On Cameron Slater and mental illness

Written By: - Date published: 2:00 pm, October 29th, 2009 - 52 comments
Categories: blogs - Tags:

A few months ago, a couple of us worked out that Cameron Slater, following his little spin in the media where he gloated about receiving income insurance for depression, had been kicked off his payments by the insurance company. The angry post asking for a lawyer who hates insurance companies, and the switch to gotcha.co.nz (a multi-author blog, giving him time to work), were clues enough.

We decided not to run with it because we thought Cameron’s right to privacy out-weighed the public interest but seeing as the Sunday Star-Times felt differently, a few comments.

Mental illness is not a laughing matter, it is serious and can be very hard on the people affected and those who care for them. People who are afflicted by mental illness are not necessarily ‘nuts’ or ‘crazy’ but I think that when we look at Cameron’s blog it is clearly not the product of a healthy mind – to those for whom that wasn’t clear beforehand, it certainly is now.

It casts Cameron’s vitriol, his unjustified and unquenchable anger in a new light when we understand that he is not in a healthy state of mind. His ceaseless attacks on gays, ‘bludgers’, ‘pinkos’ etc, which so many in the Right held up as teachings to follow were, in fact, Cameron’s way of battling his own inner demons.

It’s interesting that several other prominent right-wing bloggers have admitted that for them, too, blogging is a way they deal with mental illness, a way of taking out their anger, hurt, and pain on the world. Is that wrong? No. But we should see it for what it is – self-therapy, not rational political discourse.

I think there is a lesson here for the media. Cameron was obviously unwell and that should have given journalists pause both before running his stories and citing him as a commentator of note, and before exposing him to pressures he could not handle through greater public exposure.

Now Cameron is receiving the sickness benefit. A lot of those who formerly idolised him are attacking him as a bludger and that’s not fair. The sickness and invalid’s benefits are there to protect people who can’t work and their families from destitution. People on sickness and invalids benefits are not bludgers, they are people afflicted by illness, and that can happen to anyone – even your hero.

52 comments on “On Cameron Slater and mental illness”

  1. r0b 1

    Well spoken Eddie – well spoken indeed.

  2. Stan 2

    It’s interesting that several other prominent right-wing bloggers have admitted that for them, too, blogging is a way they deal with mental illness, a way of taking out their anger, hurt, and pain on the world. Is that wrong? No. But we should see it for what it is self-therapy, not rational political discourse.

    It’s bullshit to just say this is a right-wing thing – mental illness cuts across all political spectrums.

    • r0b 2.1

      No one said it was a “right-wing thing” Stan, calm down. Eddie just stated that other Right bloggers had admitted to mental health issues (as far as I know no NZ leftie blogger has stated this publicly).

      • lprent 2.1.1

        I have a few suspicions on the ‘left’ side. But hey, I’m a programmer which requires an inordinate level of myopic obsession to be any good at..

        • IrishBill 2.1.1.1

          Yeah, me too. I’m thinking the ‘sod in particular.

          • lprent 2.1.1.1.1

            Possibly, probably… But there are a couple of others as well.

            • roger nome 2.1.1.1.1.1

              Hi Iprent – would i be paranoid to think you were considering me? If no, maybe i’m both depressive and paranoic?

              Anyhow, I disagree with people who argue that depression is no excuse for being an arsehole. It’s a bit more complicated than that.

              In my experience there are moments or even periods when the void/black dog is so consuming that you just don’t give a hoot, and you’ll damage yourself (and that’s what you do most with anti-social behaviour) without giving much thought to it.

              Then there are moments, even long periods, when the sobriety of contentment and happiness cause you to look back and shake your head at yourself …. and that’s just me.

              Perhaps with Cameron there is no real respite from “the void”? I don’t know if i’ve ever seen him express regret at his nastiness to people. It’s just impossible to tell exactly what his situation is.

              But surely we can, with this knowledge and understanding, treat him civily when he is behaving poorly. Understanding where it comes from means you can accept it as being somewhat a natural part of things. This isn’t to say his bad behaviour shouldn’t be pointed out and moderated however. Just that responding in kind to his vitriol does no good.

        • QoT 2.1.1.2

          And with such enlightened views on display it’s utterly shocking that people think there’s some kind of stigma attached to mental illness.

      • Stan 2.1.2

        Yeah but what is the relevance of these bloggers being right wing? It would be the equivalent of saying several other prominent black bloggers have admitted for them etc… He could have just simply said several other bloggers period. It’s pretty much implying causation as opposed to correlation. Although I recognise that the next sentence explains that this is not the case.

        • felix 2.1.2.1

          It would be the equivalent of saying several other prominent black bloggers…

          Yes, if they identified as “black bloggers” who blogged about race issues from a black perspective then it would be comparable.

          Otherwise you’re just being a bit weird about it.

  3. IrishBill 3

    I believe Cameron is ill and I actually feel slightly sorry for him. I don’t believe his blogging/political activities will be doing him any good. Having the opportunity to magnify the negative aspects of his personality in the way he does while he blogs can’t be healthy either in terms of him indulging this negativity or in terms of the negativity it attracts for him.

    As a warning I will be monitoring this thread and moderating any personal attacks regarding Cameron’s illness.

  4. Pat 4

    Actually I think those who suffer from depression, particularly manic-depressives, are under-valued in society. When they are up, they acheive so much more than the average person, in terms of productivity and creativity. But they can crash unexpectedly and be completely unable to work, so naturally they find it difficult to hold down a career. Our current system of employment doesn’t know how to cope with them.

    I look forward to the day when wise employers see such employees as an asset to hang onto, and devise an employment contract that lets them keep their job during their low points.

  5. Bill 5

    Mental illness is no excuse for spouting bile.
    Neither is it a reason for dismissing what an individual has to say.

    Fact is, that to be well adjusted to a sick society is no measure of good mental health anyway.

    In the end we’re all sickos and nutters….regardless of whether we are deluded enough to contend otherwise. So in an existence where it’s all just a matter of degrees of madness and no-one can lay claim to sanity…maybe it comes down to empathy rather than sanity?

    Slater lacks empathy and insofar as like attracts like and well, que sera.

  6. torydog 6

    spot on Bill. No excuse for the stuff that guys spews out or anyone else who uses mental illness as a reason to be so personally rude against some.

  7. the sprout 7

    well put Eddie

  8. Daveo 8

    I just logged onto his website and saw this:

    I get very disturbed when I see people demonstrating with signs that say “Welfare Rights.’ There is nothing in the Constitution that says you have a right to welfare! Do you know what welfare is? It’s taking money from someone who is working to give to someone who’s not! — Jesse Ventura

    I don’t know what to think about this Slater guy.

    • Craig Glen Eden 8.1

      Its simple Daveo he is not well. What he says he believes and writes does not match with the world he actually lives in.

      But the hard thing is the likes of Bill (Double Dipton) English when he says he wants to stop people using trusts to prevent tax evasion. When you look at some of his other statements that have been seen in the print media regarding honesty/integrity in politics you really start to wonder about his state of mind. What’s the connection with his perceived world and his actually circumstances, his reality.

      It seems that a few politicians have suffered from mental illness some say Hitler was a victim of it and also Winston Churchill. Politics and mental illness is a pretty dangerous mix. The scary thing is it can happen to all of us.

  9. This is very piss poor IMO

    There are many people who suffer from depression and whatnot and they come from everywhere, even the sacred left. Shit you probably work with some of them or they are in your family FFS.

    Just because the SST puts it out – so what? Is this a public service announcement? – no, i didn’t think so – it is point scoring and i told you so-ing and i find it distasteful – about as distasteful as some of the things slater said and did.

    • Eddie 9.1

      Where’s the point scoring? I’m genuinely confused.

      It was in the SST, it’s had a run on Kiwiblog and was brought up here on an Open Mike thread. It’s hardly a secret.

      There’s been no attempt here to denigrate people who suffer from depression, quite the opposite. Are you sure you read the post properly?

  10. Ruth 10

    One can be compassionate about mental illness, but as noted the hypocrisy regarding beneficiaries is unconscionable. People have noted that he is never depressed when attending bloggers drinks parties.

    What about making a random young woman’s life a misery with stalking – remember Pearl Going? Mental illness or not, people can take responsibility for their actions.

    • Lew 10.1

      You can’t judge someone’s mental state from how they seem at a party. Slater has a public persona and has a public face to put on; for all you know he curls up in the foetal position and rocks himself to sleep afterwards, from the exertion of being the brash, bolshy, outgoing chap everyone expects.

      I’m in full agreement about taking responsibility for his actions, though.

      L

  11. ropata 11

    I can relate to Slater, I used to feel worthless and powerless, that the world was against me, and that shadowy malevolent forces were conspiring to wreck everything good. Fundamentalist religion reinforces that sort of unhealthy thinking. It is difficult to think positive when the negativity has so much emotional force and relentless logic behind it.

    It was immeasurably helpful to discuss things with counsellors who were able to puncture the assumptions of this inner narrative. Blogging serves a similar function, allowing a person who feels marginalized to express himself more freely than in personal discourse. We all need a safe place to be ourselves. When someone is secure enough to listen to criticism of their behaviour, they might change.

  12. The Voice of Reason 12

    Nice post, Eddie.

    When I saw this in the SST I started writing a piss take post, then thought better of it. It was to be headlined ‘Africa to hold benefit concert for blogger’ and with made up quotes from Mandela (‘I thought I knew about human suffering, but …. ).

    I think the best thing is to leave Slater to learn from life. I don’t have any hopes that he will publicly admit to being grateful that there is a welfare system as a safety net, but we all now know that socialism has saved his sorry arse. He will at least privately know what the average worker in the USA knows; private insurance is no panacea.

    Good luck to him, and if the depression is dinkum, I do hope he prevails against the insurer. I look forward to more insightful postings from him in the future, but I won’t hold my breath.

    Loved the photo in the SST, BTW, spitting image of Danny the Dealer from Withnail and I. Have a look at http://queen-of-outer-space.com/withnail.htm. Spooky!

  13. Irascible 13

    Amazing that Slater could get $100,000 a year on sickness insurance when those who have to resort to a sickness benefit are forced to make do on considerably less and then suffer the vitriol the hypocrites like Slater heap on them.
    I have little sympathy for him and his vitriol posing as balanced commentary. I wish the insurance company luck in its pursuit of a “bludger”.

  14. Aj 14

    At the risk of being banned, I didn’t need the SST story to tell me that Slater had mental issues.

  15. Sam 15

    Having been depressed at various points in my life, it does make you do things you regret, that when you look back on them you think “what the fucking fuck was I thinking”. I actually feel a little bad now for chastising him for being so vitriolic and hating, but at the same time it’s upsetting that so many take him so seriously.

    The sickness benefit now? Shit. That sucks. It’s nothing – my flat mate gets it for depression and man… wow, not much doesn’t begin to describe it. I guess now he might have a bit of perspective? Wouldn’t hold my breath though.

  16. Scott 16

    If Slater suffers from depression (though an insurance company and the specialists hired by them appear to think he doesn’t…) then of course he needs help.

    But that won’t excuse the vitriol expressed on his blog towards “bludgers” and “troughers” (to use his words), and his generally abusive manner. I’m not at all convinced his unpleasantness is a symptom of depression. He might just be an unpleasant person even when mentally well. So I for one am not giving him a free pass on this.

    If I experience an amount of schadenfreude over Slater’s plight, does that make me a bad person?

    • Bill 16.1

      Hell, no.

    • Quoth the Raven 16.2

      By all means point out Slater’s hypocrisy and argue against his politics, but don’t find pleasure in finding out he’s a depressive. Come on man that’s just not right.

      • Scott 16.2.1

        That’s not what I’m finding pleasure in. The pleasure is in seeing someone who has railed for years against “bludgers” become one himself.

  17. QoT 17

    Cameron was obviously unwell and that should have given journalists pause both before running his stories and citing him as a commentator of note, and before exposing him to pressures he could not handle through greater public exposure.

    Being a rabid, beneficiary-bashing rightwinger is not, in fact, a symptom of mental illness. Being a cretin, running a shite blog and getting on TV because someone’s spun Mark Sainsbury a line about having super-secret insider information is not being “obviously unwell”.

    Plenty of sane and rational people are cretins, and plenty of people not suffering from mental illness are internet trolls.

    I am seriously fucking offended by the notion that “oh you just have to look at his blog to know he’s unwell, and now we can totally judge his blog on the basis of his illness.”

  18. millsy 18

    Another example of right-wing hypocricy.

    Slater would have no hesitation in attacking anyone who was in his situation, telling them to ‘harden up and get a job’ or whatever.

    Hopefully there will be some good coming out of this. Starting with the fact that he is about to find out the hard way that life on a benefit isnt the lap of luxury it is made out to be…

  19. RedBack 19

    Eddie, well said. As someone who has lived with cyclical depression, for most of their adult life it is a condition that is still amazingly misunderstood. Mostly in the right wing press who lazily tend to use it for sensation whenever a high profile crime is reported on and the usual cackhanded coralation of “mental illness = violent criminal” always gets an airing.

    I do genuinly feel sorry for Cameron Slater. While he can still have a degree of control over his own actions and what he writes is often offensive I feel those around him who are his friends and associates also need to take some responsibility for encouraging how he writes and how he expresses himself in the public domain. This obviously isn’t happening.

    I’m glad most on here aren’t falling into using his clinical depression as way to attack him. Although most of us here disagree with what he writes and how he expresses his often extreme right wing veiws in public I always say its far better to take the high ground in these instances. Attack the issues not the man.

    • So Bored 19.1

      RedBack, in principle you are quite correct on attacking the issue and not the man. Most would generally agree to this principle as good social behavoir. The problem I see is that after some time and track record the person and the issue can become indistinguishable. Given ideas are generated and disseminated by individuals and are thus intimately linked drawing the line on personal attacks versus issue attacks can become very hazy. No simple answer.

  20. Adolf Fiinkensein 20

    Some commenters here display a lamentable lack of knowledge concerning insurance.

    There is no insurance policy of which I know (after twenty years experience in the industry) which will sustain a claim based on diagnosis of depression. The trigger for a claim is one’s ability to work. There are thousands of people who are diagnosed with depression but who manage to work productively and full time.

    I think the SST piece and this blog thread would have been better left unwritten.

  21. Richard 21

    What a disgraceful, vindictive blog. There are no redeeming features in this pathetic effort of character assassination.

    [lprent: Really? I figure we have been pretty restrained considering how some of us feel about Whale.
    Perhaps you’d care to elucidate your points clearly so people can do a point by point answer to your objections.
    Otherwise your comment resembles meaningless self-stimulation. ]

    • Craig Glen Eden 21.1

      Vindictive Nasty, really? Read the blog again Richard I think it raises a lot of very interesting issues. No one has truly attacked Slaters character. If anything Slater does that himself with his disgusting rants!

  22. Eddie said “His ceaseless attacks on gays, ‘bludgers’, ‘pinkos’ etc, which so many in the Right held up as teachings to follow were, in fact, Cameron’s way of battling his own inner demons.”

    Interesting Eddie – so is that Cosgrove and Mallard’s excuse for the “Tinkerbell” jibes towards Chris Finlayson then? I thought you guys would condemn homophobia, regardless of which side of the Chamber it emanated from.

  23. Michael L 23

    [lprent: Some idiot having some fun. Normally I’d nuke it with extreme prejudice for identity capture. But this one is actually kind of funny in a perverted way – so it gets a note at the top.. ]

    Well if you ask me and you know that you will; we should pay the families of all sufferers of mental illness $10,000 and have the person put down.

    In fact, we should put down all people who are a drain on society, or have the potential to be a drain on society.

    For too long we the people of NZ have put up with these sooky bubbers, its about time we manned up. You dont see those child killers getting all depressed now do you.

    I think i will put in a referendum for next years local body elections. We will start with Whanaganui (yeah i realise i lost that one so i will spell it with an H now), then we will export my tough love proposal to the rest of east germa, ah i mean New Zealand.

    Big mike

  24. graham 24

    so the adds put out by labour about mental illness passed by your heads.
    my brother suffered from depression i surpose it was his fault because he was a tory. It may please you to know he killed himself so the thread goes Tory=Mad=death how sad we dont give a shit
    Is that what you are saying?

    • r0b 24.1

      No graham. The post was about respecting the rights of those with mental illness. Just how wrong can you be???

  25. ropata 25

    Whale has written a rather unbalanced response to this, placing himself alongside luminaries such as
    “Buzz Aldrin, Woody Allen, Hans Christian Anderson, Drew Carey, Jim Carrey, Winston Churchill, T.S. Elliot, Marcus Epstein, Harrison Ford, Stephen Fry, Ernest Hemingway, Robert Oppenheimer, Mozart, Isacc Newton, Friedrich Nietzsche, JK Rowling, even darling of the Climate Changists Jim Salinger, Mark Twain”

    If he’s so wonderfully accomplished why is he on a benefit? Reality eludes the poor chap.

  26. Mark 26

    Wow, what a creepy post. I am not hugely Internet savvy, but is Eddie’s post an example of a “concern troll”?

  27. maria von trapp 27

    Ok, so I really don’t think this post should have been written.

    I’m certainly not a fan of Whale Oil, but I would really like to see him just being left alone by all.

    Some of you who have been on the blogs for a few years may remember me from 05-06 – a leftie, Labour party member who has suffered from depression on and off since 05 (and probably before). I openly blogged about my depression and so did others from the ‘left’.

    While I wouldn’t personally consider him of the ilk of the list of luminaries he produced, he makes a fair point, which is that many of us who have suffered from depression are still capable of doing great things. Depression shouldn’t remove a person from being considered useful, or thoughtful, or capable. In fact, considering a person in a positive light can actually help the chances of recovery, from what is, an illness.

    I agree with the commenter earlier that a “rethink” around creating a world where people can work with depression would be really, really good.

    A person who was bullying me in 05 when I was pretty incapable of working used to hassle me because I was blogging. The thing is, the blogging is what kept me alive. But I was incapable of doing pretty much anything else (I don’t miss spending 4 days straight in my pyjamas).

    I was capable of doing some things, but not all things that would class a person as being of “normal functioning.” What I mean is that just because someone has depression, doesn’t mean there aren’t things they can do well. It’s just that doing those things can take such an enormous TOLL that they can’t function in any other way.

    For instance, I can argue, I can write till the cows come home, I don’t mind laundry. But getting out of bed on time, getting to work on time, getting big jobs finished, being proactive in building some of my key work relationships, sorting out issues with bills, money management, these are the sorts of things I find difficult when my depression gets out of hand. And then sometimes it all becomes so hard it is easier to spend the whole day with my head under the covers. And then, because I am an extrovert I miss out on the energy I need from other people to be in any sort of ok state.

    But one of the things I never lose is my ability to analyse, to rationalise, to apply logic, and to apply language.

    Everybody’s depression is different, I don’t think anyone commenting here is an “expert”, so all I have to say is stop judging, and stop gossiping.

    If Whale Oil pisses you off, just ignore him. But don’t subtly try to shut down his voice because of his illness.

    • RedLogix 27.1

      but I would really like to see him just being left alone by all.

      Fair enough, but I can’t see him returning the favour anytime soon.

      As for ‘subtly trying to shut him down’, I doubt anything less subtle than the proverbial bus running him down could do that.

  28. ropata 28

    Maria,
    Mr Slater states that WhaleOil is “just a persona” but as Whale he’s said and done a lot of nasty vindictive things. The OP supports Mr Slater’s attempt to distance himself from that persona.

    The OP does not disclose personal info — reports were already in the news media, and Eddie surmises that perhaps some of Whale’s more “robust” outbursts are not only motivated by political convictions, but possibly the result of an unhealthy thought process.

    Personal attacks would be unkind, but his ideas should be fair game, since he’s been spouting off to all and sundry for several years.

  29. maria von trapp 29

    Absolutely, go for his ideas. He’s attacked more than one of my own personal friends using highly offensive methods. But the point I’m making is that that behaviour isn’t necessarily linked to his depression.

    Play the ball, not the man….

    In terms of my comment about “trying to subtly shut down his ideas”, I’m referring to this, from Eddie:

    “I think there is a lesson here for the media. Cameron was obviously unwell and that should have given journalists pause both before running his stories and citing him as a commentator of note, and before exposing him to pressures he could not handle through greater public exposure.”

    Be very careful with these types of statements. Just because someone is unwell mentally, does NOT mean they are not capable of using their voice. In fact, I was interviewed myself yesterday for a major story. My depression, my medication, has nothing to do with it.

    Now in Cameron’s case, pretty much everything he says in the media I disagree with. Much of it, I find offensive. But I’d rather attack what he SAYS not his illness as the reason for it – because that is an analysis best left to an expert me thinks.

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