This is what our ‘news’papers do every day…

I have just read an email sent by a ‘contributing editor’ of The Sun newspaper who is looking for a particular someone. This person’s words speak for themselves so I’ll say no more. Here’s the email (anonymised, of course)…

“Hi

I’m looking for a woman aged 35+ who used to be overweight and on disability living allowance due to weight related issues, but is now a healthy weight and employed. We”d like her to agree with the idea that overweight people SHOULD lose their benefits if they refuse treatment on the NHS (e.g. gastric band surgery, gym membership etc). We’d want her to talk about how having her benefits taken away would have given her the motivation to lose weight, and how great she feels now that she\’s thin and supporting herself.

NB, this is an edict from on-high (the editor), not one of my making (in case anybody takes offence!).

Please contact me by email…if you can help.

Kind regards,

X”

This is what our ‘news’papers do every day. They very consciously and strategically construct a ‘reality’, a spectacle that is designed to divide us against each other, to direct our hate and anger toward the poorest and most vulnerable, and, by doing so, distract us from the real causes of the poverty, injustice, and misery so many face.

Please spread this email far and wide. Please don’t buy their newspapers. Here’s one video made by people with learning disabilities in which they express their own views and feelings about benefits.

“I am not a scrounger” from My Life My Choice on Vimeo.

Oh, and here’s an analysis of the significance of this email and what we can do about it published subsequently (added Aug 12th)

Thanks

Joel

  48 comments for “This is what our ‘news’papers do every day…

  1. daviddynamo
    August 11, 2015 at 1:26 pm

    Excellent video!

    • August 11, 2015 at 2:16 pm

      Thanks David!
      I like it too. Personally, however, I think it’s important for us all to start going beyond just refuting the names that those in power seek to call us. If we only do that we don’t disrupt their power to set the terms of debate/conflict in the first place.
      This means in this case that people with learning disabilities will never prove their ‘value’ if value is defined in an economic, productive way by the capitalist class controlling the media. Instead, I think we should put most of our energies into exploring alternatives based on visions of a society that fundamentally reject this dominant economism. For example here, how about advocating for a universal basic income that severs the links between work and income and argues that every human being by the right of being born should have access to those things needed to live a free, dignified, and socially rewarding life?

      Thanks
      Joel

      • August 15, 2015 at 4:37 am

        Absolutely, Joel! I don’t require government assistance, but I have friends who do — and you’d better believe most of them work harder every day than 95% of the population. Your idea for a universal base income is something I have always believed would create a better society — I would still choose to work, and I think a lot of other people would as well.

  2. August 11, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    Reblogged this on Sid's Blog and commented:
    Repost

  3. August 11, 2015 at 3:15 pm

    Reblogged this on TheCrowFromBelow.

  4. August 11, 2015 at 7:43 pm

    Reblogged this on Britain Isn't Eating and commented:
    Pound to a penny this originated from a recent DWP Press meeting with all the right wing newspapers on the orders of Iain Dunkd’in Shit himself. Maybe his minion Pretty Awful Patel too.

    Once they find a willing guinea pig, she’ll be on Channels 4 & 5 in some poverty porn program designed to slate any claimants but particularly the overweight ones.
    Disgusting behaviour from our county’s government.

    • August 11, 2015 at 8:19 pm

      Thanks! Eloquently put! And tragically too true!
      But…
      I think the lower they get the more it shows the need to do so. Alternatively put, the greater the gap between the ‘reality’ they construct and the reality we experience, the more desperate and violent their strategies must become. In short, it actually perversely fills me with hope that change is coming!
      Thanks
      joel

  5. August 11, 2015 at 9:48 pm

    Absolutely wonderful video, Thank you for sharing.

    • August 12, 2015 at 9:45 am

      Thanks Debbie! I agree. However, I’ll copy the reply I gave to daviddynamo above…
      ‘Personally, however, I think it’s important for us all to start going beyond just refuting the names that those in power seek to call us. If we only do that we don’t disrupt their power to set the terms of debate/conflict in the first place.
      This means in this case that people with learning disabilities will never prove their ‘value’ if value is defined in an economic, productive way by the capitalist class controlling the media. Instead, I think we should put most of our energies into exploring alternatives based on visions of a society that fundamentally reject this dominant economism. For example here, how about advocating for a universal basic income that severs the links between work and income and argues that every human being by the right of being born should have access to those things needed to live a free, dignified, and socially rewarding life?’

      Thanks
      Joel

  6. August 12, 2015 at 12:48 am

    I heard the request was from Women’s Own…

    • August 12, 2015 at 9:46 am

      Hi. Yes. The email has Women’s Own magazine in the title and the author has ‘Contributing Editor, The Sun’ in the email body itself.
      Thanks
      Joel

  7. Tony
    August 12, 2015 at 8:54 am

    I saw this posted on Twitter yesterday, in that tweet it was said to be from a women’s magazine. While The Sun are undoubtedly scumbags are you in danger of doing the same with this blog post, setting the facts to fit a narrative?

    • August 12, 2015 at 10:12 am

      Hi Tony,
      Thanks for this.
      So, first, I think setting the facts to fit a narrative is what all human beings do every day. We have those stories that we tell others, that we tell ourselves. We usually do this quite unconsciously too.
      As for this specific case, as you will see from my previous blogs, I’m very interested in theories of cultural production to maintain or to challenge structures of power. This is a very general theory and I don’t think on a broader level it’s particularly controversial. Why would rich and powerful people seek to buy, control, and influence the means of media and cultural production otherwise? You would have to offer me an alternative theory. Of course, this isn’t just a theory in any abstract sense. It is an ‘inductive’ approach to making sense of the world i.e. it starts with observation and uses what we see to construct a theory of our society. In stark, stark contrast, the email from the Sun/Woman’s Own journalist is ‘deductive’ to the extreme. It begins with an incredibly narrow theory of reality and seeks to find empirical evidence to confirm its own worldview. Indeed, to use social scientific terms to describe this approach is preposterous and lends it a credibility it does not deserve. Instead, it’s a perfect example of those in political, economic, and cultural power doing exactly what they invariably do: constructing a reality (based on just one preselected case) for political objectives. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that what this journalist sought to show us supports Iain Duncan Smith’s political agenda quite directly.
      The point is that if I were confronted with a different set of facts would I be willing to change my views? Yes! Of course! That is the fundamental prerequisite for committing to self-improvement through learning. Would they? I doubt it.
      Finally, there’s a reason why I chose not to disclose the name of the journalist. It’s because it’s not about any individual. It’s about a system, about structures of power. We need to change those structures because journalists can come and go, editors can come and go, even media barons and corrupt politicians can come and go.

      Thanks for engaging
      Joel

  8. August 12, 2015 at 10:12 am

    It’s from Woman’s Own actually.

    • August 12, 2015 at 10:15 am

      Hi Stephanie
      Actually, to be accurate, since I am friends with Kate Evans and have seen the original email, ‘Woman’s Own’ appears in the email title, but the author’s job title is ‘Contributing Editor, The Sun’.
      Thanks
      Joel

      • August 14, 2015 at 12:29 pm

        Ah ok, thanks for the clarification 🙂

  9. steve walker
    August 12, 2015 at 10:16 am

    and this is true because youve put it on a website?

    • August 12, 2015 at 10:24 am

      Fair point, Steve.
      That is ultimately for you to judge. There are several questions here for you to consider…
      1) Can we see emails or tweets like this every day elsewhere?
      2) Is our own experience of the media likely to contradict or support the credibility of this post?
      3) By the tone of this bloggers’ previous posts, should I be inclined to believe or disbelieve him?
      4) What would be the motivation for this blogger to lie?

      Those questions are for you personally to consider and come to your own judgment.

      All I myself will add is that I didn’t put the name and email of the person up because I’m not really interested in that individual. I’m interested in a system. I’m interested in structures of power – in political-economic power in particular, but also how culture and meaning is produced through language and signs that maintains or challenges these structures.
      Journalists, editors, even media barons and government ministers can come and go, but these structures persist.
      Ultimately, structures are made up of individuals, so social change can occur and can occur quite rapidly when we recognise them and come together with a belief and desire to change them.

      Thanks for engaging
      Joel

  10. steve walker
    August 12, 2015 at 10:38 am

    why do we see stories in these papers then exposing what our politicians have been doing? and the embarassing pictures of our royal family etc if our government etc own the media why would they print scandals about themselves?

    • August 12, 2015 at 10:58 am

      Steve,
      There are many explanations. First, it’s important to reject any conspiratorial theory of politics in which everything we do, see, think is in the control of a small cabal of men. Usually, the ruling ideology that is conveyed in the media is imparted in far less conscious, far more nuanced ways. For example, in the broadsheets and BBC in particular, sometimes the rules are sent out from on high e.g. ‘Don’t criticise Israel!’ or ‘Don’t humanise Muslims, refugees, etc’, but it’s far more to do with the fact that editors and journalists at the BBC, The Telegraph, etc have those jobs because they already believe their liberal/conservative worldview, so they see the world in a way that conforms already to the ideological requirements of the system. Sometimes, as often does happen, it’s material needs or career ambitions that keep individual journalists or editors towing the line.
      Next, your point actually reinforces my emphasis on focusing on system and structure rather than individual. Re scandals involving politicians, they can be replaced. We hear how this minister or that banker was a ‘bad egg’ or a ‘bad apple’ and that’s the perfect way to hide any deeper systemic criticisms. So, for example, it’s unsurprising to see one man recently take the blame and 14 years inside for the LIBOR scandal which really exposes the total systemic criminality and corruption of global finance.
      Third, it’s important, again rejecting any absolute crude, conspirational theory of politics, to recognise the good journalists within all newspapers, even within the Daily Mail, who believe in that old liberal idea of the free press defending the public interest. It is true and it does have powerful effects. The hacking scandal was the work of The Guardian, but, more surprisingly, the expenses scandal was the work of The Telegraph.
      As for the royal family pictures, I think that was a case of the media having to run the story because the photos were already out there. This shows that, ultimately, particularly in the online age, we have the power to disrupt and to shape the dominant narrative. However, look at the stories constructed to ‘explain’ these photos. We got a brief description and then we got blinded by a debate about media freedom, freedom of speech, etc. We got a message of sympathy for a misguided young girl. What we didn’t get was any historical materialist analysis revealing the length and depth of the monarchy’s and ruling class’ support for Nazism and British fascism and exploring why the ruling class was scared enough by working class organising strength to support these movements, parties, and leaders.

      How about that for an off-the-cuff answer?

      Cheers
      Joel

    • August 12, 2015 at 11:45 pm

      There is no paradox in right wing media exposing politicians involved in scandalous behaviour.The rich and powerful, that benefit from the system of rules that we call “money”, like to tell us that politicians are all corrupt and only out for themselves. They are all as bad as each other. That message alienates people from the existing political system that COULD work for people if there was mass PARTICIPATION. Courageous people fought for centuries to democratise the UK and the rich and powerful have to do all they can to convince the public that politics isn’t for them. They try to create cynicism about voting, just in case the poor and disposed realise that they do have the power to change things. It suits them to give the impression that politicians are a different species; not OUR elected representatves.

      • August 13, 2015 at 9:50 am

        Thanks, Kenneth. Generally agreed!
        Joel

  11. Anna Kashdan
    August 12, 2015 at 11:45 am

    Brilliant video many many thanks !

  12. simonsays
    August 12, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    I’m bemused by how you criticise journalists yet lack transparency yourself. Who is the email from? On behalf of whom are they acting? Did it come from an official email address? If you want journalists to be open and honest, you probably should be so yourself.

    • August 12, 2015 at 2:00 pm

      Hi Simon,

      Thanks for your contribution. I will repeat what I wrote to Steve above…

      ‘That is ultimately for you to judge. There are several questions here for you to consider…
      1) Can we see emails or tweets like this every day elsewhere?
      2) Is our own experience of the media likely to contradict or support the credibility of this post?
      3) By the tone of this bloggers’ previous posts, should I be inclined to believe or disbelieve him?
      4) What would be the motivation for this blogger to lie?

      Those questions are for you personally to consider and come to your own judgment.

      All I myself will add is that I didn’t put the name and email of the person up because I’m not really interested in that individual. I’m interested in a system. I’m interested in structures of power – in political-economic power in particular, but also how culture and meaning is produced through language and signs that maintains or challenges these structures.
      Journalists, editors, even media barons and government ministers can come and go, but these structures persist.
      Ultimately, structures are made up of individuals, so social change can occur and can occur quite rapidly when we recognise them and come together with a belief and desire to change them.

      Thanks for engaging
      Joel’

      So, again, it’s ultimately for you to decide on my integrity and motivations. I can only seek to explain and defend my actions and my reasoning.

      Thanks again
      Joel

      • August 12, 2015 at 4:04 pm

        Why are you not being more specific about questions regarding the source of this story? You can’t just say “That is ultimately for you to judge.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but you really seem to be avoiding the question of legitimacy of this story and your source.

        You may not be interested in the source, but I, and a number of people here, are.

        As a result, this now seems like a very dubious piece. I’m all ears if I’m wrong.

  13. August 12, 2015 at 8:25 pm

    Hi Steve,

    So, let’s do an exercise in mutual empathy. I can understand why you might want to seek the authenticity of this email. I can understand that. In a minute I’ll point you to evidence that I totally forgot about that proves its authenticity pretty much.
    Now I want you to try to empathise with me and my perspective. I’m interested in analysing systems and structures of power and my main focus is pedagogical: I’m interested in exploring radical democratic ways to help people use social theory and critical thinking to see their lives within these structures and to want to change them in the ways they themselves see fit.
    So, now I hope that you can understand my desire not to play the ‘name and shame’ game. It detracts from my own political and pedagogical interests and objectives.
    Also, I didn’t want to bring any more bad fortune on to the head of the unlucky individual. Some might say s/he deserved it. I certainly think that this person should think about the ethics of what they do, but it’s not for me to judge them. More importantly, they are largely a political pawn in this game being manipulated from above.
    So, that’s why Kate and I didn’t reveal the emailer’s identity. I hope you can try to empathise with us.
    Finally, democracy is about faith – faith in other (mostly unknown) people – so what I asked you to do was to show faith in a fellow human being and citizen. But it’s totally fair also to ask critical questions. That’s what I want us all to do far more, so I accept your challenge.

    Here’s the evidence…
    http://i100.independent.co.uk/article/this-is-how-our-media-finds-its-stories-about-benefits–Wyf5bssKLEg
    See the final paragraph. The Sun denied it. Guess it put the blame on the junior party. Women’s Own admitted the email came from one of their journalists, but copped out by saying it was ‘”a genuine error of judgement by a junior member of staff who was not authorised to take this action.”

    Peace
    Joel

  14. J
    August 13, 2015 at 10:11 am

    Whether this is from the Sun, Womans Own or any other publication, it remains basically hearsay unless names are shared. Bloggers are basically journalists, but unpaid. Contributing editors (and all those above/below them in the pecking order) are journalists too, but they get paid. The one you mention in your post above is clearly manufacturing a piece to feed the unthinking mob, but unlike your blog post it will at least be attributable to a source and thus lie vaguely within journalistic ethics (which is why the unnamed author is a paid journalist). What you have posted cannot lay claim to even that small grace.

    Please post the name of the editor if you have it. What are you scared of?

    • August 13, 2015 at 11:39 am

      Hi there J

      Thanks for engaging. I’m not scared of anything. If you read above, I’ve quite clearly and carefully set out my reasons for not revealing the person’s name. I don’t want to bring that person any more bad fortune and I’m far more interested in concentrating on structures of power within a political-economic-cultural system as a whole. That’s what my work is about. That’s what this blog is about.

      So, to be clear, I’m scared only of hurting one individual who, though I might urge her/him to think about the ethics of her/his work, I have no right to judge and whom I see as pretty much a small pawn in a wider political game. I want to change the game, not the players.

      Finally, as I mentioned above, here’s an Independent article at the bottom of which Women’s Own admit to one of its employees sending the mail. I see that as ample proof.
      http://i100.independent.co.uk/article/this-is-how-our-media-finds-its-stories-about-benefits–Wyf5bssKLEg

      If you still don’t want to believe me then that is your choice to make.

      Thanks for engaging
      Joel

  15. August 13, 2015 at 10:52 pm

    Reblogged this on Diary of an SAH Stroke Survivor.

  16. way
    August 14, 2015 at 10:53 am

    Russell brand tried out a boob job. see short clip at this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=99X7Rw_XG78

  17. August 14, 2015 at 7:46 pm

    Good video but where are the subtitles? Wanted to share but it’s no good for my deaf friends.

    • August 14, 2015 at 7:54 pm

      Hi Emma
      I agree. This is a very good point and I’ll raise this with my friends at My Life My Choice.
      Thanks
      joel

      • emmashaw
        August 14, 2015 at 9:53 pm

        Thanks Joel, it would be great to share with them. It’s a really great video.

  18. October 11, 2015 at 5:43 pm

    Follow Agent, history repeats itself, so how do we change something? Here’s my contribution. Did you read this? http://kck.st/1P69p3a I liked the story. Dark, sexy, exciting and pretty mysterious, sure made me think.

  19. Kevin
    February 21, 2016 at 8:53 pm

    The following contributors challenged joellazarus with a fair degree of arrogant defiance, but on receiving an extensive – and very friendly – explanation from joellazarus, accompanied with additional items of evidence, none of them had the good grace or common good manners to offer a mannerly ‘Thank you’, or conceded that he could just be in the right.

    Tony
    August 12, 2015 at 8:54 am

    steve walker
    August 12, 2015 at 10:16 am

    simonsays
    August 12, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    steveglenisterSteve
    August 12, 2015 at 4:04 pm

    J
    August 13, 2015 at 10:11 am

    Now ask yourself; what does that say about those contributors?

    Fantastic article, Mr Joellazarus!

    • Tony
      February 22, 2016 at 12:38 am

      I honestly don’t think I was being arrogant with my comment. I’d seen the email on Twitter attributed to a “women’s magazine”. Here it was linked to The Sun.

      I don’t disagree that newspapers will write a story to an existing narrative, and I clearly have my own in describing The Sun as “scumbags”. But Joel’s reply didn’t actually address my comment, it reiterated the point that newspapers write to a narrative, and added why, something I’d not disagreed with.

      Nor did I ask for the name of the source, I don’t need to because I have no trouble believing the request was made. There’s my narrative again!

      My point was that in linking this request to The Sun when Joel knew it was from Woman’s Own muddies the waters. I don’t need a misattributed stick to beat The Sun with, they’re more than capable of generating their own to bring to the party.

      Should I have made this comment when Joel replied to mine? Possibly, but when I came back the comments were getting busy and I didn’t want to add to the noise. What would I have said to Joel’s reply? I agree with everything you have to say, but I didn’t disagree with your sentiment in the first place, just who’s doorstep it should laid at.

      If I appeared, or do appear, arrogant that is not my intention, and I apologise if that’s the case.

    • February 22, 2016 at 11:43 am

      Thanks for your enthusiastic endorsement, Kevin. People are probably just a bit busy to respond, but it would have been nice. But one did – Tony…

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