NB: For various reasons, I have distanced myself from the Autistic Dark Web (which I have not been involved with for some time), and I give my reasons here. I respect some specific insights from various individuals involved with that past project, but there were many difficulties with the movement that, from my perspective, were irresoluble. I will continue to keep working for a transcendence vision of autism, founded on human dignity, against the postmodernist view. Needless to say, contrary to certain arbitrary allegations that I will not dignity with a refutation here, I will always remain critical of the right wing of identity politics, as moral and logical consistency demands nothing else: see for example one of critiques of white nationalism, and a preliminary foray into battling the pernicious incel cult. Some fairly detailed retrospective reflections on my past experience of the Autistic Dark Web can be found on a recent autobiographical and ideology-critical essay of mine, which also includes a little tentative glimpse into the future as well…
One of the most unintentionally hilarious things about the current postmodernist consensus is the bizarre notion that there is something incredibly edgy, provocative and radical about the moronic SJW boilerplate du jour.
TERF-punching misogynists consider themselves to be an oppressed minority, heroically fighting back against their omnipotent and omniscient cisscum oppressors.
The misdeeds of Israel, both real and imagined, are never out of the news; the stabbing of children and weaponisation of arson kites is barely mentioned.
Well-heeled, high profile race hustlers like Louis Farrakhan believe they are oppressed by Jews, religious people in relatively secular and free societies are more worried about ‘homonationalism’ than about throwing gay people off roofs, and manspreading is treated as though it were somehow the worst act of mass radical violence and brutality against women since the days of Genghis Khan.
It is thus possible to speak of a paradox of victimhood, whereby the more privileged and cosseted the Safe Space Precious Princelings and Trigger-Happy Doom Duchesses are, the more they present themselves as the outcast and tragically despoiled wretched of the earth.
It is perhaps a little unsurprising that the paradox of victimhood also has its place in disability and mental health; albeit, a very far from noble one.
It is precisely for this reason, that the Autistic Dark Web poses an existential threat to the entrenched privileges of professional identity hustlers and amateur grievance peddlers in the fields of disability and mental health.
But what is the Autistic Dark Web?
In a nutshell, it is a dissident movement whose name is inspired by the the Intellectual Dark Web. As the latter has neither Caesar nor Pope, no official endorsement of the Autistic Dark Web is possible. There is no final authority in the Intellectual Dark Web; the pursuit of rational inquiry is much preferred to dogmatic ex cathedra pronouncements.
For, what unites the Intellectual Dark Web is not a dogma, but a disposition. If Russell Kirk famously spoke of a conservative disposition, the Intellectual Dark Web is more of a sceptical disposition. There is no central sacred scripture, like Das Kapital or Mein Kampf. There is no Party, and no Magisterium. The only safeguarding mechanism to prevent the notion of the Intellectual Dark Web meaning everything and nothing, is the very critical values underlying the project itself. And while these are capable of filtering out relativism and nihilism, they do not naturally tend towards a monolithic consensus on all matters.
The same also can be said of the Autistic Dark Web. But first, it is important to provide a little bit of pre-history on what the Autistic Dark Web is.
There are some entrenched postmodernist orthodoxies in the area of disability and mental health, as already stated. I will briefly mention two of these, before discussing how these orthodoxies play out in practice.
First of all, Neurodiversity teaches that anyone who is neurologically different, i.e. neurodivergent, is not disabled, but merely has a brain that is different. There is a natural diversity of minds, and to speak of any neurology as better or worse than any other is oppressive and abusive. Secondly, the Social Model of Disability, one of the cornerstones of neurological identity politics and disability hustling, teaches that people are indeed biologically impaired, but that we are nonetheless disabled by society, and not by nature or biology. This particular dogma has an unshakeable sacralized status, just like other tedious and untenable identity politics boilerplate: such as racism is prejudice plus power, or Israel is a repugnant Zionist cancer that needs to be excised by any means necessary.
To disagree with a core Social Justice dogma is not merely to have an honest disagreement, but to bully, oppress and hatemonger against disabled and mentally ill people. Outsiders who object to any of the sacred tenets of sectarian disability hustling are inevitably denounced as ableists, who are speaking from a position of privilege. Of course, while genuine anti-disabled prejudice and oppression does exist, the term has undergone a catastrophically colossal threat inflation, to the point where ableism is somehow magically omnipresent and omnipotent, yet still somehow weak and mediocre enough to be worth denouncing. In this sense, ableism is roughly analogous to racism or transphobia.
On the other hand, insiders are guilty of internalized ableism. Anyone who challenges the sacred dogmas of disability hustlers is a traitor, who is shamelessly betraying the community. Those familiar with the antics of social justice warriors will be entirely unsurprised to learn that there is a genuine wide-eyed metaphysical naivety about this magic word, community. Whether the naivety is sincere or feigned, the postmodern establishment of disability correctness insist dogmatically and stridently, as though their very lives depended on it, that the autistic community, or whichever other community is at issue, is something real and concrete; rather than an abusive and highly conformist imposition.
Thus, just as self-styled community leaders place the supposed group interests and collective rights of religious and racial demographics above individual justice, so also does the communitarian logic of disabled identity politics exact a heavy price from those who dare to question the self-evidently fraudulent myth of an autistic or otherwise disabled community. Anyone who goes against the supposed party line is a collaborator with the Oppressor.
But who, then, is the Oppressor?
Aside from the aforementioned internal dissidents, there is also that all too familiar bugbear, Society. There is no point asking who Society is; because the whole point of this self-consciously evasive trope is to muddy the waters, and to prevent any remotely serious discussion emerging from the foamy brew of high-minded victimhood-spiralling outrage.
In addition, non-disabled people are also The Oppressor. In the case of autism, non-autistic people (allistics) and people without any mental illness or relevant disability (neurotypicals) are the approximate analogues of patriarchal males, cisscum, kaffirs and Mr Yoghurt. However, a special vitriol is reserved for parents, who are quite possibly the demographic subject to the most utterly barbaric hatred, bitterness and vitriol. Other more or less predictable bad guys include scientists and doctors.
This is all fairly grim.
But if there is no disabled community, neurodivergent community or autistic community, then how have dissidents responded to the never-ending grievance mill, this hideous perpetual-motion machine?
First of all, there are some long-standing critics of neurodiversity. One famous example is Jonathan Mitchell, an elderly man from LA. Jonathan, the “Autistic Gadfly,” is a long-standing veteran and pioneer of anti-neurodiversity critique. He has experienced a great deal of vitriol and ridicule over the decades, and he has often not been given a fair hearing.
Secondly, Twitter has provided a way for critics of disability victimhood and autistic identity politics to mobilise and engage with each other. Over time, key hashtags like #neurodiversity came to have a higher proportion of dissident content than before. Individuals have begun to support each other with comments, likes and retweets. And perhaps most excitingly of all, a new sense of belonging is emerging: a sense of true solidarity, despite all our individual differences, and regardless of the often vast distances between us. There is already provisional talk about national level meet-ups.
Thirdly, a new vocabulary is beginning to emerge; but only piecemeal, as it would be foolish for any one person to try and create a whole new language out of whole cloth. Terms like bilateral accommodation, unilateral accommodation, funtism and twee culture are not yet widely accepted terminology; but occasionally, people do engage with these notions, even if they don’t agree. That is always a start.
Fourthly, we are all taking the opportunity to grow. We are all quite different. There are doves, like Tim Turner, who want to reform Neurodiversity, and who advocate a ‘soft’ version of the Neurodiversity paradigm; rather than a dogmatic hard version. There are hawks, like me, who want to get rid of Neurodiversity completely. And of course, aside from ideological differences, there are demographical differences too. We don’t deliberately seek out “diversity for the sake of diversity.” But we have found out, to our considerable joy, that people of various demographics have indeed come to join us, on the strength of our ideas alone; without our needing to lower ourselves to the self-consciously desperate diversity hustling that is so prevalent in our times.
We do occasionally have to remind each other, and ourselves, that rolling around in the muck with bad faith interlocutors, trolls or flamers is no good. At times, some of us risk losing our tempers. But then we pick ourselves up again, and try to do better next time. Thomas Clements, the “Autistic Buddha,” practices mindfulness. I myself have come a long way in terms of not getting embroiled in pointless conflicts. Others, such as Juliet Robeck, seem largely unflappable. Jonathan Mitchell has seen it all, so he is the grave and august Cato. We have neither Pope nor Caesar, as I’ve said; but speaking for myself, I think Jonathan would make an excellent Founding Father in Chief, primus inter pares. I do not believe those long, lonely years of self-sacrificing stubbornness have been in vain.
I will say one more thing, to close this article.
Trigger warning: I am about to make a “generalisation.”
Safe spaces at the ready!
Free-thinkers and individualists have an Achille’s heel. We don’t like conformity, and we are suspicious of the herd mentality of pre-packaged, dogmatic ideologies; and so, we risk simply isolating ourselves from others. This is perfectly natural and understandable; but it carries a cost. When the rising star Thomas Clements coined the term Autistic Dark Web, he scored something of a coup. The term sounds fairly open-ended and undogmatic, while also avoiding the merest hint of any cynical, laissez-faire intellectual nihilism. If the Autistic Dark Web is to make serious headway against the politically correct orthodoxies and entrenched privileges of the neurodiversity lobby and autistic identity politics, we are all going to have to remember that while the wages of communitarianism is intellectual and moral death, the gift of solidarity and of a common life of courage are as far away from such shallow conformity as it could ever be possible to imagine.