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Goddamnit Bill Maher

Anyone else remember when Rush Limbaugh called President Clinton’s daughter Chelsea a dog? It wasn’t just petty and cruel, but it was an attack on a child, and it was disgusting. It was symptomatic of the derangement of the right wing that people actually laughed and defended it.

Now Bill Maher is laughing at Sarah Palin’s Down syndrome child. It’s the same thing.

Futrell didn’t think he’d hear the HBO personality mock former Gov. Sarah Palin’s special needs child or hear the crowd laugh right along.

Futrell, a former Las Vegas sports broadcaster and Breitbart News contributor, says on his blog that Maher used the term "retarded" to describe young Trig Palin during the comedy performance.

The one thing I can respect about Palin, that she seems to treat all of her children equally, is a joke to Maher. Thanks, guy, for being such an awful, ghastly, horrible liberal, and for lowering yourself to mocking the children of your political opponents.

(via Joe.My.God)

Comments

  1. unbound says

    For all of the interesting things that Bill Maher says, he does have a track record of being rather stupid on a variety of issues. I can’t say I’m surprised at this one.

  2. janedoe says

    I’m not sure that Ron Futrell’s story is entirely true. He’s a far right wing LDS with a history of being pretty inflammatory all on his own. Here’s the quote about the supposedly offensive material from Futrell’s blog:

    Maher chose to make a joke about Palin’s son, Trig and in the process he used the “R” word to describe this 5 year old special needs boy. Of course, since Trig is Palin’s son, he is a target of the left. Special needs be damned, there are jokes to be made by “caring compassionate” liberals. I was so disgusted and a bit surprised that I forgot the exact joke. Perhaps he saves this joke for live audiences only. The audience of more supposed compassionate, caring leftists loved the joke and roared with laughter.

    So, then he goes down close to the front of the house and “confronts” Maher about entirely different material (a joke Maher was making about Halliburton). Plus, he says he can’t even remember the Trig Palin joke?

    Maher’s said some pretty insensitive stuff, but in this case, I don’t trust the messenger.

  3. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Do we have any independent confirmation from more than this one source?

  4. itkovian says

    [quote]
    So, then he goes down close to the front of the house and “confronts” Maher about entirely different material (a joke Maher was making about Halliburton). Plus, he says he can’t even remember the Trig Palin joke?

    Maher’s said some pretty insensitive stuff, but in this case, I don’t trust the messenger.
    [/quote]

    Agreed, following the links I couldn’t find any halfway reliable evidence that this actually happened. The heckler seems more concerned about a Halliburton joke rather than anything to do with Sarah Palin’s child.

    You would think, if Maher really did get that douchey (and lord knows he can be), it’d be all over.

    And the heckler himself seems quite unreliable. Sounds more like he was intentionally disrupting the show than making any valid protest (who gets upset about a Halliburton joke, anyway?)

  5. itkovian says

    *sigh* and my comment-fu is weak once again. Forgive the terrible quote :)./

  6. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    Again, this wouldn’t surprise me. While I do appreciate some of the comedy of Maher and his stance on a few things he’s a giant fucking asshole.

    There’s not a show that goes by these days without him making a joke about Chris Christie’s weight. And they usually come during a topic that has absolutely nothing to do with Christie.

    But yeah, source on this seems suspect as hell.

  7. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    @ itkovian the greater than () symbol brackets with the word ‘blockquote’ inside the first and the same word with a / in tehsecond give you

    Quatation method

    That info & more is also provided in below the reply writing box thingummy. Hope that helps.

  8. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Greater than and lesser than symbols – angled arrowhead shaped brackets. > & <

  9. JasonTD says

    @Mary Luce,

    Yeah, Bill Maher is pretty much a jerk that thinks he’s funny.

  10. ChasCPeterson says

    He used the word ‘retarded’ (“the ‘r’ word” ffs) to describe a kid with Down syndrome?
    I honestly don’t undertand what’s wrong with that.

    There’s no context provided here that might help to judge further, because wingnut sportsguy forgot the actual joke.

  11. imthegenieicandoanything says

    Bill M. like nearly all comedians, is hard to actually “like” – and impossible to admire, even when he, or his staff, come up with funny stuff.

    “Comedian” is a job I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy….

    Oh, yes, I would, actually. Via Voltaire’s comment about his only prayer and his enemies.

  12. marcoli says

    I consider him to be funny, and the source of this is not trustworthy. OTOH Maher has stumbled on occasion such as his anti-vacc position. I do not watch him, preferring to be entertained by John Stewart and Steve Colbert.

  13. ChasCPeterson says

    You certainly did not require a chromosomal abnormality… to behave like one.

    see, this, on the other hand–this is splash damage.

  14. says

    imthegenieicandoanything: “Bill M. like nearly all comedians, is hard to actually “like””

    Surely it’s impossible not to love Peter Serafinowicz? Just when you think you love him as much as it’s possible to love anyone you’ve never met, you discover his Twitter feed, or watch a new video he’s directed, or discover he voiced Driver Dan’s Story Train, or find out he’s a bit Boards of Canada Fan, or come across his joke book – and then, like Dr Hook, you love him that little bit more.

  15. Ing:Intellectual Terrorist "Starting Tonight, People will Whine" says

    @Chas
    While a technical term retarded has come to be a slur. It’s also context as a doctor diagnosing as “mentally retarded” may be seen as less offensive but even then I’d imagine developmentally disabled is proffered

  16. Ing:Intellectual Terrorist "Starting Tonight, People will Whine" says

    Also its Brietbert. I’d be shocked if it wasn’t a lie

  17. ChasCPeterson says

    I’m aware of the euphemism-treadmill phenomenon. I just think it’s kind of stupid.

  18. iplon says

    Let’s remember that Maher likes to use “liberal” as a snarl word for anyone who doesn’t agree with him 100% from the left.

    He loves his narrow-minded thinking. “Islam is the most dangerous religion of all, because it actually encourages violence!”

    In the case where you have a religion which obviously doesn’t discourage its followers from killing tens of thousands of people in war after war after war and a religion which encourages violence in some situations but doesn’t nearly approach the modern death toll of the former… I think I’d almost prefer the latter.

  19. carlie says

    Bill M. like nearly all comedians, is hard to actually “like”

    Really? Funny, I only find comedians funny when they seem to be likable people.

  20. Ing:Intellectual Terrorist "Starting Tonight, People will Whine" says

    @Chas

    I’ll inform the disabled their preference offends your privledged sensibilities

  21. Ing:Intellectual Terrorist "Starting Tonight, People will Whine" says

    BIll Baily seems very nice, just saying

  22. mythbri says

    @PZ

    I’m sure that Sarah Palin loves her children. I’m also sure that Bristol did 97% of the babysitting as compared with Track, who is the oldest. I doubt it’s anywhere near equal.

  23. edmundog says

    Same here. I quite like Jim Gaffigan, for instance. He seems like a good guy.

  24. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    @23. Carlie & #14. imthegenieicandoanything :

    Huh? I think plenty of comedians are likeable as people as well as comical as performers.

    FWIW. Comedians I like as people and comics : Stephen Fry, Corrine Grant, Rachel Maddow, David Letterman, Adam Hills, Barry Humphries aka Dame Edna,Wil Anderson, Shaun Micallef, Peter Berner, Dawn French and a lot of the stand up comics from several seasons of the Last Comic Standing show of various genders. All good to relax to and have a beer with. Also the busker Mr Spin who I doubt anyone else will have heard of but oh well.

    Favourite comedy shows of mine : Futurama, Simpsons, Fawlty Towers, Monty Python, Rumpole of the Bailey, Black Books, Red Dwarf, The Glasshouse, The Chaser (in various incarnations) and Mad As Hell plus Letterman’s Late show which I watch most nights and I’m sure I’m forgetting plenty of others.

  25. edmundog says

    “You love your children. It’s your one redeeming quality – that and your cheekbones.”
    – Tyrion Lannister

  26. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Must add mention there – Michael Palin seems a perfectly good and funny person plus Bill Bailey as Ing has noted.

  27. Alverant says

    It sounds like something he’d say but I too would like some verification that he actually said it. It’s also fair to point out that Palin has used her children as political props before then acted all offended when pundits did as well (Palin has this “it’s only OK when I do it” attitude). Plus Bristol has become spokesperson herself. It doesn’t excuse what Mahr said, if he said it, but I wouldn’t compare it to what Limbaugh did. At least the Clintons and Obamas tried to keep their children out of the spotlight for the most part.

  28. mikeyb says

    If he said it as blatant as is claimed it is despicable. However, I try not to base information on unconfirmed anecdotes, especially if it comes from a right winger. Their record of misquoting, quoting out of context, or paraphrasing to the point that it isn’t what a person actually said is mindboggling. It’s a pretty standard right wing tactic.

  29. Sastra says

    I grew up with a mother who worked regularly with the mentally handicapped so I can’t say the “r-word” any more than I can say the “n-word.” So shame on Bill Maher for that.

    But I’d also like to hold off on condemning Maher any further until we get an actual quote. I don’t trust personal recollections much in the first place — and this specific source is suspect. Though my imagination is having trouble picturing a context which would plausibly make the whole thing one of those “ohhhh, I see, okay” excuses.

  30. Ing:Intellectual Terrorist "Starting Tonight, People will Whine" says

    @sastra

    Well not like its a source that doctored video to destroy a non profit and ruin a black woman’s career for shits and giggles

  31. Sili says

    Dr Rachel Maddow is not a comedian.

    I much enjoy Dame Edna, but doesn’t he suffer from being – well – old. I vaguely recall something about him having some less than attractive ideas about furriners, but I may be mistaken.

  32. crocodoc says

    Now what exactly is wrong with calling a retarded person retarded? OK, Down syndrome does not necessarily mean that someone has to be retarded and I don’t know about Palin’s child specifically and I frankly don’t care – retarded, idiot, stupid and so on are expressions that PZ uses all the time to mock people he doesn’t like.

    And this outcry that inevitably follows everytime someone compares a specimen of our own species with a low IQ to any other intelligent, social species? Is that because someone could be reminded that if this particular person has a right to be treated respectfully, animals should have that right, too? We don’t want to grant them that and being outraged and pointing out the humiliation that such a comparison implies is so much easier that accepting that we ARE animals, too – let alone giving up bacon.

  33. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    @35. Sili :

    Dr Rachel Maddow is not a comedian.

    Okay, I stand corrected then. She is certainly very witty and good at making jokes from what I’ve seen of her which is much less than I’d like. Just a few online Maddow Show episodes and references mostly but been very impressed with those.

    Please allow me to substitute Stephen Colbert & or John Stewart to that list instead?

    Dame Edna :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dame_Edna_Everage

    is a parodic (& yeah now somewhat outdated) creation much like Sacha Cohen’s “Bruno”, Borat etc. You may – or may not – be confusing hyperbolically skewering something as a character with Barry Humphries’ actually sharing his characters beliefs. Thinking of the “Sir Les Patterson” caricature ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sir_Les_Patterson ) there maybe?

    Must admit I haven’t actually seen any of Barry Humphries on TV (or elsewhere) for years.

  34. Ing:Intellectual Terrorist "Starting Tonight, People will Whine" says

    Thanks Crocodock, you’re not at all a fucking ass

  35. John Horstman says

    @24: Ironically, “disabled” is now considered offensive/marginalizing by a lot of people; I’ve heard “differently-abled” and “not of normative ability” as substitutes. I think the better question is whether people with various non-normative cognitive development conditions themselves object to the use of “retarded” to describe them (which is entirely possible; “retarded” never entered my vocabulary except meaning “slowed”, as in “the growth of mold was retarded by the tested compound”, so I’ve been perfectly content to continue not describing people nor things I dislike as “retarded” and haven’t paid a whole lot of attention to this particular battle) – it’s not actually a case of the marginalized insisting on a different descriptor if a woman who doesn’t have Down’s Syndrome is telling you to not describe people with Down’s Syndrome a certain way. Third-party projection is not the same thing as agency.

    The question concerning Maher’s joke comes down to whether Maher was making a marginalizing joke at the expense of Trig (not okay, irrespective of the language used) or whether no one would be objecting had he said “Down’s Syndrome” instead of “retarded” i.e. this is actually about the use of a potentially-but-not-necessarily-interpreted-as-marginalizing term and nothing else. This is a question to which we don’t know the answer, because the report from the audience member Ron Futrell about it doesn’t actually describe the joke, just that Maher called Trig Palin, an infant with Down’s Syndrome (long classified as a form of “mental retardation”), “retarded”. Knowing Maher’s performance style, I actually think it’s likely that the joke was in poor taste and likely marginalizing, but I put this focus on the descriptor on par with people complaining about the use of “homosexual” to describe gay people because it was originally a term of pathology (interestingly, “heterosexual” was as well – this was an era when any lust was considered pathological), with the major difference that it’s some gay people themselves objecting and not their parents.

  36. keiththompson says

    We don’t have enough information to be complaining about what Maher said, because we don’t know what he said.

    We have a single unreliable source, who was basically thrown out of the show for heckling (mostly about Halliburton), and who admittedly doesn’t even remember the joke, saying that he used the word “retarded”, a word that’s considered inappropriate these days (though I remember when it was just a description). For all we know, Maher might have praising Palin for being a good mother, and just chose an inappropriate word.

    If you want to attack Bill Maher, do so on the basis of something you know he actually said.

  37. ChasCPeterson says

    I’ll inform the disabled their preference offends your privledged sensibilities

    Thanks, Ing. (It’s so noble of you to speak for ‘the disabled’.)

  38. Thumper; Atheist mate says

    I actually quite like Bill Maher… but every now and then he says something that makes me really ashamed of that fact.

  39. amdiffer says

    I spend a lot of time volunteering in my son’s classrooms and programs, he has autism and requires a lot of support. After spending so much time with them, I feel a lot of affection for the kids in his class. The important thing for me is I would rather not hear them being referred to AS their diagnosis or symptoms. He’s not an “autistic”, my beautiful son has autism. His friend with Downs Syndrome isn’t “retarded”, he’s a sweet kid, funny and observant, but you gotta keep an eye on him or he’ll wander off. Now this may pose some linguistic challenges when one wants to shorthand it, but wouldn’t it be much kinder to talk about the person and only mention their disabilities as they apply? A lot of people have them, you don’t refer to your grandma as a gimp if she needs a cane now do you? You only mention the walking issues as needed.

  40. atheist says

    Statements emanating from Breitbart.com should be considered suspect unless they’re corroborated.

  41. Thumper; Atheist mate says

    Seconding Ing #39

    Crocodoc, I have never, not even once, heard PZ use the word retarded to describe anyone.

  42. Thumper; Atheist mate says

    …you don’t refer to your grandma as a gimp if she needs a cane now do you?

    *blinks*

    I have a feeling that one may have been lost in translation. Where are you from, amdiffer, and what does “gimp” mean there? Because where I’m from it’s a “bottom”, in the BDSM sense of the word. Hence “gimp mask”.

  43. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    Oh hey, another “I love your blog, but let me say a bunch of shit that proves I haven’t read a damn thing you’ve ever written” spiel. I call bingo!

  44. Bernard Bumner says

    The fact that disabled people and their allies have asked us to stop using the word is enough reason for me.

    We’ll just pretend we didn’t hear them, that way we won’t have to give up our treasured word which seems to be most commonly addressed to people without disabilities in order to inflict the indignity of comparisons against those with.

    On usage: people with disabilities versus disabled people? (I don’t know whether those who live with disabilities care very much about the distinction, but I find the adjustment to be useful for my own mental calibration; person first.)

  45. hotshoe, now with more boltcutters says

    Thumper; Atheist mate –

    …you don’t refer to your grandma as a gimp if she needs a cane now do you?

    *blinks*

    I have a feeling that one may have been lost in translation. Where are you from, amdiffer, and what does “gimp” mean there? Because where I’m from it’s a “bottom”, in the BDSM sense of the word. Hence “gimp mask”

    You live in an interesting world, Thumper.
    I’m USAian. Gimp here has been used for about a century as slang for “walk with a limp” or “be hobbled”, and as a noun (not quite a slur) for a person who hobbles. Just like the example, calling granny a “gimp” because she uses a cane.

    I use it myself; I’ve broken bones in my foot a couple times and I gimp around for months while healing.

  46. Ing:Intellectual Terrorist "Starting Tonight, People will Whine" says

    @Bernard and Chris

    Psh white knughts

  47. anteprepro says

    Maher was fulfilling his role as a standup comedian when he said that and standup comedy is a notoriously anything-goes field…. The comedy stage is not a public debate forum nor an academic institution and it should not be held up to the standards of either. It is entertainment, just like a tv show or a movie, and his goal is to get you to laugh.

    Comedy. From the Greek for “I am immune to criticism”. Comedy is a sacred institution that is the most important to defend. Comedy is incredibly important and yet is also so irrelevant that it has no influence on culture and thus you shouldn’t even bother pointing out or criticizing humor that reinforces the more negative aspects of culture.

    Did that woman, or any of the commenters on that article, ever stop to think that maybe video games are a male-dominated industry and businesses make what sells?

    Did it ever occur to you that this isn’t actually true ? And that even if it was true, it is no excuse to KEEP the industry unappealing to women?

    Go fuck yourself, you pig-ignorant apologist for sexism.

  48. speed0spank says

    @cabal
    If you really just started reading here then you should make an effort to read some old entries and maybe even some comments. The stupid points that you try to make have been addressed and thoroughly dismantled many times over.
    Also, how is you complaining about this blog entry any different than PZ complaining about Maher? You are not obligated to read this blog and this blog is not obligated to suit your tastes. I mean, you could at least be consistent in your whining.

  49. Nathair says

    Please PZ, more science and less politics.

    Dammit blogger! You know you’re expected to write only about what I want to read! Now I’m afraid I’m going to have to insist that you clear all topics with me before I can let you post.

  50. Thumper; Atheist mate says

    @Hotshoe

    You live in an interesting world, Thumper.

    Not that interesting, I assure you :) You must have heard of a gimp mask? As in those rubber/leather masks popular on the BDSM scene? It’s a commonly used English phrase… at least, it is in England :-/

  51. Ing:Intellectual Terrorist "Starting Tonight, People will Whine" says

    Buisnesses make what sells and sell what they make. Dont pretend the second part doesn’t exist or count.

    Amazing how say cigerette companies knew to make their product before anyone even knew they needed it

  52. Ing:Intellectual Terrorist "Starting Tonight, People will Whine" says

    @hotshot and thumper

    May be regional. Heard both. Here thumpers use is more common (we say crippled)

  53. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    I’ll inform the disabled their preference offends your privledged sensibilities

    Thanks, Ing. (It’s so noble of you to speak for ‘the disabled’.)

    As one of them:

    Fuck a brick Chas

    Seconded.

  54. cabal says

    [Your email address is an admission of sockpuppetry. Bye. –pzm]

    Would you like to check my internet history to verify how long I’ve been reading PZ’s blog?

    [Hard to know how long you’ve been reading, but your comment history says…about 45 minutes. –pzm]

  55. marcus says

    Chris Clarke @ 49 Thank you.
    As someone who was looked after by an aunt who, though in her forties, lived her life as a physically healthy, happy 7-8 year old I can concur with the folks at R-word.org that everyone has something to offer. They prefer the phrase ‘people with intellectual disabilities’ or ID (I know). Works for me. I guess the best test of the appropriateness of a term would be if it is something you would use to refer to someone you love(d). I would never have called my sweet irrepressible aunt a ‘retard’. And yes, I find the ‘r-word’ offensive.

  56. Thumper; Atheist mate says

    @cabal

    If you are offended by something a comic blogger says you have every right to walk out or better yet not even go to his show blog in the first place.

    FTFY.

    See, it works both ways, arsehole.

  57. Ing:Intellectual Terrorist "Starting Tonight, People will Whine" says

    It’s not that I speak for them Chasshole, I just listened to them.

  58. Thumper; Atheist mate says

    If women “gamerz” really did care about the quality of games coming out today they should vote with their money. Give more support to studios and devs who create female-centric or -inclusive games.

    What makes you think they don’t? And why have you put “gamers” in scare quotes?

    Now, we’re derailing the thread, so why don’t you post your answers in the one about video games?

  59. oaksterdam says

    Maher is a cringe worthy asshole on a regular basis. OTOH, on the last show was a new rule that eviscerated Reagan and the Reagan worship on both sides of the aisle that had me giving a standing ovation in my living room. It really was a thing of beauty that needed to be said.

    But yeah, almost any time he’s discussed the quitter from Alaska I’ve shouted “you’re not helping” at my TV. Such an easy target on her merits or lack thereof and he fucks it up consistently.

  60. Bernard Bumner says

    @Ing,

    Easy enough for me to be simply patronising to be sure. Easier for me to inadvertantly slip back into the mode of ablism that I was raised with. I think I’d rather risk the former than the latter, and I sometimes require fairly blunt tools to compensate for my lack of subtlety..

    I’ve been corrected once about “people with…”, but I don’t have a greater sample to compare to. As usual, the internet is dominated by opinions from people like me or the anti-PC brigade.

  61. pascale68 says

    I can’t believe there are people who don’t believe Maher could have said this. He has said horrible things about children. (And women also.)

    On top of that, he claims to respect science when it comes to certain things (climate change), but then throws that out when it come to alternative medicine, anti-vaccine quackery, etc.

    He is basically full of crap, and happens to be right once in a while by chance. He will say anything to get an audience going.

  62. Goodbye Enemy Janine says

    Cabal, this thread is not the place to whine about PZ’s choice of topic or declare that men are gamers. Take it to Thunderdome.

    Also, the next time you feel the need to lecture PZ about the need to have more science and less politics, the header of this blog should work as as a rebuke. “Evolution, development and random biological ejaculations from a godless liberal”

    And, yes, Antepropo is justified in calling you a sexist pig. You are allowing your bias to blind you to a fact that there are women who are gamers and designers.

  63. anteprepro says

    Why the foul language and ad hominem? I’m a sexist pig because I disagree with you about a single issue concerning the state of the video game industry?

    He just disagrees, everybody! Just a little thing! Nothing to see here!

    women “gamerz”…
    female-centric…
    pander to the gamer girl demographic.

    I stand by my vulgarities. (Also: you don’t know what an “ad hominem” is.)

  64. Rumtopf says

    So Maher is ableist as well as sexist(if the source is true), huh, fancy that. But shhh, we can’t criticise the almighty comedies!!1

    @68
    Well duh, women who play games aren’t real gamers, even non-gamers like cabal know that. Who cares if we make up almost half of the consumer market for games. Companies aren’t obligated to “pander” to their women customers, of course, they could all continue to focus(I have a feeling that cabal doesn’t think it’s pandering when it’s for the guys) on their male customers only and alienate half of their potential market. Clever!

    Sorry to further derail, and cabal’s been tidied up now(thanks PZ) so it’s a bit redundant, it was just too temptinggg.

  65. Ing:Intellectual Terrorist "Starting Tonight, People will Whine" says

    @Bernard

    Sorry I’m with you I was being sarcastic

  66. Goodbye Enemy Janine says

    I must be made of static cling because I usually respond to the socks.

  67. anteprepro says

    So, the troll complaining about PZ blogging about politics, about people daring to criticize comedy, and about women in gaming, was not an honest debater after all? Go figure!

  68. microraptor says

    I can’t believe there are people who don’t believe Maher could have said this. He has said horrible things about children. (And women also.)

    I don’t think anyone is disputing the fact that it sounds like something he’d say. The dispute is because the only source for the comment is known for his complete lack of truthfulness and habit of fabricating stories in order to attack people.

  69. Bernard Bumner says

    @Ing,

    I guessed so.

    It was more that I was slightly embarrassed by the glibness of the second half of my comment. It really is, at best, on the border of being unhelpful. (I was being a bit self-indulgent in my follow-up too, and here. Self-pity-ception.)

  70. Uncle Glenny says

    Thumper: different meaning of gimp.

    gimp 1 |gimp|
    noun
    1 twisted silk, worsted, or cotton with cord or wire running through it, used chiefly as upholstery trimming.
    • (in lacemaking) coarser thread that forms the outline of the design in some techniques.
    2 fishing line made of silk bound with wire.
    ORIGIN mid 17th cent.: from Dutch, of unknown ultimate origin.

  71. howard says

    I can’t believe there are people who don’t believe Maher could have said this. He has said horrible things about children. (And women also.)

    I don’t think anyone is disputing the fact that it sounds like something he’d say. The dispute is because the only source for the comment is known for his complete lack of truthfulness and habit of fabricating stories in order to attack people.

    Yeah, this.

    I can believe easily that Maher would say almost anything about Sarah Palin and family; his nastiness and misogyny on the subject have been repeatedly documented.

    I can believe just as easily that Breitbart.com would lie like a rug about anybody, anytime.

    This is pretty much your classical “the enemy of my enemy is actually just an asshole who runs around shouting lies and I don’t want his help” scenario, as far as I can see.

  72. crocodoc says

    @Thumper; Atheist mate You’re right and I apologize. He used the word idiot, though. And “stupid” is rather common, too. Maybe somone can clarify that for me and other people who are not native english-speaking: After reading Chris Clarke’s link I’m more confused than ever. Why is saying “intellectual disability” any better than “mental retardation”? Just because the word “retarded”, which originally meant an IQ below 70, is now also being used for people above that threshold? How can they say that being “dumb” or “stupid” is not a disability? Does that start at IQ 70 and erveryone who’s IQ is above that is responsible for how clever he is? I don’t get it. If “inellectual disabled” becomes the political correct expression, how is that going to stop anyone from using this new term as an insult? And how is “idiot” any better than “retard”, isn’t that word also an insult?

    I’m not mocking anyone here I just want to understand why this particular word is so bad while others that mean basically the same are not.

  73. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    “Stupid” has never been a clinical diagnostic term, to my knowledge, and neither “dumb” or “idiot” have had much if any currency as one within living memory.

  74. ChasCPeterson says

    Chris Clarke: thank you for the link in #49. I was completely unaware of that website and the campaign it fronts. I read it and most of its links, and it’s good enough for me, too. That is, good enough reason for me to stop using the term ‘mental retardation’ (‘MR’) or its derivatives, in any context, in favor of the preferred nomenclature. I signed the pledge with sincere resolve. After all, it’s no skin off my nose and if people find it hurtful I’ll self-edit, no problem.

    ***

    So but I am going to go on to say some more stuff about the subject anyway, and it may get pedantic and won’t be immediately concerned with people’s feelings. If you think that kind of thing is inappropriate, because of the subject or the feelings, or another reason, please skip; or killfile me.

    First and most trivially, about “euphemism treadmill”, I didn’t make it up (it turns out to have coined by Pinker, though, so you’ll probably still facepalm; just do it in his direction, not mine). So but there’s another language lesson learned; from now on I’ll be sure to use the correct term instead: Ullmann’s Concept of Semantic Perjoration.

    2.) Because it is a real thing. I’m a couple years younger than Maher–off my lawn, btw–and although I won’t speak for him, my immediate peers and I were taught by extremely well-meaning teachers and moms that ‘MR’ was the least demeaning/hurtful term, and therefore the only acceptable one. Understand that terms like ‘Down syndrome’ and ‘trisomy 21′ etc. (including ‘disabled’, intellectually or otherwise) were not in general use, and that the most commonly heard term for such people when and where I grew up was still ‘mongoloids’.

    Third thing, the Special Olympics campaign against “the ‘r’ word” is clearly and rightly aimed at use of ‘retard’ and ‘retarded’ as slurs. The concomitant scrubbing of ‘MR’ from vernacular, legal, and even medical references to the very class of ‘intellectual disabilities’ that the term was coined to reference is a kind of collateral damage, and this strikes me as an interesting language phenomenon (Ullmann’s Concept of Semantic Perjoration, to be exact). I know I said it was “stupid” before, and I regret that word choice, but pedantically and intellectually, it doesn’t make much sense (even though, as mentioned, I’m fully on board for other reasons). Of the reasons given, many apply specifically to the ‘r’-word slur-forms, and the ones that conceivably apply to ‘MR’ seem to apply just as well to ‘intellectual disability’. It’s a “loss of quality” in, apparently, Ullmann’s typology. And so now that I know, I find it interest9ing That’s all.

    Finally, I’d like to wish Ing and Azkyroth a couple of nice days.

  75. consciousness razor says

    Finally, I’d like to wish Ing and Azkyroth a couple of nice days.

    This passive-aggressive “have a nice day” thing you do can be sort of amusing to watch at times, but if you “signed the pledge with sincere resolve” then I’m left thinking you don’t sincerely mean one or the other.

  76. says

    Chas:

    Chris Clarke: thank you for the link in #49. I was completely unaware of that website and the campaign it fronts. I read it and most of its links, and it’s good enough for me, too. That is, good enough reason for me to stop using the term ‘mental retardation’ (‘MR’) or its derivatives, in any context, in favor of the preferred nomenclature. I signed the pledge with sincere resolve. After all, it’s no skin off my nose and if people find it hurtful I’ll self-edit, no problem.

    This is truly nice, thank you. It would be even nicer, Chas, if you would listen to others the way you listen to Chris. I know you two go a long way back, but you also go quite a ways back with a lot of the people here.

  77. bemused says

    On the one hand, I’d like to know what Maher actually said before leaping on the breitbart bandwagon.

    On the other, I have a son who struggles everyday with intellectual challenges, and while retarded is a painful word, so are stupid, dumb, moron, half-wit, imbecile, etc. The problem with all of these terms is their underlying assumption that worth as a person is measured primarily by intelligence. That has not been my experience.

  78. Eristae says

    @crocodoc/85

    I’m not mocking anyone here I just want to understand why this particular word is so bad while others that mean basically the same are not.

    Generally the only difference is that one is used to dehumanize an entire group of people and the other is not. I’m not being sarcastic here; it’s why we can use “Black” but not “Nigger” even though “Nigger” is derived from negro/niger, which are non-English words that mean black. This is also why the acceptable words change: as people stop using one word to dehumanize a group of people, a different word will often be picked. It can be unpleasant to try to keep up with the change, but it’s even more unpleasant to be in a group of people that is constantly trying to not be used as an insult. Besides, the other option is to run around yelling things like, “Why can’t I just call a nigger a nigger?!” which will never end well for anyone.

  79. Eristae says

    I’ve not had my comments in moderation before, so I’ll ask a question:

    Is the fact that my post isn’t showing up, even to me, indicate that my post is in moderation or that it got eaten by the the internet goblins? On most blogs it will tell me “this post is in moderation” or something, but I don’t know for sure if that happens here.

  80. silomowbray, sans frottage pour la douche says

    I know I’m jumping into this a bit late, but since I work in communications, I’d like to add a little to the mix.

    Bah. I just wrote a wordy screed on vocabulary and word choice and it’s ridiculous. I’ll just sum up:

    Words have power. Sometimes that power is used to hurt others, and intent has little if any bearing on the harm done.

  81. says

    Eristae:

    Is the fact that my post isn’t showing up, even to me, indicate that my post is in moderation or that it got eaten by the the internet goblins?

    Could be either one. You won’t get a message if your post got dumped into the spam or moderation folder – there’s a list of words which will trigger that, but we aren’t privy to most of them. A while back, I had several posts which didn’t make it through, because a certain word got placed on the list, thanks to a troll who apparently wouldn’t stop using it in his attempts to post.

  82. Azuma Hazuki says

    IQ is less important than EQ. I bet Trig is a million times better as a person than his mother.

  83. spamamander, internet amphibian says

    Long breath.

    I’m waiting for a more legitimate source than Breitbart before I make a judgment call on what Maher may or may not have said. If he did say it… it also depends on if he said “retarded” in a way that was not intended to be pejorative (not awesome, but a mistake some people still make) or if he used the actual “r-word” slur.

    I personally do not have an issue with the usage of “retarded” in a diagnostic sense. “Retarded” means “slowed”, and in the case of persons with developmental disabilities, it’s accurate to say they are “mentally retarded”, ie slowed in development. That being said- if as a whole the community is asking that we step away from its usage, I respect that. Developmentally disabled works as a descriptor for my child with Down syndrome. (Along with adorable, and stubborn as a mule.)

    I DO take issue with language that seeks to completely pretend all is well. Do I want people identified as a disability first, and a person second? Of course not. But saying my daughter is “differently abled” is frankly bullshit. She has limitations, no matter how much we dress it up in pretty language. Her cognitive abilities and speech will always have a ceiling. She will always be just a little different than her peers in motor skills and behavior. I absolutely want her to learn as much as she can, to integrate, to hold down a job and have an independent of a life as possible, to be her own person and be respected as such. But pretending that her chromosomal disorder is just another form of normal doesn’t do her any favors.

  84. says

    Did my last post get eaten? It disappeared? Test!

    I went and fished it out of moderation. Yeah, you ran afoul of the naughty word list.

  85. says

    Wow, stupid creationist is stupid. Why do cranks of all kinds think that anyone will take them seriously when they do a copy and paste job like that? Especially when they copy and paste it in such an obvious manner. Most of my experience has been with creationists, alt med/antivaxers and Holocaust denialists, and they all seem to love dumping a wall of text they found on another website rather than coming up with their own questions or synthesis of information. Often followed by claims that they are the truly open-minded ones, looking at all of the data, etc. when all they are really doing is mindlessly regurgitating.

    Or maybe it is just something that makes them feel good, they went into the lions den and posted something, did their job.

  86. jimmyfromchicago says

    Dr Rachel Maddow is not a comedian.

    But what she does for a living is a lot closer to Bill Maher than to Dexter Filkins or Nina Tottenburg, so it’s understandable that people get confused.

    As for what Maher supposedly said: Wow, if this is true, that’s really stupid. Palin lives and breathes pretended grievances. The worst you can do is give her a real one.

  87. says

    Hey, Ing

    I’m disabled. STOP SPEAKING FOR ME!

    I, for one, am sick of “people first” language and the creeping euphemisms.

    Why do you able-bodied folks keep deciding what’s offensive?

  88. says

    WMDKitty:

    Why do you able-bodied folks keep deciding what’s offensive?

    I try my best not to do that, while also trying not to needlessly hurt people. It’s a fine line. I try to go with what the individual prefers,* however, that’s not so easy on a blog with a massive readership. So, I go with least harm.
     
    *I have a friend who is confined to a wheelchair who prefers crip.

  89. aluchko says

    If he said it and it was in poor taste it’s certainly reprehensible, but I’m generally fairly forgiving of comedians when it comes to stuff like this. A lot of humour comes from dealing with uncomfortable topics and sooner or later a comic is going to cross the line. We should certainly point it out and give them a little slap when they do but we shouldn’t reevaluate their character based on a single incident.

  90. coragyps says

    Way back up at #5 – “Halliburton jokes?” I worked for those fuckers for fourteen years. There are no Halliburton jokes – those are all true stories!

  91. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    We should certainly point it out and give them a little slap when they do but we shouldn’t reevaluate their character based on a single incident.

    You apparently didn’t bother to read the thread. This isn’t a single incident. Which you need to keep in context.

  92. consciousness razor says

    We should certainly point it out and give them a little slap when they do but we shouldn’t reevaluate their character based on a single incident.

    Maher’s “character” as a total asshole has already been well-established by much more than one incident.

    I don’t see the comedy in making fun of people who routinely get shit on by society. Make fun of the powerful, and that can make for some decent comedy. Do it to the powerless, and you’re just another fucking asshole.

  93. says

    aluchko:

    We should certainly point it out and give them a little slap when they do but we shouldn’t reevaluate their character based on a single incident.

    You haven’t paid much attention to Maher, have you? He’s a douchebag.

  94. aluchko says

    @Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls
    You mean
    “And when I point out that Sarah Palin is a vainglorious braggart, a liar, a whiner, a professional victim, a scold, a know-it-all, a chiseler, a bully who sells patriotism like a pimp, and the leader of a strange family of inbred weirdos straight out of ‘The Hills Have Eyes,’ that’s not sexist. I’m saying it because it’s true, not because it’s true of a woman.”

    I don’t read that last part as anything to do with Trig, I think it’s more a shot at the other members of the family who entered the public spotlight. That being said I don’t like the comparison of them to “a strange family of inbred weirdos straight out of ‘The Hills Have Eyes” as it strikes me as demeaning and elitist.

    I don’t argue that Maher is a douchebag, I have a bunch of issues with him and he has a style of elitist humour that I’m not a fan of. But I haven’t seen him be guilty of making fun of disabled people before, which is the specific accusation here.

    Btw, Palin allegedly referred to Trig as her ‘retard baby’ or something similar at some point, so maybe that was the context of the joke.

  95. Bernard Bumner says

    WMDKitty,

    I, for one, am sick of “people first” language and the creeping euphemisms.

    Which is good to know when talking to you – once I understand how someone does or doesn’t identify or what language they use, then I can adapt. Itis only polite, really. In direct communication, for obvious reasons, this dread of using the wrong language or adopting some sort of paternalistic posture tends not to be an issue.

    For those of us who essentially remain outsiders, we are forced to adopt some sort of general vocabulary to discuss these general issues which are so sorely in need of discussion. That creates a problem because I can’t use the language I grew up with, which was certainly the language of pity (at best) and ridicule (at worst). I’m sure that my desire to embrace formally correct language (PC, as it were) is a mixture of shame and discomfort – primarily for my own benefit then, but hopefully also demonstrating good will and not making things worse, if nothing else. Is that a good general approach, or should I be doing something else?

    Even asking the question makes me feel as though I sound like I’m searching for the Rosetta stone to allow my people to communicate with your people. I know that liberal guilt is terribly pathetic, but there it is. My onerous burden.

  96. Rip Steakface says

    I rather dislike Bill Maher much of the time. As a comedian, he’s not all that good, and as a pundit, he’s average and frequently fucks up (as any pundit). However, he has a fairly high quality TV show because of how well he picks people for his panel – with exceptions (Michael Moore gets boring and irritating sometimes, despite the fact I usually like his films, and a few of the conservatives he brings on [*cough*Coulter*cough*] make me want to punt kittens in fury).

    More often than not, Maher just frustrates the other liberal(s) on the panel with his poorly-formed opinions and makes us look bad. He’s especially bad with women, guns, and being an Islamophobe as opposed to a proper secularist. My perception of Maher boils down to “stop helping me.” That said, he’ll often help take down a conservative talking point with some pre-researched figures, which comes in handy, but his annoyances make it harder to believe his (or rather his team’s) research.

  97. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    But I haven’t seen him be guilty of making fun of disabled people before, which is the specific accusation here.

    Who the fuck appointed you the expert, and the one with the expert opinion? Nobody but you. You are entitled to your opinion. Why don’t you do yourself a favor, by keeping it to yourself.

  98. consciousness razor says

    He’s especially bad with women, guns, and being an Islamophobe as opposed to a proper secularist. My perception of Maher boils down to “stop helping me.”

    Also, there’s his endorsement of a whole bunch of pseudoscience. So in addition to “stop helping,” I would add “stop peddling this dangerous shit and learn something.”

    But maybe for some people that’s all part of being a “comedian.”

  99. says

    The only thing I find in the slightest way amusing is Maher’s ability to stick the entire lower half of his body into his mouth with seeming relative ease, reminding us all that he chooses not to use his prefrontal cortex.

    … or hear the crowd laugh right along.

    I believe this is the same mob that Hitch flipped off.

  100. Funny Diva says

    Eristae @ 93

    … It can be unpleasant to try to keep up with the change [in what terms are acceptable to group/minority X], but it’s even more unpleasant to be in a group of people that is constantly trying to not be used as an insult….

    This. QFT. This is what more privileged people like myself need to remember every time we’re tempted to whine “but…what about MEEEEEEEE?”. And thanks to the regulars here at Pharyngula, I do try to remember such things, and I do try to catch myself before opening that particular vintage whine…

  101. Funny Diva says

    Silomowbray @96
    That comment made me want to clap and cheer. Partly because I would not have been able to let go of my more wordy post in favor of your excellent punchline.
    Very well penned.

  102. aluchko says

    @Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Who the fuck appointed you the expert, and the one with the expert opinion? Nobody but you. You are entitled to your opinion. Why don’t you do yourself a favor, by keeping it to yourself.

    Good retort if I had claimed to be an expert or have an expert opinion.

    I’m not trolling or trying to show people up, I’m respectfully expressing a contrary opinion and trying to back it up.

    I’m sorry for not obeying your vague request to ‘read the thread’ and look through 100+ comments for the specific thing you thought proved me wrong.

  103. lowspark13 says

    Replying to @45 am differ and backing up @104 WMDkitty, I am an autistic person, not ‘a person with autism.’ The latter is how you would refer to a person with a disease that needs to be cured, the former indicates that my autism is a big part of who I am, and were it to be ‘cured’ you would be effectively killing me, as I would not be the same person.

    P.s. you didn’t mention them, but just in case you or anyone else doesn’t know: Autism $peaks are assholes who don’t allow autistics to work for them, and they are supportive of finding a ‘cure.’. Support the Autistic Self Advocacy Network instead.

  104. imnotspecial says

    PZ I respect your opinions a lot, but why is there a need to even bring this up. Maher is an atheist, Grothe is an atheist. We are all bound to misspeak occasionally. But why do atheists need to immediately fall all over each other and point those minor failings out. There seems to be no love lost among atheists, internet ones in any case. Maybe that’s why we have an uphill battle to increase out numbers. Civility is also all too often sorely lacking.

    Just saying.

  105. postman says

    @121: You don’t want us to be consistent and honest with each other. Great values you have there.

    Just saying.

  106. consciousness razor says

    PZ I respect your opinions a lot, but why is there a need to even bring this up. Maher is an atheist, Grothe is an atheist. We are all bound to misspeak occasionally. But why do atheists need to immediately fall all over each other and point those minor failings out. There seems to be no love lost among atheists, internet ones in any case. Maybe that’s why we have an uphill battle to increase out numbers. Civility is also all too often sorely lacking.

    I was just thinking to myself the other day: “wow, it would be great if there were more atheists who are ignorant, pompous, bigoted assholes who spew their dangerous bullshit on tv.” So, yeah, let’s tone-troll each other a bit, spew some bigotry, learn nothing, tell a bunch of people dangerous lies, and call it a “minor failing.” Sounds like we have a deal. I mean, “more atheists” was in there somewhere, so it’s got to be good.

    Just saying.

    Next time, don’t, unless you’re thinking first.

  107. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Civility is also all too often sorely lacking.

    Gee, and here you butt in with your unsolicited and tone trolling opinion. Causing the problem you complain about. Think about that.

  108. anteprepro says

    Maher is an atheist, Grothe is an atheist…But why do atheists need to immediately fall all over each other and point those minor failings out.

    If an atheist says something cruel and demeaning, we must look the other way for the sake of Atheism! If an atheist distorts reality or spouts outright bullshit, we must look the other way for the sake of Atheism! Sure, the above is bad when the religious are doing it to ignore the misdeeds of others for the sake of Religion! Sure, atheists complain about the hypocrisy of religion, making that double standard even more galling! But…Atheism!

    Civility is also all too often sorely lacking.

    Thank you for the completely novel insight. We were never before confronted with the observation that there is a dearth of civility. Nor have we ever, ever had to imagine the vast and profound impact that civility or lack thereof has in the religion debates. Never once have we ever discussed the matter of civility, and how it is an utter necessity to conversation over important cultural topics. There has not been one person in the history of this blog to present this idea, that we should all treat these arguments as rarefied, ivory tower musings and banter. You are a topic pioneer.

  109. says

    We are all bound to misspeak occasionally.

    Ya think? My, what a profound insight. You know how to seriously decrease the chances of misspeaking occasionally? Thinking. Helps a lot. It also helps a lot if you aren’t a habitual asshole who always errors on the side of douchebaggery.

    Just sayin’.

  110. aluchko says

    @imnotspecial

    I kinda half agree. I disagree in the fact that PZ is very harsh and direct in his criticisms and that’s a good thing. You don’t just want to hold your own side to the same standard, you want to hold them to a higher standard, otherwise you slip and you end up in the intellectual black hole the American right currently occupies.

    Where I agree with you is I don’t like the level of colour and hyperbole PZ uses. It means a criticism of a second hand report of a remark by a generally decent comedian doesn’t sound much different than a criticism of Glenn Beck being Glenn Beck. So people start fighting back because they think the level of criticism was unwarranted and then everyone just keeps on arguing and we get a thread like this :)

  111. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    Sure. People are bound to misspeak. When you hurt someone inadvertently, you apologize and try to avoid the same mistake again. Alternatively, you can be an asshole.

  112. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    Hey, Ing

    I’m disabled. STOP SPEAKING FOR ME!

    I, for one, am sick of “people first” language and the creeping euphemisms.

    Why do you able-bodied folks keep deciding what’s offensive?

    Meanwhile, I personally appreciate the thought behind “person-first” language, although I’m uncomfortable with unwieldly descriptors that can result more for language-flow reasons than anything else. I do understand that and why some people with disabilities find label-modification patronizing (I do, in fact, find “differently abled” and the like patronizing). Of course, my disability isn’t physical and I generally Don’t Look Sick, so take it for what it’s worth.

  113. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    PS: Frankly, I think it’s time we put the word “civility” out of its misery.

  114. anteprepro says

    PS: Frankly, I think it’s time we put the word “civility” out of its misery.

    That’s the easy way out. Leave it in the realm of “politeness”, “ettiquette”, all that. The realm of tea parties and being oh so very proper, sir or madam. Then that pompous, overwrought realm of our existence can be dealt with as one neat archaic little package, shoved off the shelf as soon as enough people agree that it is all musty old garbage.

  115. paulmccue says

    PZ, it has slowly dawned on me that you (for whatever reason…blog traffic?) like to jump on unsubstantiated net rumour, give it another spin around the pole and front it up on your blog as incisive analysis.
    I would almost prefer it if your university salary was so poor that you needed the google-shekel! Instead I feel your just another right wing reactionary, feigning feminist interest in a weak-assed attempt to garner female attention.
    Give it a rest.

  116. anteprepro says

    PZ, it has slowly dawned on me that you (for whatever reason…blog traffic?) like to jump on unsubstantiated net rumour, give it another spin around the pole and front it up on your blog as incisive analysis….Instead I feel your just another right wing reactionary, feigning feminist interest in a weak-assed attempt to garner female attention.

    Vaguely hypocritical, definitely typical. I mean, not completely hypocritical, because you are blatantly making shit up instead of repeating “net rumour”, but I’m not sure that makes things better.

  117. paulmccue says

    Just recently, PZ trotted out to a chorus of ‘foul’ toward Marcus De Sautoy. Claiming that whatever Sautoy was up to, it wasn’t science. Later of course, it turns out that most of the ‘facts’ in PZ’s post were second hand and inaccurate. So no, not hypocritical. The conjecture in my comment about his motives or his feminist credentials of course are mine and mine alone and have no basis other than impressions left on this blog over time. So not rumour then…

  118. anteprepro says

    Claiming that whatever Sautoy was up to, it wasn’t science. Later of course, it turns out that most of the ‘facts’ in PZ’s post were second hand and inaccurate. So no, not hypocritical.

    Does. Not. Follow.
    Do you know what “hypocritical” means?

  119. anteprepro says

    PZ cited the New Scientist and the Guardian for that Sautoy article. And it was mostly about Weinstein anyway. That’s supposed to be rumor mongering? Weak fucking tea, asshole.

  120. paulmccue says

    I didn’t claim it was strong tea, just tea and yes I can occasionally be an asshole. I hope we don’t need to descend into a cartesian ‘…the hypocrisy of you pointing out my hypocrisy in pointing out someone elses’ hypocrisy…’ type of deal. I agree that usually the New Scientist and The Guardian would be sufficient to quote from, I think I was more annoyed with the ‘glee’ with which another usually very reliable scientist was jumped on.

  121. ChasCPeterson says

    It would be even nicer, Chas, if you would listen to others the way you listen to Chris. I know you two go a long way back, but you also go quite a ways back with a lot of the people here.

    I see how it might look like that. But the real difference was that Chris linked to pertinent information instead of simply issuing a more or less belligerent assertion.

  122. amdiffer says

    Thank you lowspark13 on post 120. I appreciate your perspective and thank you for your comments. I don’t support Autism Speaks because I don’t really trust them and how they spend their money. I’m not sure all of their money is used for much other than administrative costs and salaries and I would rather see them using it more for programs that directly helped families and less for a “cure.” However, I must say, that as a parent who sees her child suffering from some of the symptoms, I can see how a cure is wanted. I would at least like to see some kind of relief from the painful over sensitivity to sound and light and the frustration of not being able to communicate his needs easily. I hope you can see this as a genuine desire to help. I don’t want to take anything away from who he is as a person. But I will take your advice and support Autistic Self Advocacy Network