The astonishing rise in the media’s use of ‘scrounger’

10:01 am - May 1st 2013

by Sunny Hundal    

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This chart by @GavinEdwards77 on Twitter is extraordinary….and self-explanatory.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments

Scroungers are everywhere Ballbiter Smith is simply one of the most hypoctritical

Presumably a lot of this will be articles discussing or objecting to the use of the term, or discussing the “scroungers vs scrivers” rhetoric, rather than the papers actually using the term themselves.

Strange… the ‘scrounging’ epidemic being reported by the papers, with millions of people suddenly deciding to swap their working lives for a more relaxed and prosperous life on benefits, appears to have coincided with the recent period of recession and stagnation. Could the two things be related? If we didn’t know better, we might almost think large numbers of people had become unemployed against their will because of the economic circumstances – especially since the last Labour government’s attempt to entice people into unemployment with absurdly generous benefits was such a miserable failure for so many years prior to the crash of 2008.

Scroungers are an easy and obvious target. I’ve seen several in Gloucester just this morning. Sitting about in public, the semi-homeless guys with drinking problems and those who stand outside shops like WH Smith’s selling the Big Issue.
And their more numerous fellow travellers – the house dwelling young unemployed walking around in tracksuits and the women pushing buggies. The ones here even talk like Vicky Pollard.
It’s a sub-culture, and as watching reality TV programmes like ”The Estate” or Jeremy Kyle will remind you (if you don’t come from that part of society) that it really is a big pernicious problematic thing to deal with. It feeds on and reproduces itself.
Anyone who has spent time in the company of underclass people (like Chris Huhne is doing now in prison) will testify how hard it is to break people out of their collective psychosis.

It might let Tories and the supporters of capitalism off the hook when they point out the people who fail in that system, but they are there and are very real. Not an invention. Our benefits and low pay culture has created this problem.

4. damon

Perhaps they are not an invention but these people did not exist years ago when it was relatively easy to get a decently paid job.

7. Man on Clapham Omnibus

4. damon

‘It might let Tories and the supporters of capitalism off the hook when they point out the people who fail in that system’

or are failed by it!

Everyone has conveniently forgotten the expenses scandal.

Ian Duncan Smith was also one of the BIGGEST expenses cheats and he loves to label the unemployed as scroungers. Not forgetting his secretary claimed in written evidence that he (Duncan Smith)also paid his wife thousands of pounds for work not carried out. Yes the taxer payer paid for that too !

Guess what, politicians are still moaning and say that they deserve a wage rise.

Politicians are a bunch of deceitful, lying hypocrites the lot of them.

One rule law for them and another for the rest of society.

Lastly a message to the Media : Go FUCK Yourselves you butt licking crawlers.

Is anyone really surprised, the nazis (fuck Godwin) were past masters of this and there is a pattern of scapegoating when the economy fails (even before industial capitalism)

The scroungers that Damon observes were witches in past centuries, in Germany during the 1930s they were useless eaters. Only the label changes the propaganda remains the same.

10. Dissident

Nice sentiment steveb! Godwin should indeed be fucked. Especially when there are obvious, direct parallels…

Might be time for an update to this thread Sunny? Sidebar of shame and all that, but still…

It might be useful to decide whether there are scroungers in the first place. Chavs and underclass.
You could possibly say that there is no such thing, only victims of an unequal society. I wouldn’t necessarily agree with that though.

I think I’m being a bit of a scrounger at the moment. I’m unemployed and don’t want a job just yet. I do look on the jobs websites, but all I see is menial work for low pay. This morning as I walked into Gloucester city centre, I saw a man standing holding a sign promoting ”All day parking – £3” ouside an NCP car park.
What a disgrace if that’s the kind of thing the state would push you into doing instead of signing on for JSA.

What made the sight all the worse was that I was listening to Melvyn Bragg on his Thursday morning high art and culture programme on Radio 4 – where they were discussing Gnosticism.
The juxtaposition was quite appalling I thought.

If that’s the kind of thing people expect the ”work shy” to do, no wonder so many people shirk it and would rather sign on and just mess about all day.
I think being a scrounger is a legitimate thing to be, if all they can offer the unskilled is slave labour.

13. Richard Carey

Apparently it’s the Guardian followed by the Independent which have sent the use of the word skywards.

13 – Before I saw that the entire graph was junk, my first reaction was that ‘scrounger’ is a word used far more often by those denouncing its use than by anybody else. No surprise then that the Guardian uses it most (although, there are also a lot more Guardian articles on welfare).

15. white trash

@12 – and not just the unskilled. There’s plenty of people here with degrees, masters, even PhDs to whom nothing better than minimum wage soul-destroying labour is now available.

Our society is failing.


Biggest scroungers are those unelected Tories in government. Millionaires from birth and yet claiming every last penny they can from the taxpayer. You ain’t fooling anyone arseholes!

17. Robin Levett

@Richard Carey #13 (and Tim W):

There’s something wrong with Guido’s chart; it shows only 1,570 uses of the word “scrounger” since 2010, whereas the graph above shows c1,800 uses in 2012 alone, plus c1,300 in each of 2010 and 2011.

Or maybe it’s different methods of counting; which may mean that the Grauniad uses “scrounger” once in an article, whereas papers such as the Express use it a number of times. We don’t know. What we do know is that Guido hasn’t invalidated the graph above (although the New Statesman piece suggests it should be treated with caution).

18. Robin Levett

@me #17:
Sorry – “Tim J”.

@ Robin Levett
Guido does not totally invalidate the chart above – although I might be tempted to ask for some explanation of where Gavin Edwards got his data – but he does show that the conclusion to which damon and steveb immediately leap is the wrong one. Guido has a major omission – the Scottish and local papers. Nevertheless he does show that the left-wing English papers talk about “scroungers” nearly three times as often as the right-wing ones.
If you want to get the two graphs to be semi-compatible, you have to assume the Grauniad rather than the Mail or Express uses “scrounger” several times per article.

20. Weed Killa

Lynne got it in one!

The real “scroungers” are Millionaire landowners sponging off Billions in false, unsupportable, Windmill energy subsidies the damned Green movement ‘created’ (It was Huhne and Miliband who got us into the crap we are now by the way with millions suffering from loony power bills to overpay for these loony green carbon laws (which also wrecks our industrial competitiveness in global markets – no other country takes on this Greeny bullshit or is dismantling it fast).

Next the crony capitalist-Socialist Bankers and Big Business.

Bankers the Capitalist-Socialist ‘spongers’ stuck on the tax-payer teat to support the bust, bent, banks and their false end of year accounts.

Big Business Socialist- capitalist (lobbyists)
Sponging off millions of hours of free slave work – like shelf stacking
(Tesco has got over 2 million quids worth free apparently) plus another 150 troughing ‘charities’ and shops take advantage of tax payer subsidised ‘free slave workers’

I could go on but you would get bored – digest the above first and come to realise how you have been duped by the constant ‘propaganda’ by THE REAL SPONGERS
(esp as The Bankers admitted through Merve that they directly caused over a million UK job losses, whilst expecting to be bailed out by the Taxpayer when they throw themselves off a cliff – Govt will tell you anything but and will antagonise and kick the shit out of you if you are poor or disabled instead

@ #20 Weed Killa
sounds like a Tory troll blaming everything on Brown and Miliband’s cronies and setting it up to point out that the Conservatives are cutting the500% subsidy for solar panels and for idle windmills and bankers’ bonuses in RBS and …

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