“The Only Disability in Life Is a Bad Attitude”: So-Called “Inspirational” Media in The Age of Trump

Main Article Content

Eve Bohakel Lee, M.A.C. https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4215-2550
Amy Lein, Ph.D. https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1153-2518
Kyle Barnett, Ph.D. https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7453-3526
Moira O'Keeffe, Ph.D. https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2022-9016


inspiration porn, politics, Facebook


This study explores the reactions of social media users to “inspiration porn” involving disabled persons, which are images designed to elicit sympathy or a feel-good response. Distinctions were found along the lines of respondents’ political, religious, educational, and disability-related identities.

Abstract 250 | WORD Downloads 46 PDF Downloads 81


Biden, J. R., Jr. (2021). National strategy for the COVID-19 response and pandemic preparedness, January 2021. The White House. https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/National-Strategy-for-the-COVID-19-Response-and-Pandemic-Preparedness.pdf
Bogart, K. R., & Dunn, D. S. (2019). Ableism special issue introduction. Journal of Social Issues, 75(3), 650–664. https://doi.org/10.1111/josi.12354
Brainfuel Solutions. (2020, April 26). Attitude is the most important thing in life. Everyone should be thankful to live and enjoy every day, not complain about bad things that happen to you [Image attached] [Status update]. Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/BrainfuelSolutions/photos/a.317942675406187/763982807468836
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, August 17). Prevalence of disabilities and health care access by disability status and type among adults – United States, 2016. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 67(32), 882–887. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6732a3.htm
Clifford, S., Jewell, R. M., & Waggoner, P. D. (2015). Are samples drawn from Mechanical Turk valid for research on political ideology? Research and Politics, 2(4), 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1177/2053168015622072
CNN. (2015a, August 13). Trump: Drink my little wine, have my little cracker [Video]. YouTube. https://youtu.be/_Zvtl5emEEI
CNN. (2015b, November 25). Trump mocks reporter with disability [Video]. YouTube. https://youtu.be/PX9reO3QnUA
Coleman-Brown, L. M. (1986). Stigma: An enigma demystified. In S. C. Ainlay, G. Becker, & L. M. Coleman (Eds.), The dilemma of difference: A multidisciplinary view of stigma (pp. 211–232). Plenum Press.
Davis, L. J. (1995). Enforcing normalcy: Disability, deafness, and the body. Verso.
Express Employment Professionals. (2018, August 29). Blue collar workers: Career and life satisfaction high; trust in elected officials low [Press release]. https://www.expresspros.com/Newsroom/America-Employed/Blue-Collar-Workers-Career-and-Life-Satisfaction-High-Trust-in-Elected-Officials-Low.aspx
Festinger, L. (1957). A theory of cognitive dissonance. Stanford University Press.
FOX 5 Atlanta. (2017, March 28). Woman snaps photo of IHOP server helping disabled customer. https://www.fox5atlanta.com/news/woman-snaps-photo-of-ihop-server-helping-disabled-customer
Giorgi, S. (2017). The mind and heart of resonance: The role of cognition and emotions in frame effectiveness. Journal of Management Studies 54(5), 711–738. https://doi.org/10.1111/joms.12278
Goffman, E. (1963). Stigma: Notes on the management of spoiled identity. Prentice Hall.
Goffman, E. (1974). Frame analysis: An essay on the organization of experience. Harper & Row.
Howden, L. M., & Meyer, J. A. (2011, May). Age and sex composition: 2010 (Report No. C2010BR-03). U.S. Census Bureau. https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2011/dec/c2010br-03.pdf
Mitchell, A., Jurkowitz, M., Oliphant, J. B., & Shearer, E. (2020, July 30). Americans who mainly get their news on social media are less engaged, less knowledgeable. Pew Research Center. https://www.journalism.org/2020/07/30/americans-who-mainly-get-their-news-on-social-media-are-less-engaged-less-knowledgeable
Nario-Redmond, M. R. (2020). Ableism: The causes and consequences of disability prejudice. John Wiley & Sons.
Paarlberg, L., Nesbit, R., Clerkin, R. M., & Christensen, R. K. (2018). The politics of donations: are red counties more donative than blue counties? Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 38(2), 283–308. https://doi.org/10.1177/0899764018804088
Packer, J. I., & Oden, T. C. (2004). One faith: The evangelical consensus. InterVarsity Press.
Pew Research Center. (2018, August 9). For most Trump voters, “very warm” feelings for him endured. https://www.people-press.org/2018/08/09/for-most-trump-voters-very-warm-feelings-for-him-endured
Pew Research Center. (2020, June 2). In changing U.S. electorate, race and education remain stark dividing lines. https://www.people-press.org/2020/06/02/in-changing-u-s-electorate-race-and-education-remain-stark-dividing-lines
Rappeport, A., & Haberman, M. (2020, January 23). Trump opens possibility of making Medicare cuts. The New York Times, A20.
Ruffing, K. (2015, January 8). Mapping disability receipt. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. https://www.cbpp.org/blog/mapping-disability-receipt
Schaffel, G. (2018, February 20). It’s official: Facebook is becoming the platform for you. AARP. https://www.aarp.org/home-family/personal-technology/info-2018/facebook-users-age-fd.html
Shearer, E., & Grieco, E. (2019, October 2). Americans are wary of the role social media sites play in delivering the news. Pew Research Center. https://www.journalism.org/2019/10/02/americans-are-wary-of-the-role-social-media-sites-play-in-delivering-the-news
Spags, C. (2015, May 13). High school QB keeping a fourth grade [sic] promise to take a girl with Downs [sic] syndrome to prom is just an awesome dude. Barstool Sports. https://www.barstoolsports.com/blog/282152/high-school-qb-keeping-a-fourth-grade-promise-to-take-a-girl-with-downs-syndrome-to-prom-is-just-an-awesome-dude
The Associated Press. (1997, March 20). Hamilton has cancer. The New York Times, B18.
The Heritage Foundation. (n.d.) True north: The principles of conservatism. Retrieved January 18, 2021, from https://www.heritage.org/truenorth
Tuttle, I. (2016, February 26). Yes, Trump University was a massive scam. National Review. https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/trump-university-scam
Tyson, A. (2018, March 15). Disagreements about Trump widely seen as reflecting divides over “other values and goals.” Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/03/15/disagreements-about-trump-widely-seen-as-reflecting-divides-over-other-values-and-goals
United Health Foundation. (2019). America’s health rankings annual report 2019. https://assets.americashealthrankings.org/app/uploads/ahr_2019annualreport.pdf
United States Census Bureau. (n.d.). Quick facts, United States. Retrieved January 18, 2021, from https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045219
U.S. Department of Justice. (2020). A guide to disability rights laws. Retrieved January 18, 2021, from https://www.ada.gov/cguide.htm
USA Today. (2016) Trump nation. https://www.usatoday.com/pages/interactives/trump-nation
Young, S. (2014, April). Stella Young: I’m not your inspiration, thank you very much [Video]. TED Conferences. https://www.ted.com/talks/stella_young_i_m_not_your_inspiration_thank_you_very_much