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Friday, July 31, 2009 

Scum-watch: The hypocrisy machine.

The Sun's exclusive on Theresa Winters, the woman from Luton who has had all thirteen of her children taken into care and is now pregnant with her fourteenth, ticks all the paper's buttons. Broken Britain, scrounging feckless layabouts and of course the bourgeois journalists working for a "working class" newspaper sneering at their own target market. It doesn't really make much difference that I can't think of anything less feckless than being perpetually pregnant, and that yet again the paper is pushing for benefit reform by finding the most extreme case it can, regardless of how the kind of reform it demands would punish those who are deserving as well as those who "aren't". Combine this with the casual dehumanisation which infects all such stories, with Winters described as the "Baby Machine", leeches and slobs and you have a classic example of a newspaper providing its readers with a target they can hate without feeling bad about doing so.

The ire directed at the couple is based around how they've cost the taxpayer "millions" with their selfish ways, and of course how the benefit system encourages such behaviour (it doesn't; they've just abused it, but never mind). Yet when the BBC's Look East went round to their flat in an attempt to get their own interview, they were informed that they'd signed an exclusive contract with a national newspaper which prevented them from giving one. I can't obviously comment on whether such a contract involved the couple being paid for being abused and used as scapegoats by the Sun, but it seems doubtful that they would have done so unless their was something in it for them. Rather then than it being we have an underclass because we "fund it with handouts", which only someone who occupies an ivory tower from which they can't even begin to see the tops of the houses from could believe, it seems that the Winters will be able to rely on income from a national newspaper should she decide to go for baby fifteen. Encouraging and abetting such selfish behaviour? The Sun? Never!

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I would have remained blissfully unaware of this case were it not for your blog, because I have never read The Sun or any other such 'trash tabloid' titles. I pay my taxes (too many of them) to fund many policies I think ill-advised; the benefits regime may not precisely 'encourage' the behaviour your article describes, but it certainly allows it to take place; take away the benefits and you would be less likely to see that kind of behaviour. Two places I know well (Hong Kong and Singapore) had a much better system - you worked or you didn't eat. I know this probably makes me sound like an unfeeling brute, but whilst I'm aware that such profligacy (in reproduction without responsibility) is possible, if not exactly 'ecouraged', under our system, I don't see any need for me to pay money to some newspaper publisher to read about it. I doubt if people who live on 'benefits' enjoy the luxury lifestyle that some assume they do, but the real problem is the lack of imagination and ambition that that some people seem to have which makes them settle for what is basically a hand-to-mouth existence. Some people are genuinely stuck with this and have no real route of escape, specially in certain third-world countries, particularly nowadays in Africa, but less so in the UK, even if I don't underestimate the difficulties of some people's upbringing.

I do not come from a privileged background, although in fairness nor was I deprived as a child. My parents were hard-working working class, never wealthy but with care and good management they provided for themselves and their children who by hard work became 'middle class'. As an adult my colleagues came from mixed backgrounds, some similar to my own, many from much more privileged backgrounds (mostly certain of the better public schools) and I have to say I never felt in the least 'inferior' to them, nor did they behave toward me as if I was; the matter simply did not arise. I went to a 'grammar school', my brother 'failed' the 11+ and went to a 'secondary modern', about which he remains somewhat resentful to this day, but it didn't prevent him making a success of his life, first in a 'trade', later by dint of a lot of hard work in a 'profession'.

It's all a matter of imagination and ambition - my upbringing in a mostly regional town/rural environment never seemed to me to be a barrier, nor the fact that my family home was 'modest'. I feel very sorry for so many who let life carry them on some kind of pre-ordained and limited path, rather than simply refusing to accept this is inevitable and working hard to make success happen. Most can do it.

A 'safety net' such as benefits of various kinds should be just that - not a drug. I am no kind of socialist, quite the reverse, but Marx had something when he talked about opiates - and this goes far beyond mere religion. Socialism is the biggest opiate of them all.

This is why I describe papers like the Sun and the Mail as crypto-fascist. They peddle the same line as the fascists, attack the same targets, yet when it comes to elections they advise against voting for fascist parties. I'm beginning to think that they know that the people who agree with their editorialising will ignore that last piece of advice.

If you think the Sun is bad you should see A.N. Wilson's column in the Mail. In response to this case he is actually advocating the sterilisation of women. Truly breathtaking.

In response to Bill I would point out that in actual fact all these women have been taken into care. So she doesn't get any benefits for them.

Akela, indeed, it's going to be the worst comment piece of the weekend. Truly a fascistic argument, which he protests he is not making repeatedly, as if he can't even convince himself.

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