27 October 2011

Image: NewsA disability rights campaigner has been abused on Twitter by fans of comedian Ricky Gervais after confronting him over his use of the word “mong.”

Nicola Clark replied to the comic’s tweet to make the implications of his casual use of the word known to himself and his fans.

Gervais insisted the word no longer means Down’s Syndrome and provided a link to an online definition, but Nicola retorted it does and copied his tactic by providing a definition.

This confrontation caused his loyal fan base to strike back at her. She wrote on the Guardian Society website: “I was then bombarded with tweets from his furious fans calling me a ‘c***t’ and a ‘mong.’”

Out of the two insults it is the latter that offended her. As a mum of two disabled girls she feels particularly strong about the issue and actively campaigns to make hate speech a thing of the past.

During Learning Disability week she launched the People Not Punchlines campaign to make hate speech illegal under UK legislation. She pointed out controversial comedian Frankie Boyle who regularly makes offensive jokes about people with a disability.

At ARC we feel Gervais’s use of the word is offensive and irresponsible considering the breadth of his influence. The nature of his fans’ comments to Nicola shows ignorance in society that needs to be addressed.

The stigma faced by people with a learning disability is often caused by the casual use of offensive terms. Such hate speech may not be seen as serious but it can lead to hate crime where serious emotional and physical harm can be inflicted.

The Hidden in Plain Sight report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission highlighted the concerning issue that people with disabilities see abuse as the norm and expect to be the target of such offensive slurs.

It is this behaviour in society that needs to change, disability or no disability; all deserve the right to independence and respect.

Nicola Clark’s article can be found on the Guardian Society website

ARC’s Safety Net project aims to build awareness about Hate Crime and Mate Crime