Two days ago I opened up my latest issue of Time magazine and started reading an article that talks about online trolls and how they are ruining the internet. In only the second paragraph I have these words staring back at me:
Is this really happening? In Time magazine? This isn’t some two-bit blogger, it’s Time magazine! A respected publication! I couldn’t believe my eyes. I went online to see if the same was in the online version and if anything had been said about it.
The online version did indeed get released with that same line intact, but was promptly removed due to a rapid response from the community. The online version now has an editor’s note at that end of the story:
I appreciate them removing the reference to Asperger’s from the online copy, but I don’t feel like this is enough. The editor’s note only acknowledges that an inappropriate reference has been removed. They haven’t apologized for allowing this to be printed in the first place. And they have no way of scrubbing the print edition. So in my opinion, they still haven’t addressed this properly.
According to Time’s own media kit page, they have an audience of 16,414,000 in the United States alone. That is potentially a lot of people reading this very sloppy article that unfairly targets those with Asperger’s Syndrome as trolls. People on the spectrum are far more likely to be bullied than to be the bully. We are already viewed as less than, other, weird, odd, disturbed. Being linked to sociopathic trolls isn’t helping in our uphill battle to be seen as whole people who deserve the same basic respect as “normal” people.
What is a “sociopath with Asperger’s” even supposed to mean? I’m not sure how the sociopaths feel about this, so I will let them defend themselves. But it seems that “sociopath” already encompasses plenty of negative traits. What exactly was “Asperger’s” supposed to add to that?
I will give TIME and Joel Stein the benefit of the doubt and assume they were just being ignorant and didn’t realize the negative impact of careless words. Although, someone who works with words really ought to know how much power words have. Someone who works with words ought to know that words can and do hurt. Making a comment like Stein did, in a respected publication such as TIME, does lend credibility to those who are looking to do people like me, people with ASD, harm.
I will not be satisfied until I see TIME and Joel Stein address this properly and apologize for the mistake. I would be especially pleased if they go one better and do an article about people on the spectrum that goes past the stereotypes and shows just how much Autistics contribute to this world.