Posts Tagged ‘propaganda’

Brexit: Grow Up and Stop Scaremongering.


The main problem with the whole referendum “debate” is that both sides are resorting to scaremongering, distortion and outright lies. This is dishonest and dishonours the whole process. It’s far to serious and important and issue to be trivialised by such juvenile tactics.

If, as I suspect, we vote to remain “in”, it will because people have believed the scare stories and decided “better the devil you know” rather than at least trying to make an informed choice. I’ve done my best to do so, and have made up my mind as to how I’ll be voting.

A plague o’both houses.

I’m certainly no fan of Gove (quite the reverse!), but this is one of the few reasoned arguments I’ve seen from the Leave Camp:

This classic from Tony Benn:

Sargon of Akkad’s critique of Project Fear:

Boris’ Brexit Lies:


Lies, Damned Lies and Spin – The EU Referendum


I recently had my leaflet from the government giving their reasons why we should remain in the EU. Given that, despite Cameron’s big talk about renegotiation, he came home with next to nothing, I took the entire thing with several shovels of salt.

I haven’t really mind up my mind how I’m going to vote, but I am leaning towards leave. I’ve long believed the EU to be anti-democratic, and the arrogance with which they dealt with Italy and Greece recently has reinforced this. Treaties and laws are ignored when inconvenient, the European Court regularly extends its dictat and is allowed to get away with it. And that’s not to mention the erosion of national sovereignty, the corruption and waste.

I certainly don’t buy some of the remain arguments: social security, worker rights and environmental protection will be worse if we leave. Really? Being in hasn’t stopped the Tories savaging benefits, eroding rights, granting fracking licences and unbanning pesticides. And if TTIP becomes law (which the EU is negotiating in secret), you can expect what protections are left to vanish.

The main problem is getting a balanced view. I’ve read Daniel Hannon’s book Why Vote Leave, but as he’s a right wing Tory, he’s not someone I’d have any sympathy with politically. Even so, it’s a persuasive book, well written in restrained language without resorting to scare stories. I’d like to read left wing cases too, but have yet to find one. It’s disappointing that Corbyn has done a volte face on this, having been consistently eurosceptic up to now. In the unlikely event of his winning in 2020, if we remain in the EU, a lot of his platform (like renationalising the NHS) would be illegal under EU law.

So far – even though it requires me to be in such unsavoury company that I need to hold my nose – it’s looking likely I’ll vote leave.

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.

Rip Off Britain: Rail Fares


Until recently, I travelled a lot by train. This was driven partly by my interest in railways, and partly by not being able to drive. However, since I passed my test in 2010, my train useage has dropped to almost nothing. I quickly found out that even allowing for tax, insurance and petrol, many car journeys are cheaper.

The government is fond of painting rail privatisation as a success story, highlighting the record number of passengers carried. This is surely disingenuous. Such an increase would probably have happened anyway. And it isn’t just passenger humbers that have sky-rocketed. It is undeniable that fares have mushroomed massively to be the most expensive in Europe. Operators say this is to pay for improvements, for jam tomorrow. But they have been saying that for years, and fares continue to rise steeply. And outside of London, I have to question just what some of these “improvements” are, given the now frequent overcrowding.

Rail companies always hide behind the cheap deals available to those who book ahead. This is also disingenuous. The cost of walk on fares have also jumped alarmingly. Just by how much was brought home to me sharply on a recent trip to Manchester. From Stoke, this is a round trip of about 75 miles, and for a day return, I was charged a whopping £17.10! Until recently, if you got a day return, it was cheaper if you travelled after 930am, but such tickets are now also barred for about three hours in the afternoon, so I had to pay top whack. Never again, I’ll drive next time.

I can well understand the environmental arguments in favour of public transport. Sadly, like many things in Britain, it is becoming too expensive. Furthermore, the product offered is generally unappealing. Assuming you can actually get a seat, the chances are it will be uncomfortable, have little or no access to a window and be cramped with poor legroom. And if you have to stand, you have to endure a journey crammed in like cattle. It says a lot about this country that animals being transported have more rights than people. What sort of service is that? To add insult to injury, many if those with seats will have the cheap advance tickets so beloved of operators’ propaganda departments: they pay little and are guaranteed a seat, others get fleeced and have to stand. This is no way to attract people from their cars. It won’t be attracting me from mine anytime soon.

Diary of a Benefit Striver #5: Universal Job Match


One of the conditions of claiming Job Seekers Allowance is that you have to use the government’s Universal Job Match system. This is run by online recruitment firm Monster. The system is fine in theory but I quickly discovered it has several shortcomings. If you believe the DWP’s propaganda, it is an invaluable tool to help the unemployed find work. I have always found “help” to be non-existent and that UJM is only used to monitor claimants. Thanks to the internet, there are more resources available these days, but UJM is probably the worst. When I started using it, it allowed you to store a CV but no covering letter: this was only changed this year; there were numerous ads with no employer name (listed as “company confidential”); and even more for catalogue distributors.

If a company advertising a vacancy won’t disclose its name, that suggests something dodgy: a bona fide employer would surely have no problem saying who they are. I won’t apply for these on principle. How far do you think a job seeker would get saying this:

“I’d like to apply for this job please”

“Certainly sir, what’s your name?”

“That’s confidential”!!

The catalogue distributor vacancies are little more than pyramid selling scams, requiring a hefty fee to be paid upfront and no guaranteed wage.

It’s also clear that vacancy ads are not properly vetted. A job for a woman to work as a prostitute in a massage parlour was recently on the site and was only removed when the press got hold of it. There have even been ads for hitmen and mafia couriers! I saw another for an “Administartion Assistant”, which required “attention to detail”, something the advert placer clearly lacks.

However, it gets worse. Recent investigations by Labour MP Frank Field, The Guardian and Channel 4 News have revealed that up to half of all vacancies on UJM are bogus or even fraudulent: multiple ads for the same job; ads failing to meet the DWP’s own guidelines; non-existent jobs. The DWP response to the allegations shows just how disconnected they are from reality: “The truth is that the vast majority of employers post genuine jobs, and we crack down on those who don’t play by the rules. We also regularly monitor the site and remove jobs that don’t meet our rules, such as duplicate advertisements or jobs for franchises.” This is yet another example of the incompetence of Iain Duncan Smith’s DWP.

Since these allegations were published, the DWP has removed 120,000 vacancies (about 1/5th of the total). I certainly haven’t seen any catalogue distributors for several weeks, but problems with the site remain. Claims have now surfaced that the DWP will be scrapping UJM in its current form when the contract with Monster ends in 2016, though they have denied this.

In the meantime, the unemployed are forced to use a flawed system that is there mainly to spy on them and which exposes them to the risk of fraud. The situation should never have been allowed to get this bad. Heads should roll. Starting with that liar, that incompetent fool Iain Duncan Smith. Fat chance.

Guardian reports:

Channel 4 News Investigation:

Reports of UJM being scrapped:

UJM spelling error

Lies, Damned Lies and Benefit Tourism


There really is an awful lot of crap being spouted by politicians over so-called “benefit tourism” at the moment. If you believe the propaganda, tens of thousands of foreigners are flocking to our shores to take advantage of the world-renowned generosity of our welfare system. People with no intention of getting a job and living at the expense of hard pressed British taxpayers. We’re going to put a stop to this, they scream. How very easy: whip up hysteria over a problem that doesn’t exist. Make widespread ignorance and stupidity allies in your ignoble cause.

Let’s bust this myth. As most of the comments have concerned eastern Europeans, I will confine myself to the rules for EU migrants. All EU citizens have the right to live and work in any other EU country, but there are some qualifications to that right. Any national from another EU state who comes here without a job (an “economically inactive person” to use the official jargon) cannot claim benefits straight away. They are automatically barred from doing so for the first three months of their stay. And if they are not working at that point, they would fail a test as to self-sufficiency and would remain barred from claiming. (Of course, there are exceptions contained in the detail of these rules, but these are beyond the scope of this post). The only EU national who could claim immediately would be someone who has an offer of a job and needs to claim tax credits, housing benefit etc to top up low wages. And in that, they would be joining tens of thousands of UK citizens in the same boat. These rules were brought in about ten years ago. Hardly new then. I would also point out that a UK national returning home after a long absence would also be barred from claiming for at least the first month.

I find the idea that thousands of foreigners come here just to claim benefits completely laughable. This is the sort of rubbish you hear from the opinionated pub bore after they’ve had a few: bloody foreigners, coming over ‘ere, taking our benefits. At first glance, someone from Eastern Europe might find the amounts generous, based on the cost of living in their own country. But even if they could claim, they can’t claim them at home, they have to be claimed here, with our high cost of living. Not so generous then is it?

It’s quite clear why all this fuss is being made. Foreign migrants join the poor and welfare claimants as scapegoats for economic failure, while those really responsible for the mess are shielded from blame and carry on enriching themselves at our expense. All with the connivance of the government. Yet there are no protests, merely acceptance of the propaganda. How very depressing. The government must be rubbing their hands with glee.

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.

If People Had Brains, They’d Be Dangerous


There has always been a lot of crap spoken about the benefits system. Treating and portraying claimants as scroungers is nothing new, but this government has plumbed new depths.The most depressing aspect of it is just how effective their loathsome propaganda has been. Iain Duncan Smith and his vile acolytes have played a very crude Machiavellian game: scroungers vs strivers, workers vs the unemployed, able-bodied vs the disabled etc etc. Whenever I hear someone pontificating about benefits, my heart sinks. What I hear is the sort of nonsense that comes straight out of a Daily Mail editorial: they’re all lazy bastards and scroungers who want a free ride; they could get a job if they really wanted one, etc. If only life were so simple as this crude Manicheanism suggests. Dr Goebbels would be so proud.

I absolutely deplore the government’s policy as it attacks the poorest in society. That is bad enough. What makes it truly disgusting is the demonisation, and worse still, that so many people believe it and believe it uncritically. As if one bad example can be made an exemplar for all claimants. Sometimes the general stupidity of people depresses me. God gave you brains, you morons, how about using them for once?

Nick Cohen: Writing from London

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