Sunday, May 06, 2018

Weaponized Autism: Fin d'Siecle Programmer's Stone

melmagazine |  We know that people on the spectrum can exhibit remarkable mental gifts in addition to their difficulties; Asperger syndrome has been associated with superior IQs that reach up to the “genius” threshold (4chan trolls use “aspie” and “autist” interchangeably). In practice, weaponized autism is best understood as a perversion of these hidden advantages. Think, for example, of the keen pattern recognition that underlies musical talent repurposed for doxxing efforts: Among the more “successful” deployments of weaponized autism, in the alt-right’s view, was a collective attempt to identify an antifa demonstrator who assaulted several of their own with a bike lock at a Berkeley rally this past April.

As Berkeleyside reported, “the amateur detectives” of 4chan’s /pol/ board went about “matching up his perceived height and hairline with photos of people at a previous rally and on social media,” ultimately claiming that Eric Clanton, a former professor at Diablo Valley College, was the assailant in question. Arrested and charged in May, Clanton faces a preliminary hearing this week, and has condemned the Berkeley PD for relying on the conjecture of random assholes. “My case threatens to set a new standard in which rightwing extremists can select targets for repression and have police enthusiastically and forcefully pursue them,” he wrote in a statement.

The denizens of /pol/, meanwhile, are terribly proud of their work, and fellow Trump boosters have used their platforms to applaud it. Conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec called it a new form of “facial recognition,” as if it were in any way forensic, and lent credence to another dubious victory for the forces of weaponized autism: supposed coordination with the Russian government to take out ISIS camps in Syria. 4chan users are now routinely deconstructing raw videos of terrorist training sites and the like to make estimations about where they are, then sending those findings to the Russian Ministry of Defense’s Twitter account. There is zero reason to believe, as Posobiec and others contend, that 4chan has ever “called in an airstrike,” nor that Russia even bothered to look at the meager “intel” offered, yet the aggrandizing myth persists.

Since “autistic” has become a catchall idiom on 4chan, the self-defined mentality of anyone willing to spend time reading and contributing to the site, it’s impossible to know how many users are diagnosed with the condition, or could be, or earnestly believe that it correlates to their own experience, regardless of professional medical opinion. They tend to assume, at any rate, that autistic personalities are readily drawn to the board as introverted, societal misfits in search of connection. The badge of “autist” conveys the dueling attitudes of pride and loathing at work in troll communities: They may be considered and sometimes feel like failures offline — stereotyped as sexless, jobless and immature — but this is because they are different, transgressive, in a sense better, elevated from the realm of polite, neurotypical normies. Their handicap is a virtue.