Owen Jones: Hatred of those on benefits is dangerously out of control

Owen Jones: 'Taking away support from the disabled, the unemployed and the working poor is not straightforward. It can only be achieved by a campaign of demonisation - to crush any potential sympathy'

Taking away support can only be achieved by demonising recipients as scroungers in mansions

By OWEN JONES

What does it say about modern Britain when the pre-meditated massacre of six children is described as “an accident waiting to happen” on national television? In the early hours of last Friday, someone poured petrol through the letterbox of the Philpott household, unleashing a blaze that ended in one of the most appalling mass murders in our country’s recent history.

 

Whoever was responsible must have known the almost inevitable consequences of their actions. No rationalisations exist for this sort of atrocity.

VIDEO Published on May 17, 2012 by Richard Brown

“Fair use – do not take down – this video is under 10 minutes and it is in the public interest for its contents to be visible to the UK public, in accordance with copyright law”.

This Morning: Carole Malone said that the fact of the Philpott family claiming benefits for their large family led to the fire/arson attack ion which six of their children perished:This feed was taken down for ‘copyright reasons’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6LpcwUrtq8&feature=youtu.be 

But as the surviving Philpotts face an agony most would struggle to imagine, right-wing shock-jock Carole Malone argued that they had effectively brought it on themselves. “This family became a target a couple of years ago,” she argued on ITV’s This Morning; they had “probably upset a lot of people” by being a family of 17 who were receiving state benefits. “I suspect they have many enemies out there because they were seen to be on benefits,” she suggested with a tone that did not betray a hint of compassion. With the country in such a dire financial state, “People have seen families – maybe like this – wanting to take advantage.” Referring to the “culture of the family” and the fact they had brought “attention to themselves”, Malone concluded that “six innocent children have died as a result”.

Malone has form. In 2009, she absurdly claimed that illegal immigrants received “free cars”. The Press Complaints Commission forced the now defunct News of the World to apologise and publish a full retraction. After Karen Matthews shocked the nation by kidnapping her own daughter to extort money from the tabloid press, Malone claimed to have lived “next” to a council estate “full of people like Karen Matthews”. They were part of a “sub (human) class that now exists in the murkiest, darkest corners of this country”, she claimed, as though an abhorrent individual such as Karen Matthews was representative of anybody but herself. But as contemptible as this proven propagator of untruths is, Malone merely reflects prejudice that is increasingly rampant in austerity Britain. On the same day the children were killed, I am told that a producer at a leading radio station suggested using the tragedy as a hook for a feature on large families.

Before the general election, some of the media delighted in using the Philpotts as evidence the welfare system was out of control. They were featured on ITV shows Ann Widdecombe Versus The Benefit Culture and The Jeremy Kyle Show, and in several newspapers. The coverage had a simple aim: to provide proof of the age-old suspicion that the poor are breeding too much – and at taxpayers’ expense, too. It was a sentiment that was rife among the eugenicists who flourished in inter-war Britain; and Thatcher’s mentor, Keith Joseph, ruined his Conservative leadership ambitions in the mid-1970s by claiming that “our human stock is threatened” by single parents “in [social] classes 4 and 5” having too many children.

Echoing this tradition, Jeremy Hunt argued before the general election that long-term claimants had to “take responsibility’ for the number of children they had, adding that the state would no longer fund large workless families. But it is all based on myths. Just 3.4 per cent of families in long-term receipt of benefits have four children or more.

Hatred against those receiving benefits is out of control in Cameron’s Britain. The Tories transformed a crisis of capitalism into a crisis of public spending, and determined that the most vulnerable would make the biggest sacrifices. But taking away support from the disabled, the unemployed and the working poor is not straightforward. It can only be achieved by a campaign of demonisation – to crush any potential sympathy. Benefit recipients must only appear as feckless, workshy scroungers, living in opulent quasi-mansions with wall-to-wall widescreen TVs, rampaging around the Canary Islands courtesy of handouts from the squeezed taxpayer. Benefit fraud does exist – according to Government estimates, it is worth less than 1 per cent of welfare spending – but the most extreme examples are passed off as representative, or as the “tip of the iceberg”. The reality is all but airbrushed out of existence.

Earlier this year, a Sunday Times article featured the headline “End the something for nothing culture”. Below was a picture of the Gallagher family from the comedy-drama Shameless, as though these fictional caricatures were real life. This one-time paper of record quoted a Whitehall official on benefit recipients: “If we want them to tap dance, then they will tap dance.” Rod Liddle – who dresses up the boorish rants of a thick pub bore as journalism – claimed that his new year’s resolution “was to become disabled”, perhaps with a “newly invented” illness like fibromyalgia, so he could claim benefits. As the economic catastrophe that began four years ago led to a national jobs’ crisis – there are now over six million people looking for full-time work – the “scrounger'”caricature perversely has become more and more popular.

It is tempting to ignore the ramblings of glorified internet trolls like Liddle, but their projected ignorance has consequences. Six of the biggest disability charities have warned that the campaign of demonisation – by both journalists and politicians – has led to a surge in abuse towards people with disabilities. According to Scope, two-thirds reported abuse in September last year, up from 41 per cent just four months earlier.

But this campaign helps sustain public acquiescence in a massacre of the welfare state. George Osborne plans £10bn of further benefit cuts; Cameron’s parting spinmeister Steve Hilton has proposed £25bn. Half a million people are to have their disability living allowance taken away, even though the estimated fraud rate is just 0.5 per cent. People with serious illnesses are being stripped of their employment and support allowance, after undergoing the horrendous (and often humiliating) ordeal of a points-based assessment by French corporation Atos. One man with a degenerative lung disease, Larry Newman, was awarded no points – just a few weeks before he died of his illness. Under New Labour (let’s not forget who started this), one woman had her benefits cut after missing an assessment appointment – because she was in hospital having chemotherapy for stomach cancer.

But we rarely see this reality: it is intentionally hidden from us. The Government and much of the media divert anger from those who caused the crisis, to your “scrounging” neighbour down the street. And so we end with Carole Malone arguing that a family whose children died in a fire brought it on themselves. It is beyond shameful. And it must be challenged.

THE INDEPENDENT

Comments
  • DAVID A SHAW May 18, 2012 at 2:05 am

    This must be stopped and then some. Prejudice is rife, but i do not see it against other groups who could be targeted. In fact i see other groups being protected and the media literally trying to strike fear in the hearts of any who would act in a such a way towards them while actively stirring up the self same thing towards the disabled and benefit claimants, forgetting that a percentage of claimants will be in the groups they actively promote fear towards. My point is no prejudice is acceptable, but what we have here is action by the government and press towards the vulnerable and those whom they think are powerless and cannot strike back. This is a deliberate and thought through policy, and if the presenter had said something like maybe ‘ Stephen Lawrence had bought his murder upon himself’ i wonder just how long her prison sentence for inciting racial hatred would be. So why is it OK to say that this family brought it upon themselves, why is that any different to my previous extreme statement ? How the hell in a supposedly democratic country like the UK is the murder of children deemed acceptable simply because those in the media and Government are too stupid to be able to see that what they espouse is PREJUDICE, pure and simple , and is unacceptable under any circumstances and against anyone for any reason, despite what they may wish the general public to think.

  • JJ May 18, 2012 at 2:08 am

    Bloody well said! Bravo, Owen Jones! You’re a mench! x

  • Deborah Mahmoudieh May 18, 2012 at 3:17 am

    Yes, well said – people like Malone are getting carried away in their own ‘spin’ – i think she genuinely believed her remarks would win her huge public support. It was really terrible to see the emotional press-conference with the parents – i can barely comprehend what they must be going through – i feel numb at the level of hatred that has killed 6 children. What has happened to the Britain our grandparents sacrificed their lives for?

  • JB May 18, 2012 at 3:25 am

    Excellent bit of journalism just such a shame our predijuced media/press won’t print this story coverage in a real paper!! This is so true all of it and so disgusting and shameful this Karen woman should be made accountable and made to officially and public ally apologise to the whole family right away disposable behaviour! I too am disabled and have been judged and pubic ally attacked by members of the public challenging my disability!! Shameful facist govt and shameful press and shameful Britain….

  • JJ May 18, 2012 at 4:17 am

    SACK CAROLE MALONE. If she writes for a news paper I urge everyone to boycot it.

    If she is employed by Television, let them lose their viewing figures.

    Let this evil cow and all those evil NAZIS that think it`s acceptable and understandable for someone to pour petrol through a letterbox and murder children, SACK THEM< MAKE THEM UNEMPLOYED. This is the most EVIL woman in the UK. She should wear a swastika, I want to smack her right in that botoxed face of hers. pammyoneto 2 hours ago See all comments on the thread: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=VWWbulFooPU

  • JJ May 18, 2012 at 4:37 am
  • TJ May 18, 2012 at 6:43 am

    Most worrying is not one of the major political parties is making a stand.

  • kasbah May 18, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    Well, as the gov and their supporters are busy sinking to unprecedented
    depths of labelling ordinary people, I am inspired to do some too. IDS and
    Malone are remorseless sociopaths. They pose a great threat to the public and
    therefore the only response can be prison sentences.

  • C Rainey May 18, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    Lets hope that these people, get the worst luck ever and they end up on their arse and when this happens and they go on benefits, lets hope they get the same attitude as they have given out, because unless your in the situaution you’ll never know whats it’s like.

  • Loubs May 18, 2012 at 5:00 pm

    I hope that the vile creature that is carole malone realises that by her own twisted, disgusting reasoning, the day that she is attacked/murdered in her own home, it will simply be an “accident waiting to happen”.

  • paul barnard May 18, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    I now believe that the people who are making decisions that affect our lives are sociopaths. this has been a terrible shock. i believe that they are simply unable to understand humanity on any real level as they have themselves been abused and robbed of their humanity by a system that is endemic in its dehumanization. there is no point looking for their conscience or appealing to their better nature, as they have long lost any of these human qualities. they simply believe that they are right and cannot see anything apart from power and wealth. i believe that to understand them we need to understand fascism or extreme prejudice.
    I believe that there is no alternative to strong, firm no nonsense action in dealing with these people due to their inability to behave in any compassionate way or understand another human beings needs.
    i hope that all the “real” people on these pages who do care can join together to firmly and clearly say NO to the sick and dysfunctional policies that will perpetuate the cruelty and fear that these systems rely on to control others.
    we will always need to monitor and be aware of it, for they are the darkest part of us all and when we are all in fear even the strongest and most caring of us can so easily be drawn back to the evil.
    i want a better world where this financial and emotional terrorism is held in abeyance by our own awareness and support for each other.

  • paul barnard May 18, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    I now believe that the people who are making decisions that affect our lives are sociopaths. this has been a terrible shock. i believe that they are simply unable to understand humanity on any real level as they have themselves been abused and robbed of their humanity by a system that is endemic in its dehumanization. there is no point looking for their conscience or appealing to their better nature, as they have long lost any of these human qualities. they simply believe that they are right and cannot see anything apart from power and wealth. i believe that to understand them we need to understand fascism or extreme prejudice.
    I believe that there is no alternative to strong, firm no nonsense action in dealing with these people due to their inability to behave in any compassionate way or understand another human beings needs.
    i hope that all the “real” people on these pages who do care can join together to firmly and clearly say NO to the sick and dysfunctional policies that will perpetuate the cruelty and fear that these systems rely on to control others.
    we will always need to monitor and be aware of it, for they are the darkest part of us all and when we are all in fear even the strongest and most caring of us can so easily be drawn back to the evil.
    i want a better world where this financial and emotional terrorism is held in abeyance by our own awareness and support for each other.

    kasbah
    Well, as the gov and their supporters are busy sinking to unprecedented
    depths of labelling ordinary people, I am inspired to do some too. IDS and
    Malone are remorseless sociopaths. They pose a great threat to the public and
    therefore the only response can be prison sentences.

    • kasbah May 20, 2012 at 1:04 pm

      Black Triangle Anti-Defamation Campaign in Defence of Disability Rights on Facebook
      paul barnard commented on Black Triangle Campaign:
      I now believe that the people who are making decisions that affect our lives are sociopaths. this has been a terrible shock. i believe that they are simply unable to understand humanity on any real level as they have themselves been abused and robbed of their humanity by a system that is endemic in its dehumanization. there is no point looking for their conscience or appealing to their better nature, as they have long lost any of these human qualities. they simply believe that they are right and cannot see anything apart from power and wealth. i believe that to understand them we need to understand fascism othinkr extreme prejudice.
      I believe that there is no alternative to strong, firm no nonsense action in dealing with these people due to their inability to behave in any compassionate way or understand another human beings needs.
      i hope that all the “real” people on these pages who do care can join together to firmly and clearly say NO to the sick and dysfunctional policies that will perpetuate the cruelty and fear that these systems rely on to control others.rkest part of us all and when we are all in fear even the strongest and most caring of us can so easily be drawn back to the evil.
      i want a better world where this financial and emotional terrorism is held in abeyance by our own awke you’s lareness and support for each other.

      It it’s like you have read my thoughts Paul! I worked as a qualified counsellor for years
      when I was i well and from my training i can say that IDS and others are
      displaying sociopathic thoughts and behaviour. Only the law and lots of protest can curb them.

  • Humanity Forever May 21, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    Murder is Evil

    I Blame the Tabloids in large measure for the Demonisation of the Poor and
    Vulnerable

    Typical how many of those Influenced by Tabloid Bigotry and Regime Propaganda
    Support the Bloody Wars in Afghanistan which is a Real Waste of Money in Costing
    Billions of Pounds

    Better Welfare than Warfare

  • Glen Shakespeare December 30, 2012 at 10:37 pm

    Let us not forget why work is so difficult to find. A senseless political choice made by the present incompetent incumbents.

  • Anna December 30, 2012 at 11:44 pm

    Are governments legally allowed to just lie? That is what they are doing. All the racist rants we’ve seen online about the recent violence against women protests in India… Yet this sickness is going on right in our faces here at home. Disabled and Unemployed people have as much right as anyone else to be here and deserve support. A day’s work for an employer is not the only value of a human being. People can and do contribute many other things to their community and on a wider scale too. This is an utter disgrace.

  • cheryl December 30, 2012 at 11:54 pm

    This world is just TRUELY SICK MINDED and as far as i can see the government is suffering really bad mental health , when is a syciatrist going to examine them and lock them in a mental asilume

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