State-endorsed fascism in Britain – this time they are after the disabled
In some ways, I feel I’ve become a bit too sensitive of late when it comes to “disablist” gags, but maybe I’m just hyper vigilant these days. The smear campaign the DWP and the media are carrying out on disabled people has made me and thousands of other disabled people distinctly uneasy.
Why is it socially acceptable to laugh at people with disabilities? Disablism is where racism was thirty years ago, yet now (in some ways, at least) it’s frowned upon to single someone out because of their race, culture or colour. Not so with disability.
Yes, we have the Equality Act, but in real terms that doesn’t mean much. It doesn’t stop society’s attitude and it doesn’t stop society’s comments.
Disablism is real and it’s getting worse.
Having the odd joke at someone’s expense because they look different may seem harmless, but turn that around. Would these same people laugh at someone because of their colour? If one scenario is unacceptable, then it stands to reason that the other should be too.
My issue is not just with disabled gags alone – it’s certainly not a new phenomenon, historically, people have always done this. My issue is with the entire picture: we’re seeing a rise in hate crime and every day, the media print another article about disabled “scroungers” or “fakers”. These aren’t just isolated examples, they are happening everywhere, all over Britain, and the papers that print this rubbish – The Telegraph, The Sun, the Daily Mail – are highly influential.
Disability activist Sue Marsh believes this scapegoating culture is a slippery slope towards fascism. I am inclined to believe her.
Before you snort indignantly into your coffee at the apparent hyperbole, hear me out.
Prejudice and fascism has to start from something. It can start with a comment, an attitude, a point or a sneer. It can turn into an opinion piece, read by hundreds of people. It can turn into an article, distributed to thousands. It can spread to other newspapers. Before long, people are looking around them thinking “yes, that’s true, that’s true, because Mrs X down the road is apparently disabled, but I’m sure I’ve seen her walk about without any aid.”
It’s easy to see how that can spread. Before long, people are finding “evidence” to back up their beliefs. Disabled people are viewed with suspicion which is fed and perpetuated by the media.
This is all highly convenient for a government who want their money-saving policies – which will impoverish hundreds of thousands of disabled people – to be approved without a fight. So the government line continues to – underhandedly – support these views. They do it in what they say, they do it with DWP campaigns.
Earlier this month, six disabled charities warned that current government rhetoric is at real danger of fuelling abuse against disabled people.
A Scope survey carried out in September found that two thirds of disabled people have experienced “hostility or taunts” recently. Four months previously, it was just under half.
This is at the same time as the government are pushing through their draconian Welfare Reform Bill which will take at least 500,000 people off DLA, cut housing benefits, force thousands of sick and disabled people into work when they are otherwise too ill and push disabled people out of their communities because they can no longer afford to live where they are.
And that’s not all. The Government’s “Work Fair Programme” will force disabled people to work for free – or face losing their JSA. Nearly 100 companies have signed up to support this programme. It’s great for them – they can “employ” people for free. People who are forced to work under these schemes will do so with exactly the same hours, sometimes doing night shifts with no income.
Is this the contemporary version of the workhouse?
So tell me that disabled hate crime is not on the increase. Tell me that disabled people are hyper sensitive and there is no propaganda campaign. Tell me that this system is fair and that we really are “in it together”, because this is real, it’s happening.