Chris Packham has been in the news recently, not least for the fact that he has Asperger’s Syndrome and suffered from depression which led to two suicide attempts. As someone who has also suffered from depression, I can understand to an extent what he has been through.
Chris is also a leading light in the campaign to ban driven grouse shooting, along with Mark Avery and others. I support this campaign, and if you haven’t signed the petition, please consider doing so.
Mark wrote yesterday on his excellent blog about the fact that some one from a hunting business called Hunting Solutions had called Chris Packham a “self-confessed nutjob” on twitter.
In my experience being abused on twitter by people in the hunting industry is an occupational hazard of engaging with them. The use of the phrase “self confessed nutjob” on the other hand could be considered to be going beyond normal abuse. But this kind of language could be construed as being normal “banter” among the hunting fraternity.
What came next is more interesting;
The Right Honorable Nick Soames, grandson of Winston Churchill, retweeted Hunting Solutions tweeet calling Mark a “truth avoider” ie a liar, and Packham “a self-confessed nutjob”.
I find this interesting, especially in light of the way that the right wing website Guido Fawkes revealed Naz Shah to have “liked” on facebook a post that was widely considered as anti-semitic; and led to the now infamous “Hitler was a Zionist” spat between Ken Livingstone and John Mann. Readers may recall that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn launched an inquiry into anti-semitism in the Labour party, in light of these incidents.
Earlier this year, David Cameron publicly stated “we need to end the stigma of mental health”. Cameron also has form though – calling David Miliband “nuts” and then quipping “I don’t want to get into an argument with the Mental Health lobby”, as if that was the only problem with his use of language. Eric Pickles also talked about a child abuse survivor needing to “adjust her medication” and the aforementioned Ken Livingstone made a similar remark about a shadow minister needing “psychiatric help”, which was particularly crass as the minister had suffered from depression.
As we know, there is no right not to be offended in general, but clearly being offensive in a way that focusses on someone’s gender, race, religion, sexuality or indeed mental health or place on the autistic spectrum, is not only immoral and repugnant, but arguably illegal.
To use someone’s own mental health problems to undermine their well-reasoned arguments is disgraceful and should not be tolerated.
The Conservative party were lightning quick to jump on the bandwagon that Guido Fawkes started rolling, when it came to Labour’s problems with anti-semitism. When will they start to look at their own problems with other forms of prejudice and bigotry?
I put this to Nick Soames on twitter this morning – his response? He blocked me.