MONDAY, OCTOBER 31, 2022
Adults, pretty much not: The journalistic rule is clear. We know the rule from this sub-headline in today's New York Times:
Helping Teens Struggling With Mental Health Issues
That headline tops a set of thoughtful letters concerning teenagers' mental health issues. In this way, the journalistic rule becomes clear:
New rule: Journalistically, teenagers can have mental health problems. But it seems that adults cannot.
Journalistically, adults can't have mental health / mental illness issues—and no, it isn't just Trump! Consider the way this report in today's New York Times describes David DePape:
BROWNING ET AL (10/31/22): A precise sequence of the break-in is still emerging, and a portrait of Mr. DePape is only beginning to take shape. People who have known him at various points in his life reveal a shy person who sought to improve the world, but also as someone whose life seemed to drift and whose behavior seemed strange at times, even unhinged.
The highlighted sentence doesn't quite parse. But according to people who knew him, DePape's behavior "seemed strange at times, even unhinged."
At times, his behavior seemed "unhinged"—even that! For the record, here is some of the behavior we seem to be talking about:
BROWNING ET AL: When Linda Schneider, 65, knew Mr. DePape for a couple of years starting in 2009, she was running an urban farm for low-income communities in the East Bay area. Mr. DePape would help her with her chickens and occasionally house-sit for her, she said.
At the time, Mr. DePape was living out of a storage unit in Berkeley and making hemp bracelets, said Ms. Schneider, who still lives in California. He had been using hard drugs but was trying to straighten his life, she said. She recalled him as being reliable, easygoing and painfully shy.
“He wouldn’t even have a bank account because he was terrified of talking to a teller,” she said.
By 2012, Ms. Schneider said she began receiving “very bizarre” emails from Mr. DePape in which he equated himself with Jesus Christ. She felt the messages were “somewhat dangerous,” she said, and she stopped communicating with him.
“This was a guy who didn’t have a lot of internal strength,” she said. “He’d follow anything a little abnormal in front of him.”
As of 2012, DePape had begun "equating himself with Jesus Christ." In the lexicon of the Times, this suggests the possibility that his behavior seemed strange at times, "even unhinged." According to the acquaintance they quote, he lacked internal strength!
It seems to us that newspapers like the Times go a million miles out of their way to avoid discussions of possible (severe) mental illness.
Today, Browning at al. don't ask any of their interview subjects about the possibility that DePape had ever sought or received treatment for possible mental illness. Meanwhile, Charles Blow offers this thought about the endlessly bizarre behavior of Kanye West, which recently involved antisemitic stupidity:
BLOW (10/31/22): This is not about mental illness. Mental illness is very real and needs to be part of the conversation. But it doesn’t make you espouse anti-Black ideologies and antisemitism.
Mental illness doesn't make a person "espouse anti-Black ideologies and antisemitism?" On what basis does Blow claim to know that?
Is it possible that the Times could seek the counsel of medical specialists before they allow a person like Blow to offer such an assessment? That would seem like especially good advice in the current case, since West has said in the past that he's been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Back to DePape! In a report you'll never be able to find in the ridiculous online Washington Post, Davis and Bennett start by saying this:
DAVIS AND BENNETT (10/29/22): The San Francisco Bay area man arrested in the attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband filled a blog a week before the incident with delusional thoughts, including that an invisible fairy attacked an acquaintance and sometimes appeared to him in the form of a bird, according to online writings under his name.
David DePape, 42, also published hundreds of blog posts in recent months sharing memes in support of fringe commentators and far-right personalities. Many of the posts were filled with screeds against Jews, Black people, Democrats, the media and transgender people.
During October, DePape published over 100 posts. While each loads, a reader briefly glimpses an image of a person wearing a giant inflatable unicorn costume, superimposed against a night sky. The photos and videos that followed were often dark and disturbing.
According to DePape, an invisible fairy attacked an acquaintance and sometimes appeared to him in the form of a bird! The Post's reporters were willing to call these thoughts "delusional," but they too avoided asking DePape's acquaintances about any possible mental health / mental illness history.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep. Many journalists went to the finest schools, but on this scariest day of the year, they avoid a major framework of established medical science as Dracula shrank from the cross.