During Autism Awareness month of April 2011, Robert MacNeil promoted his perspective of autism on television. I'm sure Mr. MacNeil's views on autism will be popular and well received but unfortunately there will be little if any nuance added to this mainstream view that traditionally prevents the educational and vocational opportunities for autistics and promotes the fear campaigns that encourage the worst stereotypes.
In the same way that the views of groups like Autism Speaks and the funding campaign efforts of the Jerry Lewis marathon are exploitive and disabling, the oppressive nature of the psychiatric industry and other medical abuses will go practically unchallenged due to the influence of commercial advertising. Anyone presenting rational alternatives and attempting to discuss practical ideas in a non-threatening environment will be either attacked or co-opted so that the issues which are important remain polarized.
Politics, political agendas, and bullies (and the politics and political agendas of bullies) consistently discourage rational views from being expressed on the internet whenever issues that concern disability are discussed.
This is a tradition that has always provided an ample opportunity for greedy politicians and corporate executives with an insatiable apatite for power to determine the policy that affects people with disabilities and encourages exclusion and negative stereo types.
My impression of online discussions is that we as a society are losing our ability to trust our neighbor, and we often tend to objectify and stereotype each person we meet. This begins by polarizing every discussion and seeing alternative viewpoints (however slight) as a threat to our self-esteem. It's difficult to know what we really believe because our thinking is so attached to the image we display and who we are that an objective view of our expressions is impossible.
Of course there will always be a mainstream view of what autism is ( MacNeil is just one celebrity who will present this narrow view) and due to unregulated commercial advertising and the impact it has on the views of people who want to "make a difference", nuances that are more accepting of diversity will be practically absent from the discussions where that view is presented. However, commercialism and mainstream politics is not what determines the truth. If we truly are interested in becoming a more accepting culture that is promoting diversity, we will find more ways to encourage the voices of individuals without regarding their category or status to determine the value of their expressions, and we will find value in what we hear them say.