Recent Media Articles
by Steve Rose
Clive Hunt explained to both the Daily Mail and Manchester Evening News that he lost out on a job because he told a recruitment consultant he would buy her a bacon sandwich. This was to celebrate his successful interview and sign the paperwork to begin work.
Mr Hunt maintains he was unaware about the nature of his remark until he received a phone call from Sharika Sacranie’s manager to explain this racist remark.
Later, as I was driving home, Ms Sacranie’s manager called me and wanted to know about the racist remark I had made. I said I had not made one and he said I had said that I would get her a bacon sandwich. But I only made the remark because she referred to breakfast.
The woman was of Asian appearance. I am not a racist, never have been. I wasn’t brought up that way.
A simple misunderstanding that might have been resolved with an apology. However, with these stories, the narrative is overwhelmingly one-sided.
Reed’s statement is certainly far more revealing:
Due to inappropriate comments made to members of our staff during the recruitment process before Mr Hunt started his new role we have unfortunately decided that we do not feel we can represent this client further.
A senior manager from the Reed team spoke to Mr Hunt via telephone following an inappropriate comment made to a member of staff before he was due to start in the role. During that conversation, Mr Hunt made further inappropriate comments.
At this point it became clear to the senior manager that Reed could no longer represent Mr Hunt. Reed is committed to supporting its staff, clients and candidates and this is not a decision we have taken lightly.
In Mr Hunt’s defence, he does mention:
When the manager called me, I was driving and I got increasingly exasperated as he kept telling me I should admit to my wrongdoing for referring to bacon sandwiches. In the end I told him to ‘sod off’ and put the phone down. They have blown this out of all proportion.
[Bolded for my emphasis]
There are some key points to draw from both statements:
1) Mr Hunt may have been offered the job but had not signed the paperwork [this was to happen the following morning]. The recruitment process was still technically ongoing.
2) Reed’s statement indicates he made inappropriate comments to members of staff. As evidenced by his phone conversation with management.
3) After the additional comments to a senior manager, it was decided Reed could not represent Mr Hunt (not before).
4) Angrily telling a senior manager to ‘sod off’ over the phone is highly unprofessional.
Stories like this do not require absolute accuracy because it serves to reinforce the false idea that political correctness has ‘gone mad’. It will spread over social media channels in furious clicks of indignation and confirmation bias.
There is a reason why Reed’s statement is buried at the bottom of the story.
What does it mean to be so alienated from civil society that none of the democratic structures available offer an outlet to articulate your anger and frustration? This is explored in Radical: My Journey from Islamist Extremism to a Democratic Awakening by Maajid Nawaz, published in 2012.
It’s worth exploring this question now given the recent killing in Woolwich and the rise in prominence of the English Defence League. The idea that ‘home-grown’ men who have functional lives in the UK and, like the 7/7 bombers, reject the dominant ideology so vociferously that they turn to violent extremism worries many commentators.
Maajid Nawaz was born and raised in Essex. To an outside observer he may have seemed relatively integrated: he enjoyed popular culture, had girlfriends, went to college and had friends. But this only tells part of the story. Growing up he was subjected to systematic racial abuse and learnt to fend for himself and others. The sense of being an outsider and the subsequent feelings of displacement had begun early.
The alienation that Nawaz experiences are a driving force for him becoming radicalised, not dissimilar to the reasons people join far rights groups. In both instances, they feel the only viable option available to them is to join organisations that give them a sense of identity and purpose. The demonisation of the ‘other’ provides an outlet for their anger and frustration.
Maajid Nawaz was politicised at university, being recruited into Hizb ut-Tahrir (the Liberation Party). Using his charisma and rhetoric to recruit other students, he was seen as an early leader. There is a particularly brutal scene when an African student is stabbed to death by another young man who has become radicalised. The fact that Nawaaz and others are able to stay affiliated to such groups illustrates the level and intensity of the indoctrination.
While studying for his Arabic and law degree, he travelled around the UK and to Denmark and Pakistan. He used this as a ploy to set up new cells to recruit other men to the cause and spread an ideology of Islamic extremism. He is later arrested, imprisoned and tortured, and then put in solitary confinement in a Cairo jail reserved for political prisoners.
By the end of this journey he publicly renounces fundamentalist Islamist ideology. He later went on to establish the Quilliam Foundation with Ed Hussain.
Tony Blair has called this a “book for our times”, which “should be read by anyone who wants to understand how the extremism that stalks our world is created and how it can be overcome”. The Labour government was to strongly back the Quilliam Foundation. This explains much of why Nawaz is demonised by some sections of the Muslim community. To be praised by a Prime Minister whose foreign policy has stoked much of the animosity British Muslims may feel, does not lend the author with much credibility within some sections of the Muslim community (and beyond).
However, if Radical provides us with one useful message, it is that it gives us a narrative to understand how important it is to address the alienation that young men (in particular) are experiencing. Without actions to address this, they are more susceptible to join groups which give them a sense of purpose and identity.
But to treat this distinct from other forms of extremism takes away a valuable opportunity for an accurate analysis of the causes of these criminal acts. It also fetishizes Muslim extremists unhelpfully and lends itself to further stigmatising Muslims within the media. This is often followed by a rise of Islamaphobic hate crime which feeds into greater levels of alienation by those being victimised. And so the cycle goes on.
The Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will be out from September this year. This should be a big deal: it’s six years since the last report, and that was headline news at the time. The report will be a chance for climate change, and what we do about it, to be one of the top issues in public debate for the first time since the 2009 Copenhagen Conference.
But for climate campaigners, activists and anyone who wants better action on climate change, what should be done with this opportunity? I believe it would be a mistake to use the coverage of the report to try to score points in the same arguments that have dominated over the last few years.
Instead, there are other approaches that could reach a wider audience, move the debate past recurring arguments, and perhaps create a basis for more useful action on climate change.
We need to stop talking about climate denial
The problem, as I see it, is that much of the debate about climate change is dominated by whether or not it’s happening, how quickly it will happen, and the meta-debate about why ‘so many people’ don’t agree with the vast majority of climate scientists.
One reason this is a problem was explained by US Republican pollster Frank Luntz: he recognised the goal for opponents of government action on climate change should be “to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate”. So long as the debate is about the science of climate change – most people only hear that there is a debate, not what each side is saying – people aren’t talking about what to do about it.
But you might respond: how can we ask people to agree to action on climate change when they don’t believe it’s happening or caused by humans? It’s a logical question. But the polling shows that it’s a mistake to assume there’s a logical chain of reasoning. In fact, the debate about belief in climate change is based on two misconceptions: that people are widely and increasingly sceptical about climate change, and that their desire for action to tackle climate change depends on the extent to which they think it’s happening.
Because of these misconceptions, I think that the debate about whether or not climate change is happening is a distraction for people who care about climate change, and that we should change the subject.
The evidence is pretty clear that agreement with climate science is high and stable and that doubts about it are not increasing. The following chart is typical in showing that the same proportion now believes that climate change is real and manmade as did so before the UEA email hack. Most people think it’s real and manmade and a third think it’s real but natural; barely one person in 20 thinks it’s a fraud.
Agreement with climate science also fell before the start of the chart above, after a peak sometime around 2006 and the Stern Report.
But the polls suggest that what people say about their belief in climate change doesn’t have much to do with whether they want action to tackle it.
It’s such an important point I’m going to show two separate charts to demonstrate it.
Firstly, a poll just after Copenhagen showed that most people who said they think climate change is natural, or not happening at all, were satisfied with a plan to reduce worldwide emissions. To put it another way, over three in five ‘climate sceptics’ want international action to tackle climate change:
Just in case that was a freak or a mistake, we tested it again in the recent Carbon Brief poll. The conclusion was similar: of those who say climate change is natural and not caused by humans, nearly half want government action to tackle it.
So the evidence is clear. Outright climate denial is low and not increasing. Most people think climate change is real and manmade. And of those who think it’s natural or not happening, many still want government action to tackle it: a logical disconnect that suggests the debate about belief in climate change has been taken more seriously than it deserves. As Chris Rose has pointed out, responses to questions about belief in climate change are often about something else – a declaration of which ‘side’ the respondent is on. It’s not a debate that climate campaigners can win in its own terms.
The question is, if not scientists’ confidence about anthropogenic climate change, what should campaigners and communicators talk about?
Stick them with the pointy end
There are two key arguments that I believe are crucial for improving the case for better action on climate change – but which I don’t see being made at the moment. The first is that climate change is very likely to hurt people in the UK: people alive now and their children. Not just through indirect effects like more expensive food and foreign political instability, but also directly, through flooding and killer heatwaves.
There are people who’ll suffer more from climate change than Brits: people living on flood plains in Bangladesh, in low-lying islands, and in the Sahel, for example. And many wonderful species will become extinct when their habitat changes. Almost everyone is sad to hear about that and agrees that someone should do something. A few internationalists and conservationists might even do something themselves.
But nothing mobilises people like something that directly affects them and their family.
The pointy end of climate change – that the UK is very likely to face more floods and more killer heatwaves – is still largely absent from the debate. It shouldn’t be. The 2003 heatwave killed 2,000 people in the UK; it is likely that summers like that will be the norm by the end of this century. But only 34% in the Carbon Brief poll recognised that climate change is likely to cause more UK summer heatwaves.
This should include a ban among climate campaigners on references to global degrees of warming in conversations with anyone except climate change experts. The thought of the UK becoming 3° warmer sounds quite nice to me. You have to be familiar with the subject to understand what 3° means in practice: much wider variations in temperature and rainfall, with flooding and some summer days that are unbearably hot (yes, in the UK).
Essentially, what I suggest is that climate campaigners follow the example of this road safety film. Don’t just make the message about our responsibility to others, make it about what will happen to us if we don’t put it right:
We’re all in this together
The other argument that’s still missing is the one tackling the view that we shouldn’t make sacrifices for climate change because it would disadvantage us against other countries that aren’t doing the same, particularly China. It usually follows the structure: “why should we do X when China will just build Y power stations in the next week/month/year?”.
But the argument is much easier to rebut. It’s not true that rapidly growing countries like China are leaving the hard work on climate change to developed countries. China may be the world’s biggest emitter (though per person its emissions are still lower than the EU’s when including international transport and/or emissions from production of exported goods), but even as it industrialises it’s now using trading schemes to make it more expensive for its businesses to emit greenhouse gases.
So it shouldn’t be hard to knock back the argument that taking action on climate change puts us at a global disadvantage – and that’s before we start talking about the potential economic benefits of investing in low-carbon industries.
Change the subject
The debate about climate change has stagnated over the last three and a half years, stuck on belief in climate science. But that debate is based both on a dubious claim that scepticism is increasing and on the understandable but misplaced assumption that there’s a logical connection between belief in climate change and desire for action to tackle it.
The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report will be an opportunity for people who want action on climate change to get it back into the news and to start talking about something that feels meaningful for most people*. Partly this means neutralising the out-of-date criticism that it’s pointless for the UK to make sacrifices to reduce climate change when other countries aren’t doing the same.
But more important is to make the case that tackling climate change is a matter of self-interest for British people. This means recognising that most people are, naturally, more interested in what happens to themselves and their family than what happens to far-off people. The projected impacts of climate change for the UK – floods and killer heatwaves – are themselves serious enough to justify action: it’s time to start talking about them.
by Jonathan J Lindsell
Trigger warnings: rape, sexual assault, child abuse.
“Man fucks woman; subject verb object.”
That’s how Catharine MacKinnon, American feminist legal professor, characterised Western gender relations and savaged pornography. Women are objectified statues, men are aggressive actors.
But if you look at the media’s treatment of gender-related crimes in the past few months, you’ll see something different:
“Victim was assaulted; Object verb.”
That’s how sexual crimes are reported. ‘X children were abused’, ‘Y women are raped in India each day’. Discussion overwhelmingly uses the passive voice and focuses on the victim to the perpetrator’s exclusion, unless the aggressor is notable – an ethnic minority, a celebrity, a religious figure. Otherwise rape and abuse are described as if they ‘just happen’ like freak weather events.
This absolves the public from considering whether Diane Abbot’s ‘crisis’ is a genuine problem in their immediate community – rape is either a misfortune that happens to unwary women, or a vile crime committed by people so different from the reader that their motivations are wholly alien.
Society has a standard narrative for how rape ‘just happens’ – usually a young, attractive girl, alone at night, wearing inappropriate clothing, who indulged in excess, attacked by a stranger. Passive reporting feeds this trope by focusing on victims and minimising the rapist’s role. He just ‘happened’ to be tempted when all necessary factors were in place.
The narrative is dangerous. In the eyes of the public and of juries, it discredits stories which don’t fit. Abused male or trans*people are ignored. Likewise accusations from women who are unattractive, sensible, or lived with their assailant face ridicule. The myth thrives despite SlutWalk’s efforts to dispel the idea that women’s clothing or actions constitute ‘asking for rape’ and UK government statistics showing that 90% of serious sexual assault victims know their attacker.
Whereas most sex-crime coverage investigates what personal failures caused a horrific ‘accident’ to happen to the (culpable) female victim, there’s a flip-side. When the perpetrator is different, comfortably distant from the largely white male middle-class world of today’s writers, then it’s fine to pick them apart.
This is especially evident in recent stories: Dehli bus rape, Oxford abuse ring, Catholic Church scandals and Operation Yewtree. In each case, the perpetrators are either foreign, non-Christian, or live highly atypically. Priests are celibate and secretive; celebrities extremely extrovert.
This was highlighted in Joseph Parker’s piece, It’s time to face up to the problem of sexual abuse in the white community. Parker was satirising the media, I’m not. By deploying the passive tense in ‘normal’ sex crimes and demonising minorities in sensational cases, we blind ourselves to that fact that, statistically, we almost certainly know such people ourselves.
Supporting victims is important, but so is acknowledging and exploring how violent misogynist attitudes flare in all communities, and run deeper than we’d admit. Rape culture exists, and until we start to think about the rapists, it will continue. That’s unacceptable.
Jonathan Lindsell is a freelance writer who has written for Bluffers online, Trinity College Oxford’ Broadsheet and the Leamington Courier. As a research fellow at Civitas thinktank he also writes a weekly blog there.
She was the trans-gender teacher monstered by the press following the leaking of a letter from her school telling parents that one of their staff would be transitioning to live as a woman. Ms Meadows was then subjected to a characteristically crude hatchet job by Richard Littlejohn.
Since Ms Meadows took her own life, Dacre has been gradually rowing back on the hostility towards trans people, notably publishing an article by trans author Jane Fae about her experiences, which was at least a step in the right direction.
And Littlejohn has been silent on the whole business, which is a further bonus. But, as ever with the Mail, no heads rolled after Lucy Meadows died.
Perhaps Dacre thought that if he threw a few scraps to the trans community and otherwise got his hacks to keep their heads down, all would be well and the protestors would melt away.
But he reckoned without Michael Singleton, the coroner who has been charged with investigating Lucy Meadows’ death, whose message to the press was as unequivocal as it was hostil, yesterday.
To the members of the press, I say shame. Shame on all of you.
Lucy Meadows was not somebody who had thrust herself into the public limelight. She was not a celebrity. She had done nothing wrong. Her only crime was to be different. Not by choice but by some trick of nature. And yet the press saw fit to treat her in the way that they did.
He was particularly harsh on the Mail, concluding the paper had “sought to humiliate and ridicule” Ms Meadows.
“It seems to be that nothing has been learned from the Leveson inquiry,” he went on, adding that he would write to the Culture Secretary urging implementation of the Leveson recommendations (the Mail only removed the Littlejohn column from its website after Ms Meadows’ death had been announced).
But the Mail has a get-out clause: the teacher made no reference to media intrusion in one of the suicide notes she left in her house.
So Dacre and his doggies will be able to claim victim status once more, sickening though that might be. That, though, is how the tabloid mindset works. There will also be talk of the Mail only repeating what had already been published locally.
And so the whole nasty business will go on to the next victim.
What do we bicker about, when we bicker about terrorism? More or less everything except terrorism, is my suspicion.
Here are a few of my observations about the responses I’ve seen to the bloodcurdling horror in Woolwich, starting with
1) When a guy who has just beheaded a man while shouting about Allah is shown explaining that he did it because of violence perpetrated by British soldiers in “Our lands”, it’s probably okay to call him a Jihadist or an Islamist terrorist-wannabe.
You’d think this would be uncontroversial, given that beheading-while-shouting-about-God is one of the Jihadi’s favourite pastimes, and that publicly justifying yourself with standard Jihadi boo-hoo can reasonably be described as “Jihadist behaviour”.
I expect it’s possible that these arseholes were crazy* wannabe-Glorious Warriors of God, but we all know that the sole requirement for being a Jihadi is saying that you are one. That is, after all, the whole point of Al-Qaeda and its offshoots – anyone can join in, by declaring that you want to do so.
There are times when a man bloodily decapitates another in the street while shouting Jihadist slogans. At moments like this, a rush to judgement is probably justifiable. If anything, it’s reasons to doubt Jihadomentalist reasoning that may need backing up in this scenario.
2) While it’s certainly true that 99.99% of Muslims are not bloodthirsty Jihadi arseholes, it is also necessary to point out that a sufficiently worrying number are.
It’s great to see how many people are at pains to note that most Muslims are no happier with psycho-murderers than any section of the the UK’s populace.
Nonetheless, I do have to point out that Jihadi arseholes are a conspicuous and alarming problem whose ability to sow hatred and discord is wildly disproportionate to their meagre numbers, and that this has to be discussed with clear eyes and no illusions.
Going apeshit every time anybody mentions the supremacist Islamist theories popular among most who commit these very specific murderous acts isn’t helping the situation, and is probably helping those who want to inflame it.
Yes, there are “media narratives” and people looking to exploit this or that, but neither I nor the public at large are much worried that “the media” are going to set off nailbombs in our cities.
3) When lots of criminals keep telling you their crimes were motivated by (x), then their crimes are more likely to have been motivated by (x) than by whatever theory you have just pulled out of your arse.
We’ve seen this one before – some twatty little gimp stands up in court and says that yes, he committed acts of terrorism because yes, he’s a Soldier of God in a war that encompasses Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.
I’m aware that Islamism didn’t spring into being fully-formed from nowhere; I’m also aware that it barely needs grievances to justify whatever destruction it wants to commit. I’m also aware that it won’t go away if we would only tickle its ears and give it a saucer of milk.
But when folk insist on continuing to kill themselves and other people and then justifying it by calling it revenge for this or that disastrous foreign policy catastrofuck, they probably mean that they’re angry enough about our foreign policy to kill and die over it.
This is one of the great unsayables, for much of this country’s pundit class. To note it is to attract accusations that you’re saying that you deserve to be killed, and so on. Sadly for fannies of this ilk, this issue is totally impervious to our feelings about it.
Or, in shorter form – just because a man’s statements are highly inconvenient for your personal foreign policy preferences, doesn’t mean they aren’t true.
A longer version of this piece is here.
by Peter Sommer
In the wake of the Government’s proposed ‘Snoopers’ Charter’, Open Rights Group ask why intrusive new laws are being suggested, if they are needed at all and what the alternatives are. This is an extract from their recent report on the matter.
Surveillance is part of our security policy. Some politicians will have you believe that there is only one aim: to keep people, institutions and the community safe.
But there are two others: to protect the essential values of society (freedom of speech, open and fair judicial processes, right to dissent, privacy such that the state only intrudes when provably necessary), and to deliver value for money.
Surveillance law is about balancing competing objectives, not absolutes. But for lazy politicians it seems simpler to use the scare language of paedophilia, terrorism and “lives lost” than to make the nuanced arguments of managing risks.
There are particular problems in getting to grips with how far surveillance capabilities and technologies have changed – and the implications.
Over 80% of the UK population has access to the Internet from home and each UK household on average owns three Internet-enabled devices, all creating digital records.
All mobile phones will contain some records of calls made and received and copies of SMSs made and received. While the phone is switched on, it constantly re-registers its presence with the nearest mast; this archive of an individual’s detailed movements is retained for 12 months.
At the same time the availability of Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) has expanded greatly, in terms of the quantity of cameras and quality of images. The national DNA database is one of the world’s largest, with profiles on an estimated 5,570,000 individuals.
Police operate a national automatic number plate recognition system (ANPR), which by March 2011 was receiving 15 million sightings daily. A national fingerprint database contained 8.3m individuals’ prints in April 2010. The Oyster card is another method for tracking movements of people in London.
At the same time, commercial companies have built up their databanks. Some companies – Google, Facebook, twitter – base almost their entire business on acquiring and then monetising personal data.
Once all data is digital, software can combine and produce visualisations; the more data there is, the greater the granularity of the resulting analysis – and the greater the intrusion, far more than was ever envisaged when necessity and proportionality tests were applied to the original streams of evidence.
The practical problems for politicians are extensive.
· It is much easier to make incremental legal patches than fundamental changes. It is also easier for promoters to claim that a proposed change is almost negligible – “maintaining capability”.
· Legislators need knowledge of how investigations take place, the techniques and resources used and where the costs occur.
· Legislators need knowledge of the technical capabilities of surveillance technologies. Law enforcers will say they are reluctant to provide detail in public for fear of alerting their targets.
· A similar need for secrecy is invoked when there are public demands for detailed breakdowns of costs.
· Legislators need to understand the nature and extent of the threats surveillance laws are meant to mitigate. If we take the last time anyone died from terrorism, 2005, when “7/7” occurred with 52 victims, in that particular year you were over 61 times more likely to die in a road crash and 72 times more likely to incur a fatality in the home than to be killed in a terrorist atrocity. There has been approximately one serious terrorist attempt per year since then, all so far caught in time because the processes of sourcing material, establishing a bomb factory and recruiting personnel all create risks of detection for the actors.
Law enforcement and security agencies are expected to deliver public safety and successful prosecutions against budgets for resources and powers, which they will regard as inadequate. If politicians use the language of absolutes as opposed to managing risk, police and the security services do likewise.
Police and the security services follow the same course as all lobbyists: exaggerate and demand more than they need. And there is a particular advantage in doing so. In the wake of a large disaster that they have been unable to prevent, they are able to point to an audit trail of requests for powers and resources denied.
And politicians know this.
Peter Sommer is currently a Visiting Professor at De Montfort University and a Visiting Reader at the Open University. His research interests and publications include cyber security, cyberwarfare and the reliability of digital evidence.
This chart by @GavinEdwards77 on Twitter is extraordinary….and self-explanatory.
(click on the image for a bigger version)
by Nicola Moors
“Gutter journalism had sunk into the sewer”, aptly describes the moment when it was discovered the News of the World had hacked the phone of a murdered schoolgirl.
Indeed no one was more shocked at the actions of the newspaper than fellow journalists.
Dial M for Murder opens your eyes to the depths that the newspaper, and News Corporation, went to in order to deceive the public, police and politicians of their criminality.
With the Lord Justice Leveson’s report of his inquiry into press culture, practices and ethics now finished, you could be forgiven for never wanting to hear of phone-hacking, the Murdoch’s or News International again.
The tale of how the Murdochs, namely Rupert and James, and their empire single-handedly changed the face of British journalism is an infamous one. In fact, it’s a story so sensational that it would be, ironically, fit for the front page of tabloids like the News of the World.
From the closure of the 168-year-old to the resigning of several high-flying executives, including Rebekah Brooks, the chief executive of News International herself, this book tells it all and is simply a must-read.
Although many of the events told are already known to the public; the book gives a gripping account of the links between them and includes several revelations in the book. Ultimately immoral and unethical journalism is exposed throughout the scandal, however the trade’s positive points are also demonstrated – such as the persistent doggedness of journalists that never gave up investigating, despite threats of blackmail.
During the Leveson Inquiry, the Murdoch’s pleaded ignorance to knowing the extent of the phone hacking in their company – although whether you believe this is another matter.
Also during the Leveson Inquiry – which is delved into time and time again – Rupert is depicted a ‘doddery old man’. As the owner of a multi-billion pound empire, it’s safe to say that Rupert Murdoch is anything but doddery.
One recurring problem with the book is that Tom Watson, one of the authors and the Labour MP attacked by Rupert Murdoch’s organisation, has obvious bias against News Corporation – although he acknowledges this in the preface. ”But though the story is inevitably coloured by personal experiences, we didn’t want to overemphasize our roles”.
Tom’s close relationship in the ongoing saga means that he often confides personal facts to the reader, making it sometimes feel too much like a private diary, rather than an independent account of events.
Having said that, it’s a riveting read – as the events unfold, it’s difficult to put it down.
One piece of advice would be to take your time reading it; there are numerous people and events involved, so it can easily get confusing.
Nicola Moors is editor of University of Sheffield’s independent newspaper Forge Press, and a freelance journalist. She tweets from here.
I said earlier that Conservatives aren’t serious about cutting the welfare bill, primarily because they don’t focus on its biggest components: lack of jobs and pensions. I add to that the unwillingness to reduce housing benefit by building more social housing.
For all their huffing and puffing, many parts of the press (Mail, Telegraph, Express) aren’t serious about this issue either.
That’s the only conclusion I can reach given they keep publishing blatant lies by Iain Duncan Smith about how he’s getting people off welfare.
In the Economist, Daniel Knowles blogs about IDS’s “questionable numbers”. He implores:
The welfare reform [sic] does indeed need reform. But the whole point about government statistics is that they are meant to be at least sort of objective. Ministers can quote the ones which support their case—but they shouldn’t manipulate them and distort them to tell stories that aren’t actually true. There is plenty of evidence to support welfare reform without resorting to such disgraceful abuse of numbers.
But the key point here isn’t that IDS has grossly manipulated stats – he’s only continuing to do so because the newspapers go along with the façade.
I find this behaviour by newspapers a bit baffling. If a Labour minister was abusing statistics like this they’d be outraged, because IDS is trying to create the illusion that his policies are working.
It’s like the Workfare schemes that they also backed to the hilt – despite evidence that its worse than doing nothing.
If the newspapers were serious about cutting the social security bill, they would ask IDS why he’s lying to them. They would consider serious solutions to reduce the welfare bill and ask what the government is doing to create jobs (the rise in unemployment barely made the top story last week).
Instead, they’re happy to promote IDS’s façade that his plans are working, even when they know its full of accounting tricks. I can only conclude they’re doing this because they want to demonise people are who are forced to rely on welfare benefits through no fault of their own, rather than accepting it as a necessary part of a civilised society.
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