Popular right wing talk show host Michael Savage shows his ignorance regarding autism

July 18, 2008 | By | 12 Replies More

Here’s a standard account of autism, from Wikipedia:

Autism is a brain development disorder that first gives signs during infancy or childhood and generally follows a steady course without remission or relapse. Impairments result from maturation-related changes in various systems of the brain. Autism is one of the five pervasive developmental disorders (PDD), which are characterized by widespread abnormalities of social interactions and communication, and severely restricted interests and highly repetitive behavior.

The manifestations of autism cover a wide spectrum, ranging from individuals with severe impairments—who may be silent, mentally disabled, and locked into hand flapping and rocking—to less impaired individuals who may have active but distinctly odd social approaches, narrowly focused interests, and verbose, pedantic communication.

Here’s the cause of autism by a popular right-wing radio talk show host, Michael Savage (reported by Media Matters):

On the July 16 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show, Michael Savage claimed that autism is “[a] fraud, a racket.” Savage went on to say, “I’ll tell you what autism is. In 99 percent of the cases, it’s a brat who hasn’t been told to cut the act out. That’s what autism is. What do you mean they scream and they’re silent? They don’t have a father around to tell them, ‘Don’t act like a moron. You’ll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz. Straighten up. Act like a man. Don’t sit there crying and screaming, idiot.’ ” Savage concluded, “[I]f I behaved like a fool, my father called me a fool. And he said to me, ‘Don’t behave like a fool.’ The worst thing he said — ‘Don’t behave like a fool. Don’t be anybody’s dummy. Don’t sound like an idiot. Don’t act like a girl. Don’t cry.’ That’s what I was raised with. That’s what you should raise your children with. Stop with the sensitivity training. You’re turning your son into a girl, and you’re turning your nation into a nation of losers and beaten men. That’s why we have the politicians we have.”

If you want to hear it for yourself, click on this link:

How popular is Michael Savage? According to Media Matters

Talk Radio Network, which syndicates The Savage Nation, claims that Savage is heard on more than 350 radio stations. The Savage Nation reaches at least 8.25 million listeners each week, according to Talkers Magazine, making it one of the most listened-to talk radio shows in the nation, behind only The Rush Limbaugh Show and The Sean Hannity Show.

You might be wondering how it was that Michael Savage was ever put onto the national airwaves. Good question, because his opinions are often incredibly ill-informed. Nonetheless, Savage’s show actually replaced Phil Donahue’s show in 2003. And see here. MSNBC killed Phil Donahue’s show when Donahue had the audacity to question why the U.S. was about to invade Iraq. Now we have Michael Savage to tell us how the world really works. What is the world view of Michael Savage? Here’s a report by FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting):

Savage routinely refers to non-white countries as “turd world nations” and charges that the U.S. “is being taken over by the freaks, the cripples, the perverts and the mental defectives” (San Francisco Bay Guardian, 9/20/00). In a recent broadcast he justified ethnic slurs as a national security tool: “We need racist stereotypes right now of our enemy in order to encourage our warriors to kill the enemy,” he explained (San Francisco Chronicle, 2/6/03).

Although the above quote was from 2003, Savage has continued spewing his venom and he has been allowed to do this through mainstream corporate sponsorships. It’s almost unbelievable.

But now, you actually can do something about this hate-monger by taking away his advertisers.

Epilogue: I wanted to recognize that there is sometimes a grain of truth to many talk show rants.  Hence, I wouldn’t deny that some parents might hide behind medical/psychological diagnoses to deflect blame from their poor parenting skills. I bet that this happens regularly. Maybe it even happens in some of the cases of the “extremely mild” cases of autism. Even to the extent that this is true, however, Savage is nonetheless way out of bounds arguing that the diagnosis of autism is a fraud in 99% of the cases. His reckless accusation hurls needless blame at thousands of excellent parents; it is incredibly hurtful and insensitive. Such a charge belies deep and credible mounds of medical literature. To make this horrid accusation demonstrates that Savage hasn’t researched his topic responsibly and that he certainly hasn’t spent any meaningful time with children diagnosed with autism.

This example involving Savage is yet another example of how many media outlets feed on manufactured conflict to sell ads. I’ve written about this recently, calling this tactic “conflict pornography.”

I intend to listen to one of Savages shows someday soon to see exactly which companies are still sponsoring his vile attacks. I will publish that updated list in a comment to this post.


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Category: American Culture, Communication, Iraq, Media, Medicine, Politics, Psychology Cognition, snake oil

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (12)

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  1. Dan Klarmann says:

    "Right Wing Talk … Shows his Ignorance": Duh of the day. Whatever the subject, this is usually the case, whoever he might be.

    But I do sometimes agree with Mallard Fillmore (about 1% of the time, or about 4 daily strips per year).

  2. grumpypilgrim says:

    Seems to me that most right-wing talk has almost nothing to do with facts. It's all about ratings…which drives advertising revenue…which drives the salary of the host. Apparently, saying wildly inflammatory things in America, regardless of its validity, is good for ratings. Indeed, in many cases, the more outrageous the statements, the better the ratings.

    I compare it to the way right-wing politicians denounce terrorism, but never miss an opportunity to blow it out of proportion for the sake of their own political benefit.

  3. Vicki Baker says:

    "Stop acting like a putz. Straighten up. "

    Too bad Savage didn't listen to the old man's advice…

  4. If he is on MSNBC that would mean Microsoft and General Electric are sponsoring him. They are not on the scratch list….

  5. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    As the father of a 14 year old autistic, I've tracked autism research for many years. So a quick primer is in order.

    There are two distinct forms of autism. In one form. the child presents symptoms from birth, and the amygdala is under-developed with fewer but larger Purkinje neurons.

    The second form is the type that is reaching epidemic proportions and is called infantile autism. A child with infantile autism develops normally until a certain approximate age then rapidly regresses to varying degrees of of autistic like symptoms, accompanied by elevated seratonin levels, insomnia, and a craving for calcium. Research conducted throughout the world is pointing toward a complex pathology incolcing a certain class of virus strains, that results in an autoimmune disorder which inturn causes a sub-acute chronic encephalitus. The measles virus has been implicated as it is is known to have an affinity for serotonin receptors found mainly in the Purkinje nuerons in the amygdala (according to research findings from the Max Planck Institute in Germany).

    In the US, England, Canada and Australia, where the Pharmceutical industry have a lot of political clout, research that may point to vaccines is actively discouraged. For example, one prominent researcher I know of movges from one research center to another, as ever time he publishes his result, showing a connection between measles, he loses his job.

    This suppression of a specific ;ine of research is probably slowing the understanding of the disease, thus giving self-proclaimed oracles like savage little opposition and perpetuate the blissfuilly ignorant view pf the topic.

  6. Ben says:

    I might have Lyme, gonna get tested again, recently walked into a tick nest. Now research (perhaps) shows a possible correlation to autism. I consider myself skeptical on most fronts. However, I think there is some kind of Lyme conspiracy with insurance companies going on. (they don't want to admit the existence of long-term effects, for one)


  7. Tim Hogan says:

    I've listened to Savage and his style seems to be constant repetition of certain phrases after large dead air pauses;

    "Liberalism is a mental disease…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………Yes, liberalism is a mental disease."

    I've often wondered if these pauses were because other than a few trite, ignorant phrases, Savage has nothing to say.

  8. Ben says:

    savage gets the axe. Story here.

  9. Erich Vieth says:

    “A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.”

    – Mohandas Gandhi


  10. Erich Vieth says:

    San Francisco radio station 910 KNEW has dropped conservative talk-show host Michael Savage from its lineup. This was arguably his flagship station.


  11. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    I noticed the Huffpo article mentioned how the talk radio station's decision had nothing to do with the "Fairness Doctrine".

    The fairness doctrine in the concept of commercial media outlets voluntarily providing equal time for airing of opposing opinions, in an attempt to provide balanced coverage of the issues to provide the audience with the information to decide for themselves.

    The application of the fairness doctrine is part of what defines journalism an sets it apart from propaganda.

    Every conservative talk radio host I've heard are outspokenly against the fairness doctrine. This should be seen as a backdoor confession that they are fully aware they are purveyors of propaganda and admittedly fear any competent challenge to their self proclaimed authority, as such challenges expose the pundits as the paper tigers they are.

  12. Jay Fraz says:

    I used to work at a station that rebroadcast Savage. Listening to him a great deal I started to sincerely believe that he is 'winking' at the microphone a great deal of the time.

    The problem is when he is on medical issues, but if you call in and talk with him and are reasonably intelligent and have done your homework, he does gracefully back down, he actually gives most callers a chance, but if they can not articulate he will blow up on them and repeat things that are incorrect, and that he knows are incorrect at the person IMO, he likes to insult stupid regardless of political affiliation or belief.

    Savage is a very different breed from your Limbaugh and Boortz, often wrong, but I honestly think he KNOWS he is spouting falsities. His schtick seems to be yelling at the stupid.

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