By Charlotte Hughes in Britain:
The right-wing press is the enemy of the poor
Friday 27th October 2017
CHARLOTTE HUGHES was not impressed when The Sun newspaper asked for her help on a story about universal credit
UNIVERSAL credit. The two words echo in my ears constantly. Living in a town that has been subjected to universal credit for four years, I can strongly attest to the suffering that it has caused.
I document this weekly in my blog, The Poor Side Of Life. Because the site has many readers now, I am frequently approached by researchers from newspapers and media companies.
So you can imagine my surprise when I received an email from the Sun On Sunday requesting for my help.
For years the most vulnerable people have been stigmatised and discriminated against by the right-wing press, which takes the stance that every poor person must be a scrounger, every disabled person must be faking it.
The press is unaccountable and doesn’t seem to care for the consequences of their actions towards these groups of people. The scrounger rhetoric is rarely ever challenged and so it just gets repeated again and again.
I have been a target of this hatred. After all, according to their ideology, I am a freeloader. And worse, I’m a female, single parent — a crime in their eyes it seems.
Duty bound to respond on behalf of the people The Sun newspaper has exploited in the past, and will no doubt continue to exploit, I wrote the following response:
Thank you for your email.
Primarily, I need to correct you on your referral to universal credit as “universal credits.” These are different things, and although I don’t want to argue about semantics, it is about conveying the correct message across. Therefore, using the correct benefit title is very important, isn’t it?
As you can tell, I’m rather fussy about the getting the correct message out to the public. After all, the public deserves to be correctly and reliably informed about important issues, especially in newspapers and the mainstream media.
However, this is something that The Sun newspaper has regretfully been doing a terrible job of.
Take a look at some of your headlines: “Benefit scrounger mum of eight says £500 a week handouts aren’t enough for her four-bed council house,” “Takers dozen. Sponging mum of 13 who rakes in £30,00 a year in benefits is branded a scrounger by her own daughter” and “Family planning. Scrounging mum of 12 … who pockets £40,000 a year in benefits flashes her tummy outside medical centre days before announcing she’s expecting baby 13.”
I could go on. However, you get the gist, don’t you?
Not only were these headlines not based on fact nor researched correctly, they were damaging to the people concerned and to the most vulnerable people in this country.
They were created specifically to cause prejudice and division towards the poorest of this country, the very people that your newspaper is now reaching out to.
These headlines were so “hard-hitting” (a phrase that you like to use) that the ongoing campaign of hatred against the poor, which you and other newspapers and television channels lead, I have been shouted at, called a scrounger, told to get a job, and spat at. Luckily it didn’t touch me, but you can see how this works out, right?
The people that I help have also experienced prejudice as a result of this ongoing campaign and do so on a daily basis.
I will never forget the “Scrounger Awards” that you published, or “The Welfies” or “Job Dodger” awards.
Sympathy isn’t something that I associate with The Sun newspaper, after all we can never forget Hillsborough, can we?
A point to note, lying has five letters but so does truth. Hurt has four letters but so does heal. Every day I try and rectify the harmful and malicious lies set about by your newspaper. Maybe you could do the same.
You also might like to read this. Had you even bothered to research me properly, you might have found an interview with me in The Tab newspaper entitled “We spoke to the woman petitioning Manchester to boycott The Sun.”
I will therefore like to decline your offer of a chat. And nor will I be referring any vulnerable people to your newspaper to talk. You see, I simply cannot trust you not to twist their words and to turn them into figures of hatred.
However, we would like an apology from The Sun for all the hurt, damage and discrimination caused by the words printed in your newspaper.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you ran an apology on your front page headline instead of another story demonising benefits claimants.
Not only do we contend with the monster that is universal credit — a constant assault on human dignity, punishing the poor for their own poverty — we also have to deal with the discrimination, division and hatred created by the right-wing media.
We cannot become complacent about the damage that has already been done and will be done in the future. It is our duty to fight against this and challenge the rhetoric whenever possible.