Tuesday, April 9, 2013

An open letter to Motherlode of the New York Times

We are writing as the founders and representatives of Down Syndrome Uprising (DSU). DSU is a global grassroots, volunteer activist initiative.  DSU’s mission is – in part - to: serve as a communication hub for the community of Down syndrome activists. The founders' function as individuals is to maintain a page and a blog, curate information and serve as the communications team. 
Our base of operations is a Facebook page and a blogDSU formed in January of this year and has grown to over 1000 fellow online activists. 
On April 7th we posted a ‘call to action’ to contact the New York Times (NYT) to express concern that the NYT allowed hateful comments regarding people with Down syndrome to be posted in response to the editorial published on April 1st titled “Outlawing Abortion Won’t Help Children with Down Syndrome” by Alison Piepmeier. 
On the 'Help' page of the NYT you indicate on what basis a comment is moderated: 
Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we have created a space where readers can exchange intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information."
"While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can.” 
Given your own guidelines it seems you made a decision to not moderate a great deal of comments that if made in reference to any other group of people who are discriminated against would not be seen as “intelligent” or “informed” and would likely be seen as "abusive”. 
We can only guess at your motivation to not moderate these comments. Perhaps when a discussion about a particular group of people is wrapped in the context of the abortion debate it becomes difficult to decide what is acceptable dialogue and what is hate speech? 
Our concern is that the comments did not reflect an actual debate on abortion but a hateful rant on the politics of accepting people who are different from us to exist. If those comments were about people who were poor or gay or Jewish or people of color would the NYT have considered them beyond the pale? Would you have allowed those comments to be posted? 
If they would not have been allowed for other groups we as a society have deemed protected why is hate speech still allowed for people with Down syndrome? 
We hope this letter will serve as an incentive to explore this issue by NYT. You could be telling a story that is lacking in the public sector – insert great title here.
Down Syndrome Uprising


  1. If you have not already done so, also send to the public editor, Margaret Sullivan. (email: public@nytimes.com). It is the public editor's job to be an advocate for the readers in bringing complaints to the attention of editors at the paper. She herself does not assign or edit stories, her sole job is to be a reader's representative. Also send this to the letters editor: letters@nytimes.com. It would make a good Letter to the Editor though they would likely trim it down quite a bit.

  2. Thank you for this. Some of those comments were so hateful.