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Savage indignation

July 18th, 2008 · 21 Comments · Careless sourcing, Narrative

Michael Savage is the number three rated syndicated talk show host in America, with eight million listeners a week. He directs his racist, red-meat rants at Democrats, minorities, civil libertarians, moderate Republicans, scientists, educators, and anyone else who displeases him. Savage recently commented that he “would hang every lawyer who went to Guantanamo Bay” to represent detainees. He repeatedly refers to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as “Mussolini”, and has warned that childrens’ minds “are being raped by a homosexual mafia.”

Now this:

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.”

This was not the first time that Savage, who holds master’s degrees in medical botany and medical anthropology, and a PhD in “nutritional ethnomedicine”, has shown his ignorance of autism. Last month, Dr. Savage, née Michael Weiner, said “In my day if a kid shot his mouth off in class we wasn’t called autistic, he was called a pain in the neck.” Autism, said Savage, is a racket for poor families to collect disability payments from the government. In Savage’s sad little world, there is no ASD or ADD: “To me, there is only one disease they all have – S.T.U.P.I.D.” The ignorance is not confined to autism – he once said that 99 percent of all depression “is rage turned inside.”

Either Savage skipped class the days his professors talked about “medicine”, or he’s an entertainer who doesn’t care who is hurt. I vote for the latter. Chances are, Savage knows that autism is a real disorder, with a strong genetic component, and that changes in diagnostic criteria have led to a spike in diagnoses over the last 20 years. But how boring is that? How many of his eight million listeners would sit through 15 minutes of their hero going all Dr. Phil, telling us that autistic children need understanding and accommodation? So much more entertaining to joke about smacking the handicapped.

The need to entertain first, then inform, has long been a favorite subject of media watchdogs and scholars. In Amusing Ourselves to Death, published 20 years ago, Neil Postman showed us how mass media, primarily television, convert otherwise serious conversations into entertainment. Treating autism as entertainment, whether it’s calling the disorder a scam, or peeking into alternative medical clinics to see what some parents do to their kids, preempts serious discussion. Shocking, unverified anecdotes are elevated over dry scientific consensus. Preposterous medical claims are presented for their shock value, with little effort given to refutation. Over time, the public loses its appreciation for serious issues, as once serious issues morph into entertainment.

Here’s the audio. Enjoy.

Science blogger Orac writes about the difficulty of communicating science to the lay public.

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21 responses so far ↓

  • 1 John Besst // Jul 18, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    I am sorry for my abusive nature. I will try to do better.

  • 2 Sullivan // Jul 18, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    He’s running out of material. He either has to rant about the same things over and over, or push into new territory where he has even less understanding.

  • 3 Kev // Jul 19, 2008 at 4:18 am

    Very true Sullivan. I think the same is true of Michael Savage too.

  • 4 Maddy // Jul 19, 2008 at 9:42 am

    I’ll skip the audio if you don’t mind as I’ve already read the actual words on several sites.

    I honestly think it was just a rant to increase ratings.

  • 5 Ed // Jul 19, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    Shock jocks have never needed to offer much in the way of substance.

    It seems to me to be a kind of guilty pleasure for some people. Most of what is said isn’t something that many listeners wouldn’t repeat.

    It’s still a cycle of performance art (though it doesn’t deserve to be called art) that imitates someone’s life and then further corrupts listeners values and gets expressed by more people in ways that are sometimes subtle and sometimes more overt…. and just plain mean.

    Michael Savage….what a jerk!

  • 6 Beau // Jul 19, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    “I honestly think it was just a rant to increase ratings.”

    Unfortunately, that’s all shock jocks like him ever do. They like the publicity, so they’ll say anything, even if they don’t really mean it.

  • 7 Wendy // Jul 20, 2008 at 6:37 am

    So, what is this about?
    Politics? Yea, dude…I totally understand all those Autistic politicians!
    You make no sense, yea, those ceasures that those kids have, what a money racket!
    The fact that my god son cannot speak a word and he is almost 4, what’s that all about? I guess I should just tell him to stop being a baby, eh?
    And what’s up with those kids always “stimming” Wow, what parents will do to get thier kids into unfunded therapies and schools! I’m appaled ;)
    You are nothing but a joke…I don’t care if you enjoy this coz it gets you attention, yea…i’d do anything to make people think i’m dirt too!
    Love your life, coz you’re the only one that will with a personality like that.
    Do me a favor…spend 1 day with an autistic child, I know you won’t…coward.

  • 8 scodav // Jul 20, 2008 at 9:03 am

    As usual, there’s a huge “factual gap” in Savage’s rant. In my neck of the woods at least, (Sacramento, CA), there are no “disability payments” for a family for a disabled child…

  • 9 isles // Jul 20, 2008 at 11:15 am

    Anything for attention, even if it means throwing autistic kids under the bus. Niiiiice.

  • 10 Bink // Jul 20, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    I was startled by the same thing as scodav. There IS no public funding for autistic kids. My kid’s needs are covered by neither insurance nor the government nor the schools. I understand that this guy is an asshole who is lying to get attention, but it still saddens me that people buy what he’s selling.

  • 11 FYI // Jul 20, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    These are the corporate advertisers for Talk Radio Network, who happily bring the world Michael Savage.

    American Express
    Boca Java
    Consolidated Resources
    Direct Buy
    Dish Network
    Ebay Motors
    General Motors
    Gallo Wines
    Legal Zoom
    Outback Steakhouse
    Purina One
    Simon & Schuster
    Texaco Chevron
    United First Financial

    This is the website.

  • 12 HokieHope.Com » Savagely Indifferent to the Truth // Jul 20, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    [...] on the subject of autism, and for that matter on other subjects of genuine public concern.  Autism News,  a blog that is intended to introduce scientific fact to journalism on autism, had the [...]

  • 13 RainMan // Jul 20, 2008 at 7:59 pm

  • 14 Cappy // Jul 21, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    The “Weiner” obviously is ignorant on this subject. As the grandfather of two autistic twins, I know firsthand the daily agony of raising them along with another typical child. Spend a week with them, and one will experience the heartache and exhaustion that occurs. It takes every ounce of one’s energy to cope with the situation, leaving no time for any enjoyment for the parents. Sorry Michael, but on this one you are dead wrong. You have just lost a listener, along with everyone I talk to.

  • 15 Regan // Jul 21, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    The “Weiner” obviously is ignorant on this subject.

    From what I know about it, M.S. is not particularly interested in accuracy on any subject–just shock-value, attention to his show, ratings and income.

    What is more worrisome are the yahoos who listen to the show and internalize the fist-pumping stupidity, such as those who might actually believe that bullying a child is the way to go, and the morally-challenged sponsors who subsidize this program. Hit ‘em where they both live–contact the sponsors.

  • 16 Liz Ditz // Jul 22, 2008 at 10:45 am

    I wrote to Radio Shack to protest their ads airing on Savage’s show. The short version: they don’t advertise with Savage, and haven’t for some time.

    Here’s the response:

    Thank you for your email to RadioShack’s Media Relations Department. We appreciate and share your concerns.

    We would like to emphatically state RadioShack was not and is not a sponsor of the Michael Savage radio show. In fact, our agreement with the radio network airing his show specifically excludes his program (along with several others) as one on which our commercials may appear. The fact that one or more of our ads did run on the July 16 broadcast of this show was in direct violation of our advertising contract with the network. The network has admitted their mistake to us and apologized for the confusion they have created. Likewise, we are investigating whether any other radio stations who air the syndicated version of the program may have violated our advertising contracts and instructions. If so, we will demand a proper remedy.

    Unfortunately, the network’s mistake was heard by many individuals such as you who have since spread the word that RadioShack sponsors this program. Likewise, Web sites that were quick to post our name as a sponsor without investigating the actual facts have been very slow to correct the record online. Until that happens, we would greatly appreciate your help in spreading the facts through your own personal network.

    Once again, thank you for writing and allowing us the opportunity to set the record straight.


    Charles Hodges

    Director Media Relations

  • 17 Marissa // Jul 22, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    Savage is just that… a shock jock. He says things to get people riled up so controversy is created and he gets more attention. I’d never even heard of this guy until he spouted his stuff about autism. He’s a mini-Limbaugh: the more attention he gets, the more he spouts nonsense off. It’s a vicious cycle.

    *Btw – Found you by way of

  • 18 Nicole Sinclair // Jul 25, 2008 at 7:55 am

    In response to the above comment that lists Hoover as an advertiser associated with The Michael Savage Show and Talk Radio Network, I would like to clarify that Hoover and its parent company, TTI Floor Care North America, are not and have never been sponsors of or advertisers on The Michael Savage Show.

    While under the ownership of the Whirlpool Corporation, Hoover-branded ads aired during The Laura Ingraham Show on Talk Radio Network; however, ads have not aired on that program since December 2006 when Techtronic Industries Co. Ltd agreed to purchase the Hoover brand from Whirlpool.

    We value feedback from our customers and hope you will contact us directly should you have any questions about this important matter.

    Nicole Sinclair
    TTI Floor Care North America
    Public Relations and Promotions Manager

  • 19 Craig // Jul 26, 2008 at 8:43 am

    Ken, it’s nice that we finally agree on something. Michael Savage is sadly just infectious human waste who spreads his stench to his “Savage Nation” and spreads ignorance and hatred. How this slime got air-time, I still don’t know. Thank you for writing about this.

  • 20 Erik // Jul 28, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    I agree with Savage.

    I was diagnosed with “mild autism”, and it is essentially BS. My parents were worried I didnt have lots of freinds and wanted to buy me drugs.

    I threw them all away and I have taught myself to be more social. Its a failure of my parents keeping my isolated/sheltered and not a genetic disease.

    People are always looking for excuses to not blame themselves.

    (FYI: Autism is real though, but there is no such thing as mild autism)

  • 21 autblog // Jul 28, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    Two-thirds of ASDs are either Asperger’s or PDD-NOS. It sounds like you were misdiagnosed – that happens. If you’r parents chelated you, they could have claimed that you were recovered! ;-)

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