Apparently it is now forbidden to refer to someone who killed 149 people in a pointless act of mountainside barbarism as a ‘madman’. Seriously. The Sun found this out today after it dared to run with the headline ‘Madman in cockpit’ in relation to the Germanwings air disaster, which is now thought to have been a conscious and suicidal act of mass murder on the part of the co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz. Academics, tweeters and tabloid-loathers have, well, gone mad over the Sun’s headline, ironically frothing like loonies over the Sun’s use of loony-like language. I’m sorry, but if you can’t call someone who is suspected of killing 149 innocent souls in the most horrible and calculated fashion a ‘madman’, then who can be branded with the m-word? Anyone? No one?
It has been discovered that Lubitz was suffering from a mental illness, and officials now believe that this could have been a factor in his seeming decision to coolly crash his airplane into the side of the Alps. But according to the Guardian we must be super-careful in how we talk about Lubitz. It accuses the Sun of ‘stigmatising depression’ by referring to Lubitz as a ‘madman’. This is bonkers (I have lots more of these madness-related adjectives): the Sun was describing Lubitz as a madman because he killed himself and 149 people in a bizarre way (allegedly), not because he was depressed. He behaved madly, hence the madman tag. What’s the problem?
Another observer accuses the Sun and other tabloids of giving a ‘kick in the teeth for people who suffer from mental-health issues’. She slams media outlets for using headlines such as ‘Killer pilot suffered from depression’ - which is a fact! - and ‘Why on earth was he allowed to fly?’ - which is actually a bloody good question. Sure, depressed people work perfectly well, in many areas of life. But having bipolar people who are under the close supervision of doctors in the cockpit of a plane? I’m not sure that’s the best idea in history. We should certainly be allowed to ask if it’s a good idea. Given a choice between a totally sane pilot with no history of medication for mental issues and a pilot who has suffered severe dark episodes and has been watched closely by psychiatrists, which would you choose to fly you over the Alps? Well then.