Thursday, 26 January 2012

A Call for Mercy

I doubt there are many readers of The Sun on this blog, but today's Rod Liddle article has spread like wildfire over twitter. The article can simply be summed up as misguided rebellion, but it does still add fuel to the Coaliton's scroungers and liars rhetoric which is currently being amplified by the media. And that, unfortunately, is why it can't simply be dismissed and cast aside as stupidity.

Take a look at these two choice quotes from the article in question:
 "My New Year's resolution for 2012 was to become disabled. Nothing too serious, maybe just a bit of a bad back or one of those newly invented illnesses which make you a bit peaky for decades - fibromyalgia, or M.E.
....And being disabled is incredibly fashionable. The number of people who claim to be disabled has doubled in the past ten years."
'Fashionable', Rod? Please, if this was the case we'd see far more people with plaster casts and wheelchairs on the front of those celebrity magazines I'm supposed to be interested in. As it is we see a grand total of near zero. Either Liddle is a fashion guru ahead of his time or he's talking complete bullshit as usual - my money is firmly on the latter, especially as he's made no mention whatsoever of medical advances with regard to diagnosing illness in the past decade and clearly hasn't researched the symptoms of M.E or fibromyalgia.

Now, here's where things start getting a bit more sinister: a few hours ago an article by James Delingpole appeared on the Telegraph in response to the firestorm taking place on twitter about the Rod Liddle article. While the former reads like the rantings of someone in a pub during the wee hours of the morning, Delingpole is slightly more articulate when trying to spin the same questionable arguments. There's an air of respectability surrounding the Telegraph and its output which doesn't tend to be shared by The Sun and that's all the more reason to tear into the flaws in its arguments. Starting with this:
"...Unlike Rod's Twitter critics I took the trouble to read the full article and I think Rod's point is well made. There really are far, far too many people sponging off the taxpayer right now with their fake or exaggerated disabilities and they're one of the reasons we're in the financial mess we're in."
A fallacy worthy of Andrew Lansley himself: 'you don't agree with me, so you must have misunderstood me'. No, the message was loud and clear, we just didn't agree with such a brazen attempt to put ill-informed rhetoric ahead of facts. But if the pair of you really disagree with the WHO's verdict that M.E and fibromyalgia are in fact real conditions then please do send them an email - don't go promoting your ignorance at the expense of others in ill-intentioned newspaper columns.

Finally, we're left with this:
"Every time the disability lobby squeals for more another few jobs are lost, another few basis points are lost from GDP growth. But these people don't care; they know better than that: the government owns a magic money tree and its ability to distribute the fruits thereof is boundless."
They do care, James. There are people who care enough to produce the Spartacus Report entirely off their own backs when they should be receiving dignified treatment and support from the state. Not one of these sinister money-draining groups funded by the government, it was a project supported by the very people who are affected by this issue. They're not campaigning just because they want to make a scene or bring down the economy, they're working to help people maintain a basic standard of living. What's wrong with that when there are clearly more fruitful targets to pursue here, such as taxing high-earners and closing the loopholes which are losing us billions in corporate tax avoidance?

This blog is often laced with sarcasm and informality but tonight I will be deadly serious for a moment. These articles have caused genuine distress to the people who are being talked about - I've heard several cases in the past few hours of people being reduced to tears by the prominence given to what is little more than personal opinion and cherry-picking of convenient statistics. It's easy to dehumanise a target as a monolithic block bent on the destruction of our country but these are individuals we're talking about, people who are feeling real distress and upset when they should be at least secure in the knowledge that they will be able to afford living costs. Please don't lose sight of that in this debate, whichever stance you take.


  1. Found your blog through CiF...

    I can't believe Delingpole(the eejit, bam and tube that he is) states that those with disabilities are exaggerating, I have both mental health issues and some physical problems and if anything I try and normalise them. It's only when I look at what my peers have achieved that I realise just what the negative effects have been on my life.

    I didn't leave school planning to be on benefits, with no career prospects, little social life etc.

    Really enjoy your writing, wish I could express myself as well as you do.

  2. I'm currently in the same boat - having some difficulty with movement and recalling words over the past few weeks and I just want the damn thing to go away. I really meant it when I said illness could affect anyone, ill health doesn't pay any attention to political leanings or social status.

    I think I remember you from CiF - you're the one with the octopus avatar, right? All the best to you for the future, feel free to drop a message whenever you like.

    1. That's me! It's not nice when your mind and body don't feel your own. My memory is terrible, goldfish in bowls retain more than I do at times.