The Witchfinder examines the use of discriminatory and / or stigmatising language and tropes in online statements by Anita Sarkeesian and by Gawker (for example Sam F Biddle) in light of the well known #TimeToChange campaign against mental health discrimination and stigmatising language. Your Inquisitor continues to call for an advertiser boycott of Gawker.com .
Your author is a law student with a specialist interest in mental capacity and mental health law, who has represented people in Court pro-bono. As a result of his work your author was asked to give evidence to the House of Lords Committee on the Mental Capacity Act 2005 under his real name, Sam Smith. See pages 1608 – 1614.
The Witchfinder focuses on the remedy of last resort – namely lawsuits. However, much of the work of ending mental health and disability discrimination begins before then – in ending oppressive tropes and language. Time to Change have published a guide to inappropriate and stigmatising media content. Unfortunately, the Witchfinder has found that use of discriminatory terms is far more prevalent in certain parts of the left, notably the self-appointed guardians of ‘social justice’ than it is on the right. This article discusses Sam F Biddle of Gawker and Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency.
The 2007 academic paper, ‘250 labels used to stigmatise people with mental illness’ was written by academics from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London and Mental Health Charity Rethink. It contains a convenient table of discriminatory words used to oppress disabled people. Of course everyone uses such words and it is simplistic and inappropriate to adopt crass Duke University style speech codes.
However, irresponsible journalism can hurt by stigmatising the mental ill as likely to be violent, when research shows the opposite is true. Alastair Campbell, formerly Press Officer to Tony Blair ,wrote powerfully in the Guardian about the problems caused by ‘psycho patient’ costumes. Famous Footballer Stan Collymore publicly condemned the costumes, warning of suicides –
These days, most journalists are careful to avoid such images, knowing that their careers may be damaged by using such images and they may cause suicides.
Of course Gawker.com have been singularly charmless recently, what with their decision to sabotage Coca Cola’s #MakeItHappy Campaign with a Mein Kampf spewing spambot. Details are given below of a campaign to oppose their conduct, and dissuade advertisers from working with them.
Gawker are not the only offender. Other left-wingers simultaneously appoint themselves as arbitors of acceptable speech whilst themselves using disfavoured language.
Recently, your Inquisitor did a search on feminist Anita Sarkeesian‘s Twitter feed. Sarkeesian is prone to demanding control on a wide variety of protected speech but how did hers measure up to Table 1 of the ‘labels used to stigmatise’ paper? Taking the top ten labels, the Witchfinder searched Sarkeesian’s twitter feed using the term, ‘from:femfreq [word]’.
‘from:femfreq Disturbed‘ (no uses)
‘from:femfreq Nuts‘ (2 uses)
‘from:femfreq Confused‘ (6 uses)
Here is a more subtle problem. In some of these cases Ms Sarkeesian has used the word, ‘confused’ in an acceptable way, but in others she has conflated disagreement about her interpretation with a lack of understanding of her arguments.
‘from:femfreq Psycho‘ (2 uses)
‘from:femfreq Spastic’ (no uses)
‘from:femfreq Crazy’ (14 uses)
‘from:femfreq Depression’ (2 uses)
Only in the context of ‘Depression Quest’. That is a bad game, and unintentionally unhelpful, but not deliberately stigmatising.
‘from:femfreq Disabled’ (1 use)
Again 1 use, but not unacceptable.
‘from:femfreq Mad’ (15 uses)
This is one of the most unacceptable of all as she uses a mental health slur against a person with disfavoured political views –
‘from:femfreq Mad’ (0 uses)
Sarkeesian, in short, needs to ‘Check her Privilege’. If you believe in that, which the Witchfinder frankly does not.
Nevertheless the Witchfinder considers Gawker to be a publication which could do with some legislative scrutiny whereas Sarkeesian needs to be condemned for not practising what she preaches.
The Witchfinder asks readers to consider sending the following tweets –
.@grantshapps Please condemn @nicknotned of Gawker for discriminatory portrayal of mental illness pic.twitter.com/8GpNxiXVJy #TimeToChange
.@grantshapps Please condemn @femfreq for using stigmatising language whilst condemning others pic.twitter.com/pPUeaQsDjG #TimeToChange
Readers are also asked to look at this article and consider the following, too –
.@grantshapps Please condemn @nicknotned of Gawker for making a joke of Nazi text ‘Mein Kampf’ pic.twitter.com/Vw26a9mQfT #GamerGate