Open Letter to a Publisher
One of your marketing people sent me an e-mail recently, offering to give me an advance copy of a "true story of autism" for my review.
I ought to have known better than to click on the "more info" link. After all, insanity as defined by Albert Einstein consists of doing the same thing over and over again, while expecting different results. And I've seen enough of the publishing industry's exploitation of autism so that the results of clicking on that link were all too predictable. Still, I had a tiny speck of hope that perhaps there might be something different this time—something other than the usual melodramatic litany of an agonizing disease with hellish symptoms, a puzzling and ever-worsening medical mystery, et cetera. That hope was, of course, promptly dashed.
No doubt stories like that are quite profitable for your company. You wouldn't be printing them otherwise. And of course, your readers would have no interest in a true story of an autistic person who was just as happy with his or her life as anyone else. They'd die of boredom reading about the very ordinary day I had yesterday: After work, I watered my ordinary suburban lawn for a few hours, pulled some weeds, bought a new pair of oven mitts, cooked dinner, and watched the first half of Monday Night Football.
Your shareholders probably would toss you out on your ear if you ever jeopardized their profits by considering the social implications of what you print. Like any other company, you're in business to make money, regardless of who gets trampled in the process. Why should you care if an autistic child gets excluded from school because the administrators, caught up in mass hysteria, are afraid to have him in their classrooms? It's none of your concern, is it, when an autistic job applicant is rejected because the hiring manager assumes that she is a tragic sufferer with hellish symptoms and would surely cost too much to accommodate? What does it matter to you if a landlord evicts an autistic tenant because of unfounded prejudices?
I'm sure that in a few more years, when the market for autism horror stories has been saturated, you'll cheerfully move on to whatever the next fad may be. You won't even give a moment's thought to the millions of people worldwide who will have to spend the rest of their lives struggling against the prejudices that you took part in creating. In fact, you probably stopped reading this letter several paragraphs ago because you decided that your time could be spent more profitably. There's always someone else to exploit, after all.