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Comments: Week of November 12, 2012

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1. “Is everyone on the spectrum?” Benjamin Wallace asked in his cover story on the strange fashionability of an Asperger’s diagnosis, or self-diagnosis, among the high-achieving (Are You On It?” November 5). This phenomenon does not exactly please autism advocates, many of whom read the story with great interest. “Pseudo autism is unfair to those with genuine autism spectrum,” wrote one, who identified himself as having the disorder. “It is a profoundly ignorant way to pretend to make others aware which instead increases confusion. Autism is not the same as socially awkward, clueless, loners, hidden genius, or overinterest in a particular subject! It is not geekdom or language deprived, emotionally unstable or OCD ... We’re not just weird or picky or temperamental or oversensitive or differently focused. We’re aliens. I hope someday we will be welcome aliens.” At Forbes.com, Emily Willingham at first sounded a similar note. “People with Asperger’s do struggle, in part because of an existing social construct that sees only their deficits and not their potential and in part because of a growing pop-sci dismissiveness and dilution of what ‘Asperger’s’ even means, or what it will mean once it ceases to exist as a label,” she wrote, then struck a more broad-minded note about how we might think about the meaning of that label. “Many parents have epiphanies of recognition about themselves when their child receives an autism diagnosis ... people like me who probably would have fallen under the spectrum label had it been around in our childhoods relate to, share, and deeply empathize with the struggles of autistic people.”


2. “Excellent analysis of the sad Jonah Lehrer affair,” tweeted Steven Pinker about Boris Kachka’s story on the downfall of the science-journalist wunderkind (Proust Wasn’t a Neuroscientist. Neither Was Jonah Lehrer.” November 5). Pinker was not the only one of the scientists and writers quoted in the story to applaud it—so did Eric Garland and Carl Zimmer—but readers seemed to take the scandal much less seriously. “I’m not a fan of Lehrer’s work, but all this moralizing strikes me as silly,” wrote Brian Platzer of the Rumpus. “What did he do so bad? He exaggerated his stories. Every storyteller I know does the same thing. His readers, if they were honest, would admit that they’ve always turned to Lehrer for entertainment, not Truth. The indignation says more about Lehrer’s accusers than it does about Lehrer.” Another echoed Kachka’s argument that most of Lehrer’s critics were missing the forest for the trees: “As an avid reader of science ‘journalism’ (note the quotation marks) and of science proper, I gotta say, I just don’t care that much about the whole ‘paragraph recycling’ issue. So Lehrer was—I don’t know—20 percent lazy ... Big deal! What about the other 80 percent? He did after all serve the all-important purpose (in these days of culture wars) of sustaining a healthy public fascination with science.” And a third piled on the pile-on: “Sure, he plagiarized, and that’s bad, but you guys in the media are really having him for lunch. I mean, it’s not Watergate, for Christ’s sake.

3. “I hate to say it, but I kind of love her,” wrote one reader of Girls star Jemima Kirke, eager to be seen as a painter, not an actor, on the eve of her first gallery show (69 Minutes With Jemima Kirke,” by Molly Young, November 5). Other readers were considerably less charmed. “Privileged, nothing much to say. Will never be a great artist,” wrote one. And another: “i’ve read two interviews with her, and both left me with the impression that the interviewer strongly disliked/was unimpressed by her. this ‘article’ is vapid, but i don’t blame the writer.” (For the record, Young really liked Kirke!)

4. “This feature on Mike Woodson is great, but only in New York does that dude ever get a glossy profile,” tweeted Bethlehem Shoals of Will Leitch’s profile of the new Knicks coach, whom he described as a dull character only getting attention for leading the league’s most overhyped, and overdiscussed, team (The Anti-D’Antoni,” November 5). “Leitch paints Woodson as more of the antithesis of any big-name coach,” wrote Alex Raskin at NJ.com. “In fact, the more I read about Woodson’s demeanor, the more I’m reminded of [his predecessor] D’Antoni, a West Virginia native with a sort of ‘aw shucks’ attitude around the media.” But Josh Benjamin at Bleacher Report argued that, whatever his charms, Woodson faced an uphill struggle with a team of over-the-hill (and often overpaid) talents. “Leitch’s article paints Woodson as just what the Knicks need: a humble coach committed to winning and a tough effort on defense—nothing more … That said, there’s only one piece of advice to give Woodson at this point: Keep it up … Even if it means pulling rank against a player every now and again, the man can’t back down.

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