Posts Tagged ‘‘The Last Leg’’

The Culpable Silence over the Genocide of the Disabled

March 20, 2017

Two weeks ago Mike over at Vox Political posted a piece about how he had praised on Twitter the Last Leg for its hosts describing the Tory government’s lethal policy of throwing disabled people off benefits for what it was: a disabled genocide. Alex Brooker and the show’s main man, Adam Hills had said of the policy

“At first these cuts looked like a good plan experiencing teething problems, then it started to feel like a badly executed system but now – it’s beginning to look a lot like disabled genocide.”

“This government is slowly killing off a generation of disabled people.””

He continued: “The only question is are they doing it on purpose? Because if you are, why stop at sanctions?

”Why not round us up put us on a reservation and sterilise the drinking water because that is literally more humane than what you’re doing right now. For any Conservatives watching that is not a genuine suggestion.”

Brooker and Hills then urged the government committee meeting to examine the issue not to issue bonus for swift assessments, but to punish people when they do so wrongly.

Mike makes the point that his blog had also been describing the Tory policy as a genocide for years. Mike also hoped this would spark a debate, but noted that the social media was far too much a minority pursuit to do so on its own. He hoped mentioning the Last Leg, a popular comedy news review show on Channel 4, would do something to get more people interested. Unfortunately, Mike was disappointed. After only a couple of days, the story had been overtaken by the controversy surrounding Emma Watson showing much of her bosom in one of the fashion magazines.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/03/05/praise-for-the-last-legs-attack-on-disabled-genocide-but-was-it-only-words/

I am not surprised there has been this silence over the organised murder of the disabled. Much of the supposed news content of the mass media is, as Mike and the other bloggers have pointed out time and again, ad nauseam, about provoking hatred and demonising those on benefits and particularly the disabled. Mike has frequently cited the statistic that while fraud accounts for only 0.7 per cent of benefit claims, the general public seem to have swallowed the media’s lie so that they believe 25 per cent of all benefit recipients are scroungers and malingerers. One of the worst offenders in this regard is the Daily Hail, where these stories are a constant staple of its ‘journalism’. The TV companies aren’t much better, however. Over the past few years we’ve also seen the emergence of ‘poverty porn’ TV series, like Channel 4’s Benefits Street, looking at the lives of Britain’s poorest people on welfare. These series also regularly show amongst their cast of real-life characters, at least one person, who is committing fraud. It wasn’t a coincidence that one of these series was produced by the TV company owned by Esther McVie, Cameron’s ‘Wicked Witch of the Wirral’, who was briefly in charge of throwing the disabled out off benefits and out of their homes when she was at the DWP.

The media’s and general public’s lack of reaction to the claim that Britain’s disabled people are being systematically targeted for extermination by an uncaring government reminded me of the controversy in America way back in the late 1980s and early 1990s about claims that there was a secret government plot to exterminate the Black population. Many Black Americans were so convinced of this, that Jack White, a journalist at Time magazine, wrote an article rebutting it with the title ‘Genocide Mumbo Jumbo’. Harry Allen, the ‘media assassin’ with the Black rap outfit, Public Enemy, was then asked to write a response to it. Adam Parfrey included the resulting article ‘How to Kill: Are Afrikan People Subjects of a Genocidal Plot?’ in his book Apocalypse Culture (Los Angeles: Feral House 1990) 229-44.

Apocalypse Culture is an anthology of essays and articles on fringe and extreme issues in America during the late ’80s and first year of the ’90s. Many of the articles are written from an occult perspective, or that of new religious movements, the paranormal, and extreme or fringe political movements so that the authors include the late head of the Church of Satan, Anton Szandor LaVey and the founder of the Nation of Islam, Elijah Muhammed, as well as Oswald Spengler, the conspiracy theorist John Shelby Downard and the chronicler of weird phenomena, Charles Fort, and the Red Brigades. This is genuinely transgressive writing. While I don’t agree with the occult and am not a member of a new religious movement or hold the extremist political views of some of the authors, this does not mean that I don’t think that some of the writers have a point.

Allen in his article interviewed Jack White and Asiba Tukahache, a First Nation American woman, who stated that she’d been aware of the genocide of Black people since 1973. Clearly the organised campaigns that have been inflicted on Black people and Indigenous Americans are different from the British government’s attacks on the disabled. Nevertheless, some of the observations Tupahache and White make do seem to parallel some of attitudes and the process of discrimination that disabled people on this side of the Pond are experiencing. For example, Tupahache remarks on the way racist portrayals of Blacks were still considered acceptable on television, and the way monuments to her people on Long Island were being obliterated in the 70s, at the same time Roots was on TV and everyone was talking about slavery. She said that what first brought this issue to her attention was

‘Seeing an ‘Inky’ Warner Bros. cartoon caricature on television. I was just amazed that the cartoon was still being shown, and just how easy it was for that to be shown, and no one objected. No one seemed to think anything was wrong. I started making photographs, taking pictures, shooting off the television-Flintstones cartoons, shooting ads out of magazines, billboards and everything. Just feeling like there was something I was going to do with it, just to tell everybody how wrong it was and how abnormal it was to pretend, or at least not know, that anything was wrong, when it really was a very hurtful thing. I didn’t what I was gonna do, I knew I was gonna do something, and I just started collecting stuff, and it turned into boxes…

I think the turning point was when some land markers were going to declare on (sic) of our ancestral areas Long Island’s first Black national land mark. It kind of flipped my brain inside out, trying to deal with the panic and outrage of my relatives, while at the same time trying to understand and cope with deaf, dumb and blindness of a public, who I thought wanted to know the truth, but who, in fact, only wanted to know what they wanted to hear. 1977, right after Roots was televised, and everybody was slave wild. And it was bicentennial time, and nobody wanted to hear about this obscure idea of a people called Matinecoc getting in the way of their slavery revelry and their bicentennial minutes.

Tupahache was nevertheless successful in bringing the issue to a large number of people, and said in the interview that she was overwhelmed by the public’s response. She stated that it had received

Very positive reactions, for those who have seen it. And I guess that’s probably what really overwhelmed me the most. The first week I sold a hundred copies of it, after a radio discussion on a show called Night Talk. I didn’t really understand the impact that it made on people, but it did [make one]. And just the process of sending them out to people, then finding it had been understood and useful was kind of a transition right there, because I had spent all the time gathering the evidence, figuring it out, writing it all out, and then sending it out. Saying goodbye to it.

She also makes the point that many people in Nazi Germany also did not believe that their government was trying to exterminate people because of their race.

Well, you have an environment of extreme terror. People are responding in terms of genocidal acts of aggression against them, because of how brutal things are and can be. And also, as DePres has said in his book, that a lot of people refused to believe that it was going on in Nazi Germany too.

And it was just that people who, quote, ‘live decently’, unquote, don’t want to think that there is anything going on around them that could mean a guilt on their part, or an examination of their lives, or a questioning of their own motives or failure to do something about it. But that has its opposite reaction: For all of that denial, you also have that very same panic and fear. Not that the fears of the people are unfounded, when I talk about panic, but from the absolute fright of what’s going on =which is so obvious to them, but is totally deniable and invisible to others who seem to wilfully not want to address it or change it.

There’s another form of absolute terror! When you totally rearrange what’s going on around you into “Mumbo Jumbo”, or to trivialise it, to the point of contempt, is another form of denial. To say it isn’t rue, to trivialize.

White and Tupahache also differed in their attitude to whether genocide was possible in a democracy. Tupahache did not believe it was, while White admitted it could. When asked if it was possible in the United States, he replied

Well, I think it’s probably unlikely. But sure, why not? I mean, probably not in the United States, but you’re asking in principle, right? In theory? Sure, I think it’s possible. I think that’s why in societies like this one we have constitutional protections: To protect minorities, because I think it’s always possible. I mean, the mass hysteria that attended the rise of Nazism in Germany could conceivably take rise in any society in the world, if had sufficient friction, and the right ethnic group, and the right sort of numbers involved. Again, I say, I don’t think that pertains to the United States, but it’s conceivable it could occur somewhere else, and probably has. I don’t know that it has but it probably has.

Some of the difference between White’s and Tupahache’s view of whether there is a Black genocide in America comes from their difference in attitude to what constitutes it. For White, it seems to be a matter of the use of physical force. For Tupahache, it comes through a system of racialization that denies people their nationhood and connection to the land, which makes them other than human, and which also leads the victims to blame themselves for the brutality that is inflicted upon them.

Reading these different, it’s clear from Tukahache’s experience that disabled people in Britain are not alone in finding that a public that considers itself liberal and informed does not want to hear about or discuss the way they are being systematically discriminated and killed through the withdrawal of the support they need. People don’t see it, because, like the racist images of Black people in mainstream culture, they don’t see anything wrong with it and don’t connect it to mass death.

The public is being told by the mass media that welfare recipients, and particularly the disabled, are all scroungers and malingerers, so they think that if people are being thrown off benefit, they’ve only themselves to blame, because they’re obviously a scrounger or malingerer. And like the Nazis, the Tories have been very carefully to keep the numbers of people they’ve killed from reaching the public. You look at the articles posted by Mike over at Vox Political about his struggle to get the information from IDS’ DWP. The Department refused again and again, decried his requests as ‘vexatious’, and did everything it could to block or evade answering the question. And it’s still doing so.

And my guess is that much of this indifference also comes from the was accusations of Fascism have become so routine, that there is a tendency not to take it seriously. For example, one of the people, who took the opportunity to pose on the empty fourth plinth as a public work of art, was a disabled woman in a wheelchair. She dressed in Nazi costume, and sat in her chair, on top of the plinth, as a protest against the government’s treatment of the disabled. This was reported in the Independent, and then, I think, forgotten. Yet another person from a minority making an hysterical and inflated claim to persecution.

My guess is that for most of the public, discrimination against the disabled is probably connected with issues of accessibility and jobs. These are issues of frustration and injustice, yes, but not at the same level as being herded into gas chambers, shot, or dragged into reservations or forced labour camps. And because of that – because the organised campaign to deny disabled people the funding they need to live, let alone live with dignity – it is easy for the public and the media to dismiss any complaints about genocide as grossly exaggerated. More inflated hyperbole from grievance-mongers.

Except that this is a genuine grievance, and the disabled are being genuinely killed by the government’s callousness and determination to save money, even if it means death to those refused it.

As for the issue of racial genocide, I’m afraid that now, after a quarter of a century, that seems far more possible in Trump’s America than it did when the article was first published. Trump’s administration is racist in its determination to deport and ban Latin American and Muslim immigration, and it includes people, who are genuinely racist and hold views that could reasonably be considered Fascist and White supremacist, like Steve Bannon, Richard Spencer and Sebastian Gorka. They need to be stopped, before they start killing people.

As for raising awareness of the genocide against the disabled in this country, Stilloaks, Atos Miracles and DPAC are publishing details of the people the government are victimising and throwing off benefit. I hope the Last Leg will continue to cover this issue, and persist in calling it what it is so that the Tories can’t get away with denying what they’re doing. There are artists out there, who’ve also made it the subject of their work. Johnny Void had on his site a few years ago a picture made up of smaller photos of some of the victims of the government’s policy. I hope they also carry on, and are joined by more artists, journalists and commenters. And perhaps what we need here is for a few more people on talk radio to cover this, and not be satisfied by the smooth, patronising lies of Damian Green, Iain Duncan Smith, Cameron or May.

The Continuing Scandal of the DWP Asking the Depressed Why They Haven’t Committed Suicide

March 18, 2017

Mike this week put up a piece reporting and commenting on the admission by Maximus that they do indeed ask depressed people questions about suicide as part of the Work Capability Assessment. See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/03/11/dwp-contractor-admits-routinely-asking-sickness-benefit-claimants-dangerous-questions-about-suicide/There are several questions. The first questions simply ask them if they have had thoughts about suicide, and the frequency and severity of these thoughts. These are, in my view, reasonable questions. Or rather, it would be if it were part of a genuine medical examination as part of a real programme to make that person well again. Depression isn’t a case of being ‘a bit down’. It is, as the British medical scientist, writer and Humanist, Lewis Wolpert described it in the title of his book, ‘A Malignant Sadness’. Clearly, if someone does have thoughts about suicide, they are extremely unwell and desperately need help.

The other questions, however, is unwarranted and frankly dangerous. The depressed person is then asked

“And what is it that stops you from acting on the thoughts that you have?

“Can you think of any reason that you’re not doing that? Is it friends or family support?”

Now it should be clear to anyone with the most meagre level of intelligence that asking people, who are already mentally fragile and have admitted they think of doing themselves injury or actually killing themselves, why they haven’t done so is extremely dangerous. My guess is that the way it is phrased in particular makes the question seriously unethical, as it seems to assume that the depressed person is not seriously troubled by these thoughts unless he or she has tried to act them out.

I don’t know, but I can imagine that if a social scientist or medical professional doing research amongst the clinically depressed asked the question, they could be hauled up before their relevant bodies overseeing professional standards for ethics violations or misconduct. As part of their training, social scientists are told not to phrase questions in the form of ‘You’re not…are you?’ And the Hippocratic Oath, a form of which doctors were required to take until recently, contained the provision ‘And I shall do no harm.’ These questions seem close enough to the first question, at least in spirit, to make them also unethical, while violating that provision of the ancient doctor’s Oath in that they could seem to some to be suggesting that they should.

The Work Capability Test itself is a scientific travesty. It is based on spurious and scientifically invalid research supposedly linking recovery to illness to mental attitude. The whole wretched test was introduced by Blair and his coteries on the recommendation of the American insurance fraudster, Unum, in a conference in the first years of this century. It is based on the attitude, shared by the Blairites and the Tories, that nearly everyone claiming invalidity or sickness benefit is a malingerer, despite the fact that such fraud only counts for 0.7 per cent of such claims.

The question also shows the immense double standards about health that persists between us and our rulers. It’s assumed that asking a severely ill person why they haven’t harmed themselves or committed suicide is acceptable. But heaven help anyone, who asked the same question of a captain of industry or leading politician why they haven’t tried to commit suicide, and you can imagine the feeding frenzy from an outraged press.

For example, the Blairite contender for the Labour leadership and flagrant liar, Angela Eagle, was asked by Andrew Neil on the Daily Politics about Tony Blair and whether the vile warmonger should face trial for leading Britain into an illegal war. Tellingly, she said no, as ‘Tony’s been through the wringer’. Thus showing that she cared more for the Dear Leader’s anguish than for the real horror he has inflicted on hundreds of thousands, of not millions of innocent people, who have been killed, tortured and forced out of their homes through the carnage he and that other malignant creature, George Dubya Bush, have created through their war. I don’t know what Neil’s response was, but can you imagine the outrage that would have resulted if Neil had said, ‘Well, he can’t be going through too much trouble, ’cause he’s still walking’.

Or if one of the other interviewers asked the same question of one of the Tories, like Theresa May, David Cameron, or the people directly responsible for the question: Ian Duncan Smith and Damian Green. There would have been fury directed at the ‘left-wing’ BBC. How dare they suggest that a minister of the realm isn’t doing his job if he hasn’t committed suicide for his failures! Or even the suggestion that they have failed in their job, which the Tories have, spectacularly.

But if it is acceptable to ask a gravely disturbed person why they haven’t acted out their desires to harm themselves, then by the same standard it should be acceptable to ask the same questions of anyone, including and particularly the ministers that have formulated that question.

Now I am not suggesting that Blair, May, Cameron, aIDS or Damian Green should be asked these questions, or otherwise be told to kill themselves, for precisely the same reason I don’t think anyone should be asked these questions. I am merely trying to point out the double standards involved here.

Now I imagine that if they were asked about this question, Damian Green or his predecessor, the Gentleman Ranker (and a right ranker he truly was) would say, in their inimitably patronising manner, that they are only trying to gauge the severity of the illness. This is rubbish. The whole test is structured so that the government can find some pretext to deny paying the ill person disability benefit on the grounds that they’re still somehow fit for work.

And Mike and many other bloggers and disability activists also see something much more sinister here. Many tens of thousands of people have committed suicide, or died in poverty and misery after being thrown off benefit, although the DWP continues to deny it. See Stilloaks website and the blog, ATOS Miracles, for further coverage of this and the biographies and individual cases of some of the victims. For Mike and people like Jeff Davies, one of the long term commenters on my blog this is evidence of a covert, secret genocide of the disabled. The government wants them dead, because that way they don’t have to pay out to support them. They can continue lowering the taxes of their rich donors.

This is how it’s beginning to look to very many of us, whether we’re disabled or fit. The presenters of the Channel 4 comedy review show, The Last Leg, even said so themselves. There should be mass outrage about these questions and the test itself. That there isn’t is a major disgrace in itself.

The Last Leg’s Alex Booker on Ian Duncan Smith’s Cuts to ESA

March 13, 2016

This is a clip from the Channel 4 news review show, The Last Leg, in which the disabled co-host, Alex Booker, says exactly what he thinks about Ian Duncan Smith’s plan to cut Employment Support Allowance to the disabled and long-term sick by £30. Mike at Vox Political put it up on his blog after one of the good people at Channel 4 put it up on Youtube after Mike asked them. This cool deed should not go unrewarded, so I’m also putting it up here.

As Mike reports, there is strong language, but it’s a highly emotive policy. I think it deserves all the vitriol expended on it. It’s a cheap attack one of the very poorest groups in society, who most deserve help and support.

Booker for his part points out that Ian Duncan Smith is far removed from the people he governs. He’s a millionaire, who lives in a mansion. He recommends that aIDS should be put in a wheelchair, made disabled, and then see how he gets on living on £73 a week and finding a job.

Part of Booker’s suggestion – that aIDS should try living like the people his Department is trying to prevent being supported – has been made before. Someone asked the Gentleman Ranker to try living on Jobseekers’ Allowance. Of course, the Stinker turned it down, declaring it to be ‘a stunt’. He was no doubt very aware of how someone had made the same request to one of the Tories under Thatcher. He took it up, and lasted exactly one week before finding himself in a house without food, electricity, gas or water. IDS knows that he could never support himself on the money he expects the disabled to live on, and so doesn’t dare. He’s an immense hypocrite, a coward and a preening bully.

The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah on Donald Trump’s Fascist Week

March 5, 2016

This is a piece of excellent satire – it makes you laugh, but like Bremner, Bird and Fortune and The Last Leg, there’s a deadly serious point to the jolly japes.

In this clip from The Daily Show, Trevor Noah goes through a list of the features of Fascism from the New York Times to show how they fit the attitudes and comments of Donald Trump.

Those features are:

* A cult of action.
* A celebration of aggressive masculinity
* an intolerance of criticism
* a fear of difference and outsiders
* Intense nationalism
* Resentment of national humiliation.

The Cult of Action
Trump: ‘I get things done. Better than anybody’.

Intolerance of Criticism
‘For those guys back there, the media, they are the worst’.

The Celebration of Aggressive Masculinity
‘Big hi-fives, smiling, laughing, I’d like to punch him in the face.’                                              
‘I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.’

Resentment of National Humiliation
‘We never win. We just don’t win’.

Intense Nationalism
‘I’m going to make America great again!’

Fear of Outsiders
‘A complete shutdown of all Muslims from the United States’.

Trump also retweeted a quote from the Fascist Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini ‘It is better to live one day as a lion, than 100 years as a sheep’. Noah points out that the quote itself isn’t particular offensive. You could probably find similar comments posted up all over gyms across America. But it’s acceptability changes once you find out the source of the quote. Trump was asked by one of the news anchors if he was disturbed by it coming from il Duce. He said that was all right, it was from Mussolini, but it was still a good quote. Did he want to be associated with Fascists? No, he said, he wanted to be associated with good quotes. But Noah says he had to think a long time about that one.

He points out that Trump’s statement that if he gets in, he’ll pass new libel laws so that they can sue critical journalists ‘and win lots of money’ is one of the key features of Fascism. It violates the principle that journalists cannot be sued for accurately reporting the bad actions and attitudes of politicians. If that happened, then the media could never report on his dodgy business dealings, shady policies or the fact that he wants to bang his daughter.

He also comments on Trump’s refusal during an interview to distance himself from David Duke, a former grand wizard of the KKK. Noah asks the question how he could possibly state that he was ignorant of the KKK, and plays a clip from an interview when he was running for the Reform Party, where he denounced Duke as a racist and a bigot and said he didn’t want him in his party. Noah ends by saying, ‘There’s a lot of Republicans saying that now too.’

He also makes a good point when he says, ‘It almost stops being funny the more you get into it.’ Totally. It looks funny, because we’re so used to comedians making fun of democratic politicians by comparing them to Nazis. But the laughter fades when you realise that with Trump, the comparison isn’t just superficial, but real. Noah says he’s not calling Trump a Fascist, but he is saying he has had a Fascist week. He’s right. Trump is Fascistic.

And that’s no laughing matter.

Vox Political: Adam Hills Fighting ISIS with Mockery and Satire.

November 18, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has written a very good piece about Adam Hills and his strategy of combating ISIS through ruthless mockery and satire. Hills, you will remember, is the Ozzie presenter of the satirical show, The Last Leg, whose regular inmates also include Victoria Coren’s other half, David Mitchell. He quotes Hills as saying that he was at a meeting with Australian diplomats and politicos in which the Middle East was discussed. They told him that ISIS are committing their atrocities in the West in the hope of creating a backlash against Islam generally. They will then try to present themselves as the true defenders of Islam to the region’s embattled peoples.

And so Hills has taken a different strategy. He attempts to fight them not by attacking Islam, but by sneering, mocking and satirising ISIS in order to deny them support and credibility. For example, he held a competition to see what they should be renamed, so long as their new monicker included ‘isis’. The winner was a lady, who suggested they be called ‘Cystitis’. And so they were on the great man’s programme.

And Hills also explains how you too can help defeat ISIS. It’s simple. You think of all the horrible, bigoted jokes about Islam, and just make them about ISIS. Thus you attack them, while stopping them promoting the racial and religious fears they want to provoke. Simples! as that wretched Meerkat would say.

The piece is at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/11/18/adam-hills-explains-how-ordinary-people-can-fight-terrorism/. As well as quoting Hills, it also has videos of him ripping ISIS a new one. Not that the terrorists aren’t already full of ar****les.

This is exactly what we should be doing, and what the nations of the Middle East are doing already. Nick Knowles, one of the founders of the anti-racist group, Hope Not Hate, wrote a message to the Czech prime minister on Monday expressing his disgust at his attendance at an anti-Islam rally. Knowles stated that he had been told by MI6 that this was precisely the reaction ISIS wants. They want Muslims to be hated and despised, so that they can gain recruits from alienated refugees. Hence the need to make the point that the enemy isn’t Islam, it’s ISIS.

As for mockery, this is what the peoples of the Middle East are already doing. The Young Turks carried a report a while ago about an Egyptian wedding, where the groom and his friends staged a mock ISIS kidnapping, before throwing off their disguises. ISIS were monsters, but they can’t stop people like themselves dancing and having a good time. The Egyptians have a reputation as the funny men of the Arab world. Just as Irish comedians are the stereotypical comic entertainers of the English-speaking world, so Egyptian comedians are in demand all over the Arab world as professional jokers. And in contrast to the dour image of Islam ISIS and terrorist organisations like it wish to promote, the peoples of the Middle East see themselves as a vivacious culture of joie de vivre. I read somewhere that despite living on opposite sides of the Med, the French and Egyptians instinctively understand each other. Given that seems to be the image each country has of themselves, of people who enjoy life and good things, I’m not particularly surprised.

And The Turks pointed out that the Egyptians weren’t alone. All over the Middle East, apparently, there are TV programmes giving the supposedly fearsome and invincible warriors of the Islamic State a damn good satirical kicking. These include spoofs of talent shows, in which their fighters are shown to be stupid and utterly incompetent, their guns falling to pieces when they try to strip them down and put them back together.

ISIS are butchers, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t treat them as clowns.

And we do need to make a clear difference between ISIS and Islam. Looking around one of the remaindered bookshops in Bristol last week, I found several shelves full of books pointing out that ISIS don’t speak or represent the world’s Muslims by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve forgotten the exact title of one of them, but it clearly pointed this out. If Islam is supposed to promote terrorism, then why out aren’t all of the 1.5 billion Muslims on this planet terrorists? The answer is clearly that while some terrorist groups are Muslim, this does not mean that the religion as a whole promotes or endorses terrorism.

The enemy is ISIS and murderers like it, who wish to create fear, hatred and suspicion. We can defeat them by rejecting this, and treating them with the contempt and disdain they deserve.