The ME Bandwagon and other labels: Constructing the authentic case in talk about a controversial illness.
British Journal of Social Psychology, 46(4) pp. 895–914.
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This paper examines the discourse of morality surrounding ‘ME’ as a contested illness, looking at how GPs and ME group members differentiate between the category of ‘genuine ME sufferer’ and the ‘bandwagon’. ‘Jumping on the bandwagon’ is a metaphor commonly used to describe the activity of ‘following the crowd’ in order to gain an advantage. This discursive analysis shows how ‘bandwagon’ categories are constructed in contrast to the category of genuine sufferer. People who jump on the bandwagon are accused of matching their symptoms to media stereotypes, adopting trendy illnesses (‘fads’,) or using ‘tickets’ to avoid facing up to psychological illnesses. Both GPs and ME group members construct a differential moral ordering of physical and psychological illness categories, where the latter assumes a lesser status. The paper concludes that against a background of medical uncertainty and controversy, the ‘bandwagon’ and other derogatory labels function as contrast categories that work to establish the existence of ‘ME’ as a genuine illness.
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