Is it ok to call someone a nutjob because you disagree with their politics?

Chris_Packham

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.

hunting solutions

 

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;

soames nutjob retweet

 

 

 

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.

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About Miles King

UK conservation professional, writing about nature, politics, life. All views are my own and I don't write on behalf of anybody else.
This entry was posted in Chris Packham, hunting, mental health and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Is it ok to call someone a nutjob because you disagree with their politics?

  1. Mark Gibbens says:

    I think the speed of Twitter is the problem. I wonder if Chris Packham himself was offended? The debate about hunting, shooting, conservation is becoming so blurred and personal I think that in the heat of the moment people make serious errors of judgement and say things that really shouldn’t be said let alone written down.

    • Miles King says:

      charitable of you Mark. Given the opportunity to apologise for their offensive tone, @huntingsolutions did not do so, while Nick Soames seems to think the appropriate thing to do is to block people who are questioning him about it – the social media equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and tunelessly singing “la la la”.

  2. Keith Cowieson says:

    Interesting thoughts. And where does one draw the line? For example, and in the same vein, is it OK to call someone ‘bonkers’ or ‘potty’ or ‘swivel-eyed’ and so on?

  3. Miles. Don’t be overly sensitive. Offence is not a defence. We are all at it – especially in the overheated “This is what comes of putting a swivel-eyed market fundamentalist, in hock to lobby groups..” Twitter https://twitter.com/GeorgeMonbiot/status/685082386791534592

    Time to get over ourselves to get on with saving nature – http://www.thefield.co.uk/country-house/conservation-conflict-ending-conflict-32001 – even though it might dampen your ‘nib of discontent’ blogs that might miss ‘moot points’ that help us think outside polarised partisan positions!

    Yours from the unfashionable no-man’s land of seeking common ground.
    Best, Rob
    http://www.robyorke.co.uk

    • Miles King says:

      Thanks Rob – I thought you were quoting me there, but I see it was George.

      No – I think you know the difference. Liz Truss had not written about her struggle with depression or being bullied because of her having Asperger’s – to which @huntingsolutions had specifically referred and exploited.

      I also wrote there is no right not to be offended, and I believe in that too.

      I agree that taking hardline partisan positions engenders the use of inappropriate language in the heat of debate. But would slavery have been abolished, or women getting the vote, if the advocates for these causes had always sought to find the common ground with their opponents?

  4. I think anonymous Twitter and all social media to some extent is still in the ‘Wild West’ and people say things they would probably not say face to face. This does not excuse bad mouthing but that’s life. Both Mark is certainly fighting a hard battle with the grouse shooting lobby and to some extent Chris is to and I expect that if you go into that fight you will have some verbal mud frown at you.

  5. Nimby says:

    Right Honorable – really? Acceptable in any shape or form for MP to use such terminology? Soames should, quite simply apologise for such repeating crass offensive terminology?

    Didn’t the Prime Minister come out claiming to want to address mental health and wellbeing as a priority, or was it just rhetoric? Perhaps Dave should have a word with his MPs?

  6. As someone with Asperger’s Syndrome and who has experience of depression I am in no doubt that the both the original tweet and Soames’ retweet were bang out of order, and in the continuing absence of an apology there is no doubt to give these people the benefit of. The use of the word “nutjob” in the context Mr Packham having recently gone public about his Asperger’s and depression is reminiscent of the the prolonged series of smears that functioned (thankfully and deservedly very badly) as Zac Goldsmith’s London Mayoral campaign.

    • Miles King says:

      thanks Thomas – a good analogy. The hunting community, feeling threatened, are resorting to a smear campaign against high profile people like Chris Packham.

    • cicelywaspen says:

      Absolutely agree; if that’s the best retort the hunting fraternity can muster, they must be struggling. Conversely, Chris Packham is in full command of his intelligence, reason, and articulation, despite personal challenges. Admirable.

  7. Pingback: Chris Packham and the Foxhunters | aspiblog

  8. Stuart Brown says:

    A certain irony in the fact that the Rt Hon Nicholas Soames’s grandfather—one whose cachet he is not shy to depend—was in these terms a “self-confessed nutjob.” Presumably Soames does not consider that to have disqualified Gramps from taking reasoned, principled stances and being taken seriously on them.

  9. Nimby says:

    I seem to recall The Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Soames having to apologise over some equally crass comment about Princess Diana, below is verbatim from the Wikipedia entry for him (full available via https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicholas_Soames):

    Courtesy of Wikipedia: When Diana first accused the Prince of Wales of adultery with Camilla Parker Bowles, Soames told the BBC that the accusation, and Diana’s fear of being slandered by her husband’s courtiers, stemmed merely from Diana’s mental illness, and “the advanced stages of paranoia”.[4] Charles later admitted his adultery and Soames apologised. When questioned by the inquest into the death of Diana, Soames said that he saw his job as “to speak up for the Prince of Wales”. He denied threatening Diana, and warning her, “accidents happen” in the months before she died.[5]

    If this element of the entry is erroneous then surely he’d have set about having it retracted?

    If he is ‘honourable’ then why the deafening silence, quite simply – where is his apology? Or is Westminster honour no longer of any quality standard?

    Why hasn’t the Prime Minister called him in ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week? MPs have been pressured into resignations for less, Mr Soames Sir, an apology at the very least.

  10. laura morgan says:

    Gosh, I’d missed the article on the BBC website about Chris’s depression and his having Asperger’s. I was listening to him read from his autobiography on R4 last week – it was truly stunning writing (though sadly it did talk of bullying at school). What an amazing person…

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