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.