Wednesday, July 15, 2009

CNN, CBC and the Amanda Baggs Controversy Site

At least two major and very influential media institutions, CNN in the US, and CBC in Canada, have featured Amanda Baggs as a person with an autism spectrum disorder and presented her views on the nature of autism. Some of her views were also presented by Michelle Dawson, who stated that Ms Baggs was an "autistic", to a Canadian Senate committee that examined autism and autism service delivery in Canada. When media institutions, and advocates like Michelle Dawson, present the views of an individual, in this case Amanda Baggs, as representing an "autistic" perspective do they have a duty to confirm that the person does in fact have an autism spectrum disorder before they do so?

If information surfaces subsequent to their presentation that calls the diagnosis into question do these presenters have a duty to correct, confirm or qualify their presentation of the individual as being an "autistic"? If that individual's views on autism are likely to affect public perception of the nature of autism disorders and public policy on provision of autism services should there not be a follow up from those that have presented her views as representing an autistic perspective?

In the case of Amanda Baggs serious questions have been raised about whether she is autistic or not and about the veracity of information about her life that she has presented to the world. A detailed account of information contradicting Ms Baggs personal accounting of her life as an autistic person can now be found on line at a blog site called Amanda Baggs Controversy.

The author of the ABC blog is anonymous. The blog does provide links and references, including to on line discussion groups in which Ms Baggs has apparently participated over the years . If the entries were in fact made by her, they show that she has presented herself as suffering from many mental health disorders, other than autism spectrum disorders, over the course of her life. The disorders from which Ms Baggs has allegedly claimed to be suffering from over the years include Dissociative Identity Disorder (Multiple Personality Disorder), Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Depression.

In her presentation to the Canadian Senate anti-ABA activist and autism researcher Michelle Dawson quoted Ms Baggs from one of the latter's videos:

"I am a non-speaking autistic woman. While I do not agree with functioning labels, I have been labelled low-functioning"

The Amanda Baggs Controversy site references a number of personal testimonials purporting to contradict those statements and indicate that Ms Baggs was in fact a very capable speaker. Internet writings purportedly authored by Ms Baggs are provided in which she talks about discussions she has had in the past, and an admission by her that it is her voice heard in one of the videos. There are several testimonials referring to earlier periods of her life and her very high functioning abilities demonstrated during those years.

Amanda Baggs, in her video productions posted to the Internet, on her blog site and in the quotes of her comments made by Michelle Dawson to the Canadian Senate committee, often uses the "Royal We" in describing autistics, purporting to speak about how "autistics" think, feel, exist in the world. I have been a long time critic of CNN and CBC for featuring her as representative of autistic persons who offers the insights of an autistic person. With the many people who suffer from Autisic Disorders in the world CNN felt it appropriate to present Ms Baggs and her views of autism on multiple occasions. Her rehearsed Internet videos do not resemble autistic behavior that I have seen as the father of a severely autistic 13 year old boy or as an autism advocate who has had interaction with a number of persons with Autism and Aspergers including some autistic persons living in institutional care but I acknowledge that I am not qualified to challenge her ASD diagnosis.

I do though think that it is incumbent upon organizations such as CNN and CBC, who have presented Ms Baggs as an autistic person whose views about the nature of the disorder should be considered by the public and by public policy makers, to follow up on their own journalistic representations given the existence of this public controversy. These organizations should interview her again, the persons who have provided information contradictory of her personal life claims and the professionals who have treated her over the years to confirm, refute or qualify what appear to be well documented claims such as those presented at the Amanda Baggs Controversy site.

CNN and CBC have told us that Amanda Baggs is autistic and we should listen to her views about autism, autism treatment and services and public understanding of autism. If their characterization of her as being a person with an autism disorder, or the facts of her personal narrative, are found to be incorrect ... or if they are confirmed ... those results should be presented to the public and public policy makers for consideration.

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Marius Filip said...

The question is, why would CNN provide such clarification. They say they've already checked the matter before filming her.

In the respect of, it seems to me much more controversial than the media presence of Ms. Baggs itself.

Anyone can produce former friends, colleagues, lovers, even illegitimate children or destitute relatives of a celebrity out of the blue - for interests ranging from monetary gain to attempting to destroy the credibility of that person.

Of course, I don't subscribe to Ms. Baggs' views, I am annoyed by her "royal WE" and I dislike how quickly she throws in definite sentences about what autism is (I had a brief exchange over the matter on ballastexistenz with her).

Yet, I think it is very hard to be a fraud of such magnitude when there is so much scrutiny upon the individual.

Besides showing documents about her condition (which can be forged, of course), besides the fact that we know how she looks like, she mentions on her website that she even accepts visits.

I'm wondering how many people denying her autism would be interested in visiting her.

Anonymous said...

Stanford University diagnosed her with Factitious Disorder.

Fielding J. Hurst said...

The whole Amanda Baggs hoax stuff blows me away. She for sure does appear to be faking, but man she was good at it.

Is there some kind of mental condition where people fake stuff like this?

Whoever did the Amanda Baggs Controversy site should be an investigative journalist if not already.

Anonymous said...

They weren't "out of the blue;" these people came forward after seeing Amanda on TV; they knew her before she "became" autistic. This controversy has been raging for years over at the "Hating Autism" blog.

Anonymous said...

Many people have challenged her. This has been going on for years, but she always comes up with an excuse and everyone one believes her because she gives people hope.

I also agree that anyone who can type well, whether or not they can speak well, has HFA, not LFA.

I believe that Amanda has Factitious Disorder and that she "remembers" not being autistic. She is doing this for fame and attention.

It's funny: over at the Autism Hub and other "Neurodiverse" sites, not one mention of this controversy has been mentioned.

John Best said...

It has been very amusing over the years watching Anne Bevington (lawyer) and Dave Seidel (Neurodiversity leader's husband) try to stifle discussion about Baggs.

Bevington succeeded in scaring Droopy into taking down her videos that claimed Baggs had copied her life from some old chat room they both used to frequent. Bevington even threatened to sue Droopy over anonymous comments that were made on my blog.

I can't count how many forums I've discussed Baggs on where one of these two showed up out of the blue and managed to have the whole discussion deleted by threatening the forum owners. Of course, any time I challenged them, they always ran away with their tails between their legs.

John Best said...

I should add that the first person to announce that Amanda Baggs was "Ballastexistenz" and the star of "Getting the Truth Out" was a very proud Kevin Leitch.

Anyone who has read Kev's vicious lies over the years might wonder why Kev was privy to this hidden information.

Unknown said...

Marius I can not make a conclusion one way or the other about whether Ms Baggs is, or is not, autistic. I think though that the evidence presented on this site is substantial unless refuted.

Ms Baggs offers views about autism which have been widely disseminated by influential agencies such as CNN and CBC. Those views are based primarily on her personal experiences and perspectives as an autistic person. Given the widespread dissemination of her views and the personal basis for those views I believe that her personal experiences as related by her and her actual condition should be subject to challenge as has been done at the Amanda Baggs Controversy site which provides a considerable body of documentation.

Some of the alleged facts are capable of easy refutation .... or confirmation apart from her current diagnosis. Specifically, did she attend SRC for gifted youths and speak at a very high level. Given her claim to be non-speaking this is certainly a very important fact that should be know if true and should be weighed in assessing her views about autism spectrum disorders.

Anonymous said...

I find it quite amusing that these ND individuals spend unusual amounts of time and energy bashing biomedical treatments and ABA claiming there is no science behind these treatments and try to claim that most of them are supported and provided by frauds, yet these same ND nuts will sing the praises of this freak Amanda Baggs and are to blind to see who the real fraud is! This makes the ND crowd look even more pathetic.

navywifeandmom said...

The whole Amanda Baggs controversy has been covered a good deal over on John Best Jr.'s blog. As "extreme" as his blog and his tactics are, I have to give the guy a kudo for his coverage on this subject.

I became convinced she was a fraud one day when I found his blog and went to that Youtube video where it took her four hours to boil water. I have never seen a person with LFA act like that. She was acting like an old person with dementia, not autism. How on earth does she live by herself if she wears diapers and cannot boil water on the stove.

It makes no sense to me.

Anonymous said...

And we have people like Susan Senator posting that she "loves and respects the Amanda Baggs video." Just how blind and gullible can people be? One really has to wonder about the intelligence level of this "ND crowd.

Anonymous said...

"One really has to wonder about the intelligence level of this "ND crowd."

Stephanie Lynn Keil made this comment:

"You'd think a Harvard trained PhD would be smarter than this. This guy is a real piece of work. If a 21 year old who finished the 7th grade, earned her GED and has earned 30 hours of college credit at an online school can immediately spot the errors in his logic/thinking than you know something must be VERY wrong.

You'd think the ND crowd would be able to effectively argue against me, being quite uneducated and so young. But they CAN'T, which is more proof that ND is complete BS."

Stephanie said...

I always had a strange feeling that Amanda was not who she said she was. Having a cousin who is profoundly autistic set off the alarm.

Marius Filip said...


Amanda Baggs may be a fraud. Or may be not.

I am saying just two things:
1) it is not CNN who has to clarify the matter - as far as they are concerned, the issue is settled.
2) the counter-evidence presented is not credible enough (to me, at least).

As long as there is no name, no face, no track-able individual behind those claims, I cannot give them weight.

I know only of two sources regarding Baggs being a fraud: the blog of Mr. Best (a very intelligent and caustic man whose writing style I usually enjoy but whom I cannot adorn with objectivity, sorry) and this new blog amandabaggscontroversy which doesn't have any name behind - hence I cannot give it credibility because there is no one to bear responsibility for what's in there.

Regarding the content, except the statement "this was my voice" which allegedly comes from Baggs, everything else could have been fabricated.

Think about how many illegitimate children Elvis Presley, Charles Chaplin or Bill Cosby were said to have fathered all over the country - with women swearring to God they had affairs with those individuals and everything - and it's clear what I mean.

Concerning how much stage choreography is behind Ms. Baggs videos, I cannot say much since I've seen only autistic children in person, never adults.

We should not overlook though that there are plenty of comments upon her videos coming from autistics who say thay can relate perfectly well with the experiences exhibited by Baggs. They do not feel it was a fake. Those testimonies may be fake themselves, of course, I don't deny that.

I wish people who put under question her credibility did a better job at that than what's currently being done.

I'd like to see someone who really did a thorough research on the matter (better than CNN did) and irrefutably proved Ms. Baggs being a fraud.

It would be a WONDERFUL service for the autistics since a possible fraud of such magnitude brings so much disservice to them.

Anonymous said...

Maybe someone should get in contact with Stanford University who diagnosed her with Factitious Disorder.

Anonymous said...

Marius Filip said...

""and this new blog amandabaggscontroversy which doesn't have any name behind - hence I cannot give it credibility because there is no one to bear responsibility for what's in there.""

""2) the counter-evidence presented is not credible enough (to me, at least).""

""As long as there is no name, no face, no track-able individual behind those claims, I cannot give them weight.""

The individuals who made those claims about Amanda are listed in the report. Names, their websites, their photos, when they knew her (14-18 years old), their email address, and some home addresses and phone numbers, and some resumes.

Starting at section 1:

John Best said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

The people who have testified about Amanda -- their names, pictures, websites, email addresses, email statements, professional affiliations, and some address and phone numbers -- are highlighted as the core of the report. In section 1.

Minority said...

your link to the Amanda Baggs Controversy site has died. Here is a current link:

ReioKI said...

link still works
section 1

TOI said...

Photos of Amanda at the top from 1995 and 2007.

Anonymous said...

Photos of Amanda Baggs 14 years old, 1994, with now Dr. Daniel Drucker (whose testimony is provided in this report below), and who was a close friend and classmate of Amanda’s at a college for pre-college-age gifted students, Simon’s Rock College, from 1994-1995. Dr. Drucker, now a cognitive neuroscientist, testifies that Amanda was verbally fluent, attended and actively participated in classes, had a boyfriend and many friendships, took an Arabic language class, played the flute, ate in the cafeteria many times a day, and was not autistic.

Photos/video of Amanda Baggs from 27 years old, 2007, onward. She presents herself as non-verbal, makes no eye contact, uses typed communication and a voice-synthesizer to communicate, and when in public she engages in repetitive, stereotyped, physical movements.

Google Images

YouTube Video self-taken by Amanda Baggs

Anonymous said...

Yes, there IS a disorder that makes people like Baggs think she is autistic or feign autism. There are two scenarios: either one, she's deliberately faking the autism after studying autistic individuals and reading about how to act autistic, which equals: Factitious disorder. Or, two, she's suffering from psychogenic autism which would be rooted in her Dissassociative Personality Disorder. It's amazing how people these days don't even question anything. The public just believes whatever is presented to them without question...this is very dangerous. WISE UP. Baggs is not autistic. Nor is Donna Williams. This is just pure idiocy. How embarrassing for all of us that we allow this mockery and impersonation of autism, a very serious disorder, to continue unchallenged. Look, if a lie is unchallenged, it will continue to grow. Shame on CNN these fly by nights who don't know a damn thing about autism. How dare them misrepresent autism without a shred of shame or retraction. Disgusting. I will never watch these low class journalists again.

Anonymous said...

In the "controversy" blog, they talk about how Amanda sings on her videos. The blog writers talk about how she "admits" that it is her voice. How does this contribute to proof that Amanda is not autistic? Amanda claims not to be able to talk or to hold a prolonged conversation, but I can't find where she says she never uses her voice. And nonverbal autistic children (authentic and diagnosed) have voices. They hum and sing, sometimes try to communicate by singing. So just because she admits it's her voice on tape doesn't confirm she's bogus. Scott

Anonymous Gamer said...

It's my personal opinion that Amanda Baggs is a woman who would have Factitious Disorder if Autism was itself a disorder. I believe that _all_ non-NTs are Neurodivergents, not just we Autistics.

Anonymous said...

Yep it's true. Donna Willaims, the high profile adult with "autism" has now been recently diagnosed with a mulitple personality disorder. Oh my. That must make all her publishers of her books a bit nervous. What a scam. Now don't get us wrong, donna is a nice woman who has a gift of extreme intellect and insight into autism, but she is NOT autistic. Just like jenny mccarthy's on was never autistic. Time to wake up folks. You've been mislead on what autism is. Amanda Baggs is not nor ever was autistic. CNN has lost all respect from me and others who KNOW what real autism is.

Ettina said...

Funny how the favorite way to attack an autistic self-advocate is always to claim they're not autistic.

Even if she did have some other condition instead of autism, that doesn't necessarily invalidate the stuff she says. She's made it clear that she's not just talking about autism, she's talking about disability rights in general.

This is as ridiculous as the 'birthers'.

Unknown said...

Ettina, you call Ms Baggs a "self" advocate? She goes far beyond telling the world about her challenges and pretends to speak for those, like my son, with whom she has nothing in common.

She has attended a school for gifted youths where there are substantial reports from people that knew her that she was verbal which is not the picture we see today. My severely autistic son with limited verbal skills engages in stimming and it is nothing like the dramatic video creations she has placed before the world.

You are, of course, free to believe her to be autistic and to have her speak on your behalf about what it means to be autistic. I doubt her autism diagnosis and she does not speak for my son.

Don Browne said...

The current Amanda Baggs autism hoax information site is at:

Sheogorath said...

Maybe once the new Federal anti-SLAPP legislation protects individuals as well as the media, people like Droopy will be able to tell their truths without fear. Here's hoping.