A jobcentre worker has been suspended following a Facebook rant with a benefits claimant during which she told a father of three to “get a job or f***ing hang yourself”.
Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) official Dawn-Marie Sanders (pictured above) is reported to have made several abusive comments aimed at 44 year old Scott Bignell during a mutual friend began a Facebook discussion on Channel 4’s latest attempt at poverty porn – Benefits Street.
One post read: “You are a drain on society… start paying taxes or hang yourself. I have rope…”
The DWP says it has suspended Sanders while it investigates the matter further.
This interaction is no worse than the hateful and bigoted comments made on the #BenefitsStreet hashtag by twitter users watching, and believing, the distorted view of people claiming benefits created by the show. But Benefits Street is just the latest in a long and sad list of poverty porn programming aired in recent time. Channel 4 have also brought us Skint, Benefit Busters, How to Get a Council House and Benefits Britain. The BBC even chipped in with We All Pay Your Benefits. This list is not even exhaustive, just some of the lowlights.
All of these shows, intentionally or otherwise, feed into a myth that the UK is some sort of paradise for benefit cheats.
In these shows, most if not all of a handful of claimants are portrayed as milking it.
Sadly, although tax evasion of up to 100 times more significant an economic issue than benefit fraud, it receives a tiny proportion of the air time. This allows the government to avoid tough questions about why, exactly, they are reducing the burden of taxation on the wealthiest who are already paying least. It also creates a public mood that welcomes, and even demands the government crackdown on those claiming social security. There is a word for media programming used to distort public mood in favour of a political goal by using misrepresented data: propaganda.
This Poverty Porn, point and judge programming, with its misleading statistics and sarcastic voice overs is just that. We must demand better from our broadcasters. And thankfully, many people now are. There has been sustained and high profile protest at the mischaracterisation of benefit claimants in Benefits Street – as at least a significant minority of the UK public call time on the scapegoating of immigrants, sick, disabled and unemployed people for woes brought upon them by their corporatized government and the private interests they serve.
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