I thought I would just run through some of the ways I think terminology is used by politicians to bash disabled people and poor people. If the facts don't suit the Tory agenda, perhaps a few word tricks will.
Politicians try to slot disabled people into either one of two different groups – ‘can work’ or ‘can’t work.’ This is a false dichotomy because there is a third group which most disabled people fall into – 'can do some limited forms of work.' This 'black or white' falsehood is ruinous to disabled people for many different reasons. For example, if you can only do some limited work, but are treated as if you are fully fit, you may become overworked and/or have your health damaged. Also, it disregards the fact that it is much more difficult to get work if you are disabled and that fly-tips the blame and hardship onto the victim. Furthermore, it maligns those who are found ‘fit for work.’ Already, the right-wing press is stating that any existing IB claimant who fails the ESA re-assessment are ‘benefit cheats,’ ‘work-shy,’ ‘fakers’ etc. It really is the most black-hearted meanness and they are bare-faced lies to boot. The IB test was a different test to the ESA test; the first was tough, the second is draconian. This prescription only serves those who, for reasons of political and financial expediency, want to pretend that disabled people are not disabled.
Politicians also use the phrases ‘most vulnerable’ and/or ‘most severely disabled’ without defining them. This allows them to put on the fake gloss that they are protecting certain people, but in reality we are played off against a mythical non-existent group of people; it gives the coalition government a blank cheque to attack ‘semi-vulnerable’ people or those who are “just” disabled. As people in general are mostly good-natured, they often just take it on trust that these people are being protected.
Another false dichotomy that is used by the coalition government is the ‘Whitehall or welfare’ dilemma, implying that the only choice is between those two things. Such a prescription is nonsense because there are many other areas which can go – such as the costly and pointless Trident renewal. To just cause poor people to instantly go without on such dubious – and irrelevant – grounds is cruel and heartless.
Finally, the word ‘fair,’ as in ‘tough, but fair’ is meaningless in isolation; you need to qualify and quantify the statement rather than just expect people to take your word for it. A dubious equality impact assessment that doesn’t add up is not going to do the job.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of terms used to justify the unjustifiable, so please feel free to submit more examples.
Piercing the Smokescreen
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