Brian Edwards Media

A Line-By-Line Commentary on Michael Laws’ Column on Asperger’s ‘Looter’ Arie Smith in today’s Sunday Star Times

Today Michael Laws’ Sunday Star Times Column was headed ‘A Black Eye for Liberal Bleaters’. What follows is a (lengthy) line-by-line commentary on that column. To be fair to Laws you should perhaps read the column in its entirety before reading my commentary.

***

“In all disasters, the rubble attracts rats. Whether it is physical and fatal, like the Christchurch earthquake, or metaphysical and mystical, like the Paul Henry affair, there are always ferals prepared to feed on the misery of others.

“When these rodents are eventually apprehended and exposed to the light, we are always amazed by how nondescript and petty they seem. As was the case with Arie Smith – Cornelis Arie Smith-Voorkamp to give him his full title – the 25-year-old arrested for looting a damaged house days after the Canterbury tragedy. “

Commentary:

I have no idea what the reference to Paul Henry means.

Laws includes Smith, a 25-year-old who has Asperger’s Syndrome, among the rats, rodents and  ‘ferals, prepared to feed on the misery of others’.

His reference to ‘Arie Smith  -  Cornelis Arie Smith-Voorkamp to give him his full title’ seems gratuitous, particularly the surely inappropriate use of the word ‘title’. What point is he making? That the name is pretentious or that it sounds South African?

 “In fact, the published photos accentuated such feral features – an unusual angularity offset by a blackened eye and the demeanour of one who spends much of his life in the darkness. Overnight, Arie Smith became the face of looting, and a figure of public contempt.”

Commentary:

According to Laws, Mr Smith has ‘feral’ features. These include ‘an unusual angularity… and the demeanour of one who spends much of his life in the darkness.’ The comment is worthy of Joseph Mengele. There is no evidence of any sort to support the suggestion that Mr Smith ‘spends much of his life in the darkness.’ ‘Feral’ is among Mr Laws’ favourite words to describe his fellow man. It means: ‘Of, pertaining to, or resembling a wild animal, savage, fierce, brutal; untamed, uncultivated; ultimately descended from individuals which escaped from captivity or domestication; born of such an animal in the wild.’ 

“So his elevation to liberal cause of the day – a kind of white Ahmed Zaoui – has perplexed many observers and especially folk from Christchurch. His cause is now actively promoted by PC wets like Mediawatch’s Russell Brown and cause lawyers like Simon Buckingham.”

Commentary:

Substitution of personal abuse for argument. ‘PC’ is the most common contemporary dog whistle used by rednecks like Mr Laws to deride those of a different view.

“Their agitation occurred after members of Arie Smith’s foster family argued that his being remanded in prison was unfair because their foster sibling suffered from the behavioural/psychological disorder known as Asperger’s syndrome.

“This apparently had compelled Smith to go out one Christchurch night and liberate/loot light fittings. When apprehended by an emergency police patrol, such booty was found in his possession along, allegedly, with burglary tools.

Commentary:

Smith’s behaviour is entirely consistent with Asperger’s Syndrome. Obsession with particular objects, whether vacuum cleaners or light fittings, as in this case, is commonplace among Asperger’s personalities. The Asperger’s personality will also lack empathy, the very quality which allows us to relate to the plight of tragedy victims. Smith would simply not have experienced  the moral antagonism which most of us would feel between looting and the suffering of those whose homes/businesses had been destroyed in an earthquake. Laws attempts to undermine the reality and significance of Smith’s condition with the word ‘apparently’, with sarcasm (‘liberate’) and loaded language (‘booty’). He is happy to refer to Smith ‘allegedly’ having been found with burglary tools. Was he or wasn’t he?

“It is important to note that his foster siblings did not claim that Smith should not have been arrested, nor that he had not done something wrong, nor that he did not know right from wrong. They simply argued that jail was the wrong place for a young man with an odd condition and an obsessive compulsion to collect light fittings.

“In fact, I ended up introducing Smith’s case to my radio audience and asking whether the public concurred with the family’s viewpoint. It would be fair to say that Christchurch callers had a less charitable view – especially given that many of them were now guarding their homes against the likely depredations of the looting rats.

“Both Arie Smith’s sister, and his genetic mother, called the show. His mother identified herself as a schizophrenic and explained that this serious mental illness had its impact upon her son’s upbringing. His sister confirmed that Arie was independent, able to look after himself without any care but addicted to light fittings.”

Commentary:

Smith’s foster siblings appear to have been remarkably honest in their assessment of their foster brother. They do not, as they might justifiably have done, present his psychological condition as an excuse for his behaviour. They are also correct in their assertion that an Asperger’s personality would be utterly bewildered by and unable to cope with imprisonment. Laws appears unable to accept the idea that someone who can distinguish between right and wrong could also have ‘an odd compulsion to collect light fittings’ or be ‘addicted to light fittings’. He shows the bemused contempt for psychological conditions characteristic of the uninformed and prejudiced.

This accords with his decision to ‘introduce Smith’s case to my radio audience’ and ask ‘whether the public concurred with the family’s viewpoint’. Laws appears to be labouring under a delusion himself – that his tiny Radio Live audience of like-minded bigots represents ‘the public’.

While the contempt of Christchurch citizens for looters is entirely understandable, you have to ignore Smith’s psychological disorder in order to place him unambiguously in that category. Laws is willing to do that in order to justify  the lynch mob mentality that characterises most of his current  writing and that allows him to include  Smith  among the despised ‘looting rats’. (As an aside, have a look at the Nazi caricatures of the Jews in the early days of the Third Reich. They were most commonly portrayed as vermin.)

Laws chooses not to be moved by Smith’s sister’s and his mother’s defence of their brother and son on the grounds of the impact of his mother’s schizophrenia on his early life. His choice of the clinical term ‘genetic’, much colder than the more usual ‘natural’ is surely not accidental. Unless, that is, he is accepting of  the possibility that Smith’s Asperger’s was either inherited or conditioned. The latter seems unlikely since that would absolve Smith to some degree at least from responsibility for his light-fitting obsession.

“And so the story might have ended there, after a healthy debate as to whether compulsion is an excuse for crime. It is not.

“But then Brown and others, in that great intellectual void known as the blogosphere, started arguing that not only was Smith entitled to special treatment on account of his Asperger’s, but he had also been brutally assaulted once in custody. Indeed, the black eye served as their autocue to attack the police.

“Interestingly, lawyer Buckingham repeated the same claim, but a day later. Again, public sympathy was urged ahead of Smith’s appearance in the Christchurch District Court to hear a new application for bail. This time, police did not oppose his release.

“At this moment Buckingham announced that his client was unlikely to offer any formal complaint as to any alleged police indiscretions. Smith would not be up to any inquiry that might quiz him for the truth, he explained. Asperger’s, you see.

“Meaning that the taint of police brutality is allowed to remain. We do not know if the injuries were sustained in his arrest, or in Smith’s resisting arrest – or, indeed, if the police had anything to do with them.

“Certainly there is a feeling in Christchurch that he was bloody lucky that he received only a black eye. Some of the informal citizens patrols, established in the wake of the earthquake, would not have been so charitable.

“And then there was the natural resentment that while tens of thousands of Christchurch citizens sat in the dark, without water, sewerage, electricity or regular meals, the looters were banged up in a secure place with all the aforementioned amenities. In the immediate aftermath of the quake, it might well have been more comfortable being the rat.”

Commentary:

Laws is correct that much of the blogosphere is ‘that great intellectual void’, but those who inhabit that void generally display the same mentality that Laws displays in his Sunday Star Times columns and that his listeners express on his Radio Live show – that is, bigotry and intolerance of anything they do not understand or that confronts their prejudices against anything that is outside ‘the norm’.

As to whether Smith got his black eye from the police, I have no definitive answer. But he did not have a black eye when he was arrested and he had a black eye when he appeared in court. One might surmise that he got it either in the cells or from the cops.

Laws dismisses Smith’s lawyer Buckingham’s contention that his client might not be up to any inquiry that might quiz him for the truth. The columnist advances the popular ‘nudge nudge, wink wink, know what I mean’ rationale for this – ‘Asperger’s you see.’ Translation: If you believe that, you’ll believe anything.

But Buckingham was of course right. A problem for the Asperger’s personality is that he/she is without guile. They lack diplomacy. They say what they think, regardless of the impact of their words. A potentially lethal characteristic in a witness confronted by a prosecutor in an emotionally charged court case. If, unlike Laws, you would really like to understand the Asperger’s  personality, try reading this wonderful book – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon.

But, in the meantime, apparently some of Laws’ listeners believe that Smith should have got more than a black eye. Laws does not specify what precisely.

And the ‘natural resentment of those tens of thousands of Christchurch citizens’? Understandable at the time certainly. But on calmer reflection and in command of the facts about Smith’s condition and his background, I very much doubt that they would have joined Laws’ lynch mob. That is at odds with the warmth, generosity and human kindness that I have been observing in the citizens of Christchurch and Canterbury for the past few weeks.

“But the Arie Smith affair does raise the wider issue of whether having a psychological/behavioural disorder can ever be an excuse for crime. The “oh, you poor dear” response from too many bleeding hearts is exactly why New Zealand’s justice system is so weak and ineffective – and why the rights of criminals are considered more important than the rights of their victims.

“Smith has Asperger’s. Big deal. It was not severe enough for him to require care, nor for him not to be unaware that stealing was wrong. So he had a compulsion. Many people do. But they don’t take advantage of others’ misery or exploit a natural disaster to satisfy that compulsion.”

Commentary:

‘The “oh, you poor dear’ response; too many bleeding hearts; big deal.” Yeah right! Hanging’s too good for them!

But actually, Smith has a psychological condition that prompts him to steal light fittings. Laws is right that it’s odd and it’s not an appropriate activity, but is this really an example of ‘why the rights of criminals are considered more important than the rights of victims’? Is Smith really a criminal? Is he really capable of forming an intent to ‘take advantage of other’s misery or exploit a natural disaster’? Or was he just a rather sad figure looking for some light fittings?

“In the end, justice has been done, blackened eye and all. Now let’s similarly identify the other Christchurch looters and mete out similar justice.”

Commentary:

An unambiguous invitation to subvert the judicial process in favour of violent vigilante justice.

***

Here’s my view, Michael. Your columns have become a blot on New Zealand journalism. Once a fine writer and commentator, you now make your  living on radio and in print as a dog-whistler for ignorance and prejudice. In your lack of empathy for those less fortunate than yourself, you have perhaps more in common with Arie Smith than you might think. 

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72 Comments:

  1. I believe I am correct in saying that Russell Brown has a son afflicted with Aspergers.

  2. Wyndham: Yes you are correct about Russell Brown. However as a high functioning aspie, I tend to take exception to the concept that I am afflicted! I like the way I am, and the way I think -its the rest of the world who can’t handle that who have the problem!
    Also, I recall Laws, as a parent, suffering badly when his child (daughter?) was seriously ill. He doesn’t want to extend the same rights to the parent and siblings of Mr Smith. Brian – your final sentence could be added to: Smith had little/no choice over his behaviour. Laws does, and this makes his tirade far worse, and far less excusable, than than Smith’s collecting of light fittings.

  3. Brian, you did a really good job of deconstructing a particularly nasty piece of writing by Mr Laws. Thankyou for taking the time to do this.

  4. 4

    Contrary to what Mr Laws thinks, many years of public education about Asperger’s and Autism, mean that the vast majority of Cantabs, like the vast majority of New Zealanders, have some understanding of the condition, and so his two statements:
    “Certainly there is a feeling in Christchurch that he was bloody lucky that he received only a black eye. Some of the informal citizens patrols, established in the wake of the earthquake, would not have been so charitable.

    “And then there was the natural resentment that while tens of thousands of Christchurch citizens sat in the dark, without water, sewerage, electricity or regular meals, the looters were banged up in a secure place with all the aforementioned amenities. In the immediate aftermath of the quake, it might well have been more comfortable being the rat.”

    - are a load of twaddle. I think the article was possibly the most nasty and puerile think Laws has written to date, but he’s hardly alone. Admittedly opinion columns should never be thought of as journalism, they are there for sensational effect by being as controversial as possible, but some things make you wonder how they could have gotten past any sane editor. Examples that come to mind are Rosemary McLeod’s peculiar obsession with homosexuals, and Deborah Coddington’s utterly bizarre “feature” on Asian crime for North and South a while back that rightly got her into trouble.

    Brian, while I’m sure you would never deign to read the Sunday News, I do – mainly so that I have some idea what people are thinking outside of the Ivory Tower – and I would like to draw your attention to John Tamihere’s really scary anti-science, anti-academic, pro-Ken Ring rant there.

    Where does the insanity end? Why is there never a conterpoint to these extremist rants on the same page?

  5. Michael Laws is frightening. I stopped reading his column quite some time ago, but you have to question the newspaper that gives him the platform to air his deeply rooted prejudices and lynch mob judgements.

  6. I believe I am correct in saying that Russell Brown has a son afflicted with Aspergers.

    Both my teenage sons. We try not to think of it as an affliction.

    My boys too have very strong interests, although more conventional ones. They have a highly developed sense of right and wrong, but may sometimes see the world very differently to most people.

    This is worth noting: a friend who is familiar with the case says that the building in question was not a family home, as Laws implies, but an old shop near Arie’s flat, which had been damaged beyond repair in the September quake, and was awaiting demolition.

    Nonetheless, his foster family have, as Brian notes, always acknowledged that he would have to face the consequences of his actions.

    But only in Laws’ world would those consequences include a long remand without bail, a beating in custody and a disgraceful “perp walk” set up by police for the benefit of the news media.

    There is a cheering side to this: Arie’s lawyer, Stephen Buckingham, is himself an Aspie, and his services have been bankrolled by a group of Aspie individuals.

  7. The column was so cruel and bullying.

    Just some points:

    This from a person who knows the detail of the actual scene, which was a demolition site ‘There is an old shop building (brick) which had largely collapsed in the first earthquake last year very near his flat. The facade had collapsed completely and access was easy although dangerous…’ So hardly stealing from someone’s home.

    Brian, I think you could usefully talk to some people with Aspergers as some of your language is insensitively clinical. You might find some of your assumptions, such as around empathy, are challenged.

    Many people do not realise that about 200,000 disabled people were killed by the Nazis. Hans Asperger was researching with a group of autistic children in Austria at the time and some think he recognised and described strengths in order to protect such children. So ironic that Laws is using eugenic language.

  8. Jolly good write up Brian. Another brilliant piece of writing exposing the blight of hypocrisy plaguing modern journalism. Laws is an example of ‘journalists’ prostituting themselves for the sake of stirring up controversy in an effort to muster up popularity (increasing sales).

  9. no wonder his ex, Leonie Sledgehammer used to give him such a beating.

  10. I wouldn’t give Laws the steam off my piss let alone read his bigoted, narcissistic and puerile rants. He’s a tragic nobody… fortunately most New Zealander’s agree (as evidenced by his crap ratings).
    However its time the SST removed the plank for his ignorant ravings and left him to his sad little talkback show where very few go to wallow.

  11. In defence of Mr. Laws ……. nope,I got nothing.

  12. A small point, but an important one: in the news report in The Dom his family said he always asked permission to enter properties to remove the light fittings. In this instance, it is not clear from the report whether permission had been sought or not.

    The picture changes colour somewhat, does it not?

    BE: I understand he was arrested in the CBD. If that is the case, there would probably have been no-one to ask.

  13. ASA and Russell Brown.

    My apologies for an unfortunate choice of word.

    Showing my age, I guess.

  14. The SST have just got rid of some great, thoughtful and entertaining columnists – and left Laws to do his thing…which he is cheerfully doing. Why? Cos the SST obviously like it I suppose.

    As Fairfax goes further down the gurgler where will it all end? Michael Laws as the SST Editor I guess.

    Fairfax – as well as seeming to be just about financially bankrupt – you are morally bankrupt. Sad.

    Sarah Wilson: Awesome take down.

  15. When was Michael Laws ever “a fine writer and commentator”? This column, redolent of the eugenics fanaticism of the 1930s, is not an aberration, it’s just more of the same from Laws.

    Laws is not a “dog-whistler for ignorance and prejudice”, he is the very embodiment of ignorance and prejudice. His comments about Arie Smith are mild and balanced compared to his daily ravings during and after the Israeli massacre in Gaza in 2008-9, or his ranting against hospices for the dying, which he has repeatedly labeled as “evil”.

    BE: No reason why he should not be both.

  16. Also, if Michael Laws (or the SST) bothered doing any fact checking on his columns, he’d have found out Mr. Brown hasn’t had anything to do with RNZ’s Mediawatch for a long time. Perhaps he got a little confused with TVNZ7′s ‘Media7′ — which is still mystifyingly irrelevant to the subject of the column.

    Still, it would have saved a lot of time and effort if you’d just assumed that every work Laws writes is vicious, ill-informed and a reason to be thankful he left Parliament in disgrace and has no real influence over public policy or legislation.

  17. It’s also rather sad that Laws has re-defined a respect for the rule of law (which doesn’t involve vigilante thuggery) as “liberal bleating”.

  18. Laws: “or metaphysical and mystical, like the Paul Henry affair”.
    BE: I have no idea what the reference to Paul Henry means.

    You’re not the only one. If anything, Paul Henry was too earthy; too earthy for some, it seems.

    Laws’ synapses are not so much short-circuiting as they are fried. God only knows what he meant by that. Maybe, he sings to his pot plants in a catatonic trance by way of Hare Krishna-like monotonic incantations. Who knows? After this thoroughly nasty piece of babbling incoherent bile, it wouldn’t be too hard to imagine him dressed in flowing saffron robes, wafting throughout his home, humming merrily to himself. Eyes opaque and unseeing, dried spittle coalesced on the corners of his mouth.

    Increasingly, Laws is sounding embittered, resentful, pathologically cloistered and suspicious, wide-eyed and crazed. A bit rich? Not after you’ve regained your balance after recoiling from this very personal and vicious assault:
    “In fact, the published photos accentuated such feral features – an unusual angularity offset by a blackened eye and the demeanour of one who spends much of his life in the darkness”.

    We are talking about someone who took a few lightbulbs and a light-fitting. Someone with a quirky compulsion for acquiring things, electrical. Arie Smith, hardly, fits the profile of your archetype criminal looter, rifling through drawers and stealing petrol generators.

    Laws: “in that great intellectual void known as the blogosphere,”
    The “intellectual void” is entirely his own. The fading echo we hear, is his own rantings, as he slithers deeper into own “black nothingness”.

  19. Quite frankly, the guy will only get worse.

  20. The two youngsters who I have met represent a totally refreshing and intriguing view of the world. One had a huge interest and knowledge of marine life. The other was totally immersed in insects and spiders. Both seemed to be disinterested in more mundane worldly matters but might, by virtue of their different perspectives, be able to provide a whole new light on thinking. Aspergers could be an asset to humanity. Celebrate.

    BE: Yes. Can I again recommend to everyone The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. A wonderful read and enlightening on the topic of Asperger’s.

  21. Thank you Brian. I could never understand how Michael Laws ever became Mayor or had any life in politics after his own behavior. Remember the forged signature affair when an M.P? How absurd and vain he looked when he took to wearing eyeliner. eye liner Someone should do a biographical bit about him. Remind the public what a hypocrite this man is. I don’t buy the Sunday paper anymore.

    BE: Edited for reasons of accuracy. Your original statement was factually incorrect and highly defamatory.

  22. You know, the media makes a big deal about it’s role as some sort of guardian of the people, a moral force for good in our democracy.

    Yet when I read Michale laws piece i was struck by the obvious moral cowardice and loss of compass that keeping a hate monger like Michael Laws on entails. it is a total abjuration of responsibility, a cowardly disease afflicking our media of seeking power whilst shirking the responsibilities that comes with that power.

    Michael Laws, Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh – they are symptoms of an illness of corporate greed and base money grubbing that is rampant in the media nowadays.

    The owners and editors of the SST are responsible for what they allow to be published. That they continually allow such an obviously sick man to disseminate his hate speech to a nation wide audience reflects badly on them not just professionals, but as human beings.

  23. ASA and Russell Brown.

    My apologies for an unfortunate choice of word.

    Showing my age, I guess.

    No worries. Very decent of you to apologise, though.

  24. There is still the issue of who gave Smith the black eye. It is most unfortunate that the finger of suspicion remains pointing at the police. I appreciate the reasons for not pursuing the issue, but even if the assault does not go before a court of law there should be some way found of at least showing whether or not a police officer was responsible.

  25. I have never listened to Radio Live but I am assuming it’s listeners and those who phone-in have the intellectual sophistication of the comment makers at Kiwiblog ?

    It makes sense for Michael Laws to express opinions that appeal to his audience of the less discriminating thinkers in our community. That affirms their simplistic beliefs and therefore maintains his audience and presumably his employment and income. Any rational person prepared to sacrifice ethical considerations would do the same.

    Laws taps into a general misunderstanding about mental disorders that have a genetic basis. For someone who has a biological mental disorder they are unable to see the world in the way normal people do. Just as the way a person born with blindness can only never see the world a sighted person can. Some biological mental disorders can be partially corrected with medication: I am not sure if this applies to Asperger’s ?

  26. Although I do not agree with Law’s summation of the incident it does bring up some questions with regard to not only the journalists behaviour towards slightly different personalities(I have a son and a friend who have aspergers)butthe police also.A black eye in custody is not acceptable.Has he been before the courts before and if not why was this incident followed through.A sympathetic statement from a suitably qualified Dr (Prof Werry or such)solicited to confirm Smith’s condition(also someone to help plead his case).This to me is a Kneejerk reaction to the pain and suffering being felt by the citizens of Christchurch.

  27. As the mother of a 28year old with Aspergers who out of an absolute sense of loyalty and commitment to his employers has been involved in two violent and very dangerous situations both sorted by a very strong support network including youth aid Police officers.The New Zealand police force, starting with their training at Trentham need far more knowledge and training regarding the Autism spectrum.Arie was not the first and won’t be the last. I teach social skills to conduct disordered teenagers with complex problems usually birth related.In Laws’ world they would all be locked away for good.
    I am apalled by Laws’ comments but uplifted and thrilled by the knowledge that an Aspie lawyer has taken on Arie’s case.Well done on behalf of my son.
    My son loves old school buses and NZ Broadcasting.A subject he knows a vast amount about. He listened to Michael Laws’ recent diatribe aginst Special Olympics which my son participates in with great pride. Jake’s comments “Michael Laws works for Radio Live.The studio he works in is too small and dark.He needs sunshine to make him happy. He is not alive yet he works for Live radio.He needs to join Special Olympics and get some exercise” My son is very literal but has real empathy in his own inimitable way.
    I am resisting the urge to discuss Mr Laws distinctive facial features and rodents.I teach an Aspie girl who is fascinated with rats.I will suggest she names her new rat Michael Laws.The last one was called Paul Henry but he kept knocking himself out on his training wheel.A small and sweet revenge on my part as Nikky is kind of famous with her pet rats and gets about a lot.

    BE: Thank you, Phyllis.

  28. After reading this, I’m quite convinced of Michael Laws’ utter lack of empathy or common decency.

    Noone disputes that Arie was wrong to take the lightbulbs. (Although, it’s not hard to see how he might well have thought it much the same as picking something out of someone else’s inorganic rubbihs collection?)

    What concerns me the most, is the fact that Arie received a beating whilst in police custody, and that nothing is being done about this. Quite frankly, that kind of violence is a much greater concern than someone helping themselves to a couple of lightbulbs from a completely destroyed building.

    It seems Michael Laws doesn’t comprehend the seriousness of violent crime towards society’s most vulnerable groups, eg the disabled, elderly,
    children – and worse still, that he would condone it.

  29. Phyllis, this is just wonderful:

    My son loves old school buses and NZ Broadcasting.A subject he knows a vast amount about. He listened to Michael Laws’ recent diatribe aginst Special Olympics which my son participates in with great pride. Jake’s comments “Michael Laws works for Radio Live.The studio he works in is too small and dark.He needs sunshine to make him happy. He is not alive yet he works for Live radio.He needs to join Special Olympics and get some exercise” My son is very literal but has real empathy in his own inimitable way.

  30. Ahh, thank goodness for the refreshingly non-ignorant blogosphere.

    I’m sort of habituated to Sunday newspapers but will not buy the Steadily Slumping Tripe again. Keeping Laws in place, while de-opnionating Finlay MacDonald and Rosemary Mcleod, almost tipped me out of lazy Sunday habit, but Laws’s odious rant on Arie Smith is break point. Hope the Star Slime oozes down the nearest drain.

  31. Laws can’t confront his own demons. They run and hide, when they see him coming.

    BE: Good line, Raoul!

  32. For those wanting to know more about Asperger’s Syndrome I thoroughly recommend Aucklander Jen Birch’s autobiography ‘Congratulations! It’s Asperger Syndrome’. It’s available through her website http://www.aspergers.co.nz. You can also see her as a hologram introducing the Autism NZ website.

    Jen also does occasional talks around Auckland (and some training courses, including I think, for police).

    There are also some good NZ-based resources on http://www.asdguideline.com

    BE: Thanks, Hilary

  33. If there was any fairness or decency in this land this would be the end of Laws – but I am not holding my breath.
    Shame is that the SST has improved elsewhere. Why do they cling to this vile cess pit

  34. Thank you so much Brian for this thoughtful piece of writing. I was so angered by Laws’ column I couldn’t even read the entire thing. Shame on the SST for keeping Laws on. There is no place for such bigoted and arrogant views in this world. Giving him column inches is as bad as those who give the oxygen of publicity to the likes of Ken Ring.

  35. My guess is that the Paul Henry call-out is so that Laws can claim the same moral high-ground when he is eventually forced to resign.

    “I was only saying what most New Zealanders are thinking.”

  36. Hey, all of you, stop picking on poor old Michael Laws. He suffers from a serious personality disorder, which is beginning to look like a terminal mental illness. He has no more control over his compulsions than young Arie has for his. The high functioning Laws may well end up having a syndrome named after him, like Herr Doktor Hans Asperger did.

  37. Jake throws sunlight on Laws. Thanks Hilary. I’m with Russell. Worth a repeat:
    Jake:”Jake’s comments “Michael Laws works for Radio Live.The studio he works in is too small and dark.He needs sunshine to make him happy. He is not alive yet he works for Live radio.He needs to join Special Olympics and get some exercise” My son is very literal but has real empathy in his own inimitable way.”

  38. The SST and Radio Live continue with Mr Laws because (to paraphrase Wilde) it is better to be talked about that not be talked about.

    Mr Laws and what he says is irrelevant to life in NZ. Mr Laws loves to be talked about and be the centre of attention. It fuels his ego.

    Let’s stop giving him the oxygen he needs to survive.

  39. If the SST did not have such outstanding writers as Rod Oram and Richard Boock, I would dump it in a heartbeat for its continued publishing of Michael Law’s disgraceful bigotry.

  40. Michael Laws is a catalyst for every tut-tutter to drag out their favourite straw man for a good old (non-violent) flogging. Laws didn’t rubbish special olympians, only the silly idea that a special olympics gold medal really is just as prestigious as a normal olympic gold. Hello! It isn’t, whether you think it should be or not. It just isn’t.

    And he didn’t broadly rubbish “Aspies” as a group either — only the silly idea that one of their number ought to be allowed to use his condition to excuse impulsive petty crime. And Aspies shouldn’t.

    So, all these straw-man bashers jumping on the popular “I hate Michael Laws” bandwagon, take a good, hard look at yourselves.

    Hate him, if you must, but have the wit and the backbone to hate him for what he REALLY said, not for what you constructed out of hand-picked snippets of straw, pasted together with gobs of your own prejudice.

    BE: You clearly read a different column to every other person commenting on this site, and certainly to me. Did you miss all the stuff about ‘ferals’ and ‘rodents’ and ‘rats’ and Smith’s ‘feral features’ and the ‘unusual angularity’ of his face and ‘the demeanour of one who spends much of his life in the darkness’ and his recommendation that other looters should be given black eyes at least by the public if they are caught.

    And just where are the ‘hand-picked snippets’ you refer to. At the start of the post I recommend that visitors to this site read Laws’ entire column before reading my commentary. I then re-publish every line of the column followed by my commentary.

    I agree that you might need a degree of backbone to publicly agree with what Laws wrote. You’re putting yourself in very bad company. But, on reflection, I suspect it’s less ‘backbone’ than moral blindness.

  41. SST columnists: Steve Braunias, repeat Qantas Award winner, GONE. Finlay McDonald, repeat Qantas Award winner, GONE. Rosemary McLeod, legend, GONE.
    Michael Laws, STAYS.
    Now what are they trying to tell us here?

    BE: I guest it’s just the Laws of the jungle.

  42. What do you expect from Laws? Isnt he a former speechwriter/researcher for Winston “Tsunami of immigrants” Peters. His main claim to fame is getting booted out of Parliament for jimmying up polls and coining the phrase “sickly white liberals”

  43. Michael Laws is a catalyst for every tut-tutter to drag out their favourite straw man for a good old (non-violent) flogging.

    Jon: I honestly don’t have any idea what the hell you’re saying here, but you seem to be resorting to the standard MO of Laws and his apologists. You see, Michael never has to man up and accept any criticism of, or accountability for, his public statements. It’s all us liberal whiners who need to either harden up or get a sense of humour.

    Sadly, the only appropriate response to that kind of arrant whinging requires language not appropriate for this forum. But I believe it can be graphically represented by making a fist then fully extending your middle finger.

  44. Jon, do at least read Jen Birch and Mark Haddon’s illuminating books – then get back to us.

    And Brian, many thanks for doing this. Your column has been noticed internationally. Thanks to you, these replies are being read from all over the world, showing that Mr Laws in no way represents the way all NZers think.

  45. In my dreams: a new business venture makes a killing repackaging unsold SST’s as lavatory paper. The paper’s gone down the toilet already anyway.

  46. “Michael Laws is a catalyst for every tut-tutter to drag out their favourite straw man for a good old (non-violent) flogging. Laws didn’t rubbish special olympians, only the silly idea that a special olympics gold medal really is just as prestigious as a normal olympic gold. Hello! It isn’t, whether you think it should be or not. It just isn’t.”

    Jon, if you’re going to take others to task for their mistakes, please ensure you get your own facts right. You’re half right – Laws didn’t rubbish the Special Olympics, he rubbished the Paralympics, a completely different organisation.

  47. “Substitution of personal abuse for argument. ‘PC’ is the most common contemporary dog whistle used by rednecks like Mr Laws to deride those of a different view.”

    That’s an interesting comment, given the amount of personal abuse in the commentary, not to mention in the subsequent comments received. Isn’t “redneck” the most common contemporary dog whistle used by those of left-wing opinions to deride those of a different view?

    Isn’t it likely that every looter probably also has a personal story of depravation, maltreatment, poor upbringing or mental conditions? They were unlucky, no sympathetic “cause lawyer” came to their aid with a psychiatry text book.

    From what I know of Asperger’s syndrome, the extra attention drawn to him by his lawyer (and subsequently given extra legs by Laws and this blog) might well be worse than if he had just quietly taken the sentence of the court and moved on. There is no cause for vigilanteism or summary justice by cops, but using someone’s psychiatric condition to push a political view (either left or right) is also an unpleasant sight.

    BE: I can’t find any ‘personal abuse’ in the post. I consider all of my remarks about Laws factual and deserved.

    ‘Redneck’ could certainly be a dog-whistle. But it can also be a factual description. In this context it is the latter.

    Smith, like anyone else accused of a crime, is entitled to legal representation. It makes perfect sense for him to be represented by a lawyer who understands his condition. This ’cause lawyer’ stuff is a piece of nonsense. Every lawyer is obliged to have a cause – the professional representation of his client.

    Many Maori and Pacific Island defendants ‘just quietly take the sentence of the court and move on’. They do that because they don’t expect to get justice or simply because it’s easier. The cops sometimes encourage this approach. It makes their lives easier too. But it isn’t justice.

  48. I won’t dispute the tacky tabloid nature of Law’s article and I was intially very keen to vilify Laws as some kind of nasty neo nazi nutter. I was however stopped in my tracks by the words of Phyllis’s son – saying Law’s studio is too small, he’s not alive yet and needs some sunshine and exercise. Brilliant! Now that’s compassion. I felt compassion for Mr Smith and his eccentric behavior – I think its the mark of good-hearted culture that we have the generosity to carry a few eccentrics like Mr Smith. Can we extend this generosity to poor Mr Laws, locked in his sunless studio, barely alive but ranting and raving, striving to be noticed.

  49. Unrelated but…Laws showed some incredible hypocrisy when defending his ticket for not using a child restraint. He had the audacity to criticise the families of 4×4 accident victims, and then, stuck to his guns claiming extenuating circumstances prevented restraining his child in a vehicle. Since then, I haven’t tried to find his vacuous words in the SST or on radio. It is good, therefore, to read your summary of this article. Lovely piece of work. I hope he forms a party and gets 4% of the vote in this year’s election…it would suck up some of his supporters’ votes.

  50. I find it hard to believe that out of the 48 posts here (to date), only one seems to agree with what Lawsy had to say. Can only assume the ‘moderator’ has had a field day.

    Me, I totally agree with everything Michael has to say on the matter. More power to his elbow!

    BE: One comment was moderated for reasons of factual accuracy and potential defamation. You can find it if you read through the comments because, if I change or edit something, I say so in my reply to that person. The comment was critical of Laws.

    So whether you find it hard to believe or not, no comments by Laws supporters have been trashed or edited in any way. The current score, I think, is 3 for Laws and 48 against.

  51. At one point in your commentry, you descibe ML’s comments as being “worthy of Joseph Mengele”.

    Where you say in response to my post, “the current score, I think, is 3 for Laws and 48 against”, I would descibe as being worthy of Dr Goebbels.

    BE: You could, but your description would make absolutely no sense. You raised the issue of how very few comments there were in favour of Laws and the only explanation you could think of was that I had censored or failed to publish a lot of other comments supporting him. In other words, I was dishonest. I explained to you that that was not the case. In noting that there were now 3 comments in Laws’ favour and 48 against I was merely stating a fact. Dr Goebbels was not known for stating facts. Quite the contrary. So I think this rather sad attempt to insult me further fails on the ground of historical inaccuracy. You will, I hope, note nonetheless that I have published both your comments totally unedited.

  52. This debate does indeed seem rather one-sided, so I thought I might contribute a few words of partial support for Mr Laws. Firstly, with regards the opinion piece in question. It’s not one of Mr Law’s better efforts. I, like the vast majority, did find his remarks of a personal nature concerning Mr Smith to be distasteful. But I have found many of Mr Law’s previous efforts to be entertaining reading, and would not judge him too harshly on this one serious error of judgement. But to put this whole unseemly incident into wider context, I’d suggest that Mr Smith is merely just a pawn in a wider conflict between so called PC Wets and rednecks, to borrow some of the lingo already used here. Those unpleasant personal remarks made by Mr Laws were clearly intended to rile the PC Wets. It’s unfortunate that Mr Smith is caught in the middle. Similarly the nonsensical attacks by the PC Wets on the minister of police can be seen in a similar light. In the end, neither side comes out of it looking good.

    And Mr Laws is correct in relation to his remarks concerning Mr Brown’s blog. The claim that Mr Smith was beaten by police is indeed made first by Mr Brown. Mr Buckingham then backs up the claim. However he is at pains to point out that “However, it also appears that these were NOT NZ police officers”. Mr Brown, in a later comment repeats this claim “But they were NOT New Zealand police officers”. So I think some cynicism is understandable when it turns out this certainty is later replaced by uncertainly and confusion, with Mr Smith apparently now not fit to testify to the fact that he was even assaulted.

    Finally Dr Edwards, I have to take up your claim that your use of the word redneck was in a factual sense . Pull the other one. I’d also take issue with your claim the Mr Smiths behaviour is entirely consistent with Asperger’s syndrome. The obsessive aspect of the behaviour yes, the stealing not so, as Mr Smith’s relatives have acknowledged.

    P.S I thought your piece “John Campbell, tonight you were a disgrace to the interviewer’s trade” was way over the top. Sometimes when angry, we can all say things that we latter regret. As long as we acknowledge when we have over stepped the boundary. Hopefully Mr Laws will be able to do just that in his next piece and admit that his personal remarks directed at Mr smith were out of order.

    BE: Your argument:

    1. Laws shouldn’t be judged on one column. I agree. Unfortunately, this column is merely one of numerous columns in the same vein. What you fail to understand is that this is why the SST has kept him as a columnist, while dispensing with the services of Rosemary McLeod and Finlay McDonald. They like the outrage he provokes.

    2. You may be right that Smith is now being used by ‘liberals’ and ‘conservatives’ to support their positions. But he remains a person charged with a crime. His Asperger’s Syndrome is directly relevant to his defence. So he isn’t just a pawn…

    3. On the question of the police: I was careful to say that Smith did not have a black eye when he was arrested, but did have a black eye when he appeared in court. “One might surmise that he got it either in the cells or from the cops.” I would say that that is still a reasonable proposition. I’m not answerable for what Russell or anyone else writes.

    4. Redneck: Can’t follow your objection to ‘redneck’. The Shorter Oxford gives the definition: anyone holding reactionary views; reactionary, conservative. That is precisely what I meant.

    5. Well, I disagree with you about the original interview. However, on the following day I wrote a second post praising John for his gracious apology and suggesting that I may have magnified the offence, perhaps because I was angry too. Best to have the full story!

  53. 53

    Christopher Tipper

    Michael Laws does not have a clue what Aspergers is like. I am a aspie and my obession is motorsport engineering and I remember at a science fair in london their was a Formula One car and I just kept staring at it and flapping my arms (this was when I was 10 years old)my mum had to move me because I just wouldnt move. Arie did break the law and I do think some form of punishment is needed, but not jail. And why does Michael Laws have a opinion on this? Who ask him? If he lived with aspergers or had a kid with it then he would realise what it is, instead he just makes hurtful and pointless comments which he needs a warning about.

  54. Those unpleasant personal remarks made by Mr Laws were clearly intended to rile the PC Wets

    So, Laws doesn’t even believe the nonsense he spouts but is simply the media equivalent of a tantrum-prone toddler trying to get his Mummy’s attention by being an offensive little SOB in the middle of the street? If that’s the best defence you can muster, Laws doesn’t need enemies.

    BE: I’ve deleted your second para, Craig. Didn’t like it. I’m sure you’ll understand why.

  55. Thank you for the correction to my comment. I am not a trained journalist but appreciate the opportunity to express my thoughts.

  56. I think, Laws’s article had very little to do with trying to polarise two factions (PC Wets and rednecks), it cut a lot deeper than that. He was just railing against those, who tried to express some understanding of the hapless Arie Smith, by
    labelling and branding.

    When a journalist makes such sneering and venomous comments, about how someone looks; likening him to a “rodent”, “feral”, some nocturnal habitué roaming the sewers — it goes beyond his own righteous indignation and anger. He’s crossed his own ethical Rubicon, with unalloyed vindictiveness and hatred. What Laws said, does have a very ugly “Josef Mengele” ring to it. He forfeits his — already tenuous — credentials as a “journalist”.

    Laws has laid open — bare and very raw — his own past mistakes, misfortunes and family crises; but when it come to others — Screw ‘em!

  57. Thankyou for your comments Dr Edwards. In reply:

    1. Mr Laws does hold certain viewpoints, as he is well entitled to do. Whether you agree with them or not is not really relevant to the debate. I don’t agree with everything he has written in the past, but wouldn’t begrudge him his right to hold these views. But I can’t agree that his opinions are as consistently objectionable as you seem to imply. He did however over step the mark with his personal comments about Mr Smith, no argument there. Now you mention Rosemary McLeod and Finlay McDonald as role model columnists. I have to say that I find neither of them to be of special interest. Although I was somewhat offended by Mr McDonald’s column attacking Steve Irwin (written only a day or two after his Mr Irwin’s untimely demise). But isn’t it always going to be the case that we favour those columnists who express views in accordance with our own?

    2. Mr Smith’s Asperger’s would be a mitigating factor, but not an excuse, as has already been pointed out.

    3. But as Mr Law’s said in his column “the taint of police brutality is allowed to remain”. If Mr Smith was assaulted by police then it is unacceptable. But unless the incident is properly investigated, then what really did happen is always going to be open to speculation.

    4. Maybe that really is how you meant it Dr Edwards. But I’d suggest that the vast majority of your audience would have interpreted it in its derogatory sense, especially given the general tone of your critique is negative.

    5. That interview by Mr Campbell was very unprofessional. Mr Campbell appeared to be agitated, and was uncivil to the interviewee. He had a bad day, no argument. But you were far too vitriolic in your criticism of him. You should have likewise apologised.

    BE: “You should have likewise apologised.” Have a look at http://brianedwardsmedia.co.nz/2011/03/a-gracious-apology-from-john-campbell/ I think that’s about as far as I needed to go.

  58. BE: thank you for your response – appreciate it.

    My apologies if you found my comments ‘insulting’.

    However, sometimes one needs to appreciate the difference between an insult and a ‘wind-up’.

    You were descibed recently by another blogger as a humourless pinko leftie. Maybe I should have known better…

  59. Brian, I wholeheartedly agree with the observations and comments you have outlined above. Even after following your advice to be fair to Laws and read the whole article has only confirmed my belief of how dishonourable this man is.

    It would be fair to say that I find any coverage of looting annoying because to me it is not really a big issue and is only reported to sensationalise news. If there is looting, the social implications behind it far outweigh my concern about say a stolen TV, even if it were mine own. Of more concern is the corporate looting practiced by people in power to wipeout whole neighbours with a stroke of a pen.

    Also of concern is lack of empathy, concern and support available to a man like Ari when he finds himself in a position such as he is. It’s all to common to see people like Ari with behavioural/psychological disorders being prosecuted for similar petty crimes which have occured as a result of their disorder. The lack of social support and the three strikes proposed policy also does not bear thinking about in this context and infact most others.

    Lastly, why has he got a black eye. I would like more information on that too.

    BE: An astute analysis, in my view.

  60. Excellent demolition of Laws, BE.

    Going off on a wee bit of a tangent, here, I notice a number of comments on the characteristics of Aspergers itself. One of my family members has felt strongly for quite some time now that Aspergers is being massively over-diagnosed.

    She’s not a doctor, not a specialist, but – having worked for quite a few years as an IHC Pre-School Supervisor – she completed a series of Uni-level papers on the subject, attended regular seminars by overseas experts, undertook a significant amount of reading and so on. As a result she acquired a really quite detailed knowledge of various intellectual “disabilities”, with a particular expertise on Autism.

    For the last few years, she’s worked part-time in after-school care at a nearby Primary School. And she says she’s been absolutely astonished by the number of parents who’ve mentioned that their kid/s have been diagnosed with Aspergers (both by GPs and Specialists).

    She argues that:
    1. Aspergers is, in fact, a much rarer ‘condition’ than these numbers suggest,
    and
    2. Knowing these kids quite well from the after-school care, she’s damn sure that very few of them actually have Aspergers.

    She feels that Specialists are just as bad as GPs in over-diagnosing, that essentially even the slightest hint of behavioural problems, emotional problems, slight personality quirks and so on and doctors are instantly calling it “Aspergers”.

  61. I somewhat agree with Markus.This is taken from Wikipedia and may explain the dilemma faced with this diagnosis.”One of the proposed changes in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, set to be published in May 2013,[17] would eliminate Asperger syndrome as a separate diagnosis, and fold it under autistic disorder (autism spectrum disorder), which would be rated on a severity scale.[7] The proposed change is controversial,[18][19][20] and it has been argued that the syndrome’s diagnostic criteria should be changed instead.[21]”
    I have a friend in his 50s who suits some of the Diagnosis and has never been able to be pigeon holed before and has been diagnosed with aspergers..My son is in a similar situation .The fact that he has been diagnosed with something has aided in facilitating resources for his behavioral management.When asked about my sons condition I usally describe it as autism which unfortunately seems to have many preconceived notions associated with it.

  62. Brian, I didn’t agree with your assessment of THAT John Campbell interview, but I’m happy to say that I completely agree with your assessment of Michael Laws’ surpassingly offensive column in last Sunday’s SST. Well done for such a thorough analysis.

  63. 63

    I read Michael Laws article in full on Sunday, something I usually avoid. I was left with an overwhelming feeling of sadness, not only for the young man, Cornelis, but for Michael Laws. Laws is a man consumed with bitterness and one can only feel sorry for him.

  64. I am shocked and appalled at Michael Laws, and the fact that he’s been published saying such crap.

    You may be interested to read this: http://www.mumsontop.com/2011/03/michael-laws-really-is-a-special-little-man/

    BE: If anyone had a single doubt left about Laws’ capacity for vileness, they should read this letter from the mother of an Asperger’s boy and Laws’ reply.

  65. Well there you go. I see the vans around town and always wondered what Radi Olive was. A radio station with Michael Laws! Thank god I was confused. I might have tuned in.

  66. Very well said, thank you Russell!

    Just a couple of points, however (and please don’t take these as criticism, because they aren’t – just some insight, if you will)…

    I often find parents and others who are around those of us on the spectrum a lot like to recommend the book ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ as a way of gaining insight into the Asperger’s mind – as somebody with Asperger’s myself, I couldn’t agree less with it being a good example.

    It’s a fantastic example of what it might seem like to have Asperger’s to somebody watching from the outside, but I assure you it’s actually a fairly insensitive and misguided effort and not particularly realistic at all. You’re much better to point readers towards books written by people on the spectrum instead, if you want to really understand how we think. :)

    Also, the whole ‘empathy’ thing – it’s tricky. Most ‘Aspies’ are exceptionally, painfully empathetic and sensitive to the suffering of others; as you get further down the spectrum and more and more withdrawn, that ‘lack of’ tends to creep in a little more, but I’m convinced that those people would be just as empathetic as anybody else if they weren’t so thoroughly withdrawn and physically ill all the time. Rather than it being an ingrained lack of empathy.

    The word is a little misconstrued in this sense – it’s fair to say we may not pick up on cues or not think about things others would do, particularly when fixated on something, which can come across as a lack of empathy. But it’s not, in the normal usage of the word anyway. More a total mind-blank on something that I for one, and I’m sure others, are thoroughly embarassed about when it’s pointed out to us. Most Aspies are extremely caring, sensitive, and empathetic.

    Other than that, very well said, and thank you so much for deconstructing such a hateful, disgusting, bigoted diatribe from a man who is ignorant in the extreme. I can only hope that one day, somehow, he’ll decide to take some of this on board and extend a little empathy (that stuff we apparently lack, ha, the irony!) towards those of us who differ slightly or greatly from the norm.

    (And frankly, Michael Laws, if you’re reading this – if you’re ‘normal’ then please, please, you can have it! I’d rather be ‘abnormal’ than whatever it is you are).

  67. It is has been very very heartening to read so many well thought out ripostes to Michael Laws’ attack on a young man with Asperger’s Syndrome I happen to know to be a generous volunteering sort of a guy, keen to please all, polite and friendly to all.

    I must admit, after Mr Laws let loose I feared for our future in this relatively tolerant – even loving – country, but the small minority Mr Laws belongs to has been safely defined and confined as just that, small.

    I am going to joyfully put that down to growing knowledge and to what I call “the neighbourly Christchurch spirit” that I hope will become a permanent part of Kiwi culture.

    Thank you all so much from the staff at Asperger’s Syndrome New Zealand.

    BE: You’re welcome.

  68. It would be fair to say that I find any coverage of looting annoying because to me it is not really a big issue and is only reported to sensationalise news.

    Kelly: I’d respectfully disagree with you there. Even if you haven’t been through something as ghastly as a major natural disaster, having your house burgled is a pretty damn big “issue”. That was a legitimate news story; my issue is with Mr. Laws using his giant bully pulpit to show his miserable ignorance about Aspergers and advocate the most grotesque vigilante lawlessness he’d be the first to cry foul over if he was on the receiving end.

    BTW, Brian, thanks for deleted the second par of my previous comment. It was totally out of line to bring any of Laws children into the debate. I was guilty of exactly the kind of trash talk I criticise the man for. I merely hope he might learn a little compassion for other parents he’s sneered at and smeared from the Olympian heights he dwells on. God only knows my own teenage years weren’t ones of unblemished virtue; and my parents were imperfect but did their best. :)

  69. 69

    When I was a teenager, way back mid-1900s, I read all sorts of old books which I found at the old homestead on the farm where I spent many great holidays. One big heavy book particularly fascinated me – it was all about THE HUMAN BEING, guts, heart, brains etc

    There were also picture of THE CRIMINAL TYPE with undershot jaws, eyes too close together, etc etc….

    This book may have been published in the late 1800s or early 1900s.

    Despite all that has been learned since, there are still some people who think like this, e.g. Michael Laws in his disgusting opinion peice published in your paper on March 13.

    According to his thinking, one should be able to tell at a glance which children are going to grow up to be criminals. NARRRRRRT!

    Therefore, a good-looking, well-dressed, charming, intelligent person cannot possibly be a criminal. YEAH, RIGHT!

    And of course, being autistic should have nothing to do with anything – Michael Laws seems to think that the background of any one person irrelevant, and that anyone taking such a background into consideration, is “wet” and a “liberal bleater”.

    Kathryn Mansell

  70. Their agitation occurred after members of Arie Smiths foster family argued that his being remanded in prison was unfair because their foster sibling suffered from the behavioural psychological disorder known as Aspergers syndrome. It is important to note that his foster siblings did not claim that Smith should not have been arrested nor that he had not done something wrong nor that he did not know right from wrong. They simply argued that jail was the wrong place for a young man with an odd condition and an obsessive compulsion to collect light fittings.

  71. Have just discovered this piece but not read all of the comments so may be making a superfluous comment.. The shop in question is or was in Addington, not in the CBD. It was NOT a house (i have seen it). Arie emerged with two old incandescent light bulbs which would have been submerged in the general rubbish when the shop is finally demolished (what is left of it). In the past he has always received permission to scavenge sites listed for demolition. This place was abandoned and clearly impossible to rebuild.

    We Aspies do not see ourselves as “afflicted, suffering or disabled”. We prefer to be described as “affected by” Asperger Syndrome, or “different, rather than having a “disorder”.