Did you see the documentary about ‘the boys with 3 eyes’? No? Well I made it up so very unlikely you did see it, but documentaries about extreme impairments, with titles very similar to the one I have just made up, have been produced for television since before I can remember. While the traditional freak show has disappeared a long time ago, it still exists in these types of documentaries.
I believe that in many ways and on many platforms that the media industry generally treats the issue of disability as a fetish for its readers to gaze at, and I believe it has got worse as disability has become more fashionable. The welfare reforms opened up the voice and focus on people with minor (relatively) long term conditions, inviting practically everyone and anyone to define themselves as a disabled person, and enjoy self-indulgent media about them, based on pity and otherness, the idea that they are not a part of normal society.
Parents of disabled children of any age, and I mean any age, are invited to discuss and write about the intimate details of their disabled ‘loved ones’ in a manner which is frankly abusive. We had Katie Price casually saying on ITV’s Loose Women that she plans to buy her autistic son, Harvey, a prostitute for his 18th Birthday, as he is never going to get it the normal way!
Social media encourages people who define themselves as too sick to work to show they can work by writing ten thousand word blogs describing how the world hates them, especially assessment assessors, how awful any moment of their life is,, and how life, the universe and everything is some big neo-liberal American Insurance conspiracy. These feeling based fact free blogs, genuine as a moment of feeling on their wider journey of recovery, are collated by anti-inclusion left wing activists and presented to the United Nations has evidence of government wrong-doing, which the pity-driven organisation accepts at face value.
The Huffington Post is a perfect example of how disability is treated as a fetish. Until recently it enabled activists from all sides of the disability field to have a voice, including myself. This year it started a series called ‘Life less ordinary’ which aimed to better control its disability content as the fetish it readers and advertisers crave as a liberal focused news provider. First to go was the acceptance of my articles because who wants to hear the truth from someone who admits the emperor has not been wearing clothes for many years! Instead, the Huff celebrated a mixture of sob stories, triumph over tragedy stories and parental voyeurism of their children. So cutting edge free speech on disability has been replaced with a standardise fetishism on disability as every aspect of our lives is termed into entertainment and profiteering.
The need by the media to treat disability as a fetish is going to get worse in these wild west days of social media freedom before it will get better, and once again shows the daily prejudices I face as a disabled person.
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