Nadine Dorries on "Nutters"

Our friend Nadine Dorries has shown herself, yet again, to be the quintessence of human decency, a Mother Theresa-like figure to whose lofty heights of loveliness we should all aspire:

Nutters

My association is an election winning machine run by my Chairman, Andy Rayment and Deputy Chair Political, Steve Male.
Both are busy men and run the association in a regimented and disciplined manner.
As focused driven individuals, neither Andy or Steve suffer fools lighlty.
So when a ‘nutter’ began bombarding my association with telephone calls and emails, this made me laugh out loud http://www.bedfordshire-news.co.uk/Blogs/John-Balls-Diary/Monday-September-20.htm [this goes to a story reporting on how blogger Tim Ireland has contacted Mr Rayment]
I have heard that when a copy of this was leaked to my local newspapers, in indignation, it caused much mirth in the newspaper offices too.

So, my former Lib Dem opponent carries handcuffs around in her handbag. I’m not even going to ask….

Please note that the quotation above is taking verbatim from Ms Dorries’ own blog.  I therefore apologise for the multifarious stylistic errors.  She would not have made a fabulous secretary, but then she doesn’t make a particularly good MP either, does she?

Both Seaneen (here) and I (here) have written recently on the use of humour – which can include certain what seem to be pejorative terms – in the discussion of and even in destigmatising aspects of mental illness.  By and large we both concluded that the intent of a particular term or allusion was what served as the clear demarcation between amusing and offensive.

So, if a friend who was familiar with my circumstances poked fun at my mentalism and described me as a ‘nutter’, I would probably treat it as gentle teasing.  No big deal.

However, two things strike me on Dorries’ use of the term.  One: Tim Ireland, with whom she has had a long-running public spat, is not to the best of my knowledge diagnosed with any mental health difficulties (not that, if he were, there is any reason for shame, and not that her imbecility would be excused).  She doesn’t like Mr Ireland, and he represents a very public inconvenience for her; ergo, her terminology is evidently used in a critical fashion.

It reasonably follows, therefore, that if she uses such a term antagonistically, she feels that being a ‘nutter’ is a Bad Thing, which in turn follows that she thinks people with mental health problems are flawed people – probably lazy benefit frauds, in her estimation, as her asinine anti-Twitter rant would appear to attest.  (If you can concentrate on a number of tiny messages several times a day, then there’s damn all wrong with your concentration, ability to type, yadda yadda).

Secondly, it almost doesn’t matter in what fashion Ms Dorries uses derogatory terms because she is (to the regret of many) a public figure.  Even if it had been innocent and little more than a gentle dig, using a possibly offensive word whilst basking in a public limelight could potentially have the effect of normalising such thinking – “bad person = nutter // nutters = bad people”.

We’ve all heard of the headlines in The Scum screaching “schizo”, “madman” and, indeed, “nutter”, when the individuals to which they allude don’t always even have mental illnesses.  In the cases where they do, reference is rarely made to what is actually wrong with the individual (unless (s)he conveniently enough has schizophrenia, which is of course totally mis-represented by the pathetic little rag) and even more uncommonly is there a discussion of the fact that the vast majority of mentally ill people are not remotely dangerous nor particularly sensationalist.  But that doesn’t sell rags.

Dorries’ nonsense isn’t all that different.  OK, it’s on a small-ish scale – she isn’t that well-known – and she certainly doesn’t have the influence of The Scum, but she is still in a position of responsibility, and is choosing to abuse that.  She has berated the aforereferenced Mr Ireland as not being a constituent to whom she is therefore not accountable.  Fair enough, but she is accountable to everyone in her constituency (regardless of whether or not they voted for her), and a proportion of those people will be certified “nutters”.

For the record, I personally am not particularly offended by Dorries’ asinine rambling, but I think that it is representative of a wider and more concerning issue.

Consider this.  Try replacing the term ‘nutter’ with any one of ‘queer’, ‘nigger’, ‘kyke’, ‘mong’ etc (God, it pains me even to write those, and I’m far from ‘PC’).  It’s not so long ago that some of these words (and many others) were used simply to criticise people, whether they belonged to the subset of the population to which the phraseology applied or not.  I don’t think anybody but the likes of Nick cuntface Griffin would deem most of these slurs acceptable in today’s everyday parlance…so why, then, is it still considered widely acceptable to use deliberately prejudicial language to reference mental illness?

Certain otherwise pejorative terms are considered acceptable in this arena whenever the intent behind the statement is clearly not malicious.  Being an ignorant, self-important arsehole with an attitude problem is not, however, tolerable.  Phil summed up Dorries best to me in a blog comment yesterday: she’s the sponger, living off my taxes.

Thanks to @humphreycushion, one of Dorries’ current objects of ire, for drawing my attention to this matter. The Conservative Party Conference is ongoing in Birmingham this week, and the lurrrrr-vel-ley Nadine will be in situ.  If you’re in the area, do go along and tell her what you think.

EDIT TO ADD: @humphreycushion has published a very interesting list of articles out there in the blogophere discussing Nadine Dorries’ recent comments on this post of her blog.

EDIT TO ADD II:  There is an excellent post refuting Nadine Dorries’ one-sided, ill-informed opinions – specifically regarding mental illnesses – here.

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'Humour', Suicide and Mental Illness

I can’t be arsed getting overly analytical on this, but tonight I’ve been reading the archives of an brilliantly written and mature blog from a girl, Mariah, (a young woman now, about 18 if my maths isn’t fucking with me) who lost her best friend to suicide, and in the wake thereof almost killed herself.  She no longer maintains the blog (happily due to feeling positive enough to no longer need it), but the archives are definitely worth a read over at The Suicide List.

One thing Mariah has done extensively throughout the blog is draw attention to supposedly humourous articles and pictures that mock suicide and issues relating to it.  Not that she finds them funny; she finds them unspeakably ill-informed and offensive.  Some of the stuff is outrageous, but – and I am ashamed to admit this – there were some things she’d listed that I actually found really funny :-/

For example:

Suicide is the absolute and irreversible pwnage of one’s self IRL…It is the equivalent of flipping over the Monopoly board. Contrary to popular belief, this also stops you from posting online.

(I’m not sourcing the link for the above, because some of the material therein is grossly offensive, ignorant bollocks, and indeed is possibly triggering.  But the above paragraph actually made me laugh out loud).

I have a dark and twisted sense of humour – as most of my regular readers probably know – and I don’t make any apology for it particularly.  Mental or otherwise, suicidal or otherwise, I often do find the ‘humour’ surrounding these issues – whether originally borne out of stigma, ignorance or something else entirely – to be amusing.  Yet when I hear people in the pub or on a bus or something ripping the piss out of mentalism, I want to go over to them and smash their faces in.

A gay friend of mine (not Daniel nor Aaron – let’s call him Pete) once told me that he found a lot of piss-taking of gay and lesbian people to be funny, because it was ‘alright’ for him to think that.  When I sought clarification on his meaning, he told me that as I am heterosexual, I didn’t have any right to ‘claim’ such humour, but that he as a homosexual did.  I enquired as to whether or not Pete saw the hypocrisy of this; ‘one rule for me, one for everyone else’.  He waved a hand dismissively and changed the subject.

Am I the very thing that I derided in the previous paragraph?  Or is it genuinely more ‘OK’ for the mentally ill amongst us to poke fun at our conditions and their symptoms, prognoses etc than everyone else, merely because we understand the issues better?  In that regard, was Pete not a hypocrite – did he simply understand gay issues more than the likes of me ever could?

Do the jokes of those not within the specific demographic represented in a punchline make the jokers ignorant or stigmatising?  Or can they too – at least in some cases – understand the issues about which they joke, and wish to laugh with us and not at us, in whatever blithe or morose kind of fashion that that may be?

If we (or I) can find justification for finding certain dark things amusing, where do we draw the line between irreverent, near-the-knuckle humour and defiling, potentially damaging, offensiveness?

This is mostly rhetorical, and I doubt I’ll ever have any answers.  Still, if you have any thoughts, enquiring minds (and this one) would be glad to hear them.