Being a media critic (a thing I am actually calling myself now) is a futile exercise. Calling out a proud piece of trash like the Daily Mail, doubly so. Criticizing the Daily Mail and expecting an answer is tantamount to shouting into the void. It’s the Daily “Enemies of the People” Mail, for god’s sake.
The primary question here is, why do I care so much? Why, after all of the sexist/xenophobic/insert other adjective here trash the Daily Mail has put out, was this the thing to send me over the edge? An informational article about new technologies in bowel surgery is downright trivial compared to “Legs-it.”
I care because I have an ostomy or “the bag,” as the piece puts it (which I have documented to great extent here and across my social media). I have one because I have Crohn’s disease, which became so severe that I sustained massive blood loss from my large intestine.
My only option was to get the bag, or die. I am not being dramatic — this miserable stoma bag is the reason I am still here. I’m coming from a personal place here, but it enrages me to see this stereotypical, inflammatory language in a place where it should not be.
From a purely journalistic standpoint, the purpose of an informational article about a cutting-edge technology is not to demonize the old. For many people in need, the “old” way of doing things will still be the only option. Medical journalism for the layperson is not a place for bias. It’s bad form at best, and irresponsible at worst.
Writing like this has real-life consequences. A 2012 U.K. Department of Health survey reported that one in three people were too embarrassed to consult their family doctor about blood in their stool, which is often a sign of inflammatory bowel disease, like Crohn’s, or bowel cancer. Fear of undergoing ostomy surgery is “a fear sometimes bigger than the fear of death itself.” (Source.)
I can attest to both. When I experienced my initial symptoms of Crohn’s — which included blood in my stool — I told nobody, not even my own mother. I lied to my friends about missing school. When I woke up with my large intestine removed and my ostomy bag placed, I thought my life was over.
There is an overarching stigma surrounding bowel diseases and ostomy bags that has burrowed its way into every corner of our society (though it is worth noting that according to i News U.K., Afro-Caribbean and Muslim populations seem disproportionately affected).
Articles like that of the Daily Mail’s work to effectively shame people out of seeking help. By using an objective story to frame an ostomy bag as a miserable existence, the author and editors responsible for the piece only serve to perpetuate the stigma. Any positive information about new surgical technologies is promptly undone by the poor choice of language.
If anything is to be taken away from this, it’s that responsible journalism does matter. Publications need to be held accountable when they do not meet that standard, even if it is a piece of goddamn-fear-mongering-xenophobia-stoking-Rita-Ora-reporting trash like the Daily Mail.