I have been mulling over whether to write about the tweets by Katie Hopkins, posted on Twitter, aimed towards Ed Milliband. For those who haven't seen them, get read as follows:
"ED STOP LOOKING AT US. You are weird. Look at people, not a machine. Try and act off the spectrum. #leadersdebate."
She also tweeted:
"Have just seen that lovely Ed Miliband on my TV. For one so clearly on the spectrum - he really is a high achiever. Well done Ed. Go you."
Now after reading the last tweet, I swallowed down my loathing and anger, towards this so called 'columnist,' and instead responded to a tweet by actress Denise Welch, who has a son with Asperger's syndrome. She tweeted:
"@RealDeniseWelch: Wow! We've had mental illness, dementia, weight issues and today... autism!!! Go @KTHopkins you vile bully. http://t.co/ECWrNFm1TZ"
I thanked Ms Welch for standing up to Ms Hopkins, and tweeted that the columnist should use her social platform to educate instead of to ridicule.
Does she think that because of her supposed power and elevated celebrity status within society, that she can mock those individuals with a disability and get away with it? Every action has consequences and so I respectfully ask her to stop, just stop.
What Ms Hopkins lacks is respect and empathy. What she fails to recognise is that her words, read by millions of people, have an impact upon society, upon those individuals who have autism, and upon those individuals who care for someone on the autistic spectrum. Her words hurt, her words hurt me. I am a mother to a young child on the spectrum. Does she imply that he is weird? That he cannot achieve? As Anna Kennedy OBE tweeted; is Ms Hopkins now a consultant paediatrician?
"@AnnaKennedy1: http://t.co/8GP4HeoaXZ Miss Hopkins must be a Consultant Paedeatrician or Psychiatrist now able 2 make diagnosis of individuals with #autism"
I do not have the likes of Ms Hopkins social presence and media privilege in which to air my views, but as a mother of a child with autism, what I do have is a voice and the right, as does anyone else, to say how her views impact upon those with a disability. Her words impact upon me, my family and wider society.
Life is already difficult for people with any disability. We do not need, nor welcome her outspoken views, and sarcastic comments, that ultimately make life harder by adding ignorance and prejudice into the mix. We are incredibly fortunate in this country to have freedom of speech, but she evidently abuses this privilege.
Her spiteful and thoughtless words unravel all the good work that is done by advocacy groups, parents of autistic children and those individuals who are striving for awareness and autism acceptance. She undoes all of this in 140 characters. Shame on you Ms Hopkins.
You have a public platform. You could do so much good, yet you use your public status to ridicule. My son may have autism but he is kind, empathetic and compassionate. Qualities that you seem to lack.