Thursday, 14 April 2011

Our War Against the Media

Forever we’ve fought for inclusion. Once-upon-a-time we were largely invisible to the general public. Indeed, plaster representations of us stood outside shops with begging boxes. That was about as close as many people felt comfortable to us.

The pace of change, though slow, was beginning to gather speed; and in the last 20+ years we’ve seen legislation such as the NHS and Community Care Act; the introduction of DLA; the DDA in 1995; and Direct Payments.

Though there were still mountains to climb in the form of societal and economic barriers; our lives were beginning to improve; and we were gaining more freedom. With this freedom came greater visibility; which for the most part was a positive. No longer where we confined to the shadows; society’s mistakes hidden behind walls.

Visibility came with a price.

Stories about Incapacity Benefit began appearing towards the end of the Tories 18-year reign of despair. And, as a last act spite the Tory’s established the Benefits’ Integrity Project. The BIP was, ostensibly, put in place to clean up fraud amongst disabled claimants. Of 55,000 cases investigated the BIP unearthed only 50 potential cases of fraud – 0.09%!

You’ll note ’50 potential cases’. As I recall the overwhelming majority of these were not prosecuted, because it’s hardly fraud if you fail to report an improvement in your condition, especially when you don’t actually feel any improvement, or benefit of improvement.

The newshounds of the Heil and other such rags soon got onto the scent, deliberately, laid by the Tories and refreshed by New Labour. The scummy sensationalist-end of TV joined in the hue and cry; and before long disabled people were seen as cheats and parasites.

It’s probably no co-incidence that disability hate crime began to feature more frequently on the radar at this time. With media overexposure we became easy targets for those who allow newspapers to do their thinking. The kind of people who need to refer to the Sun or Heil in order to find out who today’s scapegoats are.

In some ways ATOS is the final manifestation of the process of our demonization. First, governments use us to massage their criminally high unemployment figures. Then, we outgrow our usefulness as ideology is re-twisted to shape the next desperate election manifesto. The media is then given licence to invent, or more properly re-invent, disabled people as lead-swinging cheats who have brought the country to its knees economically with their profligate ways.

The government knows the true extent of fraud amongst disabled claimants; but, in keeping silent it is in tacit agreement with scummy lazy journalists who regard us as legitimate targets to smear across the column inches of their rags.

Incensed by what they read people feel it is their public duty to abuse disabled people. So much so that recently a disabled woman collapsed outside a neighbour’s house. As she lay dying her neighbour felt it his civic duty to piss upon her while his friends laughed and recorded the incident on a mobile phone. Nobody deserves to spend their dying moments subjected to such inhumanity – what have we become!

Thus demonised it is easy for companies like ATOS to carry out the government’s bidding. Doubtlessly many of these ATOS assessors allow scummy newspapers to form their opinions for them. Why wouldn’t they, seeing as they’ve sold their professional integrity to the DWP for a pittance.

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