Denis Leary wants you to buy his new book. And to get you to do it, he fills it with the typical, pedestrian, crude humor we all have come to enjoy. Only with Why We Suck: A Feel-Good Guide to Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy and Stupid, he’s gone the extra step to insult and diminish, well — just about everyone. Apparently when you are no longer pertinent, you do what you have to do to close the sale.
For instance, the ever-relevant Dr. Phil is always a popular choice for ridicule. And to know that he will come out of it on the other side a still-well-adjusted gazillionaire doesn’t seem so harmful. Paris Hilton is an open target, and she seems to always be fodder for negative socio-economic commentary anyhow. True — she doesn’t really do much of anything. But including her in books like Why We Suck seem to somehow keep her relevant none-the-less. It seems it will probably keep Mr. Leary relevant for the foreseeable future as well.
But chapters like number six entitled “Autism Shmautism”, show just how low Leary will climb to cause a stir and sell another book. He confesses in a Vanity Fair interview with George Wayne that it’s his favorite chapter. Why not? It’s the one getting him all the attention; and it was the one selling the manuscript for him before the cases hit your local bookstore’s receiving dock.
He even considers autism advocate Jenny McCarthy to be a silent sales person for him. When Mr. Wayne mentioned that this “vigilante autism woman” would be picketing his book signings, Leary responded that it would be a great thing. “It will help sell more books,” he admitted. Whatever it takes.
So, what is in this one chapter that has the ire of autism support groups like Autism Speaks and Autism United fully piqued?
Well, first there is the oft-repeated quote from “Autism Shmautism” that has been circulating the Internet since October 2008. In the second paragraph of Chapter 6, Leary writes: “There is a huge boom in autism right now because inattentive mothers and competitive dads want an explanation for why their dumbass kids can’t compete academically so they throw money into the happy laps of shrinks and psychotherapists to get back diagnoses that help explain away the deficiencies of their junior morons. I don’t give a shit what these crackerjack whackjobs tell you—yer kid is NOT autistic. He’s just stupid. Or lazy. Or both.”
Wow — that’ll send the dander flying. And that isn’t as bad as he slaps Paris or Phil around.
Regardless, Leary continues to display his ignorance by claiming to know a couple of kids with autism, and explains their Rain Man-like abilities. He witlessly claims that truly autistic children are savants; that they can pinpoint the day of the week you were born just by knowing your birthday, or recreate entire rock operas after hearing it just one time. I don’t know about yours, but my autistic child will melt down, cover his ears and cry incessantly before the first song of “Tommy” is at the chorus.
Yet, Mr. Leary’s impression is that if my son does not have some innate miracle ability, some outstanding talent or cute obsessive-compulsive behavior, then he is not really autistic. He would instead believe that my son is a “fat-assed simpleton whose brain has been fried by television and the Xbox and no proper daily attention from his or her supposedly caring parents.” Mr. Leary’s autism expertise has apparently not ventured much past 1947.
He then rambles for pages, disparaging the likes of those with Asperger Syndrome, providing his own clinical commentary and questionable opinion. Shortly before page 89, he even cleverly advises us that people with ASD’s qualify as “social retards”. Can someone please buy this guy a bus ticket back to 2009?
There’s more: the mention of “pills and potions” (as if some concoction has been found that will make us believe it will all go away); his perception that every kid throwing a “snit fit in public” is unruly and misbehaving; and so much more. Leary does balance it all out by admitting that he himself is basically a waste of space and is just sucking up air conditioning that the rest of us could be using. I didn’t need a book to tell me that.
In the meantime, Jenny McCarthy has said she plans to avoid talking about Leary and his ignorant comments. She hopes he’ll seek out families for autism education; otherwise they’ll surely find him. She doesn’t appear to be a very helpful salesperson after all.
But maybe Mr. Leary was just trying to be funny, in his own twisted way. Actress and autism advocate Holly Robinson Peete and the autism advocate organization Autism Speaks don’t see the ha ha. Peete said of Leary’s chapter “Autism Shmautism”: “I would counsel him that autism is a very bad punch line. And Autism Speaks echoed with: “His words reflect a complete ignorance of and lack of sensitivity to the true plight of families facing autism. Autism is not a joke.”
Leary has whined that the quotes being brandished about have been taken out of the book’s context, and the gist of this particular chapter is lost on many of us. I’ve read the chapter and shared many of Mr. Leary’s other flawed assertions from it with you. You can read the full chapter here and make the decision for yourself.
Or you can give in and buy the book. It’s what Denis would want.