This morning, my pregnant Dandie Dinmont Terrier, Lucy, woke me up at 4:15 — she had to pee and was ravenous. After letting her out and feeding her, I started reading one of my favourite left-leaning zines, The AlterNet.
There's a media brouhaha brewing over the latest issue of The New Yorker magazine and its cartoon cover that plunges over the edge of satire into rank offensiveness.
Barry Blitt's cartoon is clearly a caricature of Barack Obama, pictured wearing a turban, knuckle-knocking his wife Michelle, her hair in an Afro, decked out like a revolutionary with a machine gun slung over her shoulder. They're standing in the Oval Office near a portrait of Osama bin Laden hanging over the fireplace. An American flag smoulders in the hearth.
Obviously satirical, it's possible that even the prestigious New Yorker is capable of a lapse of sanity.
This cover, on newsstands today, is perilously over-the-top and the sensational publicity it's igniting has the Obama campaign fuming. The right-wing media are poised for a political free-for-all that could backfire on the original intent of the cartoonist and the magazine — to mock right-wing opposition and its misguided, often flawed spin on Obama.
Don Hazen, who wrote the story, said the cartoon makes New Yorker editor David Remnick and Blitt appear "arrogant and indulgent, insensitive and out-of-touch with political and media dynamics."
I’m not going political on you, but language is political and powerful, and it’s what I learned about the linguistic, editorial “frame” in today’s AlterNet piece that I want to share with you.
In the past, I've referred to what might be considered a "frame" by its academic, practically unpronounceable name, the praeteritio.
Quite honestly, I didn't know "praeteritio" was, in essence, a "frame."
The term "praeteritio" is fine for PhD’s in linguistics, but there's a much simpler way to describe how a frame works editorially.
It’s relevant to Mad Pride, when you consider what Mad Pride is all about — namely counteracting "stigma" and "shame" by celebrating, educating and learning what “madness” has meant historically and how that history colours our perceptions of “madness” or “extreme mental states” or “mental distress” today.
Why? So we can feel good about who we are! Stand proud!
By now you know “stigma” and “shame” are two words I rarely use. I detest them.
Here’s why. Those two words are “bad frames.”
Hazen explains it this way: "Every word is a frame; evoking a frame reinforces and strengthens that frame; negating a frame, i.e. attacking it, reinforces that frame; and finally, words defined within a frame evoke that frame."
Hazen cites the example of Richard Nixon saying, “I’m not a crook.”
So think about it.
“Stigma,” by definition, is a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality or person. “Stigma” is most often, almost exclusively associated with mental illnesses.
Here’s how a frame works in this case.
Say, “Stigma” and you reinforce “stigma.”
Say, “Anti-stigma” and you still reinforce “stigma.”
Define, “Stigma” and you evoke “stigma.”
The medical and everyday public discourse about mental health includes this bad frame. All the time!
It evokes disgrace and “shame,” itself a bad frame, even though it’s trying to eradicate them.
This is Mad Pride Day. All kinds of people all over North America, Europe and Africa, people with “lived experience,” my fellow psychiatric travellers, are working so we can celebrate who we are. We deserve to celebrate.
Let’s start by using good frames today, all week, and on and on.
What’s a good frame?
I can think of a great one to try!
Happy Mad Pride Day!