So, I hear you ask, what’s the big deal about Nadine Dorries’ ‘window-licking trolls’ tweet? Let me explain:
Nadine Dorries wanted to shame the Twitter trolls by insulting them. When we want to shame others by insulting them we use language which suggest something inherently unpleasant or despicable, for instance, we might say ‘You piece of shit!’ Excrement is an unpleasant substance – nobody wants to be compared to that.
But Ms. Dorries chose instead to use a derogatory term for learning disability to shame the ‘trolls’, thereby implying that there is something so inherently unpleasant and despicable about people with learning disabilities that the malevolent individuals we call trolls should feel ashamed at the comparison.
Once again it seems learning disability is the last bastion of safety from which nasty, cowardly and small-minded individuals can fling insults at others without getting themselves into hot water.
But the use of such language is equally as wrong as the use of racist, sexist, or homophobic language, especially when you consider that people with learning disabilities are vulnerable, and may be less able to speak out and have their voices heard.
To invoke learning disability as an insult towards those we despise is dehumanising and demeaning to people who have learning disabilities.
Disability is not (only) a medical issue. Disability, like race, is a civil rights issue. It is a human rights issue. When MPs, and others, use learning disability as a term of insult to shame others, use derogatory language, or to make a cheap joke, they chip away at the humanity of all those people with a learning disability, subtly eroding it in the public perception. This leads not only to poor attitudes, but to poor public policy-making and planning, generated by a lack of understanding. It contributes, drop by drop, to the mindset of the politicians who fail to see disabled people and their families as potential voters, and so ignore our needs; who see disabled people as non-productive, and a drain on the public purse – ‘Eaters’ as the Nazis called them, when advancing their extermination policies.
Nadine Dorries has many constituents who have learning disabilities, and many of them are eligible (and perfectly able) to vote. So are their families. She’s not representing them very well, is she?