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From The Socialist newspaper, 22 January 2014

TV review: Benefits Street

A caricature of poverty

Mark Caudery, Birmingham Socialist Party

Channel 4's recent controversial "documentary" series, Benefits Street claimed to depict life for residents of poverty stricken James Turner Street in Winson Green, Birmingham. It created an unfair, inaccurate caricature of welfare recipients.

Even before it was aired it was causing a stir. The Birmingham Mail carried a prominent article saying programme makers had misled residents by claiming it would be about "neighbourly togetherness and community spirit".

It focused on unemployed people while claiming to be about benefit recipients - that's perhaps the greatest lie of all.

Only 2.6% of welfare spending goes on unemployment benefits. The vast majority of people on welfare are in work or retired.

According to research by the End Child Poverty campaign, 81% of Birmingham families are dealing with the reality of poverty.

Many of these will be working families; so far these people have not appeared in the programme.

Tory agenda

Although commercially funded, Channel 4 is a publicly owned channel with a reputation for broadcasting material challenging the right-wing narrative of the mainstream commercial media and the BBC.

But it is known to broadcast 'controversial' programmes in the search for big viewing figures.

One resident featured in the programme was shown duping members of the public by selling free hotel lobby magazines pretending to be a Big Issue seller.

But such crimes of poverty, while anti-social and condemnable, pale into insignificance compared to the crimes of the super-rich bankers who caused such enormous social damage to our society.

When are we going to see the Bonus Mansions documentary about the bankers' lifestyles?

This programme's image fits well into the Tory agenda. It further dehumanises the very people who are paying the price of the ruling class's failure by attempting to turn working class people against one another.

As they try to do with immigration or single parent families, it is part of a long line of scapegoating propaganda in much of the media.

Such propaganda aims to turn people against one another, an age-old tactic of divide and rule. This attempt to demonise those most adversely affected by failing capitalism will need to be challenged so more people can see the real enemy.

Benefits Street is not the first programme to make scapegoats of the poor for the crime of being poor and it won't be the last.

But the viewers' backlash proves that resistance is growing against the government and their attempts to divide us.

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In The Socialist 22 January 2014:


Socialist Party news and analysis

Real living wage now

Capitalism is a system in crisis

Pay me - I'm a banker!

What exactly is the point of Labour?

Stop the NHS sell-off

Bedroom tax loophole: Can legal tactics be effective?

Fracking - profiting from environmental destruction

Them & Us


International socialist news and analysis

Egypt referendum: no enthusiasm for new constitution

"Ireland is a success story" rhetoric is based on spin


Education

Stop the student debt spiral - day of action 6 February

Youth Fight for Jobs campaign in Croydon

An open letter to Tristram Hunt


Socialist Party workplace news

Transport workers have power to defeat cuts

Teachers need a date for national action

Teachers strike against threatened redundancies

NUT strikes against management "observations"

More action needed to defend Probation Service

Publicity alone can't save sacked union branch official

Workplace news in brief


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Lincoln marches against racism and fascism

Protest against Atos 'assessments' on 19 February

Salford workers and environmentalists challenge council

Stop cuts in Kent

Carlisle petition


Readers' comments and reviews

Benefits Street: A caricature of poverty

Leeds' forgotten dispute: The 1913-14 Corporation Strike

Robert Burns, insurrectionary poet


 

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Related links:

Birmingham:

triangleUni market 'failure', two-year degrees - end cuts, scrap fees!

triangleBirmingham South East Socialist Party: Can the Labour Party be changed?

triangleSocialist Students day of action demands free education

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triangleEnd Tory war on poor

triangleWe're freezing: reverse cuts to boiler replacement schemes!

triangleChild poverty set to hit 5.2m - unions and Corbyn must act now

Benefits:

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Welfare:

triangleChesterfield Socialist Party: The fight for the welfare state

triangleUniversal Credit chaos: Tories punish the poor

Bankers:

triangleTories torn - bin them now

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