Inhumane Beyond All Reason: Ableism in Public Discourse and Torture Apologetics

Since 1971, the Judge Rotenberg Center has used aversive interventions as diverse as forced inhalation of ammonia, slapping, white noise helmets, and electric shock to enforce submission and compliance. Despite decades of legal and policy advocacy, JRC remains open. Using JRC as a case study, we will discuss how ableism in public discourse enables violence against disabled people, and how we have subverted these conversations.

After this session, participants will be able to:

1.) Define ableism and distinguish ableism as an entire socio-cultural system from mere prejudice or discrimination against people with disabilities alone.

2.) Identify ableist rhetorical devices and ideas, especially in a service provision/treatment context.

3.) Critique the common rhetorical justifications given for coercive, involuntary, painful, and dehumanizing “treatment” for people with disabilities,

4.) Summarize the rhetorical strategies used by torture and abuse apologists (with a focus on the Judge Rotenberg Center) in the context of structural ableism and an ableist paradigm,

5.) Respond to these dominant paradigms of disability with the alternative framework of diversity, equity, opportunity, and inclusion, as articulated by disabled activists and leaders.

Lydia Brown