Whose Planet Is It Anyway?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Ransom Notes and Autism Speaks: Partners in Crime

The Ransom Notes advertising campaign has Autism Speaks' dirty little fingerprints all over it. It's a direct follow-up from those Ad Council PSA commercials for Autism Speaks, also produced pro bono by the ad agency BBDO. If you live in the United States, you've probably seen those awful commercials that compare the odds of your child being autistic to being hit by lightning, killed in a car crash, or otherwise ending up dead. Autism Speaks seems to have quite a fixation with autistic children ending up dead, to judge from Alison Tepper Singer's infamous line in the Autism Every Day video about wanting to drive off a bridge with her autistic daughter, which was soon followed by a magazine interview with two Autism Speaks board members who hoped their autistic son would drown in their backyard pond.

Not long after he donated those television commercials, CEO Andrew Robertson of BBDO was named to the board of Autism Speaks:


I wouldn't be at all surprised if he shares the view of his fellow board members (and of prenatal testing researcher Joseph Buxbaum, funded by Autism Speaks) that the only good autistic child is a dead autistic child.

Amazingly, Suzanne Wright of Autism Speaks, whose avowed goal is a world where autism is a word for the history books, has tried to argue that those sick public fantasies of child murder are helping to take off the stigma. Remind you of anybody? Oh yeah, Dr. Harold Koplewicz of the NYU Child Study Center, who also claims that he just wants to start a dialogue and reduce stigma.

One thing is clear: The repulsive attitudes expressed by Autism Speaks, BBDO, and Dr. Koplewicz do not represent the majority view. They do not speak for us. Rather, they speak for a tiny number of bitter, twisted New York elitists who feel angry and cheated about having children with disabilities in their otherwise glamorous families, and who are throwing a colossal temper tantrum and spewing their vicious prejudice all over the media.

They are a hate group, pure and simple. They share a hideous eugenic agenda with disgraced white supremacist James Watson, who has been praised on Autism Speaks' website. They are enemies not only of the autistic minority population but of decent people everywhere. And it's past time for decent people to stand up in outrage and put a stop to their hate-mongering.

If you haven't yet sent letters of protest to NYU, signed the petition against the Ransom Notes ads, and blogged about it, please do it now. We need to keep the pressure on, without letting up even for a moment, to make it unmistakably clear that we will not stand for this despicable targeting of vulnerable children.

EDIT: The ads are now GONE! See the statement from Ari Ne'eman entitled "Victory!" posted above.

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  • I uploaded my protest video today:


    Notice the group picture I posted towards the end with Dr. Koplewicz and the Wrights :-)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:10 PM  

  • I just read this on NYU's site. I don't know exactly what it means. Have they decided not to run the campaign?

    When we launched our "Ransom Notes" public awareness campaign two weeks ago, our goal was to call attention to the millions of children with untreated psychiatric and learning disorders. We wanted a campaign that would grab people’s attention, break through the clutter, and serve as a wake up call to what we believe is America’s last silent public health crisis. We felt something dramatic was needed to call attention to the dire outlook for children with untreated disorders: higher risk for academic failure, school dropout, substance abuse, suicide, unemployment, and imprisonment.

    The campaign succeeded in getting people’s attention and sparking dialogue, but much of the debate centered on the ads instead of the issues. We’ve received thousands of calls and letters from parents, mental health professionals, educators, advocates, and concerned third parties, all of whom are passionate about helping children. While many people praised the campaign and urged us to stay the course, others were troubled by it.

    Though we meant well, we've come to realize that we unintentionally hurt and offended some people. We’ve read all the emails, both pro and con, listened to phone calls, and have spoken with many parents who are working day and night to get their children the help they need. We have decided to conclude this phase of our campaign today because the debate over the ads is taking away from the pressing day-to-day work we need to do to help children and their families. They are and remain our first concern.

    Our goal was to start a national dialogue. Now that we have the public’s attention, we need your help. We would like to move forward and harness the energy that this campaign has generated to work together so that we do not lose one more day in the lives of these children. We hope you will partner with us to bring the issues surrounding child and adolescent mental health to the top of America's agenda. Work with us as we fight to give children and their families equal access to health insurance, remove the stigma that the term "psychiatric disorder" so clearly still elicits, and, most importantly, support the drive to make research and science-based treatment a national priority.

    We invite all of you to continue this conversation online at a “town hall” meeting that we will hold early next year as we plan the next phase of our national public awareness campaign on child mental health. Look for details on our web site

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:23 PM  

  • Thanks for finding these things out. With NYU out of the way, the next thing that needs fixing is Autism Speaks.

    By Blogger VAB, at 5:40 PM  

  • CS: Yes, the ads are gone! Thanks to Ari Ne'eman and everyone who contributed to the letter-writing campaign, signed the petition, and otherwise helped to keep the pressure on NYU!

    VAB: Yup, I agree.

    By Blogger abfh, at 6:23 PM  

  • Too little too late?
    It took Harold Koplewicz too long to realize that hurting people you want to "help" is not acceptable collateral damage. We should write these officials to thank them for pulling the ads and request that they WATCH THE KOP to make sure he doesn't try anything this dirty again to drum up business in the name of public awareness:

    Kenneth Langone, Board Chairman
    New York University Medical Center

    Martin Lipton, Board of Trustee Chairman
    New York University

    John Sexton, President
    New York University

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:48 PM  

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