Posts Tagged ‘ignorance’

But Me No Buts: Je Suis Charlie


Some responses to the horrific events in Paris last week were sadly all too predictable. On the one hand, politicians speaking warm words about defending freedom of speech, while at the same time saying the police needed even more powers; and on the other, people saying “yes to freedom of speech, but…” No. But me no buts. This was cold blooded murder, and no qualification can ever justify it.

To say this suggests that the journalists asked for it, deserved it even, and that the violence meted out to them is entirely understandable. The journalists should have been more responsible and not provocative. This is shameful, and demonstrates the stupidity of such people. It’s up there with saying a woman deserved to get raped because she was wearing a short skirt. No.

Freedom of speech is a fundamental right that must be protected. Protected from governments using terrorism to justify further erosions of civil liberties, and from the morbid sensitivity that is now so widespread: the easy readiness to be offended and demand that things you don’t like are banned. Allowing this to happen does the terrorists work for them. People need to wake up.


David Cameron: Ignorance and Lies As Virtue


The European Court of Justice today delivered a judgement about whether benefits can be claimed by EU nationals when they go to other countries.

The court has apparently said there is no automatic right for those who don’t work to claim. David Cameron hailed this as a breakthrough. No Dave, it merely restates the position in the UK. No one can just claim, they have to satisfy the qualifying conditions. An economically inactive person can NOT claim benefits here. The only people who can are those who are either working or who have worker status. The UK brought in the Habitual Residence Test to stop so-called “benefit tourism” almost 20 years ago. This isn’t just my opinion, it’s fact: I worked in benefits for over 10 years so I know whereof I speak. It would be nice if sometimes our politicians did too.

You’re supposed to be the PM Dave, yet you’re totally ignorant of UK law. Either that or this is yet another cynical attempt to whip up anti-claimant propaganda. Either way, go and check your facts before opening your over-privileged gob.

Why Stoke City Council is Wrong About HS2


Stoke-on-Trent City Council wants the city to have a station on HS2. It is spending several million pounds of our money trying to persuade the government to re-route the line so it serves the city rather then Crewe. However persuasive the economic arguments may be, they miss one blindingly obvious fact a glance at a railway map will reveal. The reasons for routing the line through Crewe have nothing to do with the size of the town. Crewe is a major railway junction, Stoke is not. That is fact and can’t be avoided, regardless of how much wishful thinking the council employs. It would be better occupied lobbying to get better services from Stoke to connect with the line (start with redoubling the single track route between Alsager and Crewe) and for Stoke to retain a good fast service to London.

Tory austerity has wreaked a terrible toll on an already deprived city. Wasting money on idiotic schemes like this helps no one, especially its hard pressed residents. It’s high time the Council woke up and faced facts.

The Tax Payer Myth


Written just before Christmas

One common element in all the anti-welfare propaganda being spread about is how “tax payers” are subsidising the feckless. The term “tax payer” is clearly being used in the narrowest possible way, to include only income tax. There are numerous other taxes, and Income Tax is less than half of the government’s overall tax take. (Source

As I write, I have a Christmas job at Royal Mail. As it only pays minimum wage for the 20 weekly hours, I pay no income tax on it. However, I’m still a tax payer. Every time I put petrol in my car, every time it’s serviced, every time I renew the tax disc, I pay tax. I pay all my Council Tax. Every time I turn the heating on or want hot water, I pay tax. On those occasions when I drink alcohol, I pay tax. And I will continue to pay these taxes after my job ends and I’m unemployed again.

Because all these taxes are regressive (i.e. not based on the payer’s income), they hit those on low incomes much harder, so a much higher proportion of your overall spend goes on them. This affects not just welfare claimants, but the many thousands of people trapped in poorly paid jobs. I’m not often given to Biblical quotations, but this seems apposite, the story of the Poor Widow (Mark 12: 43-44)

This poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.

It would be nice if those that put in out of their surplus actually did so, rather than evading or at best avoiding tax. Yet they get away with it, and all the ordure is dumped on the poor.

They are tax payers too.

They’re All The Same, Aren’t They?


I thought my anger about anti-welfare propaganda might have cooled by now. Just when I think it is, I read or see some tosser politician mouthing off and it’s reignited. What really fans the flames however, (throws kerosene on them more like) is seeing the responses to it on social media. Responses that show just how uncritically this nonsense is swallowed, (or to quote Kryten from Red Dwarf: “hook, line, sinker, rod and copy of Angling Times”). And swallowed by people who should know better: colleagues from when I worked in housing benefits.

The recent Channel 4 programme Benefit Street is a good example. I must point out that I didn’t see the programme, but it sounds like yet another piece edited to paint claimants in the worst way possible. One of my friends on Facebook (a former colleague) posted a rather nasty rant about claimants (basically: they’re all the same, lazy bastards living it up while I have to work; so what if there’s a bedroom tax etc.). When I pointed out that that hardly represents claimants, the person was quick to qualify by saying that they had nothing against “genuine” people. Oh really? So why did you accept the programme at face value? Perhaps you should pick your words more carefully.

If anyone was to make such sweeping generalisations about gay or black people (let alone make documentaries on the same lines) they would be rightly criticised and condemned for doing so. So why is it OK to make equally offensive generalisations about welfare claimants? Is it some collective need to have someone to bully, someone to blame? Or a need to feel superior to someone? Or is it simply stupidity, as I’ve long thought? It is strange that many people are contemptuous about politicians, holding them all to be liars (generalising again), yet it’s the same politicians who are leading the way with the anti-claimant propaganda. And that gets believed. Funny that.

Ignorance As A Virtue: The Problem Of Social Media


One of the problems with social media is that it provides a broad vehicle for the sort of ignorant Daily Mail nonsense that was once the preserve of the pub bore, holding forth over the seventh pint (or fourteenth if you’re William Hague). The only advantage is that you can at least delete it, which is a bit more difficult to do with the bore (unless you’re a Cyberman). I came across an example of this on Facebook recently. As anyone who knows me will realise, I have no time for the prejudice about benefit claimants that passes for truth at the moment. This has nothing to do with the fact that I am currently claiming: I have always held this view. The post was of a picture of Star Trek’s captain Picard looking exasperated with the caption “how can that person afford an iPhone when they’re on benefits?” The conclusion you were meant to draw was obvious. And wrong.

There could be several answers to that question: they may have bought it themselves when they were working, or someone could have given to them as a gift. But the short answer is: none of your fucking business. If you are really so stupid as to make such an ignorant and lazy assumption, then go ahead. I will not get into the gutter with you. Just do everyone a favour: fuck off and don’t come back until you have learned to use your brain. You know, that squishy thing between your ears that you think with. It really isn’t that difficult. All you’re doing by your ignorant pronouncements is spreading lies and prejudice. You should be ashamed of yourself.

Nick Cohen: Writing from London

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