Donald, Melania, and Barron Trump on inauguration day | Photo: Andres Castellano, CC0 (Public Domain)
In which I feel forced to remind people that (a) it’s not okay to be a dick to children, no matter whose kids they are, and (b) it’s also not okay to use autism as an insult. Because apparently these things need saying.
So remember in 1992 when noted radio troll and generally failure of a human being Rush Limbaugh called Chelsea Clinton — then a 12 year old — “the White House dog”? The blowback was hard enough that he not only issued a rare non-apology, but an even rarer (for him) actual freaking apology.
How about in 2014, when a certain Congressperson’s communications director referred to Sasha and Malia Obama as “classless sluts”? Yeah, she may have “chosen” to resign but that was pretty much it for that job.
We were, in those and the many other cases of disgusting human beings mocking children — even famous children — repulsed and morally outraged. This is because children simply aren’t fair targets. You want to go after President Obama? Go right ahead: he can take it. But you go after his teenage kids, and you’re going to get a metaphorical slap upside the head.
All of which brings me to the treatment, by certain individuals on the internet, of Barron Trump.
During the inauguration, which of course he participated in, he didn’t look happy to be there. You know what? His father didn’t look happy to be there, and neither did most of the dozen or so people who attended (yes, that’s litotes, there were actually about 160,000 people). It was rainy, nobody famous wanted to be there, and he’s a ten year old boy at a formal function on national TV for hours.
But people were tweeting things like how he’s so pale he “looks like a vampire” and that he looks like “more of a freak than his dad” and that he looks like a “future rapist.”
And they were tweeting about how he might be autistic, writing things like “there is a rumor, that the little spawn of the devil, Barron Trump/Damien, is autistic. might explain Cheeto Ceasar’s obsession with vac’s.”
I have so many issues with this.
Number One: it’s not okay to make fun of a ten year old just for being a politician’s kid.
Number Two: it’s not okay to make fun of a ten year old just for being a politician’s kid.
Number Three — well, number three takes a little more explanation, because it’s about the rumours of Barron being on the autism spectrum.
Backstory: A while back a guy online made a video asking if Barron might be on the autism spectrum. This guy happened to be on the spectrum himself, for the record, so it wasn’t likely to be meant as insulting. Melania Trump overreacted because she assumed, like so many, many jackholes do these days, that being autistic is so bad that suggesting someone might be autistic is a great way of insulting people. It’s not, by the way, and if you think it is, we’re going to need to have a chat. Melania threatened to sue, the guy took down the video and apologized (because he really didn’t mean it as an insult, even if it was inappropriate to make a video about a ten year old and put it online) and the whole thing died down.
Friday: some jackhole on the internet decides to tie an accusation that the kid is the antichrist to the rumour that Barron is on the autism spectrum.
This brings us back to Number Three: Aside from the fact that it’s not okay to make fun of a ten year old just for being a politician’s kid, it’s also not okay to use autism as an insult.
Even if Barron Trump is autistic — I’m not saying he is or isn’t, I have no idea, don’t much care, though if he were that’d at least give us something in common — but even if he is, that’s not an insult. In assuming it is, you’re not only being a dick to a ten year old kid, you’re also being a dick to every single autistic person out there who doesn’t see the way their brain works as all that bad, frankly.
Look, folks, there are going to be countless reasons to be upset with the new president of the United States going forward. His vested interests are incredibly suspect, his choices for cabinet are of dubious qualification (to say the least), and there’s the whole twitter obsession thing he’s got going, too. But his son is not responsible for any of that.
So please, I’m only going to ask this once: leave the kid out of it.
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Richard Ford Burley is a human, writer, and doctoral candidate at Boston College, as well as Deputy Managing Editor at Ledger, the first academic journal devoted to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In his spare time he writes about science, skepticism, feminism, and futurism here at This Week In Tomorrow.