Well, at least if you haven't lived on it your whole life. See, if you ask someone like myself, a twenty-something milennial who's rather rapidly heading into his thirties, I can tell you I'd be somewhat familiar with the place. Indeed, I've had my darker moments. I participated in the great Habbo raids of 2008 and 2009. You know, the "Pool's Closed due to AIDS raids." Sure, whilst on the surface the large majority of 4Ch and other sites of the like seem to be laden with a bunch of trolls, you see this term get thrown around an awful lot.
The term itself came from a thread posted on 4Chan where a user managed to be able to identify the location of a female poster onto 4Chan's /b/ board, who posted a picture of herself asking anons about the look of her dress and outfit at the time.
This particular term played upon the more positive qualities of Autism, our exceptional attention to detail, our precision, our ability to see patterns, and when effectively used, these tools are indeed advantageous to us. The fact that many of us also use and prefer written and/or typed communication allows us to essentially deduce that at least some 4Chan users are autistic, or at least aren't afraid of using the term.
Truth be told however, this sort of behaviour, this darker side to autism, people utilising their positive skills for nefarious reasons (in this case, cyberstalking) or people who have simply been neglected and have been molly-coddled too much, has lead to the condition as a whole having a rather... Strange and jilted view. Autism has several facets as a whole, and in this case, the internet has many varying opinions of autism outside of the online world's autism-friendly pockets.
Consider the case of Christian Weston Chandler, a person who sadly, forgot to understand that not everyone is friendly and nice. A person who let the trolls get to him. A person who took things just a little bit too far. This person, who got absolutely blasted, first by Something Awful's Goons (Goons are simply what people on SA refer to eachother as) and whilst I followed the CWC drama, I had no role in actually harrassing the poor fellow. I used his case as a guide of what not to do as an autistic person, and how not to raise an autistic child. I showed my mother the things they were doing to him. Now sure, whilst she, at the time (I was 15) saw it to be similar as to what was happening to me, in CWC's drama I actually found a solution to my bullying problem. Mostly, because I realised that by reacting, I was feeding the trolls in a way. CWCs case was the more societal example of what not to do.
So herein lies an internet stereotype which is very different to what most people's initial musings with savantic and autistic people. People who are either naive, easy to dupe, and who lack tact, or people who use their gifts for nefarious means and who are known to be aggressive, and abhorrent towards people. Not the best image, right?
Add to that, the fear-centric idea that Autism $peaks is putting forward in its eugenic quest to research a "cure" for us, and we soon realise that this "Epedemic" in which they speak of only adds fuel to the fire of what spooks people about us.
Then we need to add the very real potential for us to dwell and obsess over things. Now sure, if you get us to use our powers for good, we can indeed achieve quite a lot. As a political activist and social activist (IRL, not on the internet like most of the people you see these days) I'm very much a believer in non-violent protest. When a pair of protests known as "The Battle for Berkeley" in Berkeley, California turned violent, and clashes were held between Far-Right and Far-Left leaning protesters, an individual who was neutral to both causes aimed to try and stop the violence. Out of the black bloc, a masked figure attacks the mediator, leaving him with severe head trauma. Now sure, whilst 4Ch was indeed biased in their reasoning behind wanting to find the assailant (or maybe not, the counter situation has not ever been encountered thus far), they got to work to identify the attacker and report them to police.
This particular person was identified to be a UC Berkeley lecturer and professor. They did this using some rather advanced detective techniques not to dissimilar to the first post. 4Chan has also had a history of using similar techniques to uncover paedophiles in an operation called Operation Darknet, where similar digital forensic techniques were used to identify the owners of several Child Pornography sites on the dark web.
So, Anonymous can be a hateful monster, but it can also do a lot of good sometimes. This is important to understand.
In a discussion I had with AutismWest's Ana Palacios, one of the fellow activists I work alongside, we both understood the very real threat of what could happen when autistics take this darker path and use their talents for bad purposes, or let their social ineptitude go past the point into areas where their actions may be seen as harassing or egregious.
Take Eliot Rodger, for example. The person who first coined the idea of Involuntary Celibacy, or Incel as it's known in online circles. Also known as the "Supreme Gentleman Killer", do not let that name fool you. He was no gentleman. He consistently harrassed women, to the point where he felt that he was entitled to have sex with women. Whilst he too is on the Autism Spectrum (diagnosed with PDD-NOS, Autism Spectrum Disorder Class III as it's presently known), the neglect which surrounded him was entirely the cause of this. He, like I, was bullied to a pretty bad extent. He was locked in a schooling system that had given absolutely zero fucks about him, and nobody was there to kick his ass into shape when he was going about his bullshit. Dad was a busy filmmaker, and mom? Well, Not a lot of information was out about her. Without a strong parental figure in his life, and with more psychiactric therapies being dominant at the time, considering his situation, it was going to happen sooner or later. He got obsessed with World of Warcraft as his only escape, and used his YouTube channel to vent to the world, slowly revealing his darker side closer and closer to the attacks. It was Chris-Chan, but without the attention... In 2014, he opened fire, killing three people by gun, and three by knifepoint.
So now you're probably up to this point in the article and have a pretty negative opinion on Autistic people. Autism Speaks' idea is sounding pretty good to you. Well, let's add on another thing Ana and I talked about. The single most crucial factor in allowing people to thrive. Acceptance.
Now, sure. Eliot was a monster. So was Chris. But, over time therapies for Autism have changed drastically and in the course of the past four years our understanding of the condition has changed rapidly. The view of autistics and our abilities is slowly starting to shift towards our talents being accepted in the workplace.
Take Matt Ormiston of ANZ's Autism Spectrum program. ANZ is one of Australia's "Big Four" banks. The other three being Westpac (Australia's oldest bank), Commonwealth Bank (a former government run bank) and the National Bank of Australia.
Paraphrasing, he says that "There's a real untapped pool of potential here in the autistic community,"
Now, why start an article off with serial killers, stalkers and trolls and completely flip face to place Autistics in a working scope? Hear me out. Humans spend about a third of their lives in study or at work. These places are predominantly where Autistics and indeed all other people are going to meet their peers, role models, and associates who will help them throughout their lives. Now, I am a bit of a capitalist critic, I openly admit, I'm a socialist. However, I am also of the belief that Adam Smith's capitalist model can indeed work with some Keynesian tweaks and some fairer taxation policy to encourage competition and collaboration for a more humanist approach. Indeed this bank sees Autistics as an important resource as we tend to be people who pour over the little details. We are fantastic problem solvers, innovators and incredible tinkerers when we are given the appropriate opportunities. We crave a challenge.
Eliot and Chris shared one thing in common.
By providing us with a challenge, placing us in an environment which constantly allows us to experiment, tinker, and most of all, push ourselves to be better, we have the ability to outshine NTs. Not only that, our integrity and honesty makes us prime for various fields of work, such as cyber-security, public relations, media, communications (ironically enough), design, engineering, research, and even governmental work.
The single largest employer in Australia for people with disabilities in general is the public sector, with the WA Public Sector commission aiming for an approximately 1.9% saturation rate of disability employment as of 2018.
But what's alarming is that this number has been actually falling. Just five years ago, the Public Sector Commission reported a 2.3 per cent saturation rate for disabled workers. So why the sharp drop? Perhaps this could be that the sector has hired a lot of people recently, or mayhaps with the shift to the new Labor government here in WA, we lost our disabled workers. This is indeed not true. Presently, there's been a massive push by the government to hire more disabled workers, and there's been a massive push to actively seek out those with conditions which may not be seen as disabilities. The three trainees in my present intake are all on the Autism spectrum. The rate of disabled people in the workplace has actually hovered around the 1.9 per cent mark in the past two years... So even with Labor's amalgamation plan, it hasn't affected the efforts of disabled workers.