Of course it’s about money

Suddenly, and quite unexpectedly, programming from the Scripps Network – which includes channels such as Food Network and HGTV – disappeared from the AT&T U-verse lineup last Friday. This surprised just about everyone, since media reports earlier in the week seemed to indicate the two were working amicably toward a resolution of ongoing negotiations. Not so unexpectedly, both Scripps and AT&T very quickly released statements defending their actions and soundly blaming the other for the problems.

AT&T came out of the gate swinging, with the title of their press release, AT&T U-verse TV Customers Denied Fair Deal by Scripps Networks, giving a pretty good idea of their view on the issue. Scripps, on the other hand, came out with AT&T U-verse customers: This is not about money!, letting viewers know that Scripps was only interested in the viewers while implying that all AT&T cared about was money. Of course, both of these companies care about money – they are in business to make money, after all. They just look at it from two different perspectives.

AT&T wants to minimize the amount of money they have to pay to Scripps (or any provider) for programming while maximizing the way they can make money from that content. In this case that means paying once for content, and then being able to distribute the content on as many media and in as many ways as possible and charging their customers for the ability to access the content on all those media. When AT&T says, “With such an uneven playing field, they are harming AT&T’s ability to provide customers with a new video choice”, what they mean is, “With such an uneven playing field, they are harming AT&T’s ability to provide customers with a new video choice and make money doing it.”

On the other hand, Scripps (or any provider) wants to be paid as much money as possible for their content. In today’s media environment that means getting paid not for the content itself but for the rights to distribute that content, with each different possible medium (TV, web, mobile, etc) being another possible revenue stream. So when Jeffrey at HGTV says, “Accepting their demands would have restrained our ability to deliver our programs to viewers like you in new and innovative ways”, what he really means is, “Accepting their demands would have restrained our ability to deliver our programs to viewers like you in new and profitable ways.”

These two companies are not fighting over the best ways of providing programming to viewers, they are fighting over which one of them will get the most money out of these new delivery methods. We, the viewers, will pay for the programming one way or another, it doesn’t really matter who the money goes to. Do these companies really think that we believe they are acting out of some altruistic, self-sacrificing urge to make us happy?

Of course it’s about money. What’s wrong with that?

Of course it's about money

Suddenly, and quite unexpectedly, programming from the Scripps Network – which includes channels such as Food Network and HGTV – disappeared from the AT&T U-verse lineup last Friday. This surprised just about everyone, since media reports earlier in the week seemed to indicate the two were working amicably toward a resolution of ongoing negotiations. Not so unexpectedly, both Scripps and AT&T very quickly released statements defending their actions and soundly blaming the other for the problems.

AT&T came out of the gate swinging, with the title of their press release, AT&T U-verse TV Customers Denied Fair Deal by Scripps Networks, giving a pretty good idea of their view on the issue. Scripps, on the other hand, came out with AT&T U-verse customers: This is not about money!, letting viewers know that Scripps was only interested in the viewers while implying that all AT&T cared about was money. Of course, both of these companies care about money – they are in business to make money, after all. They just look at it from two different perspectives.

AT&T wants to minimize the amount of money they have to pay to Scripps (or any provider) for programming while maximizing the way they can make money from that content. In this case that means paying once for content, and then being able to distribute the content on as many media and in as many ways as possible and charging their customers for the ability to access the content on all those media. When AT&T says, “With such an uneven playing field, they are harming AT&T’s ability to provide customers with a new video choice”, what they mean is, “With such an uneven playing field, they are harming AT&T’s ability to provide customers with a new video choice and make money doing it.”

On the other hand, Scripps (or any provider) wants to be paid as much money as possible for their content. In today’s media environment that means getting paid not for the content itself but for the rights to distribute that content, with each different possible medium (TV, web, mobile, etc) being another possible revenue stream. So when Jeffrey at HGTV says, “Accepting their demands would have restrained our ability to deliver our programs to viewers like you in new and innovative ways”, what he really means is, “Accepting their demands would have restrained our ability to deliver our programs to viewers like you in new and profitable ways.”

These two companies are not fighting over the best ways of providing programming to viewers, they are fighting over which one of them will get the most money out of these new delivery methods. We, the viewers, will pay for the programming one way or another, it doesn’t really matter who the money goes to. Do these companies really think that we believe they are acting out of some altruistic, self-sacrificing urge to make us happy?

Of course it’s about money. What’s wrong with that?

Advocates and allies

I had originally planned for this post to be an in-depth look at what it means for a non-autistic person to be an advocate or ally for autistic people.  There has been a lot written on the subject over the past couple of months and I was going to use this as a way to sort it all out in my mind.  Luckily (especially for you, since this post is now much shorter), a recent discussion on this blog helped me understand it all in a nutshell.

In a comment to a recent post, CS had the following to say about the vaccine-autism debate:

The vaccine argument is causing a lot of harm I believe because it is taking our limited time we have in the news and monopolizing it with trivalities (sp?) that aren’t important for inclusion, education, opportunity, independence and safety which is what most autistic people struggle with their entire lives.

This came toward the end of a long comment discussion concerning Kristina Chew‘s appearances on Newsweek.com and NBC’s The Today Show last week in which she was asked, as the mother of an autistic son, her opinions about vaccines.  (The media interest was due to the recent release of Autism’s False Prophets.)

In my original concept for this post I had considered using Kristina as an example of a good ally for autistic people, using Phil Schwartz’s list of what makes a good ally as a starting point.  CS disagrees with me, and believes that she is “not being a good ally when she does these things.”  He also uses Phil’s essay as the basis of his opinion.

Read the whole comment discussion for the whole picture, but the gist of CS’s complaint was that Kristina was being self-serving, and not being a good ally for autistics, because she engaged in – and reported on – the interest in the vaccine/autism question instead of reporting on the lack of interest that the mainstream media has for hearing from autistic people about what is important to them.

Here is an excerpt of my response to CS from that comment discussion:

The vaccine argument is causing a lot of harm, but not because those who don’t believe in a link are engaged in the argument. It causes harm because it exists. Those who try to squash the belief in a link between vaccines and autism may not be engaged in the type of activities that directly benefit autistics, but if no one puts down the belief in a link by the general – scientifically illiterate – public then many of those direct actions will likely come to naught.

The non-autistic people, especially parents, who believe in the link are not likely to listen to scientists, non-believing celebrities, or autistics when it comes to arguments against a link. Those with the most chance to sway their opinion are the parents – the non-autistic parents – of autistic children and adults.

What do you think?

And if you are autistic, who among the non-autistic do you see as true advocates, as good allies?  Are there any?  Despite what Phil tries to get across in his essay, is it even possible for a non-autistic to be an “autism advocate” or a good ally?

Update:  As a reference, here are some of the things that have influenced me over the past couple of months.  In some cases it is the post itself, in some cases it is the discussion in the comments:

I’m sure there are more, but these are the ones that stand out in my mind.

So you want to be interviewed about autism…

Over the past couple of months, I’ve noticed many complaints from adults with autism that they are tired of non-autistics speaking for them.  The fact that I’ve only recently really noticed these complaints doesn’t mean the complaints haven’t been around longer than that, nor does it mean that the complaints aren’t valid.  There are many cases of non-autistics trying to say what they think is best for autistics.  (I don’t think I need to go into specifics.)

However, this is a distinct problem from something that has come up more recently:  complaints about the media choosing to interview non-autistics instead of autistics when producing stories about autism.   The most recent example of this is the reaction to Kristina Chew’s interview with Newsweek on the subject of parent’s reactions to “political pandering” to parents of disabled children.

Now I don’t know how Newsweek chose Kristina for the interview, but I have the feeling it had a lot to do with the fact that she blogs about her experiences parenting an autistic child. Not only does she blog, she blogs extensively, prolifically, and very eloquently.  In short, the interviewer already had a pretty good idea of what Kristina would say in response to certain questions, and in those cases where she didn’t she had a pretty high level of confidence that Kristina would come through.   Reporters are like anyone else:  if there is an “easy” way to do their job and a “hard” way, they will choose the easy way.

If you would like for reporters to seek out your opinion on something you care about, the trick is to make them see you as a way to make their job easy.  Blogs are a great tool to achieve this.   If you want to get your word out about being the parent of an autistic child, write about being the parent of an autistic child.  If you want to get your word out about being the autistic parent of an autistic child, write about being the autistic parent of an autistic child.  If you want to get your word out about life as an autistic adult, write about your life as an autistic adult.

It’s as easy as that.

What would you have done? What would you do today?

What would you have done if a prenatal test for autism had existed when you were expecting, and your child had tested positive for autism?  More importantly, what would you do today, knowing what you now know about autism and being an autism parent, if you were expecting and learned that your child would be autistic?  A comment to my last post from Jen and an article from Susan Senator last year give some insight into the question from an autism mom’s perspective.

From Jen:

I can’t imagine my world without my children in it, but if prenatal testing had been available for autism at that point I probably would have aborted them, as the thought of autistic triplets would not have been one that I could have wrapped my mind around. (needless to say, I was also completely clueless about autism- I think that my two exposures were Rain Man, and an educational aide friend whose wounds I had to fix every night after her “child” with autism bit her all day). I am so glad that I had my children, and as far as I can tell, they are all very happy to be alive. They contribute to the world in so many ways, and we would all be poorer without them.

From Susan:

I found myself worrying about how many otherwise “lucky” children would now never see the light of day. And what might I — an abortion-rights supporter for so long — have done had there been such a screening for autism, before I knew Nat? Now I shudder to think of it. But given that so much of what you hear in the media involves stories of struggle or horrors like the stabbing at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School, rather than any of the positive potential of autistic people, autism mainly be forever tied to tragedy. I fear what many people might do with information from an autism screening, if it existed.

The theme that comes through from both Jen and Susan is that any decision in this situation is based on information and the mother (and father-) -to-be’s understanding of what life with autism really means.  Unfortunately, as I’m finding in Prenatal Testing and Disability Rights, the people most often in the position to provide the needed information and education (Ob/Gyn’s and genetic counselors) are quite often the least inclined, and least qualified, to actually provide that information.

The internet doesn’t make people stupid…

Over at Wired.com, David Wolman has posted an essay entitled The Critics Need a Reboot. The Internet Hasn’t Led Us Into a New Dark Age. The essay is a response to the numerous recent books and articles that paint “the internet and its digital spawn” as the cause of the growing shallowness and dumbing-down of society. I’ve been following this trend of blaming the internet as part of another interest of mine, Work Literacy, and that is how I came across this particular article.

What caught my eye, in terms of relevance for this blog, was Wolman’s take on the role the internet (and its digital spawn) plays. It’s not the cause of these problems, it is an enabler of these things for people, and a society, that is already pre-disposed to this way of thinking.

…in The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don’t Trust Anyone Under 30), Mark Bauerlein delivers a grim assessment of the state of young minds, rattling off statistics about faltering education and using such figures to buttress his assertion that the Internet, videogames, and IMs all serve to numb and dumb.

To be sure, there is plenty of evidence that ignorance and irrationalism are rampant. Pernicious fallacies have found a purchase among educated people who ought to know better: Vaccines cause autism, Saddam Hussein was behind the attacks of 9/11, power lines give you cancer, cell phones kill honeybees, and global warming is a scam orchestrated by tree-hugging liberals.

Yes, it must be acknowledged that the Web provides remarkably easy access to such bogus ideas. On top of that, there’s the human tendency to seek out information that supports preexisting assumptions, a behavior psychologists have dubbed homophily. The Web magnifies this echo-chamber effect.

Continuing his theme that technology is not the culprit, Wolman goes on to say:

But the latest crop of curmudgeons fail to acknowledge that there is not much new in this parade of the preposterous. The US has a long and colorful history of being taken in by the erroneous and irrational: Salem witches, the “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast, phrenology, and eugenics are just a few choice examples. The truth is that Americans often approach information — online and off — with a particular mindset. “Antirational junk thought has gained social respectability in the United States during the past half century,” notes Susan Jacoby in The Age of American Unreason. “It has proved resistant to the vast expansion of scientific knowledge that has taken place during the same period.” Jacoby argues that long-standing American values like rugged individualism and the need to question authority have metastasized into reflexive anti-intellectualism and disdain for “eggheads,” “elites,” and pretty much anyone who might be described as credentialed. This cancerous irrationalism isn’t pretty, but it isn’t technology’s fault, either.

If we do find ourselves in a new dark ages, it won’t be caused by the internet. It will be caused by people. (Of course, the internet will be there to document it all ;-)

David Wolman is also the author of the Wired piece, The Truth About Autism: Scientists Reconsider What They Think They Know.

The internet doesn't make people stupid…

Over at Wired.com, David Wolman has posted an essay entitled The Critics Need a Reboot. The Internet Hasn’t Led Us Into a New Dark Age. The essay is a response to the numerous recent books and articles that paint “the internet and its digital spawn” as the cause of the growing shallowness and dumbing-down of society. I’ve been following this trend of blaming the internet as part of another interest of mine, Work Literacy, and that is how I came across this particular article.

What caught my eye, in terms of relevance for this blog, was Wolman’s take on the role the internet (and its digital spawn) plays. It’s not the cause of these problems, it is an enabler of these things for people, and a society, that is already pre-disposed to this way of thinking.

…in The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don’t Trust Anyone Under 30), Mark Bauerlein delivers a grim assessment of the state of young minds, rattling off statistics about faltering education and using such figures to buttress his assertion that the Internet, videogames, and IMs all serve to numb and dumb.

To be sure, there is plenty of evidence that ignorance and irrationalism are rampant. Pernicious fallacies have found a purchase among educated people who ought to know better: Vaccines cause autism, Saddam Hussein was behind the attacks of 9/11, power lines give you cancer, cell phones kill honeybees, and global warming is a scam orchestrated by tree-hugging liberals.

Yes, it must be acknowledged that the Web provides remarkably easy access to such bogus ideas. On top of that, there’s the human tendency to seek out information that supports preexisting assumptions, a behavior psychologists have dubbed homophily. The Web magnifies this echo-chamber effect.

Continuing his theme that technology is not the culprit, Wolman goes on to say:

But the latest crop of curmudgeons fail to acknowledge that there is not much new in this parade of the preposterous. The US has a long and colorful history of being taken in by the erroneous and irrational: Salem witches, the “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast, phrenology, and eugenics are just a few choice examples. The truth is that Americans often approach information — online and off — with a particular mindset. “Antirational junk thought has gained social respectability in the United States during the past half century,” notes Susan Jacoby in The Age of American Unreason. “It has proved resistant to the vast expansion of scientific knowledge that has taken place during the same period.” Jacoby argues that long-standing American values like rugged individualism and the need to question authority have metastasized into reflexive anti-intellectualism and disdain for “eggheads,” “elites,” and pretty much anyone who might be described as credentialed. This cancerous irrationalism isn’t pretty, but it isn’t technology’s fault, either.

If we do find ourselves in a new dark ages, it won’t be caused by the internet. It will be caused by people. (Of course, the internet will be there to document it all ;-)

David Wolman is also the author of the Wired piece, The Truth About Autism: Scientists Reconsider What They Think They Know.