on last week's Virgin Media head-to-head debate with Micheál Martin.
"He’s autistic like, he’s on the spectrum, there’s no doubt about it. He’s uncomfortable socially and he doesn’t always get the in-between bits,”
And then added:
“If I do say so, I am much more natural than he would be. I’ve been in rooms with him and he doesn’t know what to do with himself. He’s naturally shy. But he’s actually a very good politician.
And it seems she's a liar, to boot, because she apparently denied uttering the words until told she'd been recorded.
She also said:
"I didn’t mean it in the sense of the actual illness or anything. I just mean he can be a bit wooden and lacking in empathy," she said. “I shouldn’t have even said it in that way"
A politician lying?
Say it isn't so.
Anyway.... how the fuck do you even begin to unpack that much Stupid rolled up in two short paragraphs?
First, Catherine, love, you can't tell someone's autistic by looking at them or from casual observation. Even qualified professionals can't do that, so an obviously uninformed politician who has a history of having strong opinions on things she knows nothing about has no chance.
I've heard the old "you don't look autistic" bullshit before and it doesn't get any less bigoted the more I hear it.
And then, secondly... you'd be more "natural", would you?
Autism and being autistic is, what?
Maybe you're one of those fuckwits who thinks a decent sodium chlorite enema would do us autistics the world of good and bleach the unnaturalness out of us, eh?
Autism is not an illness
It's a neurological disorder, you moron, a difference in the way our brains are wired. It's no more an illness than being tall, short, gay, straight, or left-handed is a fucking illness.
Of all the things she's said, this is perhaps the most idiotic, fucked up, and worthy of scorn, derision, and contempt, because it shows a lack of even the most basic and fundamental understanding of what autism is (I can't help but wonder what else she's doesn't understand... and then marvel at how we let people like her run the fucking country).
You know, I need to stop using the phrase "Just how stupid can people get?", because Noone and those like her seem to be taking it as a challenge.
But this is all old news now, and her cringing apologies are maybe worthless because I suspect she's not sorry for what she said but rather for being caught saying it.
Why else would she deny saying it?
And, to be frank, she and her opinions are irrelevant. She's a nonentity who has strong and sincerely-held opinions on matters she knows nothing about. Why would you take anything coming out of her mouth seriously?
True, it's galling I and other autistics have to pay her fucking wages, but that's just a fact of life.
Personally, I think she's unfit for office, but I doubt my feelings hold much sway on these things, so I'll treat her as what we Stoics call a dispreferred indifferent — meaning, it would be preferable not to have her suckling from the public teat, especially when she evidently looks down upon a considerable number of us as being "unnatural" — but it's beyond my control and so not worth my attention beyond brief comment.
So why write this post?
Because I think the reaction of the autistic community and those who support it is misplaced.
See, it seems to me an awful lot of people are getting unnecessarily worked up and angry, and there's an awful lot of pissing and moaning, and wailing and gnashing of teeth...
... and all to no avail. It looks like there will be no official sanctions (which speaks volumes about the whole sorry lot of them), so she'll now just hunker down until it all blows over.
Man, she's not worth it.
For the record, I'm not angry at her, nor am I offended. I don't even know what being offended would feel like, and even if that emotion wasn't completely alien to me, I'd not waste it on the likes of Noone.
Look... insults and other harsh words can hurt you only if you allow them to. And it's not like she was even clever with it, is it?
It's an unpopular truth but if we're of sound mind, then we're all responsible for our own emotions. Her comments and ignorance can no more "make" me or anyone else angry, any more than I can make my kettle boil simply by shouting at it.
Her opinions and comments are typical of the casual bigotry and discrimination we autistics face on a daily basis. It's a fact.
But being outraged, angry, and offended does nothing but leave you feeling bad and puts all the power in the hands of other people.
It won't affect her in the slightest, and it's akin to drinking poison and hoping and expecting her to get sick and die.
I’m not so much turning the other cheek as not accepting the insult... it’s like any unwanted gift.
“Choose not to be harmed — and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed — and you haven’t been.”
– Marcus Aurelius
It’s mine only if I accept it.
And I don't.
Noone is uninformed, ignorant, and a liar.
That's all on her, and it's all a reflection of her own personality and character. Nothing she says, thinks, feels, or believes about autism and autistic people reflects on me in any way whatsoever.
And if there's a price to be paid, perhaps she'll pay it at the ballot box.
A better response to autistic bigotry
I don't expect you to follow this advice, and it's none of my business or concern whether you do or don't.
But it might serve you well to think about it, and maybe try it out and see if it fits.
It's simple: instead of getting angry at her and others like her, simply mock them.
Point out their stupidity and ignorance and laugh at them, pouring upon their unworthy heads the scorn, derision, and contempt they've earned.
Anger is more often reflected back at us and achieves nothing ("more heat than light", as an old boss of mine used to say). More often than not we'll find ourselves coming out with ill-advised words of our own, and the whole course of the dialogue is derailed, and the moment lost.
But to show where these people are wrong and force them into blustering corner of their own making?
People hate being mocked and laughed at, especially when they're being hanged by their own ignorance and stupidity.
So let's not just let the matter drop.
Let's not get angry, indignant, and offended, emotions she can placate with meaningless and insincere apologies because she just got caught denigrating and belittling the very people who pay her wages.
No, let's keep it alive by asking her to explain herself. Get her to tell us exactly what she was thinking and how much she knows about disability in general and autism in particular.
Make her sweat and squirm as her outdated and uninformed opinions are peeled back to the bone and her ignorance revealed.
It's highly unlikely Noone will ever read this post.
It's even less likely she'll care about my opinion if she does.
And I'm cool with that.
In the same way I'm indifferent to her negative views of autism and autistics, I'd be indifferent to her apology, acknowledgement, or approval.
Like I said: she and her opinions are irrelevant.
But if enough people do read it — you know, those autistic-looking unnatural ones who nonetheless pay her wages — and treat her comments with the contempt they deserve, maybe, just maybe, she — and others — will see fit to inform herself of the facts before she opens her mouth.
Jon McCulloch, The Evil Bald Genius
Author, speaker, business owner, and autism advocate
P.S. If the approach to life I've hinted at here appeals to you, I strongly recommend the following books:
- How to think like a Roman emperor.
- How to be a Stoic.
- A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy￼.
- The Stoic Challenge: A Philosopher's Guide to Becoming Tougher, Calmer, and More Resilient.
P.P.S. Image of Noone by House of the Oireachtas.