Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN)/Start Here, Autistic, Typing/“Autism Moon,” Mark Rober/Color the Spectrum, Beckspectrum/Autism Now! Julie Morrow/Cornflowergrl, @asiatucoach
Chapter 1: Plagiarism?
At the beginning of April 2021, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) released a new parent guide, Start Here, for parents of newly diagnosed autistic kids. Within 24-48 hours, on her public Facebook Business Page, the Indigenous autistic writer/advocate, Autistic, Typing, reposted an album titled “Autism Moon,” with a public allegation that it was plagiarized. In the comments of this post (to her page with tens of thousands of followers) it was noted that the accused party was ASAN, and the text in question was Start Here. Immediately, autistic self advocates flooded ASAN’s social media feeds with demands that they both credit Autistic, Typing and pay her for their (ASAN’s) work. ASAN responded with an official statement on their Facebook Page explaining that no plagiarism occurred, and linking to several texts pre-dating “Autism Moon,” which demonstrate the fact that the language expressed on a shared topic within a narrow area of any given discourse will be reflected across texts written by various authors within the field. In response to their statement, the online community, in support of Autistic, Typing, rallied, exchanging side by side images with text from Start Here and “Autism Moon,” asserting that accidental mosaic or structural plagiarism occurred. Further, supporters of Autistic, Typing argued that even if plagiarism did not occur, ASAN was responsible to do more than defend themselves, and because they did nothing to uplift Autistic, Typing, they are upholding systemic racism.
Chapter 2: Mark Rober is the Devil
Not long after the scandal between Autistic, Typing and ASAN, former NASA scientist and celebrity YouTuber, Mark Rober, posted a video revealing that his son is autistic, with high support needs. In the end, he requested his viewers join him for a live streaming event, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel with many celebrity guests, called Color the Spectrum, in support of an organization called Next for Autism. The online autistic self advocacy community rallied against Mark Rober and all involved in Color the Spectrum, demanding they desist on the grounds that Next for Autism supports Autism Speaks, and neither organization have adequate actually autistic representation in their employ. The community also condemned Next for Autism for encouraging the use of ABA therapy (extremely controversial form of therapy) for autistic people, and for funding genetic research, with the assumption that such research is intended as a means of using eugenics based science against autistic people.
As to this segment of the story, I have researched nothing. Thus, I cannot say for certain whether the allegations against any of the parties are founded or not. I have no opinion on this part of the story, but it plays an important role in the events to follow.
Chapter 3: Counterstream, Now!
Beckspectrum, who had by then amassed a large following on TikTok, organized a counterstream (Autistic Now!) to the Color the Spectrum event, with the intent to raise funds for ASAN. The headliner was to be Paige Layle, the most popular autistic self-advocate on the app, and was also to include several other young adult autistic creators. They proceeded with cursory knowledge of the alleged plagiarism, with the belief that they were raising funds for an organization that prioritizes the lived experience of actually autistic people.
Chapter 4: Boycott Autism, Now!
A black creator (@asiatucoach) on Instagram responded to the news of Beckspectrum’s counterstream with an admonition: Boycott Autistic, Now! They asserted that it is racist to support ASAN because ASAN plagiarized/stole intellectual work from a marginalized member of the autistic community. In response to the boycott, Beckspectrum attempted to reach out to Autistic, Typing to include her in some manner. She also included the Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network as another recipient of funds raised. Nevertheless, @asiatucoach continued to pressure Beckspectrum and those creators working with her, condemning them for planning to still provide funds to ASAN. After much social pressure, Beckspectrum canceled the entire event.
Chapter 5: Beckspectrum is the Devil
Beck posted a public apology on Instagram Live and announced the cancellation of the event. She apologized for centering herself and her interests, as POC creators accused her of racism on the basis that they didn’t have equal screen time, as per the plan for the livestream. Following her apology, @asiatucoach is dissatisfied. They accused Beck of making a “performative” apology, and advised their followers to continue to hold Beck accountable on her IG feed. Beck is publicly humiliated on Instagram and TikTok, as her former event partners debased her (and Paige) with verbal assaults and accusations on various Livestream videos.
Chapter 6: My Mistakes
I must back track slightly to fill in some details of my involvement in the unraveling saga. For starters, Beck was my acquaintance on TikTok, and we enjoyed a friendly rapport. Likewise, @asiatucoach was my friend on IG. For months, I’d consumed @asiatucoach’s brand of wokeness, and felt pressure to keep in line, to align my beliefs with theirs. I ignored my intuition that something was off because they were a confident authority, and I tend to be susceptible to that sort of thing.
I first learned of the accusations against ASAN on Instagram in a post by a creator, whom I don’t remember. I sympathized with the post itself and shared it to my story on Insta. Weeks pass, and I see that Beck has organized this fundraiser for ASAN. I feel funny doing it, but I share her marketing posts to my story. It didn’t feel right because at the time, I felt some concern about the allegations against ASAN. Nevertheless, I speculated that things were resolved since I hadn’t heard about it in some time. Within a day or so, @asiatucoach posts an admonition to the community directing all to boycott the stream. I felt horrified. I felt like I did something really bad by promoting the counterstream because @asiatucoach claimed that ASAN was racist and plagiarized an Indigenous woman, as though it were indisputable fact. I trusted their authority. I then posted the details about the boycott to my feed, and apologized for supporting Beck.
Things unfurled for Beck and I began to think @asiatucoach was being too punitive. A follower reached out to me and questioned the allegations of plagiarism. In the meantime, @asiatucoach and her community persist in the narrative that if a POC feels like they’ve been victimized, we are to believe them, no matter what, and rally around in support. However, when my follower, Willow, reached out to me in sincerity, I decided to research everything to get to the bottom of it all–for myself.
Chapter 7: ASAN did Nothing Wrong
To start, I pulled up both the texts, Start Here, and “Autism Moon.” I saw structural similarities. I saw a lot of the same thinking. Then, I researched the necessary evidence to prove plagiarism occurred. I realized that a claim of plagiarism is untenable when the ideas expressed in language are not original to the alleged victim. I found other texts from writers addressing the same topic–newly diagnosed autistic families–predating “Autism Moon,” and I realized, in horror, that ASAN did nothing wrong.
I decided immediately I must redress a wrong I’d committed. I streamed live on Instagram and publicly apologized to Beckspectrum, on the basis that I did not think the campaign against her was justified. I apologized for sharing boycott posts, and I asserted that I did not think the plagiarism claim was tenable. Still, I exhorted my followers to study the texts in question, in addition to plagiarism guidelines, and other texts from the autistic community, to decide for themselves.
Chapter 8: Julie Morrow is the Devil
@asiatucoach posts her own IGTV condemning me: Julie Morrow, aka Cornflowergrl is racist. She sided with ASAN and supported Beck. Hold Julie Morrow accountable!!!
They asserted that because I am white and of the oppressor group, I have no right—in fact, I am entitled—to think I can judge the merit of the plagiarism allegations. Because I am white, I cannot relate to the experience of an Indigenous woman; therefore, I should accept her word as fact and support the crusade against ASAN.
Then, my video’s comment section exploded.
It lasted days.
It lasted weeks.
@asiatucoach devoted many posts to directing their followers to hold me accountable in my feed, to report my account as racist, and they devoted two, hour long, YouTube podcasts to explicating my video apology to Beck and revealing my white fragility and oppressive nature. I lost 600+ followers on Instagram, and fielded aggressive, hateful comments and direct messages for weeks before it eventually died down.
For a couple of weeks, I attempted to share information on my feed exonerating ASAN and demonstrating how language was used by both Autistic, Typing and @asiatucoach to assert social authority and direct online behavior. Autistic, Typing accused me of doxxing her because I shared public information, which she had already shared to her following (many times the size of my own) and she threatened me with legal action in my IG DMs, in attempt to silence and intimidate me.
In the end, nothing changed. Autistic, Typing has been given more opportunities within the autistic advocacy community because of all of the sympathy she garnered from her accusations of racism and plagiarism by ASAN. @asiatucoach gained near 2,000 followers in the wake of her campaigns against Beck and myself.
Now, I feel demoralized because I know I did nothing wrong by apologizing to Beck, and I am convinced that the leaders of the cancel campaigns were led by unethical motives. Consequently, I’ve grown exceedingly suspicious of woke culture, identity politics, anti-racism activism, and CRT. Together with bad actors motivated by greed for power, they have been utilized as weapons of civic discord.