With advocates like this, who needs hate radio?

It will surprise few people who pay attention to American politics that Sarah Palin is a world-class hypocrite. But her recent foray into the politics of language and disability have proved that her hypocrisy is dyed in the wool, an amazing contradiction of terms: openly disingenuous, profoundly committed to shallowness. She’s taken one of the easiest to understand (if not to implement) tactics of social justice activism — avoid using slurs — and turned it into an operatic denial of her last ounce of intellectual integrity.

Here’s the background: according to the WSJ, last August, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel called a group of liberal activists “fucking retarded” to their faces. He has since apologized to the head of the Special Olympics and disability activists (who, not incidentally, have rarely been even named in the articles about the apology — but that’s another post altogether). Sarah Palin comes into this because she publicly called out Emanuel on Facebook:

Just as we’d be appalled if any public figure of Rahm’s stature ever used the “N-word” or other such inappropriate language, Rahm’s slur on all God’s children with cognitive and developmental disabilities – and the people who love them – is unacceptable, and it’s heartbreaking.

A patriot in North Andover, Massachusetts, notified me of Rahm’s “retarded” slam. I join this gentleman, who is the father of a beautiful child born with Down Syndrome, in asking why the Special Olympics, National Down Syndrome Society and other groups condemning Rahm’s degrading scolding have been completely ignored by the White House. No comment from his boss, the president?

As my friend in North Andover says, “This isn’t about politics; it’s about decency. I am not speaking as a political figure but as a parent and as an everyday American wanting my child to grow up in a country free from mindless prejudice and discrimination, free from gratuitous insults of people who are ostensibly smart enough to know better… Have you no sense of decency, sir?”

Mr. President, you can do better, and our country deserves better.

Notice, however, that Palin is not actually mad at Emanuel; she’s mad at President Obama. Why? Because he has said nothing about an incident that occurred without him, half a year ago, for which a public apology has been issued. Don’t get me wrong — it would be amazing if the Obama White House takes this opportunity to make a serious, public effort to commit further to the needs of PWD. But Palin’s immediate redirect from Emanuel to Obama smacks of… well, something other than a desire to “stop the r-word,” as a recent campaign enjoins us.

Sady at Tiger Beatdown brilliantly analyzed Palin’s political performance a few days ago, in a post I cannot recommend enough. Here’s Sady’s conclusion, which comes after examining her own reasons for eliminating certain slurs from her diction [ed. note: I snipped some of this quote after posting because I didn’t realize how long it was till I hit “publish”]:

Because here is the thing: it is the ability to communicate concepts and define the reality of a situation from which the power of words is derived. When they become pure noise – divorced from reality, divorced from concepts, used at odds to the concepts and realities they should be defining – that’s when this all gets hairy. I can’t say “that’s so gay” because it makes me sick, because I know what it means. I started working to eliminate “retarded” from my vocabulary a while back, because I thought about it and now I know what it means. But it’s when someone like Sarah Palin can score points by saying that the word “retarded” is wrong, although her career is based on a politics that is measurably bad for a lot of disabled people (and, you know, everyone else) that I start to get worried.

[...]

There is no purpose, behind her Facebook post and her call-out of Emanuel, beyond continuing a program of obstructing a Democratic agenda and the current President. It’s precisely as duplicitous as the cries of “sexism” in the right during the primaries. Is there sexism in the Democratic Party, and in the treatment of Sarah Palin? Fuck yes, there is. Was Rahm’s use of the term ableist? Is there ableism in the left?  Was the response to the ableism handled poorly? Fuck yes, to every single one of those questions. But pointing that out when you know that your own party and/or political agenda isn’t going to prioritize social welfare programs which would help the disabled, when they’re trying to make universal access to healthcare impossible, when you don’t have a compassionate stance on the issues of unemployment and poverty to which disability is inexorably linked, when you are opposing abortion rights and charging victims for their rape kits, is just about the most disgusting corruption of these legitimate issues – these issues about which I care immensely – that I can imagine. Palin’s response isn’t about ableism, or about Rahm Emanuel; if it were, she would be talking about Rahm Emanuel and ableism, rather than sneakily using both subjects to get in a jab at Obama. Palin’s response is about Barack Obama and Sarah Palin.

But – again – if she knows how to use the language, she wins. Because she is able to sound, for a moment, like the people who are genuinely engaged in talking about disability, and the structure that punishes and hurts people with disabilities. Which is where language debate gets scary. Because if we put forward, for one second, a language debate that isn’t irrevocably tied to structure – if we focus on language apart from the actual change that needs to happen – everything we care about gets stolen and re-purposed in the service of something else. Words have power. For example, they can be used to tell a pretty enormous lie.

Bra-fucking-va, Sady. Sarah Palin has a personal stake in fighting ableist language. So do I. If Emanuel hadn’t apologized for calling people “fucking retarded,” you can bet I would be writing an angry post about it. But Sady is right: oppressive language is irrevocably tied to oppressive social structures. That’s why the language is oppressive in the first place. It’s awful to say something is “retarded” because the punch of the word is based on the equation of “disability” and “bad.” If people with disabilities weren’t systematically devalued in our culture, told that they’re less than human, that their bodies are grotesque and their minds pathetic, that they are a burden to able-bodied people and that having access to basic rights is an outrageous affront to hard-working small-business owners — to pick just a few of the abelist messages that are commonplace — then no one would say “retarded” anyway. Because it wouldn’t have any impact as an insult. Which is why Sarah Palin’s call for President Obama to fire Emanuel rather than, say, hold a summit with disability advocates, is clearly about political one-up-man-ship: it lets Palin look like she cares about PWD, in a broad sense (just like voting for Palin allowed certain right-winger to look like they cared about women in politics), without doing a goddamn thing with her political power and her cultural capital to make our culture less oppressive of them.

So clearly, Palin was already showing her ass and joining the race for Miss Hypocrite USA 2010. But it took a little help from professional evil man Rush Limbaugh to expose how miraculously mercenary she is. Rush Limbaugh, as I’m sure you all know, makes a living by being hateful. So when he got the chance, he upped the “retard” ante:

Our political correct society is acting like some giant insult’s taken place by calling a bunch of people who are retards, retards. I mean these people, these liberal activists are kooks. They are looney tunes. And I’m not going to apologize for it, I’m just quoting Emanuel. It’s in the news. I think their big news is he’s out there calling Obama’s number one supporters f’ing retards. So now there’s going to be a meeting. There’s going to be a retard summit at the White House. Much like the beer summit between Obama and Gates and that cop in Cambridge.

So. No surprises here, just the usual hate. Limbaugh defends Emanuel because he’s bashing liberals via ableist language, and he goes the extra mile, calling an upcoming meeting with PWD a “retard summit.” If Rahm Emanuel should be personally fired by the President, Limbaugh should at least retract what he said, right? Or apologize to Palin herself, since she’s been a guest on his show? Surely if something is hurtful when it was reported in the WSJ six months after Rahm Emanuel said it, something more vicious is hurtful when Rush Limbaugh broadcasts it instantly to millions of listeners, right?

Sarah Palin, this morning on Fox News Sunday:

“They are kooks, so I agree with Rush Limbaugh,” she said, when read a quote of Limbaugh calling liberal groups “retards.” “Rush Limbaugh was using satire … . I didn’t hear Rush Limbaugh calling a group of people whom he did not agree with ‘f-ing retards,’ and we did know that Rahm Emanuel, as has been reported, did say that. There is a big difference there.”

I’ll give you a moment.

Sarah Palin, who posted this on her Facebook page: Just as we’d be appalled if any public figure of Rahm’s stature ever used the “N-word” or other such inappropriate language, Rahm’s slur on all God’s children with cognitive and developmental disabilities – and the people who love them – is unacceptable, and it’s heartbreaking, thinks it’s fine when Rush Limbaugh did it because he was talking about “kooks” and did not say “fuck.” Sarah Palin, who claims to want her son Trig to grow up free from gratuitous insults of people who are ostensibly smart enough to know better, thinks it’s somehow not unacceptable or heartbreaking to call someone a “retard” if you don’t actually do it to their face.

Sarah Palin is the worst kind of “ally,” the kind who uses her own status as Super Special Ally to Oppressed Peoples to make herself look good and her enemies look bad without even pretending to care about the actual effect on the people who are actually oppressed. Sarah Palin, like the proverbial white person who has some friends who are black, is the able-bodied person who has some son with a cognitive disability. She’s not advocating for PWD; she’s not advocating for anyone but her own damn self and her right to be on TV every goddamn second.

Sarah Palin, basically, has become Michael Scott, except even more self-congratulatory and less kind.

And less fictional, god help us all.

112 thoughts on “With advocates like this, who needs hate radio?

  1. It’s always weird to me to see Palin presented as an ally; as a disabled person I strongly resent the very implication that she’s some kind of ally or advocate for people with disabilities because Sarah Palin most definitely does not speak for me.

    She actively fights against disability rights including pretty basic and noncontroversial ones. She’s repeatedly lobbied to cut funding to disability services, including services which promote independence for people with disabilities (and incidentally cost less to administer than condemning us to residential treatment facilities). She wants to be congratulated for not aborting her child after receiving a fetal diagnosis of Down Syndrome, while at the same time she makes it extremely difficult for other parents to make that same choice by ensuring that they cannot access disability services or assistance.

    Thank you so much for highlighting such a cut and dried case of her hypocrisy here; two people used the same slur and only one merits an angry Facebook update from Sarah Palin?

  2. You know… I hadn’t thought it was possible for me to think less of Ms. Palin.

    I was wrong.

    But Limbaugh. Wow. That fact that he still attracts enough followers to make money scares the shit out of me and totally depresses me about the state of humanity.

  3. You know… I hadn’t thought it was possible for me to think less of Ms. Palin.

    I was wrong.

    But Limbaugh. Wow. That fact that he still attracts enough followers to make money scares the shit out of me and totally depresses me about the state of humanity.

    This, exactly. *shudders*

  4. So my mom and I spent most of the day yesterday at a seminar on “preparing for adulthood” for my brother who is 20 with developmental disabilities. There were people there talking about trusts, guardianships, and SSI benefits.

    I’m always aware of the difficulty my brother faces navigating the world, but being in a room full of people in the same situation trying to understand this REALLY COMPLICATED stuff was difficult for me. Now I read this and it makes me so fucking mad. For exactly the reasons you say SM. If Sarah Palin cares so much about people with disabilities as a group then why not work to make it so that people with disabilities hae more access to life affirming jobs, or safe comfortable and affordable housing, or medical care? How about if people with disabilities are allowed to save more than $2,000 of their SSI benefits so that if something horrible happens they will be able to care for themselves and not worry about being evicted from their homes?

    I’m not being super coherent, so I guess just yes, what you said SM. Calling someone retarded is hurtful and cruel, but using the language of advocacy to advance a cause that is anti-advocacy is evil.

  5. How about if people with disabilities are allowed to save more than $2,000 of their SSI benefits so that if something horrible happens they will be able to care for themselves and not worry about being evicted from their homes?

    We are also dealing with this in my family, since my mom had a life insurance policy that pays out to her kids, but if my one brother actually receives that money (which is more than $2K), he’ll lose his SSI money. It’s bizarre. Good luck to you and your brother.

  6. Thanks SM.

    If you haven’t already looked into it, the Arc in your state may have a “Special Needs Trust” that you can contribute to and it is not considered an asset for SSI. The biggest problem is that it can’t pay for housing or food.

    http://www.thearc.org

  7. Thanks, lexy — we do have a trust set up but apparently the insurance policy was set up long before that, so making the trust the recipient is confusing. Luckily, my stepdad is taking care of it for the moment, so I don’t have to deal with the paperwork. For now!

  8. “i’ll give you a moment.”
    awesome.
    i actually needed a moment!
    i love this post. thanks for rocking the political.

  9. Augh, the “Kooks” comment made my skin crawl. It’s WRONG WRONG WRONG to insult people by insinuating they have mental disabilities, but totally okay if you do it for mental illness?

  10. Palin is not an ally, she is an opportunist.

    She using her son for political purposes only. She also used him recently when she and her daughter where on the cover of a magazine proclaiming “We chose life.” She should really bow and apologize to Rush as all other Republicans who dare say something that can even be implied as critical of Rush and his beliefs.

  11. Yeah, the “redirect” you mention reminds me of Michelle Malkin’s reaction during the Balloon Boy hoax (while it was ongoing and being given the attention a child in danger merited) when she highlighted it in her blog as a “concerned mother”: her lede was about how mad Obama would be that it pre-empted his speech, or something like that.

  12. @ Sweet Machine, & everybody, esp. lexy – THIS. If actions speak louder than words (sometimes I doubt this, especially in politics, but anyway), Sarah Palin cannot be considered a real advocate for PWDs, for all of the reasons that have been described here, especially her non-support of actual programs and assistance for PWDs. Another program, not mentioned here, that Sarah Palin supported while governor of Alaska and continues to promote is the competitive charter school system, which some people do not realize, is not very good news for students with disabilities.

    In my new student-teaching location (4th grade! totally new for me!) I am in a mainstream classroom with one little boy, Adam, who requires the help of a paraprofessional because of a neurological condition. I LOVE her, she is so knowledgable, and has given me a real run-down on what more charter schools mean for children like Adam. Charter schools are not required to accept children who require special education services or who need other forms of accommodation. They also tend not to hire special education teachers or paraprofessionals, making the inclusion of children who need their help in the charter schools VERY unlikely. The charter schools in New York and other urban areas where space is at a premium do not typically build new real estate but take up space and resources in existing school buildings. The public schools who must by law serve children who need 6-to-1, 12-to-1, or other small class ratios have no space for them, are required to overcrowd their mixed classes and mainstream classes, and are forced to spread their special education funding VERY thinly, which is NOT beneficial to any children in public schools.

    This is another reason why Sarah Palin’s Facebook argument with Rahm Emanuel rings hollow to me.

  13. She actively fights against disability rights including pretty basic and noncontroversial ones. She’s repeatedly lobbied to cut funding to disability services, including services which promote independence for people with disabilities (and incidentally cost less to administer than condemning us to residential treatment facilities).

    THIS. In the last 12 months many of my grant writing work has focused on places – Alaska being one of them – where conservative leadership has decided folks don’t need to “sponge” off the efforts of hardworking people and have obliterated funding or worse, combining agencies together, resulting in a mishmash of ineffective service delivery, way too much administrative bumbling and very little input or guidance from service users.

    Excellent post, Sweet Machine

  14. Frankly, I’m a little shocked that Palin didn’t call Obama retarded. I was really expecting it as I read her little post. I really thought she’d end it with “If President Obama doesn’t fire this man, then I feel he’s the retarded one.”

    She’s…god, why is she even still relevant? I feel like so far there hasn’t been a single issue that she hasn’t missed the point on. I feel bad for her son who deserves a parent who doesn’t use him as something similar to a bargaining chip.

    “Sarah Palin, like the proverbial white person who has some friends who are black, is the able-bodied person who has some son with a cognitive disability.”

    This is great, btw. It’s so easy to take her words and move on because she would know right? If you are ablebodied and don’t know anyone who isn’t, you might just skim over it, but it’s important to consider what she’s really saying. Not to just allow it like you might allow someone to use the word “retarded,” because you don’t bother to think about what it means.

    Great post.

  15. It disturbs me that so many people support Palin and constantly excuse her hypocrisy. What is wrong with Americans? Are we really that stupid? I fear we are!

  16. If you are ablebodied and don’t know anyone who isn’t

    I just want to add that it is highly unlikely that any given person *doesn’t* know someone with a disability; it just might not be something you know about.

  17. She’s…turned it into an operatic denial of her last ounce of intellectual integrity.

    Wow, seriously. What you said here, SM, is not even slightly hyperbolic — after reading her response to Emanuel and then Limbaugh, it’s obvious that she has done exactly that. Which is mind-boggling.

  18. You know, I hated her from the start, but for a while there I thought, God help me, that she was at least acting in good faith. She might have abhorrent beliefs, but she really believed them. As she continues to reveal herself as an opportunist willing to throw just about anyone, including her baby son, under a bus for political support, I get more worried. This woman is a skilled, ruthless manipulator, and it doesn’t seem like she’s going away anytime soon, which I kept thinking she would. I could only stand to watch a two-minute clip of her teabagger speech because the massive cheers she was getting were freaking me out.

    When I read what she said about Rush, I wanted to get down on the floor and chew the furniture or something.

  19. …for a while there I thought, God help me, that she was at least acting in good faith. She might have abhorrent beliefs, but she really believed them. As she continues to reveal herself as an opportunist willing to throw just about anyone, including her baby son, under a bus for political support, I get more worried.

    This is pretty much exactly what I was too stunned to be able to put into words.

  20. Look, all you need to know about Palin, Limbaugh, Malkin, et al, is that they don’t even think heterosexual married couples (y’know, the people they allegedly lionize over all others) have any business having sex if they don’t have a million dollars in the bank to pay for all the care necessary for a child with disabilities. Anything that involves any kind of public funding and doesn’t directly benefit themselves shouldn’t exist, and neither should anyone who claims to need it, that’s how they roll. Shitheads.

    The idea of someone like Palin setting national policy gives me the willies. It’s okay with her if people with intellectual disabilities have to live in the streets, as long as you don’t use the R-word to describe them.

  21. Canada is looking better by the minute.

    And for Sarah Palin to call herself a friend to the disabled is so fucking preposterous I’d laugh if I weren’t so fucking scared.

  22. Thank you for this post. I thought the same thing when I read this story the other day and something about it made my stomach turn. I felt bad for thinking she was just using the whole episode as a political strategy. That was before I heard about the Rush comments.

    I have more to say, but the very thought of Palin now enrages me so I can’t compose a coherent comment.

    Thank you again.

  23. Ahh, yes. Special Needs CHILDRENZ! means never having to say you’re ableist. Palin figured it out, probably on taking a cue from Autism Squeaks, etc. The irony is that every adult with mental retardation I know sees through her just fine while so many other people need hand-holding through the complex reasoning of “Having a child with a disability does not automatically make you a disability advocate. Advocating against services for the disabled makes you the opposite of a disability advocate. Therefore, Palin is a foe of disabled people.”

  24. I live in Canada and work for a non-profit that creates and maintains homes for people with developmental disabilities (go L’Arche!) and I too am very thankful that Sarah Palin doesn’t set any sort of policy here.
    We did just have $6 million cuts from the provincial government, but thankfully the public response was so overwhelmingly negative, they’re currently reconsidering.

  25. You know, I read half this post and had to get up to take care of the dogs. And I was thinking, “Hey, this isn’t so bad. At least someone is talking about ableist epithets to the group of people most likely to dismiss and ridicule ‘PC’ language. She’s got an audience. So if this gets awareness to a group that would ignore the screaming liberals like myself, I’m okay with her taking cheap shots at the President.”

    And then I came back, and read her response to Limbaugh’s vile little speech, and I am just . . . just horrified. What an awful woman.

  26. The only thing I can say about this exercise in bullshit disingenuousness from Mrs Palin is WTF? Sure, I thought her waahhing on about Rahm was 90% opportunism, but this really takes it into a new realm.

    Is there some kind of distortion field when that Limbaugh character opens his mouth so that people interpret his words to actually mean the opposite of what they said? And that the man is actually capable of satire when it is patently obvious he wouldn’t know what it was if it bit him? And that his statements are worthy of any respect whatsoever?

    Ok, you get obnoxious arseholes everywhere in the world – that wanker who leads the BNP (Nazi-lite party) in the UK, John Howard here in Australia, but, my god, they are not anywhere in the league of this guy, or the supposedly serious politicians (not that I actually include Palin in that group) who give his view credence.

  27. Very, very well said. I love reading this blog and when I hear about this issues it takes all of my strength not to blow a damn gasket. The fact that Sarah Palin is even considered remotely respectful and worth listening to is astounding. Just listening to all of the crap that comes out of her mouth when there’s other issues we need to be dealing with is a crying shame. It seems like some of these political “pundits” (heavy sarcasm there) are just out to cause a stir, to distract from the real issues. I don’t even know where to begin to try to help combat this stuff, so we can focus on the real issues. Grrr!!!

    I just want to say thank you, though, because reading this blog and others like it help me keep my cool and keep me logical. You guys give me hope. :-)

  28. I am amazed at how magical Obama truly is! Things are his fault even if he’s NOT even around. I have no words for Palin or her estranged relationship with truth or reality. It terrifies me she has framed herself as an advocate and “ally” to PWD and that many of her supporters validate this assertion.

  29. I just don’t know what to say to this, it is so awful that Sarah Palin would use her son as a political weapon that I don’t know where to start.

    I haven’t been reading this site for long (and oh how I love it) and it is wonderful that you continue to call the bullshit where you see it.

    SM this is an amazing post you should be very proud of it.

  30. I’ve spent the weekend sort of bewildered that Palin has gotten the coverage she has after speaking at the tea party gathering and hinting that she would consider a 2010 run. Not here, I mean…and not this kind of thought-provoking coverage…I mean that whether she was going to run or not was at the top of my news feed from NPR, yahoo, etc. all day yesterday. (Palin, Superbowl, Superbowl, Palin, Toyota). It freaks me right the hell out that after her previous run (when she was clearly discredited as a thinker, an “experienced” politician, and anything approaching an ethical human being that people are taking her seriously enough to cover her over and over again as the top story on the news. What is that *about*?! How scared to we need to be here?

    After seeing Obama’s (teleprompter free)smackdown of the questions at the GOP caucus last weekend, I admit I fantasized briefly about what a debate between Obama and Palin would look like if she ran…but then again, it seems that people who support her can not possibly be a) listening to what she’s saying or b) connecting with the same reality that I am, so maybe it wouldn’t make the difference I believe it would in terms of clearly demonstrating how inept she actually is.

  31. Reporting here from the great State Of Angry Unemployed White People, this is what they (at the local town diner) perceive is happening (seriously):

    “The Obamazombies (hehehe) are picking on poor Sarah Palin, AGAIN!!. Like they have nothing better to do. For crying out loud, Sarah is simply defending the right of her own baby to live!!! And Rush (God BLESS HIM) was just calling a duck a duck. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, IT’S a DUCK!!!!”

    This, my friends, is what passes for serious political commentary. The details of what was actually said, by whom, etc, are irrelevant when everything you hear and see is filtered through their ideology of fear.

    Come on, why should we be surprised that Palin looks and sounds absolutely and stunningly brilliant to these folks? In their ideology, no one would need social services if our government would just get out of the way and slash taxes so that good honest folks (like them) could afford to keep mothers at home to raise up the children, and so husbands could even pay for “help” (a maid) to give mama a hand, like in the good old days. It’s all so simple…

    Palin represents the interests of media owners and corporations. They’ll use her until she no longer serves their purpose.

  32. I’m very sad that this is obscuring the very good point you’ve made numerous times; the r-word is hurtful and unnecessary. But now it appears to be simply a petty word-policing political point scoring, attention grabbing move. It makes me think that Palin and her ilk who elsewhere would complain about “playing the race card” or “humorless feminists” really can’t understand that some people are calling out racial dog whistles or gendered language not to score political points but because they are genuinely opposed to racism, sexism, ableism, etc. They simply can’t perceive of someone who is concerned about anything broader than their own self-interest?

  33. After seeing Obama’s (teleprompter free)smackdown of the questions at the GOP caucus last weekend, I admit I fantasized briefly about what a debate between Obama and Palin would look like if she ran…

    Don’t worry, she’d bring her cheat sheet.

  34. When this whole thing started, I quoted that scene in comments somewhere. Idk where. It’s sadly, sadly apt.

  35. SM, I saw that image earlier and thought it was a joke photo, but OMG IT’S REAL!?!? For some reason I find it extra hilarious that “budget” is crossed out. Even with the extremely limited space her palm provides for notetaking, there was still unused/extra space when all her substantive talking points were jotted down.

  36. Thank you, SM!! This all brings to mind my feelings of horror as I watched then-Governor Palin give her speech at the RNC last year. The way that her son was seated in the audience of a large, apparently loud audience? With his sister(s), when his dad was right there? (NB: this may be my particular trigger, as the older sister of a woman with severe disabilities.) The language she used? All of that completely undercut her purported message of being an advocate, let alone a friend, of people with disabilities and their loved ones. I was furious that a woman who had been the mother of a child with special needs for such a short time could claim to understand in any measure what my parents (and SO many others) have dealt with, personally and professionally for years, then, and doubtful that it was more than (cheap) political gameplaying. Reading all of this makes me think that gut feeling was right.

    And Grafton? “Having a child with a disability does not automatically make you a disability advocate. Advocating against services for the disabled makes you the opposite of a disability advocate. Therefore, Palin is a foe of disabled people.” – this really jumped out at me as a lovely, succinct way to explain the situation.

  37. Dick Cheney has a gay daughter, yet he’s never tried to make the case that he’s a LBBT activist. Why does Palin think having a Down’s Syndrome baby automatically make her a disabilities advocate?

  38. cereselle: Clearly, it’s part of a Vast Bisexual Conspiracy to take over the alphabet, one letter at a time.

  39. And considering what a racist, ableist asshole the guy was, I really wish we could stop calling it Down Syndrome all together.

    Great article, though parts were nauseating to read.

  40. lauren: Really? I had thought that (for his time, which is a big caveat) Down was rather liberal-ish on race. I’m pretty sure I remember his opposing the “black slavery in the US is good because Africans are inherently inferior” crowd. I also thought he went into his field of research because he disliked the “all developmentally disabled people are beyond help” mentality. It’s entirely possible, of course, that I have my head up my ass on these points.

  41. Thanks, lauren. An excellent illustration of how “liberal for his time” can still equal “objectively horrifying.”

  42. Great post, SM. Palin is just – she – I can’t even find the words. I’m so, so thankful that we don’t have McCain/Palin running the country right now. eeek, even seeing that written out is disturbing.

  43. I wish I could say that I continue to be amazed by politicians’ penchants for re-purposing language to serve their political agenda…but I’m cynical. It’s disturbing that the ongoing gap between political words and political actions continues to be glossed over or misinterpreted the mainstream media – “if we put forward, for one second, a language debate that isn’t irrevocably tied to structure – if we focus on language apart from the actual change that needs to happen– everything we care about gets stolen and re-purposed in the service of something else.” So, so true, and these instances of re-purposing need to be called out louder and more often . Thanks to Sweet Machine for a great post reinforcing how we need to pay less attention to the advertising, and more attention to the actions of all our political players so we can weed out the pseudo-allies.

    I found Sady’s post really interesting and it got me thinking about the evolution of language, especially since I recently saw >“The F-Word” episode of South Park. As Sweet Machine said “[O]ppressive language is irrevocably tied to oppressive social structures”. What I’m wondering is if we somehow manage to eliminate the oppressive social structures, do we also automatically manage to eliminate the oppressive language? Does society just come up with Newspeak-type language that removes words or possible constructs expressing ableism (or sexism or racism or homophobia)? Or does the oppressive language remain embedded as some quaint, archaic expression that’s handed down without any of the new generation being aware of its etymology? I don’t know anything about language studies, so I’m curious as to how this has happened in the past, and what it means for people trying to build a less oppressive, more inclusive future. (Mods, I understand if this is a derail and needs to be nipped in the bud. Just say the word and I’m off to a evolutionary linguistics blog.)

  44. @emi s.–In 2012, I’m sad to say, it could very well be Palin/Dobson.

    If I’m accurately reading the sentiment on much of the right, one of the things they adore most about Palin (and why they repeatedly call her a “genius”) is “her ability to make liberals’ heads explode”…See, she can do no wrong in their eyes because even when she does or says something outrageous, she provokes distressed and angry responses from the left, which Palin’s supporters then seize—and use as proof that liberals are (“once again”) being hypocrits and sexists.

    She is the dream candidate of the right.

    If not Sarah, in 2012, then I wouldn’t be surprised if they choose to run another woman or person from a marginalized group and use the same gaslighting games with language that have been framing Sarah as a victim—-and have been prettifying their agenda for decades…remember the “Clear Skies Initiative” and the “Family Protection Act”?

    I don’t want to imagine what Palin’s “Children with Disabilities Security Act” would look like.

  45. Why does Palin think having a Down’s Syndrome baby automatically make her a disabilities advocate?

    Because people with cognitive or intellectual disabilities cannot speak for themselves, and only their mommies really know what’s best for them. Even when what those mommies want is to make sure that everybody knows how much disabled people suck, and how saintly it is to just spend time near disabled people.

    Please to understand my statement above as sarcastic and quite irate. This crap is clearly visible in the politics of autism advocacy. Any autistic person who can communicate enough to disagree with ‘autism moms,’ or say that s/he would rather not be cured or aborted is not really autistic and thus may be ignored.

    Encountered a man with Down’s who expressed that he suffered much the same problem — he complained that he wanted a service for retarded adults to stop ‘teaching’ him to make things out of popsicle sticks, and instead teach him how to do his tax return and have safer sex. Oh my oh my, how much he didn’t count just because he was the sort of disabled adult who’d even ask for those things.

  46. @ Au Contraire
    “if we somehow manage to eliminate the oppressive social structures, do we also automatically manage to eliminate the oppressive language?”

    No. Maybe, eventually, the oppressive language will fall out of use in the same way that any word might. But not right away. It might sting a little less, because if most people don’t associate the language with people who were once oppressed, the same would be true of the once oppressed group. So they wouldn’t think “you’re talking about me” whenever they hear those words.

    But really, people like insults. They like them and pick up new ones for fun, and when they find out that their favorite new insult (or turn of phrase, or whatever) is derived from stereotypes about some particular oppressed group, they panic because they didn’t know, and didn’t mean it that way.

    People stop using oppressive language when they know what the words mean, and when they care.

  47. Great post, Sweet Machine! My head almost exploded when I read what Palin wrote on her Facebook, and then it actually exploded when I read her response to Limbaugh’s abelist, racist remarks. After reading this, Sady’s equally bad ass article, and watching her Tea Party Convention speech and the crowd’s reactions, I firmly believe that she is a stone-cold, ruthless opportunist who will exploit anyone and anything for political advancement. That is so. effing. scary.

  48. Thank you so much for this post, SM. I loathe, loathe LOATHE that woman with every fiber of my being, and this just makes me even more angry. I call her Paris Palin, because she’s like the Paris Hilton of politics: Completely useless, annoying as hell, famous because she is (allegedly) attractive and has good publicity, and an assholish, manipulative fame whore.

  49. @RNigade – instead of Dobson, she should make Joe 6 pack her running mate. He is just a regular guy, not a law professor. Why would anyone think a professor of con law is more qualified than her to be president? Also, Joe 6pack is a guy with common sense. He’s not one of those latte sippin, tree huggin, over educated types who doesn’t understand what America is really all about.

    BTW – I believe Geraldine Ferraro first coined or used the term Joe 6 pack to refer to “average guys” who deserved a say in politics.

  50. I think that Sarah Palin is living proof that boundless confidence and ego combined with a stunning lack of intellect, empathy, and understanding is a dangerous combination (ask George W. Bush). She is a truly, TRULY awful person.

  51. Sarah, of course, remains committed to making sure God’s beautiful children (defined under the status quo as “Preexisting Conditions”) with Down Syndrome remain medical pariahs.

  52. Jamie PERMALINK
    she is (allegedly) attractive

    She was pretty until she started talking. She had enough of Tina Fey’s looks to trigger an assumption that she had a fraction of Tina’s brains. Then she opened her mouth and her inner ugliness shone through.

  53. It’s impossible for me to wrap my head around the fact that there are people who, in all seriousness, agree with Rush Limbaugh. About anything.

    Jamie: >an assholish, manipulative fame whore.<

    I'm sorry, but using words like "whore" about a woman to express a dislike of her really irks me. (And yes, I know that "fame whore" is an expression officially meant to express a persons desire for attention, not anything to do with sexuality or gender. But still.)

    Calling women sluts or whores for doing/saying/being/thinking something that you (generic you) don't like just feeds the patriarchal social rule that says a women can be immediately stripped of all power and legitimacy in any given situation by simply referring to her sexuality or gender in a derogatory fashion.

    I'm not saying that's what you're trying to do – at all. It's more of a general point.

    Now, please return to regular programming.

  54. I am terrified of this woman because she knows how to tap into and feed the heart of darkness that lurks inside republican supporters. The racism, the sexism, the homophobia, the ableism, all the fears of “them” rising up and taking away all their stuff and raping teh (good Christian white) wimminz. She feeds them lies and tells them that their fears are real, and that the scary “illegals” will come surging in and take their jobs, and that the “east coast liberal effete” will encourage it, because they all know the libruls are race traitors.

    I once thought she was a dupe, but now I know she’s using the Republicans* for her own gain. She’ll say anything, do anything, and be anything they want in her cynical race to the top.

    *At this point, I refuse to call them Conservatives, because they are the opposite of everything that word means.

  55. “Palin is not an ally, she is an opportunist.

    She using her son for political purposes only. ”
    `
    This, times a million.

    Puh-leeze, if little Algebra hadn’t been born with Down’s, does anyone think Sarah Palin would give the tiniest sh!t about people with disabilities? Does anyone outside her fan club think that anyway? Do her actions, stated beliefs, and voting record reflect a compassionate worldview? Her baby is a prop for her anti-choice position, and her comments on Rahm a transparent attempt at playing “Gotcha!”.

  56. “I fantasized briefly about what a debate between Obama and Palin would look like”
    `
    [consults magic 8-ball]
    `
    Sarah: The sky is green, you betcha, God motherhood USA!
    Obama: I’m looking out the window and I can see that the sky is blue.
    Sarah, for the next three months: Waaaahh, the big bad socialist is picking on me! Y’all are mean!
    Sarah’s fans: Gee, you’re swell.
    Rush: Feminazis suck, but Obama was being sexist and also somehow racist during the debate.
    ~
    [sighs a la Kif in Futurama]

  57. Thanks, SM. Talking about a person’s looks launches the discussion into inappropriate and harmful territory.

    Not the same thing–>but, in addition, I wonder if criticizing hypocrisy is very useful as a (significant) contributor to social change. Hypocrisy appears (to some extent) inevitable with human beings. What concerns me is the lack of awareness of the real and/or potentially harmful consequences of one’s actions (including one’s words). I really don’t care if Palin acts like a hypocrite. Her hypocrisy—by itself—is not really the problem. (So what if she behaves hypocritically. Name one politician who does not.)

    However, I care very deeply that Palin’s actions contribute to a hostile and dangerous environment, for example, for people with disabilities. Her words construct and reinforce damaging cultural stereotypes and myths. When she laughed off Rush’s hate speech, she discounted the horrifying damage that his hate speech could cause, and she harmed people who have cognitive disabilities.

    Maybe it doesn’t help very much to speculate about Palin’s inner motives. (Does she actually realize the real harm she does or not?) Instead, it seems more important to keep focusing on the evidence of harm caused by language that distorts our cultural beliefs about people who have disabilities.

    As you and others (above) have emphasized so eloquently, the language Palin uses and the language she discounts (as “satire”) are “inextricable” from our social/political structure. I take that idea to mean: language institutionalizes forms of hate and discrimination at the level of political and social policy. Policy matters. Policy determines whether people with disabilities have a chance to get their basic needs met in our culture. Policy determines whether people live or die.

    When people with disabilities must struggle to survive (or when they fail to survive) while relying on charity, family members, or on funding from special grants, it is not the result of some mysterious accident of nature. It is not the result of bad parents or inefficient charities or uncaring community members. It is the result of policy—social policy and political policy created and supported by the language (words) of people in positions of privilege and power, people such as Sarah and Rush.

  58. Puh-leeze, if little Algebra hadn’t been born with Down’s, does anyone think Sarah Palin would give the tiniest sh!t about people with disabilities?

    Are we really making fun of names now?

  59. Yeah, let’s not bash Trig for being named Trig. Kid’s got it hard enough having Sarah Palin for a parent.

    I was disappointed to see that Stephen Colbert almost nailed this one but missed really, really hard by using “retard” as a punchline. The final joke (let’s call Palin a fucking retard) only works if the premise is that it’s a real zing to call someone that. I guess you could argue that that underscores Palin’s disingenuousness — and it does — but it does so at the expense of PWD. Stephen, you can do better.

  60. @Sweet Machine: Yeah, Colbert almost nailed it, but screwed it up in the end. Particularly with the note on Palin’s hand at the very end (“sometimes funny”?!).

    Lewis Black, on the other hand… I lost a lot of respect for that guy yesterday after his Daily Show rant (warning: rage-inducing), which had my brain doing the “if it weren’t for my horse” thing in trying to make any sort of logical sense of it. Sorry, Lew, but #1, the word “retarded” is very much still used to refer to intellectual disabilities (Tropic Thunder, anyone?), and #2, you can’t claim that it no longer holds that meaning if you demonstrate with a gag right after it that it does still hold that meaning.

  61. And my mistake. Rewatching the clip, the gag involving the photoshopped screenshot of The R-Word happens before Black claims the word no longer has that definition.

    Still, the point stands. The “it no longer means that!” excuse doesn’t hold water when you’ve just proven that it does!

  62. SwM – that was exactly what I thought. Except I had my internal Max Smart going “Missed it by *that* much!”

  63. HULK ANGRY. HULK SMASH.

    Rahm Emanuel let a wrong word slip. He apologized for it, as he should have. Other than a badly chosen word, what he was doing had nothing to do with disabled people and he was trying to yell at a small group of his colleagues, in which I fully support him (or anyone – please, yell at these people more!) It also seems possible that he may have learned something from this whole experience about ableism and the issues disabled people face.

    Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh on the other hand, said all this sh*t with forethought, to the public. There is no chance that they are learning anything, much less helping anyone. For all his outrage and occasional missteps, Rahm Emanuel has a modicum of dignity and humility.

    The man who told his own dad to “shut up” has demurely gone to these advocates for the disabled, and apologized to them. He did the right thing to correct his mistake. He didn’t go off defending some other random person who said something deplorable and claim that if that person can get away with it so should he.

    Okay I’m off to SMASH HUMANS.

  64. “Yeah, let’s not bash Trig for being named Trig. Kid’s got it hard enough having Sarah Palin for a parent.”
    `
    Agree that having Sarah Palin anywhere in one’s family tree is not something I’d wish on an innocent infant, or anyone.

    My intent was not at all to bash Trig, it was to bash the Palins for choosing baby names along the Biff-Buff-Steak-PunchRockGroin axis, along with an embedded snicker at my own rather rudimentary math skills.

    Goodness knows I’m not above taking cheap shots, but if my bad pun on young Trig’s name offended anyone, then cheerfully withdrawn — although I’m still convinced that he and his (???) nephew?? are being used as anti-choice props.

  65. Couldn’t agree more. When I read the stories on HuffPost, I literally had to re-read it twice to be sure she actually said she AGREED with Rush. Boggles my mind. Right after that I made the mistake of watching her teaparty address… It. Was. Awful.

  66. pesematology (cool name, btw): I don’t know that I agree about Rahm Emanuel “letting a wrong word slip.” I’d go more with the interpretation that a man with a notoriously foul mouth said something even more foul than usual. He meant to be offensive. But he used a slur that offended more people than the ones he intended to.

  67. “It’s awful to say something is “retarded” because the punch of the word is based on the equation of “disability” and “bad.”. I think this is absolutely right, and that the vast majority of the time when people say something or someone is retarded they are making this equivalence. But, I also think that when people call others out for using the word, or feel uncomfortable about its usage, they are continuing to make this equivalence.

    In my ideal world, a person with mental disabilities would not be immediately be assumed to have a lower quality of life or be devalued as an individual in society. This person would just be different, in the same way that shy people differ from outgoing ones. In other words, the value judgment that I think is currently intrinsically married to the concept of people with disabilities would be eliminated.

    If you agree that this would be an ideal, then the question becomes how best to bring it about. Obviously, using the word retarded when you really mean bad, low-quality, inferior, or lesser in any way would be counter-productive. But what if you use the word retarded to mean something that is stupid, or “less intelligent than average”? I think the problem with saying that people should not use the word retarded if they mean ‘stupid’ is that it implies (whether intentional or not) that being less intelligent than average is inherently bad. Taking for granted here that the word retarded has been co-opted from its original meaning of slow growth to be a catch-all for people with mental disabilities, if we weren’t making this value judgment, then why would calling something retarded, if you mean stupid, be wrong? Wouldn’t it just be the case that some things are less intelligent, on average, than other things, and to state this would be a matter of fact, like pointing out the speaker’s tie was green?…..

    I’m not suggesting that we should all use the word retarded when we mean stupid or refer to people with mental disabilities as retarded. What I’m saying is sometimes we are uncomfortable about the use of a word because of underlying assumptions we are making about the group we want to defend. And examining these assumptions in ourselves is as important as demanding the word’s demise in society.

  68. Yeah, I agree with Other Becky. “Letting a wrong word slip” kind of implies that you can think a nasty slur, as long as you don’t actually let it out of your mouth. And I mean, we all think horrible things we shouldn’t say, but we should be trying to train ourselves not to think that way at all, right?

    Tessie – pretty sure his name is Norse for “strength.”

  69. Tessie said: My intent was not at all to bash Trig, it was to bash the Palins for choosing baby names along the Biff-Buff-Steak-PunchRockGroin axis … if my bad pun on young Trig’s name offended anyone, then cheerfully withdrawn — although I’m still convinced that he and his (???) nephew?? are being used as anti-choice props.

    Honestly, the joke made me uncomfortable, and not just because it’s about an infant. I know that you said you withdrew the joke, but to explain why I didn’t like it: I agree that Ms. Palin seems to be using her son as a political prop – but giving him a nickname just reinforces that usage. He’s become a prop in your bashing of his parents, and what I see is an insult to their intelligence. Not that I have any special affection for the names the Palins have chosen for their kids, but many parents choose names that are strange, that backfire, not as funny as they hoped, or that require explanation.

    I also read an implied insult of their intelligence in the joke, which feels icky when talking about how to truly advocate for treatment of people with disabilities as people and not disabilities.

  70. But, I also think that when people call others out for using the word, or feel uncomfortable about its usage, they are continuing to make this equivalence.

    So do you recommend people *not* call others out? When someone uses “retarded” deliberately as an insult, I’m guilty of perpetuating that by reacting to the ableism of that insult? I don’t buy it at all.

    Taking for granted here that the word retarded has been co-opted from its original meaning of slow growth to be a catch-all for people with mental disabilities, if we weren’t making this value judgment, then why would calling something retarded, if you mean stupid, be wrong?

    “Retardation” has not been “co-opted;” it is still used as medical terminology. You are absolutely right that our culture is biased against people with less “intelligence;” I think it’s absurd to say that pointing out one of the mechanisms of that bias perpetuates it.

    What I’m saying is sometimes we are uncomfortable about the use of a word because of underlying assumptions we are making about the group we want to defend.

    I am “uncomfortable about the use of” the word “retarded” because I spent my childhood hearing my cognitively disabled brother being called a retard.

  71. Kezia Kamenetz: I’m a little confused by what you’ve written. Are you trying to get at how people trying to combat usage of hateful words perpetuate the association of the injury and the word, just because of their defense? *furrowed brow*

    What I’m saying is sometimes we are uncomfortable about the use of a word because of underlying assumptions we are making about the group we want to defend. And examining these assumptions in ourselves is as important as demanding the word’s demise in society.

    For my part, I’m interested in calling out usage of retarded because I KNOW that other people have made assumptions about the group for which I do my part to advocate. I’ve heard people call my sister retarded, and I know exactly what they’re trying to do.

    Me, I don’t use the word, except to convey the clincal information: that there’s a slowdown relative to developmental standards. My sister definitely could be diagnosed with mental retardation (I’m sure it’s in her files, somewhere); she’s incredibly smart and has a great quality of life, but her cognitive skills are definitely on par with people much younger than her current age of 26. It’s not inappropriate to convey that idea. And when I do tell people that I don’t like their using the word, again, it’s because I know that the association between “retarded” and “inferior” has already been made in their minds.

  72. When she starts campaigning for 2012, which let’s face it – she already is, I’m confident the smart folks at jezebel.com, shakesville.com, here and countless other places will make sure she hasn’t a chance of getting into office.

  73. Bravo and Thank You!

    I hope you don’t mind me sharing something that I wrote on this topic.

    http://smith-smiths.blogspot.com/2010/02/hotline.html

    As the mother of a child with Ds, I am appalled at this whole situation. This woman is opportunistic and dangerous.

    And re: SNTs, holy crap are they expensive! $3-4K is a stretch for most families already dealing with additional expenses like therapies, specialized equipment, prescriptions, co-pays, etc.

  74. Thank you for writing this. I stopped using the word “retarded” as a slur a while back and have asked my friends to do the same. Every time one of roommates says it I cringe not only because she uses the word but because I’m too cowardly to tell her it’s wrong. Perhaps it’s time I grew a spine.

  75. @Kezia Kamentz: “Obviously, using the word retarded when you really mean bad, low-quality, inferior, or lesser in any way would be counter-productive. But what if you use the word retarded to mean something that is stupid, or “less intelligent than average”? I think the problem with saying that people should not use the word retarded if they mean ’stupid’ is that it implies (whether intentional or not) that being less intelligent than average is inherently bad.”

    I am not comfortable with the equivalence of “stupid” and “retarded”, and I can’t see how using “retarded “ in place of “stupid” is anything other than a value judgment. According to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, retard (as a verb) means to delay the progress, development, arrival, or accomplishment of something, or to make slow or late. Retard (as a noun) means a mentally retarded person or a stupid or foolish person, an idiot. The dictionary does (thankfully) point out that the use of retard as a noun is considered to be offensive slang. So if we are stating things in a matter-of-fact way, the equivalent of “retarded” would be closer to “delayed”, although I’m not sure that “delayed” is totally without judgment either.

    It is the use of “retarded” to mean “stupid/pathetic” that I would like to see purged from our language, and I’m not sure how this can be accomplished unless we actively call out people who are using it in this context and ask them to stop.

    I previously asked a question about the evolution of language, and what happens to oppressive language when the oppressive social structures that create/support the language are eliminated. Puffalo quite rightly pointed out that people “will stop using oppressive language when they know what the words mean, and when they care”. So if we want to make sure that the word “retard” no longer includes the definition of “a stupid or foolish person”, we have to stop using it this way.

  76. I have this argument about the r-word repeatedly, with several of my dear friends. I will admit to having previously been one of those ‘but I don’t mean it THAT way!’ people. Shame on me.

    Then I thought about it and I realised that there isn’t a word that adequately replaces it. The same way calling a woman a ‘bitch’ in a gender-heightened context doesn’t have a real replacement. Why not? Because, as you said, the word relies on its social context of worthlessness and badness for its punch.

    This is why it is hard to stop using it. And why it is important to me that I do. I still slip sometimes, but I’m getting there.

    And Sarah Palin makes my head hurt. Anyone else feel like we’re in a Philip K. Dick novel, sometimes?

  77. First of all, I just recently discovered your blog, and it thrills me. This post is especially fantastic. Thank you for existing and for making my life just that much more okay.

    Okay. So is Palin arguing that Emanuel should be ashamed because he insulted PWD by comparing them to liberal activist “kooks”…hmmm…

    Also, alongside the hypocrisy point, the Right kill me with their appeals to the average, hard-working, good ‘ol American people, who are honest and who appreciate straight-talk from their leaders. They say things like “the Democrats don’t trust you to handle your own money!” and “the bleeding-heart liberals would take away everything you have to give to this lazy, good-for-nothing trashy person who is manipulating the system” and “all they want to do is tax and spend, tax and spend” and even better “they’re trying to kill off all the old people, meaning you and your parents and your grandparents and everyone else you’ve ever loved!”

    Seriously? So, by employing obvious hyperbole to appeal to these people’s sense of “honesty” and their appreciation for “straight-talk”, the Right manipulates them by saying ridiculous things and eliciting the response “well, at least he calls it like he sees it”, just like RNigade’s duck reference earlier.

    I wonder why it never occurs to anyone that if that’s how they see it, then they shouldn’t be in office. If a person hears healthcare reform, and his/her gut reaction is apparently “the government wants to kill the people who raised me and loved me and made me what I am today”, then he/she is not a rational individual and should not be in a leadership position of any kind.

    A friend of mine once said jokingly that he was only interested in having opinions and not at all concerned with facts. This is funny as a joke. It’s not at all funny as a reality.

  78. @Kezia

    I really don’t follow your logic… if somebody objected to “retard” as an insult because they think it’s far too insulting to apply it to most people, yeah, that would be backwards, but I don’t know anybody who does that.

    That would be like thinking that we jump on people for using “gay” as a pejorative because we think it’s horrific that any unpleasant activity or undesired person should have to experience the shame of being compared to those people.

  79. My mother used to say “Don’t call your sister a pig, it’s offensive to pigs.” Or cow, or idiot, or bitch, or, in fact, anything we could think of, up to and including politician.

  80. @bbell-horne
    My favorite are the anti-government politicians. When they start speechifying about how the government is ineffective or inefficient it’s kind of hard to take them seriously, even if I were to agree with them. I get the small, hands off government thing as an ideological preference. “The government shouldn’t do X because it is outside the appropriate scope” is a sensible statement of opinion. “The government shouldn’t do X because they suck and can’t do anything right,” not so much. Those guys do realize they work in government, right? That they are the government?

  81. But what if you use the word retarded to mean something that is stupid, or “less intelligent than average”? I think the problem with saying that people should not use the word retarded if they mean ’stupid’ is that it implies (whether intentional or not) that being less intelligent than average is inherently bad.

    The problem with using the word “retarded” to mean “stupid” is that the people who fall into the medically defined category of “retarded” ARE NOT STUPID. Nor are they unintelligent, backwards, dumb or any of the other negative synonyms that “retarded” lumps together into one handy slur.

    You want to tell someone they’re stupid, tell them they’re stupid. Then you’re just insulting a single person instead of that individual AND an entire segment of the population.

    DRST

  82. And the main problem with Trig Palin is that he’s stolen my bloody name! I’ve had it longer than him and I want it back!

    *ahem*

    On a more serious note, I find these discussions fascinating. I don’t think I use the word retarded as an insult, but I may do, without being aware of it. Any linguist will tell you that people are unreliable witnesses of their own language use. I’ll be aware of it from now on, anyway. I think I’ve used the word fucktard only once (in a comment on someone else’s blog). That won’t happen again either.

    I do care about this sort of stuff, but I probably don’t care as much as I should. Reading this blog (and a couple of others, such as Shakesville and Worthless Drivel) reminds me to care. You’re good for me.

    TRiG.

  83. All of this reminds me of how much I hate it when Palin proclaims how special and precious Trigg is. First, “special” is now taking on the same pejorative meaning as “retarded;” you’d think she’d choose her words more carefully. Second, why is he more special than any other child? Because he has a disability? This attitude creates this weird sort of disability fetish, that especially seems to afflict people who oppose selective abortion. Hopefully my fears are unfounded, but I really worry that Palin’s conviction of Trigg’s preciousness and specialness is going to deprive him of the specialized attention and care he needs to be a productive adult. What are the odds that he’s not going to learn necessary life skills to enable him to live on his own or at least take care of himself to his best ability? Acknowledging his fundamental humanity might interfere with all of those angelic qualities Palin is projecting on to him.

  84. Oh, my apologies for using “whore.’ I didn’t think through before I posted. Sigh. I’ve tried really hard to root things like that out of my vocabulary, but they still slip out sometimes. It’s a little scary how ingrained in our culture those kind of insults are, when someone like me, a committed feminist who tries to avoid calling anyone any kind of insults based on racism, sexism, ablism, etc., still uses words like that without realizing how denigrating they are to women. I wasn’t thinking about the expression as representing promiscuity, but rather as someone who is constantly doing outrageous things to get media attention, and the implications didn’t even register for me until you pointed it out, Sasquatch. Thank you for calling me out, and I’m sorry for using that phrase and will be more careful in the future.

  85. AnthroK8
    No, no, Puffalo. They are Mavericky Mavericks. That’s not the same as In Government at all.

    Technically she’s a Rogue, as in she went rogue from being a Maverick, as in she stopped investing in John McCain’s presidential bid and started plotting her own about two weeks after he nominated her.

  86. Jamie,
    Welcome to the club. The problem with culturally accepted cruelty is that it trains otherwise good people not to recognize it for what it is until someone does us the favor of punching us in the nose.

  87. Well, I’ve been a little hesitant to make this accusation, but I really think that Palin is using her son as a token special-needs child. I really feel bad for that child and the way he is being used as a prop. It seems like she thinks of him as a burden for the sole purpose of making herself look like a martyr because she chose this burden instead of having an abortion. Of course special needs children will present some additional challenges to parents, and some people choose not to face those challenges. However, choosing to have a special needs child doesn’t entitle you to a medal. You don’t a get prize for it, especially if you’re only doing it to make a political point. No child deserves to be treated the way she treats her child.

  88. @Mefly, thanks for the pointers. I’ve read a lot of FWD, but hadn’t caught the post on “intelligent”. Whenever I read stuff like that I can feel a little part of my brain going, “but, but, but… “ because I’ve been so trained that we do need some way to sort people into categories. It’s something I need to really watch in myself.

    Thanks to everyone in this thread, it’s been fascinating. For myself, next time I want to insult someone who has pissed me off, I think I’ll stick with asshole and douche. Perhaps not the most creative insults, but at least it doesn’t drag a whole bunch of perfectly lovely non-neurotypical sex-workers into the thing.

  89. Let’s also be clear that Palin (and Bush before her) aren’t “stupid”. They’ve chosen to revel in extreme ignorance, prejudice and illogic. They have chosen not to think and perhaps they’ve forgotten how, but it isn’t really a matter of “intelligence”, it’s ego and intellectual laziness and dishonesty.

  90. I think was just fine where she was, Governor of Alaska. Doing a good job for her people there. She had apparently done a good job in the lessor posts she held before that. But, for reasons I do not understand, McCain picked her to be his running mate. She was then out of her league. Kind of an an example of the Peter Principle. She does not get it though. Or does she? Can’t you see the anxiety? Even when interviewed by friendly forces, she appears unsure and afraid. Her speech is awkward. She uses nouns like verbs. She cannot maintain a train of thought. She has no sense of history. She has accepted a mishmash of conservative ideological principles, but it is like a house with no foundation. She doesn’t understand her own philosophy; it’s just catch phrases. She could never lead a nation.

    There was thread about her on the physician forum where I hang out. Even the hardcore conservatives hate her among intelligent voters. Notice how she kept her mouth shut and did not endorse Massachusetts senator Scott Brown. That would have probably cost him the election. I’ll bet somebody had to muzzle her.

  91. Bob,
    McCain picked her because the other option was to lose with dignity and he was having none of that. His campaign was a series of wild Hail Marys and Palin the was the wildest and most desperate of all.

  92. If Palin were truly an activist for children with disabilities, she wouldn’t have made a point of mocking federal funding directed at fruit fly research. The abject moron apparently was unaware that it provides some exceptional potential into understanding and eradicating autism — a condition her nephew has.

    All the more delicious, she delivered this one-two punch to an audience full of … yep, parents of autistic children.

    I’m sorry, but they broke the stupid mold after they made her.

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