Dawkins and Down Syndrome – He’s trolling us. Don’t feed him.

Today, the disability social webs are packed with irate tweets, posts, essays, and diatribes against Richard Dawkins. I’m not linking to his twitter account or the reports, but he said that the only moral decision was to abort foetuses diagnosed with Down syndrome, that such wasn’t eugenics, and otherwise ranted on for hours.

I’m glad you all are on the case and pushing back. There’s nothing with that. I am not criticizing anyone for tweeting, writing, or posting about him. I’m just not going to engage with the content of his tweets, because basically, he’s trolling us.

I don’t want to talk about it. What I want you to do is to read this Amanda Marcotte essay on Dawkins’ recent comments on rape. Dawkins is saying, “I’m just explaining a principle,” and the interweb goes crazy. Here’s what she wrote [my emphasis]:

This is bad writing, if Dawkins was setting out to create clear-cut examples of the principle he’s trying to illustrate. When explaining a principle, it’s unwise to go straight for examples that the public is legitimately confused about because other people are trying to muddy the waters. A concise, clear writer would do what I did, which is use clear examples to illuminate, instead of clawing at something that is actually contentious in our culture.

Of course, Dawkins is not actually a bad writer. This was not a mistake. Dawkins picked rape and pedophilia not because he’s trying to clarify a principle, but because he is needling his feminist critics who were angry with him for statements where he seemed to imply that there’s a “correct” amount of hurt to suffer from a specific incident of sexual abuse, which could easily be read as the suggestion that people who had serious trauma reactions to what he considers “mild” incidents are somehow wrong to feel how they feel.

This is the analogy that I think is useful to understand Dawkins. He takes an idea and promotes in the way that will generate the most noise. He is fully aware that by saying these comments about Down syndrome, he will spark mass controversy. Parents, self-advocates, disability writers will go nuts, pitch op-eds, post pictures of their beautiful kids, and say, “this life is worth living!.” And damn right, it is.

But we don’t need to engage someone who is basically trolling us. Block, mute, ignore and make the argument about life with disability for its own sake, not in the context of Dawkins. This is not a troll that I, at any rate, want to feed.

And now, a picture of my happy son, ready to head off to school.

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