In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the issue's role in campaign politics. In the 2016 campaign, a number of posts discussed Trump's bad record on disability issues more generally. As his actions as president indicate, he has little use for Americans with disabilities. Nevertheless, some pro-Trump extremists think that they can mobilize autistic people to support him.
Christie Welch and colleagues have an article at The Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders titled" Understanding the Use of the Term “Weaponized Autism” in An Alt-Right Social Media Platform."
The term “weaponized autism” is frequently used on extremist platforms. To better understand this, we conducted a discourse analysis of posts on Gab, an alt-right social media platform.
We analyzed 711 posts spanning 2018–2019 and filtered for variations on the term “weaponized autism”.
This term is used mainly by non-autistic Gab users. It refers to exploitation of perceived talents and vulnerabilities of “Weaponized autists”, described as all-powerful masters-of-technology who are devoid of social skills.
The term “weaponized autism” is simultaneously glorified and derogatory. For some autistic people, the partial acceptance offered within this community may be preferable to lack of acceptance offered in society, which speaks to improving societal acceptance as a prevention effort.
From the article:
While not well studied or documented in academic literature (our search of available literature uncovered only one source exploring this - see Lovett (2019) for an exploration of alt-right recruitment tactics), journalistic reports have indicated that hate groups are working online to actively seek and engage autistic people for recruitment (Borrell, 2020; DEO, 2017; Schroeder 2019). Autism advocacy groups and community service organizations have begun to voice similar concerns and are calling for an organized response that is based on evidence and informed by autistic people (Autism Against Fascism, (no date); Braune 2020).
For these posters, autism is a readily exploitable resource that can be channelled in pursuit of their agenda, and especially as a means for lashing out at those who are considered “the enemy.” Indeed, Gab posters within our data discuss how autistic people can be deployed to advance the interests of the alt-right. The comments reveal a sometimes implicit, other times explicit assumption that autistic people are ripe for manipulation.
The greatest weapon on Earth is the weaponization of the depressed and emotionally vulnerable. Is Weaponized Autism not a piratical suicide delivery device? Can Social Media be used to find and manipulate useful idiots? Sadly yes
Back in the day (2016) we on the very hard right, the white nationalist alt-right, used these people as a force multiplier because at the time we desperately needed their weaponized autism to elect Trump.