"Now, the illness du jour is autism. You know what autism is? 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." --Michael Savage, Syndicated Radio Talk Show Host of The Savage Nation, 7/16/08
Love him or hate him, Michael Savage sure knows how to get a conversation started.
It's too bad that most people will either protest him or support the protesters in wanting him fired for essentially calling autism a racket these days. It's also too bad that most people are lazy and will not look at the broader points he is trying to make. Or what he has been saying about the mental health profession for years. You hear him say "99 percent", and all of a sudden he becomes someone who must take a position in the unemployment line. Give me a break. Get yourself a clearer sense of context.
I don't know about you, but I don't believe for one minute what our government is saying about autism. On July 22nd, Fox News reported that "The government estimates about 1 in 150 children have some form of autism." Where does our government get their sources of information? Who gets to define what autism is and isn't? Doesn't our government realize that there is no known single cause for autism? Our government used to play a similar numbers game with ADHD.
I mean, from time to time we all have "some form" of some thing all or none or some of the time.
Let's take a breath here, shall we? Michael Savage is simply trying to wake people up to the fact that in this country, too many children are being labeled either "autistic" or labeled with a mental disorder like ADHD. Interestingly, we don't hear too much about ADD or ADHD these days. One of the reasons is because this subjective mindset has unfortunately been accepted by our popular culture. If someone is acting a bit odd, out comes the checklist. You are labeled with a mental disorder. Don't think this happens? Go ahead and google: TeenScreen.
I believe Michael Savage deserves a lot of credit for trying to wake people up, especially parents. There is no way he or anyone for that matter, including this writer, is taking on children or the parents of children who are truly autistic or have other severe mental handicaps. It is beyond shameful that special education and health care dollars are diverted from the truly mentally retarded to students and others who have more subjective behavorial issues. More and more students at every grade level are being placed in special education. This is a serious problem. Michael Savage is not the problem.
Years ago, nationally syndicated radio talk show host Neal Boortz riled up a bunch of parents when he dared to challenge the very existence of ADHD in children. He, and thousands before and after him, properly point to the fact that lousy parenting -or the acceptance of permissive parenting- obviously has a lot to do with how their children act at home or in public. But dare take on the ADHD machinery, and parents vested in it will come out and protest. They have protested outside of WSB-AM in Atlanta, and sure enough, like-minded parents were outside WOR-AM in New York City on July 21st demanding that Michael Savage be fired. Should Michael Savage be fired? No. Permissive parents should be.
I seriously doubt many of the protesters of Michael Savage and Neal Boortz are the parents of children with truly diagnosed handicaps. I imagine those parents understand that what Michael Savage and Neal Boortz and thousands of others are rallying against is the "overdiagnosing" of children. This has run rampant in our country for years. That's the real problem.
Here's a case in point that goes to the heart of what Michael Savage is trying to do with waking folks up about the overdiagnosing of children with autism. It shows that the problem now is psychiatry and Big Pharma. You would have to be a moron if you don't see that there is a crystal clear connection between Big Pharma and psychiatry.
The state of New Hampshire is just one state out of over 40 states that is sharing a settlement of $515 million dollars from Eli Lilly and Bristol-Myers Squibb. It appears these drug giants were overpricing drugs like Ablify and Zyprexa to state Medicaid agencies. They also made illegal (big surprise!) payments to doctors to promote these drugs for children and adults who were on Medicaid. If there is not a crystal clear link between psychiatry and Big Pharma, ask yourself how it is possible and medically sound that in the state of New Hampshire alone, state spending on drugs like Ablify and Zyprexa jumped from around $300,000 in 2000 to around $4 million in 2007? Come on, think about it.
So when it comes to autism or drug companies or psychiatry, Michael Savage is not the problem. The true problem that no one wants to talk about is the rush to label both children and adults with a mental disorder based solely on a checklist. Most children don't have any kind of "attention deficit" that can be helped with dangerous drugs that could not be better served by having parents give more of their time to them. And I mean real time, not just farming them out to more and more private lessons or sports camps.
In my view, we need more talk show hosts to speak up against the rising tide of leaving no child in America undrugged and undiagnosed. Michael Savage will be just fine without the Aflac insurance company no longer willing to advertise on his show. What a bunch of weasels. Cowards. I wonder how much stock they have in Big Pharma. I wonder if they donate money to mental health advocacy groups like CHADD or NAMI.
We all need to pull together and fiercely challenge any proposal to have every child in these United States tested/screened for autism before the age of two. Clearly, proposals like this are worth protesting. They are far more in the direct interest of drug companies and the appointment books of doctors. We have allowed ourselves - especially our children as young as one years old - to become one nation under medication.
Michael Savage is not the problem.
Tony Zizza is a freelance writer who lives in Hermitage, TN. Reach Zizza via email: firstname.lastname@example.org His columns have appeared in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Macon Telegraph and The Union Leader newspaper. His columns have also been posted on www.ifeminists.net, www.therealitycheck.org, www.magic-city-news.com and www.mensnewsdaily.com.