I had often heard of the supposed 'left-wing bias' in the BBC, be it a PC brigade in the form of LGBT* characters in Doctor Who or Torchwood or the 'lefty agenda' of The Revolution Will Be Televised, although I always took such shows just as a means of empathy and representation, and always rolled my eyes at this metaphorical horse-driven carriage that carried in its trunk magical fairy dust that suddenly turned people into individuals who understood the fact that free speech did not equate to the right to discriminate. But nevertheless I did indeed feel represented in one form or another on the BBC as a working class citizen. I felt proud that the BBC was for the ordinary people.
But then We All Pay Your Benefits happened.
The name itself felt to me incongruous, even false. Because if a taxpayer said that in real life I would turn around and say "Actually YOU pay YOUR benefits, remember social insurance?"
It made me feel edgy, but I turned over to it anyway. I quickly realised the show and the title itself was meant to point out that Nick and Margaret's preconceptions of the system were wrong, but really, the show was masquerading as a 'reveal the truth to the rich' and instead looked more like a zoo where the 'deserving' poor judged the 'undeserving poor' while these middle class people gasped that the claimants were indeed humans after all, albeit not entirely sure that THEY should pay for their Apple products.
In between these stories led by emotion were the actual truthful segments, whereby experts in the field pointed out that only 10% of the welfare budget went to the unemployed, with only about 4% going to Job Seekers Allowance, and actually 52% went to pensions. But these segments were quickly buried, made forgettable, along with the rest of the truth, in a point-and-gasp format that even if its aim was to show these people as genuine needy individuals and somewhat make Nick and Margaret look wrong in their perceptions, you still left the show with the image of a man with Apple products or a woman with seven pets. And it is that image that leaves the dangerous impression imprinted on the impressionable, instead of the 'supposed' real aim of the show.
And it was right.
You only needed to go on Twitter to see the reactions of the viewership. Fortunately, many were indeed appalled that the BBC had used an opportunity to focus on this 10%, this small demonised minority, and reinforce prejudice and the division between the working poor and unemployed poor, instead of making a enlightening show that focused on the rest of the 90% of the budget or perhaps the tax evaders that cost the state three times as much. But amidst this reaction, and the quick-to-emerge hashtag #WeAreHappyToPayYourBenefits, were some tweeters appalled that they were paying for Apple products or pets, questioning why working people should pay for people who refuse to work, usually presenting the terms 'lazy' or 'work-shy'.
And it was right there in those tweets where the true effect of demonization lies.
Because for every tweeter in-the-know was about ten people in the outside world who had truly falling into the trap set by successive governments and most potently the coalition where they believed the fabricated debate of 'scroungers v strivers'. And it wasn't those people's faults. It was, in a very rare occurrence from my eyes, the BBC's, for they had commissioned a programme which focused on a tiny percentage of poor people who have already been kicked up the backside a thousand times over. Sound familiar? It did to me too.
It was reminiscent to the articles you read in the Daily Express about single mums-of-six who should apparently stop breeding. The BBC had created a show out of tabloid stories and masqueraded it as a 'reveal all truth' show. The result was the same as always; benefit claimants had been presented as scroungers, and their hard done by neighbours would look to them as the source of their burdens instead of perhaps, the wage system, or inflation, or in fact both, for the wage freeze left a hole where incentive to work should be.
So thank you, Auntie. You have helped incite more hatred and anger towards the most demonised of our society at a crucial point midway through a government that seems to have you wrapped around its little finger.
About Author / Additional Info: