I seem to be one of the few liberal-ish people who thinks that the Arizona shooting had more to do with mental illness than politics, and I think it is kind of ironic that a great majority of the Left is talking about “dangerous” rhetoric while simultaneously throwing pejoratives about mental illness and the mentally ill around like “crazy.” Everything from “nutter” to “nutjob” to “lunatic,” “crazies,” “wacko” and every other euphemism for the mentally ill that you can think of—except a plain “mentally ill.” If the Left is really so worried about a culture of bad rhetoric, then I say they should go all the way or go home. In other words, stop calling mentally ill people disrespectful names (of course, the Right is rampant with this too). This kind of vilification of the mentally ill does exactly what the Left is talking about the rhetoric of gunning people down does—it objectifies people and dismisses their humanity. But, I guess that it is okay to diss the crazies, because we aren’t really people afterall are we? We are just wild animals that need to be chained and shot for the good of everyone. Well, that is what a lot of people seem to believe, especially when something tragic happens like the shooting in Arizona. What happened in Arizona was wrong and awful, but despite peoples’ desires to paint the tragedy into black and white terms where there is good on one side and evil on another, in reality the good and evil don’t exist. They are words we’ve made up to downplay and deny the complexities of situations that we have a difficult time understanding. We can do better.
One thought on “Go All the Way or Go Home: Name-calling in the Media”
Kristin, thank you for writing this, it made my Saturday morning. We CAN do better; the constructions and then stigmas attached help to maintain an ugly large divide in our society that clearly is not working. These words are created out of fear, and it is true that most people don’t realise when they are making decisions rooted firmly in their own fear. But it can clearly be seen in reactionary people calling names and pointing fingers. We all need to take responsibility, because at the end of the day, it truly is up to each and every one of us as individuals how we are going to choose to treat others (and we DO have a choice). Thinking and asking questions is a good place to start.