My irony meter just exploded

How stupid do you have to be for Jenny McCarthy to legitimately toss the epithet back at you?

This question may seem unanswerable, but in this case, McCarthy may have gotten it half right regarding Dennis Leary. The headline at MSNBC delcares: McCarthy calls Leary ‘obviously stupid’

I don’t know much about Leary, but like many comedians he has said something that he will probably regret and move on. In attempting to be funny, Leary scored an epic fail (you can tell it’s an epic fail because Jenny did get it half right):

“There is a huge boom in autism right now because inattentive mothers and competitive dads want an explanation for why their dumb-ass kids can’t compete academically, so they throw money into the happy laps of shrinks . . . to get back diagnoses that help explain away the deficiencies of their junior morons. I don’t give a [bleep] what these crackerjack whack jobs tell you – yer kid is NOT autistic. He’s just stupid. Or lazy. Or both.”

OK, in or out of context, not very funny. Autism is a serious neuro-developmental disorder, and his unfunny pseudo-Scientological riff doesn’t help advance the cause of autism diagnosis and treatment. So Jenny is right (if somewhat non-specific and unsophisticated) in calling him “stupid”. But Leary is up against some serious competition, and when it comes to bringing the stupid, no one does it quite like Jenny McCarthy.

“My fight isn’t with Denis Leary, my fight is with the government — a bigger fish to fry. So I’m still gonna work on the vaccines and I’m still working on pediatricians and Denis Leary can go hopefully be more educated by every mother that stops him from this day forward to give him a piece of their mind,” she said.

I’d argue that Leary’s comments are an opportunity for public education. To minimize a public figure’s idiotic comments about autism in favor of a fight against “the government and vaccines”, is a level of stupid unique to Jenny. The only conspiracy in Jenny’s world is her own conspiracy of ignorance. He’s is a conspiracy that prepares fertile soil for other real conspiracies—those by quacks and charlatans who give parents false hope, steal their money, harm their children, and distract from real autism research.

Brava, maestra!

Comments

  1. #1 Paul
    October 19, 2008

    While Dennis Leary may have put his foot in it (he does it with a certain amount of flair, you must admit), in the bigger picture, there is a point he is trying to make about the way “difficult” children are dealt with in some medical circles. There have always been problem kids whose parents go hopping from doctor to doctor until one of them offers a “diagnosis” that absolves said parents of any responsibility for their child’s misbehaviour. Thirty years ago it was “hyperactivity.” Twenty years ago it was “ADD.” When the definition of ADD was refined enough that it left out a certain grouping of kids, they combined two old pet diagnoses into “ADHD.” Then ADHD was refined again until doctors could no longer just dump problem children into that bucket. These days, autism is on the rise in popularity, and while it is certainly, as you say, a serious neurological condition, there is no doubt that it is – as were ADD and ADHD before it – overdiagnosed by weary dcotors desperate to get a pair of whiny, overgrown, spoiled-brat parents out of their hair.

    It is this very willingness to stretch a diagnosis – to call a child’s behavioural problems part of an “autism spectrum disorder” when they probably aren’t – that allows many CAM ideas to take hold. How many parents, when they decide to stop allowing their “autistic” child to consume three bowls of Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs and a can of Jolt Cola for breakfast, observe a “miraculous” improvement in his behaviour?

    Now, I’m not saying that all kids (or most kids, or even many kids) diagnosed with autism are simply spoiled brats. Evan McCarthy really is autistic, as are the vast majority of children diagnosed that way. But there is no denying that there are some children out there who have been labelled autistic undeservedly. And that’s wrong. And that’s the point Dennis Leary – in his “I’m an Asshole” kind of way – was trying to make.

  2. #2 CW
    October 19, 2008

    there is no doubt that it is – as were ADD and ADHD before it – overdiagnosed by weary dcotors desperate to get a pair of whiny, overgrown, spoiled-brat parents out of their hair.

    But there is no denying that there are some children out there who have been labelled autistic undeservedly.

    Got any, you know, evidence to back any of that up? At all? Or is this just more stuff that “everybody knows”?

  3. #3 MC
    October 20, 2008

    Jenny McCarthy doesn’t have a fight with this guy–she’s glad for the chance to get some publicity. This is especially true while her book is still fairly fresh on the market.

    Jenny saved a comment to Amanda Peet for seven weeks, and a comment to Barbara Walters for months and months–holding them until the publicity would create a little buzz for her book. The Leary comments were just fortunate opportunity to put her name back in the public’s eye.

  4. #4 Alan
    October 20, 2008

    The late Dennis Leary is one of the sharpest and funniest of the ‘social comentary’ comedians of the last couple of decades. I have watched the routine that this quote comes from and laughed my arse off. I have no idea who Jenny is but she has sucked you into agreeing with her transparent character assasination of someone still warm in the grave.

    Some of Leary’s work has been immortalised on youtube for those who care to look, I suggest starting with the routine where he reduces the ten commandments to two before moving on to the more biting satire reserved for the US educations system.

  5. #5 Alan
    October 20, 2008

    Opps, I was thinking of George Carlin….cary on….

  6. #6 minimalist
    October 20, 2008

    It’s easy to confuse Leary with deceased, more talented, comedians, because Leary has stolen 90% of his stand up act from the likes of George Carlin and especially Bill Hicks (RIP). The other 10% is unfunny, abusive crap (such as what PalMD posted) which Leary thinks is “carrying on the spirit” of the dead comedians he rips off, which pretty much shows you the state of his comedic instincts.

  7. #7 The Chemist
    October 20, 2008

    Alan, Alan, Alan… that brief moment of confusion was almost as bad as Leary’s stupid. Almost.

    As for Leary, I’ve seen his comedy, and their is a lot that I find lacking. However, giving him the benefit of a doubt, he may have simply confused “autistic” with “ADD/ADHD”. Regardless of whether ADD/ADHD are over-diagnosed, something which I haven’t examined (no opinion*), I sense that it might have been what he meant.

    Unless something suggests otherwise, my suspicion is that his bit was in the same realm as an entire conversation where I had confused Dennis Quaid with Harrison Ford, just like the error Alan made above! (only less egregious)

    *I would be interested in a blog post if Chris or Pal want to take it up. Just a suggestion.

  8. #8 Bunny
    October 20, 2008

    For a discussion about ADHD, ASD, etc., being “over-diagnosed” in children, it’s important to consider American schools and how they operate. Schools evaluate children for suspected disabilities, including things like ADHD and autism spectrum disorder. Many children only have the school’s “diagnosis” of these things, with nothing from any kind of doctor.

    In my observation, schools seem to be much less tolerant of “difference” than they used to be. They may pay lip service to “multi-culturalism,” etc., but only if the kids, no matter what their culture or background, can sit still, shut up, and do boring, repetitive work to satisfy No Child Left Behind bulls*it.

    Many schools have eliminated recess and/or fun playground sports, and teachers throw up red flags for behavior, especially in boys, that is considered “aggressive” or “disruptive.” I know of two boys in my area who were suspended from kindergarten for humming in class too much (!!), and for shoving a peer. One second-grader I know got in trouble for doing his homework on the school bus because he was using a pencil, and pencils are considered “weapons” (and therefore are not allowed on the bus).

    Kids today get kicked out of school–especially private places, like preschools–for not toeing the line. Maybe it was always that way, I don’t know. But in my experience, a child who stands out too much is red-flagged as a “problem,” even if that kid’s only major issue is that he hums a lot, or wanders around the room when he’s supposed to be sitting down and listening to the teacher. I’m talking about three-year-old kids!

    Another important issue as far as school evaluation/classification goes is the rather sudden disappearance of the “mentally retarded” label, which used to be quite common. Today, many kids who are mentally retarded receive an “autism” label in school, because many children on the autism spectrum have some degree of mental retardation. So it’s probably more likely that the boom in ASD kids has more to do with these school classifications and less to do with loser parents or kids eating too much sugar.

  9. #9 Denice Walter
    October 20, 2008

    It’s only a matter of time ,I fear ( and truely “sick-making” to me), before Jenny herself descends upon my poor, anti-vax embattled state!Deirdre Imus has a “green the clean” program (really) and a “toxinscauseeverythingbad” *research* center at an actual hospital.Last week, the NJ Coalition for Vaccination Choice held a protest rally outside the governor’s office, featuring Gary Null (see rant videos at his website).Another rabble-rouser, Barbara Loe Fisher is also involved.*Auslanders!* Why us? Because we now require additional vaccines ( Gardasil and influenza).AND we have the “highest rate of autism”(sic) in the US.So,if Jenny chooses to attack fellow mis-informed entertainers,so be it.Better them than us.

    It’s only a matter of time,I fear (and truely “sick-making”) before Jenny herself descends upon my poor, anti-vax embattled state.Deirdre Imus has a “green the clean”(really) program and a “toxinscauseeverythingbad” research center at an actual hospital.Last week, the NJ Coalition for Vaccination Choice held a rally outside the Governor’s office featuring Gary Null(see rant videos at his website).Barbara Loe Fisher is also involved.Why are all of these *Auslanders* coming here?Because we require additional vaccines for school children(Gardasil and influenza).AND we have the “highest rate of autism”(sic)in the US.

  10. #10 Denice Walter
    October 20, 2008

    Sorry. My bad. I don’t know how that happened.Disregard second, it was pre-edit.

  11. #11 What is Autism?
    October 20, 2008

    Leary has been making his living off of people like Jenny McCarthy for years, find someone who shouldn’t have an educated opinion on something and then exploit the fact that they said something at all. He has clearly been mistaken in this case and McCarthy probably does know a lot more about Autism than he does. I suppose the question many people have is somewhat closely related to Leary’s comments “What is Autism?” The word is out there enough for people to recognize, but many really don’t understand what it is. In simple terms – it’s complicated. With so many children being mis-diagnosed with autism, it’s no wonder why so many people just don’t fully understand it. There is a lot of information out there to discover and hopefully shed some light into autism – its causes and it’s treatments. My $.02

  12. #12 Bunny
    October 20, 2008

    To “What is Autism”:

    I think the point was that it’s untrue that “many children are being mis-diagnosed with autism.” Another point above was that it would be better (and funnier) for Denis Leary to make fun of Jenny McCarthy (who thinks autism is a curable disease caused by vaccines and environmental toxins) than to make fun of kids with autism. Denis Leary has not, to my knowledge, made fun of Jenny McCarthy, or suggested that she doesn’t know about autism.

    If you or anyone else is confused about what autism is or isn’t, you can start with the DSM diagnostic criteria:
    http://www.autism-watch.org/general/dsm.shtml

  13. #13 Spartan
    October 20, 2008

    Another point above was that it would be better (and funnier) for Denis Leary to make fun of Jenny McCarthy … than to make fun of kids with autism.

    I agree that making fun of Jenny would likely have been funnier, but I don’t think he made fun of kids with autism. First off, he’s a comedian writing a comedy book; this isn’t his response to the question, what do you think of autism? As he puts it in his response to this kerfluffle:

    “The bulk of the chapter deals with grown men who are either self-diagnosing themselves with low-level offshoots of the disease or wishing they could as a way to explain their failed careers and troublesome progeny.”

    And that is exactly what I at least took away from the quote in the post. This post leaves as a given an explanation of what specifically is so offensive (I realize the post just accuses of it of being unfunny, which I’m sure you find that many comedians are, to you.) An autism group accuses:

    “For Mr. Leary to suggest that families or doctors conspire to falsely diagnose autism is ridiculous.”

    Good think he didn’t suggest that then. The only thing I can find from Jenny is:

    “This community has been through so much and to compare and use the word ‘dumb-a** lazy’ with autism, it’s just not fair.”

    How words are arranged and what words are between them are key for conveying the message; that’s why we have sentences. You can’t just see the words ‘lazy’ and ‘autism’ and freak out.

    My apologies for the rant, but it just really irritates me when people have to defend themselves when people put words in their mouths (IMO, Lou Holtz is doing it today). Seriously, this quote is out of context, but even if it wasn’t, if you were to condense down what Leary said to one sentence, what would it be? Autistic children are lazy and stupid or dumb-asses? To piggy-back on what The Chemist said, if he would have said ADD instead of autism, would it still be uproar-worthy? I guess I hope it’s not just because he used autism in a joke, and “autism is not funny!”.

  14. #14 James F
    October 24, 2008

    This isn’t the immediate topic, but have you heard the stream of anti-vax stuff being spewed on the Don Imus show? It’s mainly his wife pushing it, but he’s had guests on giving the line of, government gets an opinion and tries to force it on the public in spite of evidence, blah blah blah. I’m too focused on the antievolution rumblings in Texas to even think further about it, but I wanted to bring it to your attention.

  15. #15 Bunny
    October 26, 2008

    Spartan,

    You said, “I don’t think he made fun of kids with autism,” but it seems you’re just looking at Leary’s forced excuse for his lame joke rather than the actual text from his book. In the chapter titled “Autism Schmautism,” Leary calls kids with autism “junior morons” and says the supposed “boom” in autism is because kids who are “not autistic,” but “stupid” and “lazy,” are being diagnosed incorrectly to make their parents feel better about having a child who is a dullard. So his joke is based on the idea that autistic kids do not have an actual neurological disorder, but are simply idiots embarrassing their parents. Do you honestly think he’s not making fun of kids with autism (and their parents to boot)?

    I’m all for humor, and I actually do think autism is funny. My son has it, and I live with it every day. It’s just not funny for the reasons Denis Leary thinks it is.

  16. #16 Spartan
    October 28, 2008

    Bunny,

    In the chapter titled “Autism Schmautism,” Leary calls kids with autism “junior morons” and says the supposed “boom” in autism is because kids who are “not autistic,” but “stupid” and “lazy,” are being diagnosed incorrectly to make their parents feel better about having a child who is a dullard.

    I’d have to see the exact quote then where he does indeed clearly call truly autistic kids junior morons, and the only diagnoses I’ve seen referred to is the parent’s diagnosis, not a doctor’s (I haven’t read the book an am more than ready to stand corrected). The line that I see being ignored in the above post is the preface to the entire ‘joke': “There is a huge boom in autism right now because inattentive mothers and competitive dads want an explanation for why their dumb-ass kids can’t compete academically,”. To me, that makes it pretty clear what he’s talking about: parents who are trying to make excuses for their ‘junior morons’ by falsely attributing it to an actual disorder, because they don’t want to admit that their normal kid is just lazy and/or stupid.

    So his joke is based on the idea that autistic kids do not have an actual neurological disorder, but are simply idiots embarrassing their parents.

    I disagree, and that is exactly the stretch that I object to. His joke is based on the idea that some kids are just idiots and their parents are trying to find an excuse for that by saying their kids are autistic; I’ve seen nothing (yet) that he says truly autistic kids do not have an actual disorder and are just dumb.

    I am glad you are open-minded about ‘humor’, but I have yet to see a quote where Leary is directly either making fun of autism or is making a joke at the expense of truly autistic people.

  17. #17 SteveM
    November 20, 2008

    Late to the party, sorry, but Leary was on The Daily Show last night and Stewart asked him about “Autism Scmautism”. He made it pretty clear that he is not attacking autism, he is attacking parents who seek out a diagnosis of autism to excuse their underachieving children who are underachieving either because they are lazy or stupid or the parents are inattentive or any combination.

    He said he was not attacking people who really are autistic, “that would make me the biggest asshole in the world”. Stewart agreed, “I know you, and you are a really big asshole, but not the biggest”.

    Should be available on the Comedy Central website, if you’re interested.

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