Anatomy of a smear campaign
Part II: Asperger's and M.B. Williams
I initially responded to the harassment by Natasha Chart by contacting two bloggers who have experience with autism conditions. First, I contacted a blogger in Maine, Mary Beth Williams. Her response was basically, not to critiicize Natasha, that her misbehavior has to accepted because she has Asperger's.
Later, I contacted Georgia blogger Dwight Meredith. He responded here:
From: "Dwight Meredith"
Date: Sun May 4, 2003 12:39:45 PM US/Pacific
Subject: RE: Asperger's Syndrome
I am very sorry to hear of the turn your relationship with Natasha seems to have taken. I have enjoyed your posts both on your sire and on the Watch for some time.
I did not know that Natasha was involved with Gene Expressions. I have visited Gene Expressions only on two occasions. Your description of it as a racist site is spot on. I was deeply offended at some of the things that I read there. I am very sorry to hear that Natasha is involved with those folks.
One of the classic experiments in the area of autism is to have a mixed group of autistics and non-autistics in an audience. On stage is a table containing a ball a box and a basket. Person A puts the ball in the basket and leaves the stage. Person B enters and removes the ball from the basket and places it in the box. When Person A returns, the audience is asked where Person A will look for the ball. The autistics in the audiences all say that she will look in the box because that is where the ball is. The autistics can not see that from Person A's point of view, it will appear that the ball is still in the basket.
While I do not know the details of your relationship with Natasha, I suspect that she is unable to see the situation from your point of view. That is not an excuse for her behavior, it is a description of the manner in which an autistic mind functions. We have had the experience of explaining to our older son that he has to share with his brother, that is nice to share and take turns, but that his brother can not and therefore does not have to share of take turns with him. That is a difficult point to understand as a child.
Asperger people are often very successful in some aspects of life (as our post on Einstein and Newton suggests). That success follows from the fact that Asperger's people are often 1) quite smart, 2) obsessively focused on their area of interest and 3) oblivious to social norms that reign in the conduct. As such, they can be quite ruthless and appear to have no conscience as they simply are incapable of seeing things from the perspective of others.
As to what you should do, your options appear quite limited. You could forget the whole thing as Mary Beth suggests. There is very little satisfaction in such a course. The alternative is to write about your experience. That course risks having you become the focus of Natasha's obsessiveness. It is hard to hurt the feelings of an autistic because they simply do not care or pay attention to the opinions of others. That is far less true of Asperger's than classic autism but it still contains some truth.
One alternative to forgetting the unhappy experience is to write about it. The trouble with that alternative is that it will be difficult to write in such a way as to not appear insensitive and vindictive. That danger is particularly acute since at the core of your complaint against Natasha is that she is insensitive (which she no doubt is) to your point of view and the work you put in to improve The Watch.
The final alternative is to try to understand why Natasha acts as she does and to either forget the experience or try to write about it in a way that is sensitive to the challenges she faces as a result of having a brain that functions differently.
The idea that she is trying to use her Asperger's as an excuse is not far fetched. Temple Grandlin is a high functioning autistic who has written several excellent books. She is a star in the autism world as very few autistics are able to communicate what autism is like and Temple has that ability. I spoke with her mother at a conference one time. Her mother related that Temple's siblings often accused her of being autistic only when she chose to be autistic. It is nice to have a ready made excuse for not having to share or be concerned for the feelings of others. I do not know Natasha so I can not speculate on whether or not that is what is happening in your situation.
In short, I do not know what you should do. It is easy to rationalize Natasha's conduct as a function of her disability when I was not the the person of whom she took advantage.
I hope it works out for you. I am very sorry that Natasha has taken up with the Gene Expression folks. That is a seriously bad crowd to run with.
The emphases are mine.
This is the message I had sent him:
----- Original Message -----
Sent: 5/4/03 5:16:24 AM
Subject: RE: Asperger's Syndrome
Since you are a blogosphere expert on this topic, I am seeking your
advice. Natasha Chart of the watch has severe Asperger's Syndrome.
Part of her pattern is to get other people to do 85 to 90 percent of the
actual work on her blog by recruiting them. I didn't know that when she
recruited me as a contributor to the watch. The blog became quite
popular and rose in the ratings while I was contributing. Then, two
weeks ago Natasha turned on me. She joined the 'scientific' racism blog
Gene Expression and has become the toast of that set on its various
blogs, attacking the uppity person of color 'Mac Diva.' They have
entire pages dedicated to what a wonderful person Natasha is and how
other liberal bloggers should emulate her. (I kid you not.) Her
pattern of exploiting people is also continuing. She recruited her
newest victim two days after 'firing' me because, according to her, I am
not good enough to associate with her or the watch. In addition, she is
sending me threatening emails several times a week, blaming me for
things such as the dissolution of her marriage. (I've never met Natasha
or her ex and don't know a thing in the world about that.) MB thinks I
should just ignore Natasha. However, that does not seem like an
adequate response to me. Do you have any suggestions about how I should
Does that letter read like the thoughts of someone out to harm someone else? I don't think so. I needed help with a problem, so I asked someone who was supposed to be knowledgeable for help. I also hope you will note the date on the email. There is nothing new about the situation I have described. I have been living with being harassed by Natasha for weeks.
So why is Dwight Meredith lying now? Because Mary Beth Williams has told him to. But, he is a grown man, you say. Why would he let a woman not even his wife henpeck him from afar? That is a question for his psychiatrist.
What is M.B. William's angle? Within the last month she did something that put her in an embarassing situation in the blogosphere. Afterward, she announced she was quitting blogging. After that, the weblog contest came along. I entered it with good prospects of winning. You already know that set Natasha Chart, who may or may not live in the Pacific Northwest, though M.B. suggests she lives in a Western state) and Racist Liberal Lisa English off.
The only contact I have had with M.B. is some email correspondence that arose because we are both Native American. I know nothing about her personal life. Not even where she is employed. I broke off correspondence with her after, to my surprise, she began aiding and abetting Natasha. When I outted Natasha's smear campaign against me last week, M.B. found a way to shift the attention away from her wrong, a form of fraud. She latched onto a scapegoat -- me. In a hysterical screed that offers no proof to support her allegations, she claims that I, someone who lives the whole continent away, am responsible for not just that problem, but apparently all the problems in her life. This is equivalent to Natasha's claim that I am to blame for her husband leaving her because I made a remark about mail order brides at a comments section five months ago, when I had been participating in blogs for one week. Natasha says her husband read mail order bride magazines in the comments to the entry in which she claims she fired me from the watch. She says he did so in the months before he left her. Somehow, the two unrelated things have merged in her mind. Obviously, I am responsible for neither Natasha's husband seeing the light or whatever personal problems M.B. has.
I recommend you reread Dwight Meredith's letter above, which I feel justified in publishing under the circumstances. It says everything I've said about dealing with someone with Asperger's who has become obsessed with one and more. That is the truth about the condition, not the evasions that are presently pouring forth from him and M.B. Williams. I also recommend people read some objective materials about Asperger's, so they recognize the truth about the matter the next time they hear it.
It has come to my attention that some people do not realize Racist Liberal Lisa English has admitted making the statements I cite in today's earlier entry. She did so in a comment in which she reposted what she has said at the Right Wing hate sites she helped set up and signed her name to at Wampum. (Her sense of being above criticism is such that she did not even recognize the blunder.)
The only issue I can think of that I have not addressed is the out of context quote about mail order brides oft alluded to by my critics (because they don't have anything else to allude to). I will fold it into a revisitation of the issue of race and domestic abuse I wrote about previously.