This chapter traces a rhetorical history of the male computer geeks, engineers, and other high-tech types who came to epitomize autism in the late 1990s. It employs rhetorical analysis of key texts, including Simon Baron-Cohen's book The Essential Difference, a Wired magazine article titled “Silicon Valley Syndrome,” and a series of articles diagnosing Silicon Valley titans such as Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates as autistic by drawing on topoi of technology, geekdom, and cognitive capitalism, or the “knowledge economy.” As presented, gendered characters help make a cultural phenomenon seem livelier and more immediate to readers, often in ways that stereotype people—in this case, autistic people—in order to make a larger rhetorical point.
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