Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s Rally to Keep Ableism Alive

30 10 2010

Everyone has been anticipating Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s Rally to Restore Sanity And/Or Fear. Discussions of false equivalences between left and right extremes have been a major talking point, but something that few outside the PWD community have talked about is the disgusting ableism surrounding this event.

Labeling conservatives as “crazy” or “insane” is an old liberal favourite. This was the entire basis of Jon Stewart’s part of the rally–that people who he disagrees with, or people who are passionate are mentally ill and we need to get rid of those silly crazy people.

This is an old tactic that is used in almost every arena to try and discredit someone they disagree with. An idea or person is labeled as crazy and they are almost automatically dismissed. When used this way, it is ableist and harms people with mental disabilities. “Crazy” and “Insane” are words used to describe people with mental disabilities. When someone uses these words in a negative context, to describe a person or idea they disagree with, to put someone down, or to try and make some political point, it is ableist and it harms people with mental disabilities.

Whether or not Stewart and Colbert intended to harm anyone isn’t the point here. Intent doesn’t matter when exercising an -ism, it hurts all the same.

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18 responses

30 10 2010
Lady

Insane and crazy are terms that have multiple meanings. They do not merely refer to mentally disabled people. Society has long since accepted the use of “crazy” and “insane” to refer to a number of different situations a person may find him/herself in. Welcome to the 21st century, words evolve, and intent has absolutely /everything/ to do with how such words should be taken. Everyone knows that Stewart and Colbert are not referring to or even remotely thinking about mentally disabled people while discussing their rally to restore sanity. With that knowledge, there is nothing to find offensive about it. If you’re offended, you have only yourself to blame for purposely misreading the meaning behind their statements.

30 10 2010
ecto

I think you need to do some reading on what ableism actually entails. Or on intent. And way to victim blame.

Actually, I think your entire comment gives her a BINGO.

30 10 2010
Leah

Haha, right. I have laid out in plain English why this is harmful and you’re choosing to stick your fingers in your ears and yell. Go troll someone who cares.

31 10 2010
Lady

Haha, right. You laid out in plain English an issue with an English word that plainly means more than one thing. You’re choosing to stick your fingers in your ears and pretend “insane” means one thing only so that your point has merit.

A little advice, don’t write a blog at all if you can’t handle people joining in on the discussion. What’s the point if you’re going to dismiss anyone who disagrees with you? Maybe you could take the time and effort and really try to absorb the evidence I’ve provided instead of just calling me a troll and being rude to me when I’ve not been disrespectful to you.

31 10 2010
Leah

If you had presented an original argument, or at least one that didn’t completely ignore the history of the words, I would have considered it and not have responded the way I did. But you didn’t. You gave the same line of bullshit that everyone else looking to assert their privilege does.

I welcome arguments and criticism and thoughtful discussion. But, if you’re going to come in here taking a page straight from derailingfordummies.com, I’m not going to listen.

31 10 2010
Lady

Leah, I don’t know who you’ve talked to or dealt with on this subject before, but you’ve clearly pre-judged me. My argument is my own, I’ve never discussed on this topic before until I saw this posted by a facebook friend and looked into it. I’ve never heard of derailingfordummies.com.

I’m not asserting some privilege, I’m stating a fact. Calling it bullshit doesn’t support your argument in any way. How about you address the facts that I’ve stated instead of just calling my side bullshit. I came in here with no ill intentions and no desire to stir shit up.

So, address my actual comments: “insane” has multiple meanings. Do you deny this fact?

30 10 2010
punksexism

to “Lady”:

So because society has “long since accepted” something, that means it’s okay? Society has long since accepted racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and every -ism imaginable. Whether or not society at large accepts something has nothing to do with whether it is harmful or not.

Your defense of words evolving sounds exactly like what people who use the words “gay” or “retarded” as insults day.

31 10 2010
Lady

My defense of the word “insane” does not translate into a defense of using “gay” or “retarded”.

The fact is, the dictionary definition for “insane” ALSO defines it as referring to foolishness, stupidity, absurdity, or extremism. It is a word with multiple meanings. That.is.a.fact. Undeniable and set in stone. Every word’s meaning comes from society’s acceptance of the word to mean that, every word is made up, and its meaning attached to it is only valid because we accept it to be. Words don’t have inherent meanings, we give them meaning You’re simply in denial about the fact that “insane” and “crazy” actually mean multiple things. It’s picking a fight about a non-existent issue, since the use of the word “sanity” for the rally was very clearly not referring to people with mental disabilities, but to the OTHER meaning of the word. People often say they’re “madly in love” or “insanely jealous”. Let’s nitpick and go on a tirade about every single use of the words “insane”, “crazy” and “mad”…or, how about we acknowledge the fact that it /means more than one thing/, since as I’ve established, it clearly does.

Thank you all for being /so/ polite, by the way. I come in here with an opinion and you dismiss me as a troll. Stay classy.

31 10 2010
AJ

People who are clinically insane are often still capable of forming coherent arguments and having meaningful conversations. Not everyone who’s “insane” is having a psychotic episode all the time. The Stewart/Colbert rally is merely rallying against LOGIC that is insane. It is people who are classified as “insane” based on their thoughts and behavior and obviously Stewart and Colbert can not be blamed for that. And if intent doesn’t matter, then why shouldn’t everyone just be offended by everything all the time?

31 10 2010
cripchick

right on!!! how much it hurts when our communities and movements rely on language that is based off histories and experiences that have oppressed us (e.g. psych institutions, eugenics, freak shows, etc etc etc)

31 10 2010
Thank you, Jon Stewart and Company | The Sin City Siren

[…] you for the Rally to Restore Sanity (PS: I think the folks that are talking about ableism, in regards to the rally’s name, are taking their point a bit far). Because I’m a new […]

31 10 2010
Anna

I love it when people would argue vehemently about sexism but argue that pointing out ableism is just going too far. Woe, how dare people who experience oppression based on their ability-status point out how “good” people perpetuate that oppression thoughtlessly! That’s just too much!

😦

31 10 2010
Lady

It’s not about people thinking ableism goes too far, it’s about calling something ableism when it isn’t.

31 10 2010
Lady

*pointing out ableism. Not “thinking ableism”.

31 10 2010
Anna

Why do you think that people who experience oppression based on ableist ideas and stereotypes about mental health conditions are wrong in calling it what it is when they experience it?

This is the sort of thing that is considered okay by people who would otherwise stand up and fight *ist-based stereotypes. It’s okay to taunt people who point out ableism in left-wing discourse by telling them to take a chill pill, or maybe some lithium – especially funny when they’re talking about people who are actually on lithium because they have a mental health condition.

This rally’s name doesn’t happen in vacuum. It happens in a culture where people with disabilities, and especially women with mental health conditions, are 2 to 5 times more likely to be victims of violence because they’re “insane” and thus an acceptable target.

Telling people who are told to shut up because they’re crazy that they’re being too sensitive to the nuance of language is saying “Oh, hey, your lived experience? Not important to me.”

31 10 2010
Lady

Anna, I’m not telling people to shut up because ableism isn’t a bad thing. I’m saying the argument for it being ableism requires the words in question to mean only one thing and nothing else. Since that is not true, the argument fails.

31 10 2010
Lady

And for everyone who’s judging me based on my pointing out the /fact/ (I use that word because it actually means something…although, its meaning only exists because we allow it to) that words can be given more than one meaning, you don’t know anything about me.

I’m 23, I have a transgender cousin who I love more than anything in the world, I’ve fought against homophobia in my home county after performing in a school play that had a gay theme, causing my friend and I to get personal invites to the PFLAG gala in DC that year to thank us for standing up for gay teens. I’m not some bigoted, hateful or ignorant person. I’m a liberal atheist and humanist. I believe in people above all else. All I’m saying is that in this case you seem to be looking for a fire when there wasn’t any smoke.

3 12 2010
liberalcrone

As someone who has struggled with mental illness for nearly 60 years, I commend you. I am getting increasingly annoyed at the “crazy” type terms to describe any and every thing one finds fault with. I catch myself doing it all the time, sadly. If I hear the phrase ” off his meds” one more time I may scream as well.

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